No asanas for this Sunday session of shala. We learned about Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, from Dr. Sisira Premarathna. A gentle, quiet man who learned his craft from his father and grandfather. A third generation Ayurvedic doctor. One of my classmates has been seeing him for a while now and she’s thrilled with the results.
Ayurveda, meaning the knowledge of life, is the medically-oriented application of yogic principles for health and wellness. In India, this is the traditional form of medicine that’s practiced. In the Western world, we often classify it as alternative or complementary medicine. What Dr. Sisira taught us was just a brief intro into the complex and beautiful world of Ayurvedic medicine. (Note to self: I’m amazed to think that this medicine was developed solely with the keen observational skills of those early practitioners!)
Dosha means vital energy. Ayurveda focuses on balancing the three doshas (vatta, pitta and kapha) that are found in every person. A vatta type dosha can be described as being tall or short, quick, creative, often wasting their energy and may be thin or lean. A pitta type tends to be of average height and build, confident, ambitious and competitive. A kapha type is heavier build, strong, slower moving, stable, patient and may be possessive. My “aha moment” was when I understood that all three doshas are found in any one person but one type tends to be predominant. The aim is to balance them in order to be healthy. If one dosha tends to dominate unchecked, this will cause sickness or disease. So the idea of Ayurvedic medicine is to eat, sleep, wake, work and practice poses in a manner that will calm the dominating dosha and allow it to be in harmony with the other two.
Dr. Sisira explained that we have a “born type” dosha that will stay with us for our entire lives. There is also an “age type” dosha. From 0-18 years of age, is kapha. Pitta is from 18-40 years old. And vata is between 40-100 years of age.
So how does this all fit together? Each person has a mixed type dosha (= born type dosha + age type dosha).
To determine one’s dosha, Dr. Sisira recommended a combination of physical assessment (weight, skin, body type), filling out a survey and having a pulse diagnosis or nadi done by an Ayurvedic doctor.
To determine which is my born type dosha, I filled out the questionnaire given to us by Dr. Sisira. Another classmate from shala said that there are other quizzes that we could also try on the Internet (what would we do without Google?). According to his test, I was a pitta but vata was a close second. When he did my pulse diagnosis, Dr. Sisira said that I was a vata type dosha. Fascinating! So my mixed dosha type is vata + vata (yes, I am over 40 and proud of it!).
Dr. Sisira taught us a lot more about Ayurveda that afternoon. It was so interesting! My head spins to try and get it all down into a blog post so I’m not even going to try that right now. You need an expert like Dr. Sisira to tell you more.