What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, which literally means "science of life," is a sophisticated holistic health system that strives for a balance of the mind, body, and awareness. Ayurveda is based on the idea that underlying energies influence everything, including our bodies and minds. The relationships between the five elements of air, water, fire, earth, and ether in our bodies have an impact on our health and well-being. Healthy dietary habits based on your individual body constitution, meditation, and its sister science, yoga, are considered key cornerstones by Ayurveda. According to Ayurveda, when a new being is conceived, three different types of body constitutions or doshas may be created, and this is what distinguishes us from one another.
According to Ayurveda, the world around us and the world within us are made up of five elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. The five elements found in all lifeforms and considered the building blocks of life in Ayurveda. While this foundation binds us all, the expression of those elements through the doshas is what gives rise to our various constitutions. What distinguishes each of us is how the three doshas manifest themselves and in what proportion. There will always be one primary dosha that governs you, while a second one follows as a close second. However, all 3 exist on each one of us, it is just the proportions that vary.
How does Ayurveda define energy in the body?
There are three key principles in Ayurveda that describe the different physiological elements of energy and vitality that exist in the body. When we understand these 3 energy types, and how they exist in our body, we learn a lot about how to master our life force. So unlike in the West where we often find energy products /energy drinks and foods that are bunched up collectively for everyone, Ayurveda recognises that all bodies are different and your dosha determines the ways in which your energy will deplete and your dosha also dictates how to restore this energy. Understanding these 3 energies and how they relate to your dosha gives us a masterful advantage of how to use Ayurveda for energy.
What are these 3 subtle energies that Ayurveda talks about?
The all-mighty Ojas- pronounced as (OH-JUS)
This subtle energy force is considered the elixir of all energies. It is the main abundant source of vitality and immunity. It is also considered the purest form of Kapha energy because it lives and emanates from the bodily tissues. (Kapha is one of the doshas and as you read further this and do our quiz will make more sense to you in case you are not familiar with this term.) Because Ojas is such a fine and delicate subtle energy, it is affected by almost every aspect of our lives and can easily become compromised and drained when we are stressed, or over-exerted and neglectful of our bodies. When we tend to our body mindfully and with love, our ojas, on the other hand, becomes a store of vigour and vitality and is the key to a strong immune system. Ojas is the finely tuned substance that results from digestion after all seven dhatus- the tissues responsible for the proper functioning of the body's systems and organs, have been nourished. According to traditional Ayurvedic texts, it takes 25-–30 days to create ojas. So, while chewing and digesting a vegetable takes less than 24 hours, it takes much longer for your body to benefit from the vegetable's properties.
The fiery Tejas pronounced as (TEJ-US)
Tejas is the delicate aspect of balanced pitta dosha. It may also be described the fiery part of your constitution, and the energy that takes control of the food and metabolism. Tejas provides lustre, luminosity, and brilliance to both body and intellect. It closely governs AGNI which is the digestive fire and a Pitta energy. Tejas is aided by the consumption of nutritious food prepared with love, the preservation of a digestive health fire, and the provision of the necessary time and space for the mind to process experience and emotion. Too much ingestion, the improper kind of intake, or a lack of energy and focus for transformation all detract from the body's lustre. Consider Tejas to be the glowing red embers of a fire that continue to emit a gentle and sustainable source of energy long after the fire has died down. Tejas is the subtle aspect of balanced pitta dosha, or the fiery part of your constitution.
The healing Prana pronounced as (PRAA-NAH)
Many of us equate the terms "energy" and "prana" to mean similar things. However, in Sanskrit the word Prana has a far more profound, deeper, and spiritual meaning. Prana simply put is ‘life force’ and a very vital force we all carry within us. It lives within our bodies, and the breath carries it on and stimulates it. Water contains its own prana and so does food. And so, the importance in Ayurveda of consuming foods that are fresh and healthy is paramount. Fresh foods will be abundant in ‘prana’ and breathwork exercises such as Pranayama and Kapalbhati encourage the movement of ‘prana’ as this enables to encourage the breath to emanate to all parts of the body. Therefore Prana, is the subtle essence of Vata dosha, like Vata it enjoys movement. In fact, when it is free flowing and unobstructed, it feeds our vitality the best. When you take a long breath or when you breathe deeply you immediately feel revitalised and yogic breathing exercises also help with the movement of prana and for improving the sense of wellbeing.
Once you understand how these 3 energies work and how they resonate with the 3 doshas, you understand a lot better how wonderfully Ayurveda deciphers these different flows and explains their unique sources.
So how does Ayurveda provide an energy boost?
Ayurveda equates energy both mental and physical as related to your dosha and how balanced your dosha is at any given time. However, there are always Ayurvedic herbs and practices that help boost energy and keep you feeling your best possible. One of things that would be recommended by an Ayurvedic practioner is to know and understand your dosha, this is your individual body constitution also known as Prakriti in Sanskrit. And when your dosha falls out of sync, the energy levels drops and both mental and physical energies can be affected. Each dosha has a different ability to sustain and manage physical and mental energy. If you want to learn more about your own doshas, take the dosha quiz, which will help you identify which of your doshas require the most attention. Once you know our dosha the following will make a lot more sense for you, and if you already know your dosha- the information ahead will be relatable.
Understanding the energies of each dosha
Once you know what your prominent dosha is you will be able to relate to the energies of each one. Each dosha has a different ability to sustain and express energy and stamina, both mentally and physically.
Energy levels for VATA dosha
The energy of the vata constitution comes in short bursts, so vata-type people deplete more quickly than other doshas. They excel at quick short runs, such as sprints or energy output intervals and can learn quickly, but their endurance and stamina and long-term memory can be lacking.
How does energy depletion appear in Vata dosha?
There will be the sense of feeling overwhelmed, disorientated, and fatigued which are all symptoms of a vata imbalance. Solution would be to balance vata through lifestyle and dietary choices that promote warmth, grounding, and stability for increased energy.
What are Vata balancing lifestyle measures?
- Slow down: Multitasking divides your focus and leads to a disorganised mind. Create focus in all your activities, and you will create calm in your life. Don't buy into the notion that you have to rush through your activities; you'll miss out on the joy of living if you do. Do one thing at a time and give it your undivided attention.
- Make meals a sacred act: Vata is high when Agni, the digestive fire, is weak. Imbalanced vata causes you to rush through your meals or not be mindful or present at them. This then weakens Agni even more. Give full attention to your meal; sit down and avoid distractions such as your phone, or the television. Take small bites of food and chew them thoroughly. With each meal, feel your connection to nature through the food.
- Make a 'dinacharya': In Sanskrit this means a regime, stricter adherence to a daily structure. Vata requires daily structure. Irregularities in regular daily activities such as waking up, eating, and sleeping will amplify Vata’s light and mobile qualities, while increasing uncertainty and fear in your life. A dinacharya, or routine, is a straightforward way of life. You can give vata the structured guidance it needs to thrive by creating a fixed routine, as well as setting times of day for eating, working, and sleeping.
Energy levels for KAPHA dosha
Kapha personalities are on the other end of the scale. Their energy is slow to develop, but their endurance outclasses all other doshas. They have an exceptional ability to maintain steady physical and mental pace over longer periods of time and distance, and their long-term memory is only surpassed by an elephant.
How does energy depletion appear in Kapha dosha
By nature, Kapha is slow and static, and when out of balance, it can manifest as lethargy and sluggishness, making it difficult to get motivated. Incorporating invigorating, stimulating foods and lifestyle choices into your daily routine can help you feel more active and energetic throughout the day.
What Ayurvedic herbs are best for pacifying KAPHA dosha?
What are Kapha balancing lifestyle measures?
Move your body. Movement is key for those with Kapha dominating. Moving your body daily in a sattvic way which means, either yoga sun salutations and yogic asanas that creates lightness and energy, which off sets the heavy, dense qualities of kapha. This doesn’t mean you have to go for long gym sessions, but it means taking breaks from sitting at your computer, walking briskly when you have the chance, taking stairs and after meals taking a short brisk walk. If you make movement as part of your routine or ‘dinacharya’ (daily practise) you will keep your Kapha sensibilities pacified.
Meditate. It may seem counterintuitive to sit still now that you are aware of the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, but meditation is beneficial to kapha. The heavy properties of this dosha are balanced by the subtle energy and lightness that comes from meditation. Regularly connecting with your inner self will reveal a much deeper level of existence than the physical density of your body.
Sleep sufficiently, but not excessively. People with a high level of kapha dosha in their constitution benefit from deep, restorative sleep. When kapha is out of balance, it can crave too much sleep, which leads to tamas, or listlessness and inertia. Make it a habit to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Make an effort to get up before 6:00 a.m., before the kapha time of day begins. Getting out of bed becomes more difficult after this point, and you will feel heavier throughout the day.
Energy levels for PITTA dosha
Pitta energy can be found on the middle path. It has a short duration but a sharp quality to it. Pittas may not be the fastest or go the greatest distance, but their motivation and ambition give them the determination to overcome any obstacle. If they put their minds to it, their pitta drive allows them to keep up with vata or kapha energy, but their strongpoint is finding the sweet spot in between.
How does energy depletion appear in Pitta dosha?
Pitta imbalances can result from pitta's natural proclivity to try to do everything. They can take on too much, and as a result of trying to keep up, they become depleted and exhausted. Surrendering and practicing moderation are essential for balancing pitta
What are Pitta balancing lifestyle measures? -
Exercise, changing your exercise routine can help to calm pitta. Excess pitta, like many forms of exercise, raises heat, intensity, competitiveness, and ambition. When done irresponsibly, a well-intended fitness routine can be extremely aggravating to pitta. Taking a few simple steps to adapt your approach to exercise, on the other hand, can help to encourage an efficient return to balance. Heat and intensity are the two most important factors to consider. When we exercise, our bodies naturally warm up. Working out during the cooler parts of the day will help to keep your body from overheating. Plan your workouts for the kapha times of day, these are between 6-10am, when it is cooler and the calmer part of the day.
Sleep, consistency is key for Pitta types especially sleep and wake times, mealtimes, and work schedules. Ideally for Pitta, you may want to consider going to bed before 10 p.m., when the pitta mind tends to become very active and alert. And once the mental chatter begins, it becomes very difficult to have a restful sleep. So as part of your dinacharya ‘daily schedule’ make this your priority.
Make sure to eat three nutritious meals per day and try to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same times daily. Excess pitta can cause us to deplete our accessible nutrition and reduce our digestive strength. Eating regularly helps to ground the energy, regulate the digestive fire, and ensures that the body is adequately nourished, avoiding blood sugar crashes or hungry irritability. When you eat, try to sit down, and give your full attention to receiving your food slowly and mindfully. Your body will appreciate it.
And of course, yoga!
As a sister science of Ayurveda. Yoga has the potential to benefit everyone. Daily practice of yoga not only helps support our doshas and keep them in balance it also helps restore the energies we talked about earlier that of Ojas, Tejas and especially Prana. There are specific asanas that benefit each of the dosha, but overall if you are beginner start with the simple sun salutation or moon salutation which remarkably includes some of the most vital asanas of yoga and help keep you energised and supple, feeling your best each day. Yoga moves prana, relieves stress, helps remove stagnation, and promotes fluidity in the tissues.
Pranayama for energy in Ayurveda
What is pranayama?
Pranayama is the yogic practice of concentrating on one's breathing. Prana means "vital life force" in Sanskrit, and yama means "to take control. “Because breath is connected with prana in yoga, pranayama is a technique of elevating the prana shakti( power), or life energies. Certain pranayama’s or yogic breathing exercises can help bring back flow, energy and vitality to the body's subtle energy channels. At the same time, they help relieve anxiety, and support the mind and peripheral nerves. As a meditative practice, it means we consciously govern our breathing through multiple breathing techniques in pranayama. In pranayama, breathing techniques are classified into three stages: inhalation through the nose (Purak), retention (Kumbak), and exhalation (Rechak). These breathing techniques are used not only in yoga but also in meditative practices. Pranayama is a technique for controlling the rhythm of Pranic energy. Some of the pranayama techniques to know:-
Nadi Shodhona for balancing
If you are a beginner start with the basic Yogic Breathwork such as the alternate nostril breathing or Nadi Shodhana pranayama. This incredible pranayama is so balancing and promotes balance to the prana vaha sotras, the intricate network that moves the prana throughout the system.
Kapal Bhati for mind and body
When we practice pranayama, we release 80 percent of the toxins in our bodies through our departing breath. Regular practice of Kapal Bhati (shining skull) pranayama purifies all our body's systems. A ‘shining forehead’ is an obvious sign of a healthy body in Ayurveda, and this is exactly what happens with regular practice of this pranayama. and a forehead that glows not only from the outside but also from within, as well as an intellect that sharpens and refines with regular practice.
Bhastrika pranayama physical energy
The Sanskrit word “bhastrika” means “bellows” mostly used by blacksmiths to melt metal. Like the bellows fan the fire similarly Bhastrika Pranayama plunges the flow of air into the body to produce heat at both the physical and subtle level. This pranayama when done regularly removes blockages from the nose and chest and increases the gastric fire.
Pranayama improves appetite and digestion capacity.
Bhramri pranayama for mental energy
This pranayama is performed by closing the ears with the thumbs and the eyes with the finger. While inhaling and exhaling slowly, imitate the sound of a bee. While exhaling, one may chant 'OM.' This is also referred to as 'humming bee breath.' Once the cycle has been completed, it should be repeated. This should continue for 5-10 minutes. This humming tone innately calms the mind and body. It aids in improving concentration, alertness, memory, and calm the mind.
Does Ayurveda help with chronic fatigue?
Many of us suffer from chronic lack energy, and Ayurveda and Ayurvedic herbs can be indeed beneficial. However, we always consulting with a Ayurvedic doctor or practioner is always recommended. Certain medications, health conditions and other factors can also contribute to lack of energy and malaise. Working with a Ayurvedic doctor can be most beneficial for a better more detailed diagnosis of doshas and how to work within the constraints of medical conditions.
Learning to believe your intuition
Because our vitality is inextricably linked to the health of ojas, tejas and prana, we all have a very personal relationship with them. Learn to listen to your body, it tells you a lot. The stronger the connection between mind and body the more you become attuned to what it is telling you. The journey to greater vitality is also one-of-a-kind. Your path will be completely unique because you are unique in every way.
Author: Ria Pattni
Ayurveda and Wellbeing writer