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What is Ayurveda? A Beginner's Guide and Beyond

Updated: 3 days ago

So, you’ve taken an online Ayurvedic dosha quiz, and found yourself more confused than ever. Pitta-dominant? Vata? Tri-dosha? What do I do? Turn to Saumya Ayurveda as your experienced guide.

What is Ayurveda? A Beginner's Guide and Beyond image of Ayurvedic herbs

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What is Ayurveda? A Beginner's Guide and Beyond

Let’s start from the beginning.


Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that translates directly as the “knowledge” (veda) of “life” (ayu). Ayurveda is a branch of the Vedic tradition - an ancient Indian knowledge system, and the oldest wisdom tradition in the world - which is based on the idea that all of life, from the mundane to the majestic, is inherently connected and divine.


Ayurveda is often thought of as only one component: Ayurvedic medicine. While Ayurveda is a profound approach to holistic health and healing, this is just one small dot on the vast map of this ancient tradition. Ayurveda is a path, a system of living, a spiritual journey that lasts a lifetime.


Ayurveda uses food as medicine, herbs, and lifestyle practices like meditation and breathwork to balance the dynamic energies within our body – creating harmony throughout our inner and outer worlds.


What is Ayurveda and Why Does it Work So Well? image herb research in test tubes


What is Ayurveda? Ayurveda’s Place in Modern Medicine

Modern “allopathic” medicine treats individual ailments directly. In contrast, Ayurveda treats the whole human – mentally, physically, and spiritually. The symptoms we associate with illness and disease are signs of a deeper imbalance within the body, and Ayurveda goes to the root of the issue to restore balance.


Ayurveda’s 5000-year track record is a testament to its effectiveness and ease of use. Nevertheless, Western medicine has been slow to embrace Ayurveda and other traditional healing modalities. But as more people seek to live healthy, preventative lifestyles instead of dealing with problems as they arise – the times they are a’changing!


The mind and body are connected. Food affects us both physically and mentally (think of someone who eats a lot of sugar or drinks a lot of caffeine). The outer world affects our inner systems. One size does not fit all (we all need different things for optimal wellbeing).


As modern clinical trials validate Ayurveda’s ancient knowledge, this powerful wellness tradition is working its way into contemporary healthcare practices. As a result, more and more folks are embracing Ayurveda as a powerful way to integrate positive changes and bring their lives back into balance.


Enjoy our video, Ayurveda: A Compass For Living



What is Ayurveda? Key Ayurvedic Concepts

Ayurveda seeks to achieve an optimal energetic balance in the body, mind, and spirit so we are healthy and free to pursue our fullest spiritual lives. But what does that really mean?

Everything and everyone in the world around us is composed of five elements: air, fire, water, earth, and space. Ayurveda groups these elements into three basic energetic properties, known as doshas. These foundational energies (called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) are the building blocks of our entire universe.


Vata: That Which Moves


1. Vata dosha is characterized by space and air. The essential engine of the universe, Vata governs all functions of movement within the mind, body, and outer world. Like the elements it embodies, Vata’s physical properties are cold, dry, mobile, subtle, and light.


Vata’s powerful mobile nature is the source of creativity, expansion, openness, eagerness, and ingenuity. However, when Vata falls out of balance, we may feel scattered, ungrounded, tense, and anxious.


2. Pitta: That Which Transforms

Fire and water combine to form Pitta dosha. A universal force of action/reaction, Pitta governs all transformations within the body and mind (think digesting thoughts, emotions, sunlight, and of course food). Pitta characteristics are hot, light, sharp, oily, liquid, and spreading.


In balance, Pitta energy is ambitious, discerning, charismatic, strong-willed, and insightful. Out of balance, it sparks heat in the body and mind (such as inflammation, indigestion, heartburn, and fiery emotional responses like jealousy, criticism, and anger).


3. Kapha: That Which Protects


Kapha dosha is governed by water and earth. Nourishing and reliable, Kapha provides structure and stability in our inner and outer worlds. Like the elements it represents, Kapha physical properties are moist, heavy, slow (or dullish), cool, stable, oily, and smooth.


Balanced Kapha supports groundedness, endurance, strength, and dependability. It protects critical systems from our immune system and personal boundaries down to our stomach lining and the fluid in our joints. Out of balance, Kapha manifests as physical and mental “dullness.” We may put on a few extra pounds, or feel weighed down, lethargic, foggy, or depressed.


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WWhat is Ayurveda and Why Does it Work So Well?image vata, pitta, kapha stages of life


The Doshas and Ayurvedic Stages of Life


According to Ayurveda, there are three stages to life. Each stage of life is colored by each of the doshas-Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.


The first stage is Kapha and occurs from conception to around the pre-teen years, in other words, childhood.


The second stage is governed by Pitta and spans from teen years (start of the menstrual cycle for females) up until menopause.


The third stage is governed by Vata which leads us up to the completion of our life.

The shift from one stage to the next is not immediate, it is a slow transition with one foot in the stage before, and the other foot into the next stage, until the transition is completed.


table showing time of day and the dominant dosha


Times the Doshas Rule the Day

Times the Doshas Rule the Day

Have you ever woken up much later than usual? Did you find yourself waking up in fog and no matter how many cups of coffee you consumed, you just felt off all day? It may seem like a mystery, but Ayurveda (the knowledge of life) knows why. The doshas govern certain times of the day and night, in four-hour shifts.


Kapha is dominant from 6:00-10:00 a.m. and p.m. With its primary qualities of moist, heavy, slow (or dullish), cool, stable, oily, and smooth, when we wake up in that dominant energy in the universe, we feel it. The elements of water and earth are heaviest during these times, and it results in an experience of weightiness and even dullness. How we experience this energy depends on our doshic picture.


For example, if someone is anxious, this heavy, grounding quality, especially in evening is soothing and balancing. Or, if someone is intense and always trying to scratch off one more item on the to-do list at night, (Pitta), the naturally occurring weight of Kapha time can help balance the over-driven Pitta.


On the opposite end, if someone is Kapha and they're sleeping in until 9:00a.m. because they feel tired and lack energy, they will do better to wake up before Kapha time, to catch the lighter energy present in the universe as that opposite quality will invigorate them. Sleeping later in this case, increases the Kapha person experience of feeling tired.


Pitta is dominant from 10:00-2:00 a.m. and p.m. Have you ever stayed up late experiencing a second wind--you got those taxes done finally, cleaned out the closet, you were a focused go-getter and it all happened with such ease. Two in the morning arrives and you're spent. What just happened?


Pitta governs metabolism, transformation, doing! You didn't have a second wind; you experienced a second fire of productivity. If you have a task at work that requires your strongest concentration, tackle that during Pitta hours. It's when we're at our sharpest, clearest, and most focused.


Vata governs 2:00-6:00 a.m. and p.m. It governs all the movement of the universe inside and outside of us. Its primary qualities of cold, dry, mobile, subtle, and light. Have you noticed toward mid-afternoon it gets a little harder to focus? Our concentration is lightening up. We might feel spaced out and ready to call it a day. This is the light, mobile nature of Vata calling us to move (thanks to Vata’s mobile quality) on to something else.


Ever wake up at night around 2:00-4:00? That occurs as Vata is increasing in the atmosphere and we feel its impact. When Vata is out of balance, we are especially susceptible to such wakings. As women begin to move through the perimenopausal transition, even those who slept like a log, may find themselves suddenly waking up in the middle of the night. Why? Because they are beginning to move into the Vata stage of life and Vata dosha is a bit out balance and needing some grounding.


"During Vata time we want to start downshifting internally. We may still be at school, work, or driving around, but internally, we can recognize the shift that has occurred and that alone helps. It's a time not to do the most difficult tasks of the day, to not pile on more, but to start taking it easy. When we algin ourselves with nature in this way, we are swimming with the flow of the stream and not against it."

-Veena, Saumya Ayurveda

Wake Up Time By Dosha Type


Vata: People with a Vata constitution need more sleep and do best sleeping until 6 a.m. Pitta: Those with a Pitta constitution are supported by waking by 5:30a.m. Kapha: People with a Kapha constitution are invigorating their energy by waking by 4:30a.m.


What is Ayurveda and Why Does it Work So Well? the three dosha types, vata type woman, pitta type woman, and kapha type woman


Understanding Your Personal Dosha Picture


Everyone on the planet is comprised of all three doshas. However, the degree to which each dosha is present varies from person-to-person. Your unique dosha makeup is like your energetic DNA: there are infinite combinations, but only one you.


Our doshic constitution influences everything from our body type to our temperament, and even our bowel movements! Ayurveda assesses a person’s dosha makeup in two ways:

  1. PRAKRUTI (Original Constitution): The doshic composition of your body and mind at the moment of your creation. This determines your innate tendencies, physical/psychological traits, and is considered your natural optimal state.

  2. VIKRUTI (Current State): How your doshas are manifesting in the present moment. Our environment and lifestyle choices affect our physical and energetic bodies, our mood, and our psychology – which can lead to imbalances in our dosha state.


What is Ayurveda and Why Does it Work So Well? bar graph illustrating example of dosha prakruti, consitution, and vikruti, imabalance

When all is well, and we’re living a balanced life in an optimal environment, our prakruti and vikruti will be the same. But the doshas are dynamic, and disturbances to our inner or outer worlds can throw the doshas out of balance. When this happens – we feel it!


A dosha imbalance will announce itself in any variety of physical and mental symptoms. The sooner we treat the root cause, the less damage the imbalance can do. Without correction, however, an imbalance in the doshas may lead to a health condition, syndrome, or disease. In other words, it becomes something modern allopathic medicine has a name for.


In an Ayurvedic consultation, a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner will determine your prakruti - your true nature - and the current state of the doshas. Next, they’ll develop a personalized plan to treat imbalances in your vikruti and maintain an energetic state aligned with your true nature.


woman balancing on rocks


Ayurvedic Approach to Dosha Imbalances


The goal in Ayurveda is to establish svastha, a state of harmony and equilibrium between the mind, body, soul, and senses. This is accomplished by achieving and maintaining balance of the doshas. However, whether they’re sparked by internal or external forces, dosha imbalances are part of life.


If the imbalance is minor, you may just feel like something is a little off. The earliest signs of imbalance occur within the digestive system, and often reflect the dosha’s qualities (increased constipation with Vata, a little heartburn for Pitta, or slow stools for Kapha).


Untreated, the imbalance will eventually spill over into general circulation, land in a weak spot, and set up shop – now we notice!


Unfortunately, severe or chronic imbalances can lead to a variety of troubling health issues. Rather than treating the symptoms that come along with these issues, Ayurveda works to address the root cause of the dosha imbalance.


Picture a tree with roots digging deep into the earth. The symptoms we experience when we develop an illness or medical condition are like leaves on the tree. By the time the leaves “sprout,” the imbalance has been there a long time. Ayurveda works backwards to reverse the disease’s development from the leaves, to the branches, to the trunk, and finally the roots.


Treating the problem at the root allows the whole tree to grow healthy and strong. How do we treat the root? By identifying what’s out of balance, what’s causing it, and introducing healing strategies to bring the entire organism (that’s you!) back into balance.


custom  Ayurveda plan


Customized Ayurveda Programs

Ayurveda is considered the original customized medicine. It recognizes there is no one-size-fits all approach to living a balanced, healthy life. We all have different doshic constitutions, external environments, and life situations. Thus, we all need different things to bring our bodies into balance.


When working with Saumya Ayurveda, you’ll receive a comprehensive assessment of your doshic picture, and a customized lifestyle, food, and herbal health plan. Treatment is developed with your life in mind – because the best Ayurvedic plan is one you can easily integrate easily into your daily life.

"Ayurveda is a holistic, comprehensive, systematic, and customized approach to treating the whole you-body, mind, and spirit. I understand your life is already demanding and so your plan is designed to fit you.


My role is to guide you--starting with having a clear doshic picture (what's going on and why from an Ayurvedic view), to your customized Ayurveda plan (here's what we're going to do to restore dosha balance) and throughout the process, you're gaining knowledge, the knowledge (Veda) of life (Ayu): Ayurveda, is the wisdom of life that provides us a compass for our whole being, every step of the way."

- Veena, Saumya Ayurveda

 

“Veena is an amazing Ayurvedic Practitioner. She is knowledgeable and highly skilled. She is also intuitive and has a great sense of humor. If you are looking for someone to help guide you to better health, work/life balance and awareness of your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being—I recommend Veena without hesitation.


After my first consultation and one week, I felt better, had more energy and more mental clarity than I have had in many years. Thank you, Veena.”

-Lynda G., Corrales, New Mexico

 

"I’ve had the pleasure of working with Veena on some major health issues. She heard what I said and seemed to really feel what was going on in my body. Because of this, she knew what I was going through and could guide my life-choices and provide the right Ayurvedic remedies.


Over the past few months, I've made significant progress. Not only am I planning on continuing with Veena, but I can wholeheartedly recommend her to my relatives, friends, and colleagues.

-- Randall Krause, Los Angeles, California

Psst! Our clients say it best – so read and watch our client's stories.

What is Ayurveda and Why Does it Work So Well? image Saumya Ayurveda's healing trifecta of herbs, food as medicine and Ayurveda lifestyle tools


What is Ayurveda? The Healing Trifecta


With its intrinsic knowledge of the whole person, Ayurveda can identify problematic imbalances before they advance to the disease state and help relieve issues that can plague individuals for decades.


At Saumya Ayurveda, your treatment plan includes food as medicine, targeted herbal nutrition, and lifestyle practices tailored to you. This “healing trifecta” embodies what we need to regain and maintain dosha balance. Alone, these tools are powerful – but together, they can truly change your life.


What is Ayurveda and Why Does it Work So Well?image Ayurveda herbs in glass jars on a shelves


1. Herbal Nutrition

While a proper diet is the foundation of holistic wellness, Ayurveda uses medicinal herbs to target and support specific tissues, systems, channels, and organs in the body and mind. Targeted plant nutrition can be used to address a wide range of concerns, including to improve digestion, increase mental clarity, boost immunity, and even help you catch some Zs.

At Saumya Ayurveda, we take a “less is more” gentle approach to herbs. Rather than overwhelming you with a bunch of supplements you don’t need, we start with a gentle dose (no more than it takes – but no less, either!). As you move deeper into your Ayurvedic lifestyle, we’ll circle back regularly to ensure your herbal plan stays aligned with the seasons and your current doshic needs.


Which Ayurvedic herbal remedy is correct for you depends on your constitution, current conditions, location, stage of life, and the season.


As with all herbs, the tenet of Ayurveda is that what works well for one person may be incorrect, imbalancing for another. To know what herbs are correct for you, schedule a consultation with an experienced Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner.


"Ayurveda is gentle and effective because it is not a one size fits all approach. It is a compassionate look at the unique you-body, mind, and spirit, and gaining a clear picture of what is going on for you. Then, with clarity and specificity, providing you the most supportive and gentle herbal remedies. It’s not ’everyone take ashwagandha’, ‘rather it' is about you and only you, and what is optimally supportive of your balance." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda


several colorful Ayurvedic dishes

2. Food as Medicine


As the famous Ayurvedic proverb goes, “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; when diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” When we know how to eat correctly for our body, mind, and entire being – we thrive.


Unfortunately, conflicting dietary information abounds, and many folks find themselves in tears (or even poorer health!) trying to develop an ideal diet on their own. With the guidance of a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, we can learn to eat to nourish our body, mind, and soul.


In contrast to other dietary regimens, Ayurveda does not label food as good or bad. Instead, it emphasizes how various energetic properties in food can aggravate or pacify the doshas. Dietary plans are tailored to the individual, to provide optimal balance to their unique doshic composition. ​For example:

  • Someone struggling with chronic heartburn (Pitta) may be wise to avoid consuming alcohol, coffee, or chili peppers, which increase heat and aggravate Pitta. - Hot List of Common Pitta Imbalances

  • Individuals with strong Vata composition may struggle to digest cold salads and raw vegetables, due to their cool nature and low digestive fire. - Wild List of Vata Imbalances

  • Too many heavy sweets can lead to dullness and lack of motivation for those with strong Kapha composition.

 

"I found Veena at Saumya Ayurveda when I was looking for a holistic approach to my health and lifestyle.

Veena's Ayurveda Consultation with individual attention and focus has been wonderful. I have transitioned from pharmaceuticals to herbal and dietary approaches to manage my high cholesterol and calcium deficiencies.


Digestive issues that have plagued me my entire life have disappeared. I am a dedicated user of the oils to ease arthritis pain.


I was so pleased with my results that I recommended Saumya Ayurveda to my daughters and my mother. My mother has stopped using harsh pain medication for arthritis. Ayurveda is helping me to take care of myself and I can enjoy each day.”

--Rachelle Chase, retired Director Business Process, Target Corporation, Minnesota

woman meditating with dogs at her side


3. Lifestyle Practices

An Ayurvedic lifestyle is about more than adding a few habits to your daily routine, it’s a framework of wisdom for life itself. Many of us lack a compass, overall, for a path of how to move through life. An Ayurvedic lifestyle shows us how-to live-in harmony with the elements, and navigate the world with greater balance and intention.

Ancient Ayurvedic practices like diaphragmatic breathing, abhyanga massage, nasya oil, and mantra and meditation move our bodies and minds from constant fight-flight-freeze to rest-relax-restore. In our busy, stressed, and tired world – this shift can be truly life-changing.


Use our free guided practices in your morning and evening Ayurveda routine and reclaim your calm, improve focus, and increase vitality. Ayurveda lifestyle practices are a healthy way to support body, mind, and spirit.


teh word testimonials under a magnifying glass

“As a physician, I have always believed ‘Prevention is better than cure.’ In an era of spiraling health care costs, Ayurveda is the logical and natural solution.


I started working with Veena at a time when I was at the end of my tether, juggling my professional and personal aspirations. She responded to my desperate call.


I was encouraged to pursue a steady approach to create lasting changes. Now when I see my patients, I see so many sufferings from similar symptoms related to diet and stress. I have routed several of my patients to Saumya Ayurveda. Veena is a blessing to have such a rich resource.


I am eternally grateful to Veena for anchoring me to my present state of health and peacefulness and for helping me to embark on a path towards the balance we all are striving for. Thank you so much.”

--Dr. Gauri Nagargoje, M.D., Oncology and Hematology

 

“Veena has literally changed my life. I was struggling with mental and physical symptoms that my doctor had no answer for. I thought I was going crazy and just making symptoms up.

With Veena’s guidance, with herbs and diet changes, I soon realized that my symptoms were very real. After making the changes, I made small victories along the way, and became better with each appointment with her.


Now almost 6 months later, I am a completely different person. I still have some things to work on, but with Veena’s help, I know I will be able to take control of my health and not leave it to Western medicine that was giving me little to no help and covering up my symptoms with another medication.


I highly encourage getting the longer package, especially if you are working with challenges with your monthly cycle.


Working with Veen has been the best decision I have made for my health. You won’t be disappointed!” -- Maria Fumagalli, San Diego, California

 

“I discovered Veena on google and was very impressed by all of her glowing reviews. I purchased the half year Ayurveda package with 7 sessions. I'm completely new to Ayurveda and Veena is very knowledgeable, patient with my questions, warm, and has a great sense of humor.

 

I looked forward to our sessions and after more than a decade of chronic illness, things started improving with the protocols she guided me through. I feel like a different person in just half a year. The improvements are incredible, and I feel so hopeful and inspired by this experience.


I will continue the protocols I've learned and at our last session, I didn't feel like I would be left on my own. Veena is always an email or phone call away - she is very, very responsive, and helpful.

 

I am so glad I discovered her, and I encourage anyone for any health issue or concern to book with her and see how your overall wellbeing will improve. Thank you, Veena!” -Therese Nichols, Minnesota


 

“Working with Veena is incredible. She sees the possibilities that lay dormant in us and is so patient and kind in sharing her wisdom and tools to help birth those possibilities.


As Ayurveda is a living science, it takes conviction and discipline to change habits, to live a different reality. Veena makes navigating the changes smooth and meaningful, inspiring at every meeting, letting me know that, YES, changes are happening! Thank you, Veena. Many blessings!”

-Kyle Sangster, USA


 

 

“I have been so fortunate to have been introduced to Veena by a friend, and I absolutely want to share her information with you. Veena is so dedicated to one’s health that it feels amazing to have her on my side. She's truly a beautiful soul.


She is helping me navigate all my issues with perimenopause and I am so glad, as the herbs she has given me have not only boosted my immune system greatly, but have chilled my nervous system out, and I’m sleeping again.”  – S.J., Saudi Arabia


colorful globe

Discover the Saumya Ayurveda Way


What is Ayurveda? A Beginner's Guide and Beyond provides a clear map to your heath and wellbeing.


We all want to be heard, understood, and cared for as whole beings, not a set of isolated symptoms. True health is more than the absence of disease, which is why Western medicine so often leaves us feeling hopeless and unseen.


Deep down, you already know what you’re searching for: a new framework for living – one that brings your entire being back into balance. With Saumya Ayurveda, you’ll receive individualized guidance to create the physically, mentally, and spiritually vibrant life you crave.


Saumya Ayurveda provides concierge, top-notch, award-winning Ayurveda care. We strive to keep it simple, so you can focus on you! Opt for virtual consultations and we'll come to you.


Our practice model is client focused, we’re not in the retail herb business. We’ll guide you where to order herbs directly online. Our top-shelf Ayurveda oils and herbalized ghees are the best in the land and we’ll ship your care package right to your doorstep.


Our effective multi-appointment consultation packages provide you with experienced Ayurveda care, enthusiastic guidance, and inspiring support.


Explore our personalized services and book your FREE discovery call today. Psst! Our clients say it best – so read and watch our client's stories

Veena at Saumya Ayurveda

Veena is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and meditation teacher, and monk.


She is President Emeritus and teaching faculty of the Meditation Center.


Veena fell in love with the traditional medicine used in her family’s home, learning herbal remedies at her grandmother's knee.


These childhood experiences were the seeds of a lifelong passion. For over 30 years, Veena has dedicated her life to the world’s oldest healing system: Ayurveda.


She draws on this ancient wisdom to help others find their compass to a healthy life – and support those left wanting by Western medicine.


An experienced Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, Veena’s deep, intuitive knowledge of Ayurveda empowers her clients to reclaim their fullest, most vibrant lives –mentally, physically, and spiritually. Veena individualizes treatment plans to each person, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all approach, so it fits your life and becomes woven in your lifestyle, naturally.

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