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What is Ayurveda? A Beginner's Guide and Beyond

Updated: Sep 4

So, you’ve taken an online Ayurvedic dosha quiz, and found yourself more confused than ever. Pitta-dominant? Tri-dosha? Just wait a minute – what is Ayurveda, anyways?! Why does it work so well?

What is Ayurveda and Why Does it Work So Well? image Ayurveda herbs

Explore more on the Saumya Blog, selected top Ayurveda blogs and websites to watch.

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 – mental, 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.

What is Ayurveda and Why Does it Work So Well? graphic of elements combined together to create the three dosaha

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.

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.

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.

rocks stacked and imbalanced

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, doshaimbalances 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 regimen is one you can actually sustain.

Ayurveda is a holistic, comprehensive, systematic, and customized approach to treating the whole you-body, mind, and spirit. At Saumya Ayurveda, we understand your life is already demanding and so the plan we curate for you, matches your life. This way, recommendations become woven into your daily life, and not another to do list.

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.

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” 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.

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.

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

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

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, on the whole, 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.

antique map and compass

Discover the Saumya Ayurveda Way

If What is Ayurveda? A Beginner's Guide and Beyond, has piqued your interest, book a free phone consultation.

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.

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 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

What is Ayurveda and Why Does it Work So Well? image Veena at Saumya Ayurveda

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

She is President Emeritus of the Meditation Center and former staff member of the Minnesota Institute of Ayurveda.

Veena fell in love with the traditional medicine used in her family’s home learning herbal remedies at her grandmother's knee. She remains passionate for over 30 years, helping clients feel their best physically, emotionally, and spiritually with Ayurveda.

Veena individualizes treatment plans to each person, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all approach, so it fits your life and becomes woven into your daily life, naturally.


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