What do Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Julia Roberts all have in common—besides, of course, being talented and stunningly beautiful? All three women have been linked to Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old approach to health and life rooted in the ancient Vedic culture of India.
Since we’re bombarded with fad diets and ideas on a daily basis, we set out to discover what’s at the core of Ayurveda and how to know if it’s a good fit. Ahead, we break down the fundamental beliefs of this lifestyle and simple, healthy ways to explore and experiment with it.
Ayurveda, also known as the “science of life,” (“ayur”” means “science” and “veda” means “life” in Sanskrit) is an approach to natural healing and health. Both traditional Chinese and early Greek medicine are based on parts of Ayurveda. But it goes beyond the doctor’s office and medicine. It aims to help people realize their full potential through balance: Optimal health and livelihood are achieved when a human’s mind, body, and spirit are in balance with the environment surrounding them.
Ayurveda states each human’s mind, body, and spirit is made up of three elements: movement, transformation, and structure. These three correlate to aspects of the environment, since human beings are a part of the larger world. Movement is associated with “Vata,” which means “wind” in Sanskrit, while transformation corresponds to “Pitta,” meaning “fire” in Sanskrit. Finally, structure is associated with “Kapha,” or “Earth” in Sanskrit.
Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are called “doshas” in Ayurveda. Every person has all three doshas within him or her but in varying amounts. The dominant dosha ultimately defines them and gives insight into personality, appearance, and demeanor. For example, one with a Vata (wind) dosha may be lithe, eager, and full of energy. Those with Pitta (fire) dominating are often serious, intellectual, and ambitious. If Kapha (Earth) rules, a person may be flexible, laid back, and gentle. All of us have a combination of all three elements, but typically one or two govern.
The first goal of Ayurveda is to identify which dosha rules. From there, Ayurveda aims to balance the dominant dosha in order to bring out the best in a person. While those characterized by wind are often enthusiastic and animated when the element is balanced, a person may be anxious or overly excited if the element is not balanced. If fire is not in equilibrium, strong ambition may take a turn for the worse—toward compulsive or overly independent behavior. For Earth, that flexible, easygoing personality may convert to laziness.
Ayurveda prescribes meditation, aromatherapy, massage, and various diets or exercises to balance one’s ruling dosha and keep it harmonized with the others. For example, a person with a Vata (wind) dosha will benefit from consistent routines, since they are known for their energy and thrive on change. Falling asleep and waking up at the same time each day will help them remain grounded and balanced. If you think your dosha might be fire, it might help to eat an abundance of cool, watery, and sweet fruits and vegetables—as you are often intense and fiercely determined. For those with earth as their ruling dosha, spicy foods like ginger may ensure a relaxed nature doesn’t become lethargic or weary.
Breaking through the hype and understanding the basics of Ayurveda is helpful for beginners and those potentially interested in the lifestyle approach. If it’s something you’re serious about incorporating into your routine, it’s best to visit an Ayurveda specialist to identify your dosha and prescribe what’s best. Ayurvedic spas and wellness centers are easy to find and located throughout the country to help you on your way to achieving perfect balance.