Ayurveda For Dummies
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Ayurveda — the "science of life" in Sanskrit — is the ancient art of traditional Indian medicine. Ayurveda encourages a combination of diet, exercise, herbal treatments, and breathing practices to help you enjoy a long and healthy life. This Cheat Sheet explains some of the core beliefs in Ayurveda.

The three doshas

Central to Ayurveda are the three doshas, or constitutions. When you know what type fits you best, you can tailor Ayurvedic treatment to suit your needs. Most people are a combination of two of the doshas, so you may be vata-pitta or pitta-kapha for example.

  • Vata: Your mind darts from one thing to the next. You tend to be slim and gangly with dry, wiry hair. Mentally, you’re very creative but you get bored easily.

  • Pitta: You have a sharp intellect and a matching appetite. You’re of medium build and have silky hair. You’re passionate and enthusiastic. You usually enjoy studying.

  • Kapha: You’re laid-back and easy going. You’re prone to weight gain with a slow metabolism. It takes you a while to commit facts to memory, but once there you’ll never forget them.

The 20 qualities in Ayurveda

According to Ayurveda, everything is experienced as a mixture of 20 different qualities, or attributes, which describe everything in our physical and mental world. An excess or deficiency in one of these qualities can lead to an imbalance in health. These opposite features point the way to effective diagnosis and treatment of illness in Ayurveda.

Ayurveda believes that if the treatment is like the ailment it’s treating, it increases that ailment. Only an opposite quality can combat it. Here are the 20 qualities:

Dull Sharp
Hard Soft
Heavy Light
Cold Hot
Wet Dry
Dense Subtle
Rough Smooth
Slow Quick
Solid Liquid
Oily Brittle

Eating right for your Ayurvedic type

Your basic Ayurvedic constitution or type (vata, pitta or kapha) influences which foods are most appropriate for you for staying healthy and balanced. Remember: you’re probably a combination of types, so follow the advice for your predominant dosha.


If vata is prominent in your constitution, your daily diet should be light, warmed, and slightly oily, to help your digestive system.

  • Soak dried fruits before you eat them.

  • Always eat breakfast to keep your energy levels up.

  • Avoid products with yeast, which create gas.

  • Nuts are a good snack for you, eaten little and often.

  • Avoid caffeine if you can; if not, stick to black tea in moderate amounts.

  • Spices help stimulate the flow of your digestive enzymes.


If you’re predominantly pitta, you benefit from nourishing, cooling, and sweet foods. Pittas have voracious appetites, so, try not to eat too much in one go.

  • Eat raw foods and enjoy salads and refreshing cool drinks — especially in the summer.

  • Include a good quality protein, such as beans, in your meals.

  • Wheat products and heavier foods help keep you in balance.

  • Keep your fluids high in hot weather and take advantage of the abundance of fresh sweet fruits.

  • Don’t eat when you’re upset or angry; you’ll suffer from indigestion and headaches.


If you have a kapha constitution you already have a strong, well-built body, so, you need less of heavy foods like bread and pasta:

  • Eat light, dry and warm food.

  • Seek pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes.

  • Avoid oily, cold, or heavy foods and drinks.

  • Pass on rich desserts. (Sorry.)

  • Skip really salty foods to keep weight from piling on (although a little is okay and even encourages salivation and enjoyment).

  • Make your food spicier to increase digestive power.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Angela Hope-Murray, MSc (Ayur) MA, BSc (Ost), has been a practitioner of complementary medicine for over 30 years. She trained extensively in Ayurvedic Medicine in Britain, the US, Germany and India, becoming a registered Ayurvedic Practitioner in 2001. Angela is a member of the Health Professions Council, and is currently based at The Hale Clinic in London.

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