This Is Ayurveda

Society paints this picture where you have to have the longest hair and the thinnest body and you can’t help but want to be that beautiful person you see on that picture. But then you have to start asking yourself the question — Is that realistic for you? I began to ask myself those questions: Who am I working out for? Who am I looking good for? When I look in the mirror who do I want to please? Do I want to please people or do I want to please Mary first? So I began to want to please myself first. I can’t please everybody. I can’t be the slimmest girl. Be the best you that you can be. — Mary J. Blige

photo courtesy of kanvas

I read this in Gala Darling‘s “Darling Dispatch,” her weekly newsletter (I know, adorable name, right?). The first thing that came to mind, to the tune of Mary J. Blige’s soulful voice, were the words I use to editorialize every single Ayurveda workshop and training I’ve done.

To find out what Ayurveda is, check out my Desserts + Doshas article (more to come, I’m sure, after this weekend’s session), but for a brief explanation, Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga. Ayurveda is a holistic science for balancing our bodies, minds and hearts. It consists of three primary categories (doshas) and a plethora of sub-doshas and combinations and permutations of the three. While doshas are categories, they translate to “imbalance.” But in Ayurveda – unlike in Western science – “imbalance” is not a negative; it is a natural state of being. Ayurveda suggests that we become the most balanced form of our imbalance.

That explanation was not meant to make sense…that is why we need Mary J. Blige. Hang in there, please!

The first Ayurveda workshop I took part in was during a particularly imbalanced summer at the Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in San Francisco. The woman who I would later take a 50-hour advanced Ayurveda training with was visiting and, due to low attendance at the workshop (always a blessing in disguise) we really got into a discussion on what this ancient science means within the context of our modern lives. One woman in the workshop, who was also Kapha-Pitta (see here) – although I have a hunch I am Pitta-Kapha, who knows? – said that she feels that Pitta is more valued in our society and Kapha is devalued. Go figure, seeing as Kapha is the “curvy” dosha and I have long wanted to write an article on how we discuss Ayurveda in the context of body love for every single size. Pitta, meanwhile, is the driven dosha, the medium build, the socially acceptable type under present-day norms.

When Mary J. Blige says “be the best that you can be,” I yoga nerd out and think of the doshas. Ayurveda does not tell us we have to be all three or that if we’re Kapha we have to be more Pitta or if we’re Pitta we have to be more Vata. No, it does not tell us to change our baseline constitutions. It tells us to be the best versions of our imbalances. To be our best selves means to celebrate what makes us unique and to take on the optimal forms of that uniqueness. So if you’re Pitta, be ambitious. Get things done. Rock that red hair and freckles. But do it with grace and kindness. If you’re Kapha, embrace that softness and use it to be of greater service to yourself and to the world. Rock those curves. Fuel the softness (the sukha) with strength (sthira). If you’re Vata, channel the whirling mind into boundless creativity…just keep both feet on the ground while you do that.

Now, for the reader who has no idea what all that even means, be you. Rock you. Celebrate you.


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