Ayurveda: Let’s Get Personal
Nov 21, 2019
We got the chance to sit down with Sam Attard, Founder and CEO of Spiro Collective. A PhD in nutrition, she sought out Ayurvedic Medicine to help solve the issues she saw in Western approaches to wellness through a more personalized, holistic method, with natural prescriptions for better energy and vitality.
We added a heaping scoop of Follow Your Gut to our lattes (as one does before diving into an adaptogenic-driven convo) and chatted Ayurveda basics - because, you gotta start somewhere.
SO, SAM - FOR THE AYURVEDA NEWBIES OUT THERE, GIVE US AN INTRO. WHAT IS IT, AND WHY WERE YOU DRAWN TO IT?
In its simplest form, Ayurveda is an ancient form of personalized medicine that helps us understand our unique needs and create sustainable habits to address them.
When I was in grad school for nutrition, I was amazed that as a country we weren’t making great progress on diseases like excess weight and stress, even though researchers were spending tons of money and time on these issues. I wondered if there was something that our Western paradigm was missing.
When I first read about the Ayurvedic archetypes (the Doshas, which I’ll get to in a moment), I was literally brought to tears. On a personal level, the interplay of Vata and Pitta Dosha (two of the archetypes) so accurately articulated my health, my strengths, and my weaknesses. I felt like I was talking to a trusted friend, not reading about a 5,000 year old system of medicine.
On a more global scale, I realized that our current medical system ignores individuality and fails to ask whether different interventions will work better in different people.
We’re all unique. So, why don’t we eat and move that way? Ayurveda teaches that we can know and trust ourselves, not create rules based on what an article or Instagram influencer tells us to do.
Ultimately, Ayurveda gives me the tools to understand myself on a deeper level. It’s why I now know EXACTLY what to do if one day I wake up and have no energy, and also means I don’t feel bad if I go out for pizza or a cinnamon roll.
WE CAN GET BEHIND A CINNAMON ROLL. TELL US MORE.
In Western medicine, we often take a one size fits all approach medical prevention and intervention, expecting 100% success. But in truth, medical diagnoses and interventions are rarely that effective or seamless.
In Ayurvedic medicine, on the other hand, our personal differences are celebrated and formalized into a classification system called the Doshas. The three Doshas - Kapha (earth/water), Pitta (fire/water), and Vata (air/ether), represent three general archetypes that can be used to describe people, seasons, weather, situations, and relationships.
The word Dosha is often translated as your constitution. The three Doshas are present in all of us, but we each have a unique mixture of all of them, resulting in a myriad of different preferences and needs. Once we understand which Dosha is most present in our general constitution, we can understand which aspects of our personality or routine are most likely to get out of balance, and take action to keep our three Doshas in balance.
IN BALANCE SOUNDS BETTER THAN OUT OF BALANCE. WHERE DO I BEGIN?
First things first - find your Dosha type through the quick and fun quiz. Understanding your Dosha is powerful because it allows you to develop general guidelines for what to eat, how to move, what situations to engage in, and how you can recover from those down days to feel your best.
You can use this information to identify where you feel most out of balance and decide which lifestyle habits will have the biggest impact on your health and happiness.
GOT IT. BEFORE WE DIVE IN, YOU MENTIONED 3 DOSHA TYPES - CAN YOU GIVE A HIGH LEVEL SUMMARY OF EACH SO WE KNOW WHAT WE’RE GETTING INTO?
Sure thing. Below is a general explanation of the Doshas. This is by no means a complete description of the Doshas, but it’s a great start towards better understanding your personality and daily habits.
Kapha is ruled by the elements Earth and Water. It is grounding, slow, heavy, and stable. Thick, warm foods like chili increase Kapha. The transition from winter to spring is Kapha time of year. Individuals with a more Kapha constitution tend to have big eyes, strong muscles, and are calm and steady.
When you have too much Kapha, you feel unmotivated, heavy, or jealous. Many Kapha types fear change - maintaining the status quo just feels easier. To keep Kapha in balance, make a point to wake up earlier and get active, avoid overeating, and focus on relationships that make you feel happy and energized..
Pitta is ruled by the elements Fire and Water. It is hot, sharp, and quick. Spicy foods like hot sauce and tomatoes are Pitta - so if you get a lot of acid reflux you might want to avoid nightshades. Summer, unsurprisingly, is Pitta time of year. Individuals with a more Pitta constitution tend to get overheated, have red or inflamed skin, and are very task-oriented (or just are perfectionists).
Too much Pitta can make you angry, irritated, or harsh. Many Pittas need to remember how to open their hearts, so they can connect with others, stop controlling, and relax. Balance Pitta by eating more raw foods and introducing calming practices like yoga and meditation into your daily routine.
Vata is ruled by the elements Air and Ether. It is light, airy and cold. Raw, light foods like leafy greens increase vata. Fall is Vata season. Individuals with a more Vata constitution tend to feel overly cold, to be very active (physically and mentally), and can easily get overwhelmed.
Too much Vata can make you feel anxious and indecisive. Vatas need to find anchors in their daily routine to create stability and safety. Balance Vata with warm, cooked foods, consistent routines, and by simply slowing down.
SO, ONCE I DETERMINE MY DOSHA, WHAT ARE MY NEXT STEPS?
After you take the quiz and get your results, it’s important to note that the point of understanding your Dosha is not so that you can label yourself or develop a rigid way of living your life. Rather, it’s to help you appreciate your individuality and the personalized needs that guide you through your day. Each Dosha has its strengths and its weaknesses.
I would encourage you to read more about your Dosha type - we have lots of helpful content on Spiro Collective and on Apothekary’s blog (like recipes, morning routines by doshas, etc). The herbal plant-based supplements that come recommended with your dosha quiz results are also a perfect way to get started. They’re easy to use and can help balance the physical and mental aspects of your dosha.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sam, the founder of Spiro Collective, uses Ayurveda to help women balance their hormones, find and sustain energy, and manage chronic stress.
Sam combines Ayurveda with her background as a PhD in nutrition, doula, and yoga instructor with over 1,500 hours of teaching experience to develop a personalized path to health and balance for her clients.