Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old Indian science of natural medicine, is as much a lifestyle guidance on an individual's well-being as it is a powerful system of medicine that delivers long-lasting results by addressing the fundamental, root causes of disease.
Within Ayurveda, the relationship between humans and their environment is considered sacred, and maintaining that balance is foundational to our well-being since everything in the universe is believed to consist of five basic elements: Ether (space), Water, Fire, Earth and Air.
They manifest themselves within the human constitution in three basic doshas: Vata (Ether and Air), Pitta (Fire and Water) and Kapha (Earth and Water). Understanding your dosha helps guide you in lifestyle choices, as well as in diagnosing the causes of imbalance within your body.
Simply put, ailments (from stress to acne to stomach aches) originate when there's an imbalance. All Ayuvedic treatments work by bringing these principles back into balance. Before we get started, it's important that you determine your Ayurverdic skin type:
- Vata skin tends to be dry, darker and with a tendency for roughness. Cool to the touch and often thin, this type of skin is especially likely to experience excessive dryness, flakiness and even eczema in times of stress.
- Pitta skin is typically soft, oily, fair to pale with a warm complexion. Medium thick, this type of skin is more prone to rashes, acne and sores when experiencing an imbalance.
- Kapha skin is thick, oily, typically very light and cool to the touch. Kapha skin tends to show enlarged pores, blackheads and water retention in times of imbalance.
Armed with this understanding, let's start to explore Ayurvedic rituals that work to deliver beauty. Here are three areas of life where listening to your dosha and taking action to correct any imbalances is crucial to the quality of your skin:
Food and water form the core of nourishment for your skin, so eat well and eat for your type. It seems rather obvious, but Ayurveda recommends that you eat by acknowledging the body's natural triggers of hunger or thirst.
How much you consume at a time is also important. Ayurveda suggests that your stomach be filled a third each with food, water and air at mealtime, with an emphasis on fresh foods. The guiding thought here is that incompatible foods create toxins, which in turn create the imbalance in your basic doshas.
The best foods to correct imbalances in your dosha:
- Vata: Avoid dried fruits, apples, melons, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, beef and peas. Eat avocados, sweet fruits, cherries and oranges.
- Pitta: Avoid tomatoes, garlic, sour fruits, bananas, peanuts and spicy foods. Eat prouts, green salads, sunflower seeds, mangos, pears, plums and mushrooms.
- Kapha: Avoid coconut, dates, pineapples and dairy products. Eat dried fruits, pomegranate, cranberries and basmati rice.
2. Lifestyle & Exercise
Lifestyle habits and exercise have a huge impact on the health and vitality of your skin. Overarching lifestyle guidance within Ayurveda includes waking before sunrise and going to sleep before 10PM; eating breakfast before 8AM, lunch before noon and dinner before sunset.
Activity and exercise is beneficial across the board for the skin (and for eliminating the toxins that cause skin ailments).
The best yoga asanas to correct imbalances in your dosha:
- Vata: head stands, backward bends, plows, cobra, locust and lotus poses
- Pitta: shoulder stands, half wheel, hidden lotus and fish poses
- Kapha: boat, lion, palm tree, half wheel and spinal twist poses
3. Skin Care
Now that we've taken care of how to eat and move, let's focus on how to actually treat your skin depending on your dosha.
Vata: This skin type dries quickly and is especially vulnerable to shifts in weather. Vata skin must be protected from harsh heat and cold, and pampered to retain its natural oils and moisture. Avoid hot water baths and showers (they can dry your skin out), be sure to use pH-balanced soaps and drink lots of water for hydration from the inside out.
You may also want to steam your skin with mint leaves and water to open your pores and increase circulation. Try gently massaging aloe vera onto your skin when you need extra moisture. Antioxidant-rich avocado is also great for vata skin as it's full of fatty acids and vitamins.
Pitta: This skin is very susceptible to rashes, so it needs to be treated gently. Cleansing with rose water, exfoliating with a sugar scrub and moisturizing with coconut oil are all great options.
Kapha: This skin type is usually oily and prone to acne, so it's important to avoid dairy in your diet. In terms of skin care, exfoliating with a sea salt and honey scrub is a good option, as is adding turmeric to your regimen.
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