Ayurveda 101: Self Care Using the 5 Elemental Approach

Ayurveda 101: Self Care Using the 5 Elemental Approach

2020 has brought significant transformation to all of our lives; some certainly more so than others.

Transformation can be stressful on our bodies and minds, particularly if we are of the mindset that we should be somewhere other than where we are. Being in the present moment is such a simple solution to stress, one of the greatest acts of self-care, but actually doing it can seem like an insurmountable task. By taking an Ayurvedic approach and establishing a daily routine, we can simplify that task into manageable bites that can potentially enhance our relationships, our work, and our lives.

Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga and is a five elemental approach to nourishing one’s complete self. It can be used in a simple way, and still be powerful, making it accessible to all.

Ayurveda (Ayur – Life, Veda – Knowledge) is the knowledge of life. This knowledge guides us towards maintaining health in daily life and therefore supporting longevity. The key to this knowledge is that it is individual. When we study ourselves we learn how to nourish ourselves, because what is medicine for one, can be poison for another. Essentially anything can be a medicine or a poison; it all just depends on the person and the dosage.

Dosha means that which goes out of balance, so the goal in Ayurveda is to maintain balance in the doshas. There are three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. Vata is composed of air and ether, vata season is fall to early winter, and the vata time of day is 2-6 a.m/p.m. Pitta is composed of fire and water, pitta season is summer, and the pitta time of day is 10-2 a.m./p.m. Kapha, composed of earth and water, kapha season is late winter to spring, and the kapha time of day is 6-10 a.m./p.m.

Using this knowledge, one can establish a daily routine that helps to keep the doshas in balance. Since vata is the only mobile dosha, it tends to cause the most issues, and a routine will balance this mobile and irregular dosha.

Dinacharya – Daily Routine

Vata 2-6am

Do you find yourself waking at 2 or 3 a.m.? This is a sign that you have excess vata, so try massaging sesame oil on your feet before bed or add weight to your bedding. Try to wake at the same time daily (ideally before 6am to take advantage of the lightness of vata), scrape your tongue to remove the post-digestive buildup, then drink a warm glass of lemon water, evacuate your bowels/bladder, then brush your teeth. Removing what is there before consuming anything will help to support your digestive fire. This is also a good time of day to meditate and/or practice pranayama.

Kapha 6-10am

This is the time of day when you might find that you have the most stamina and that any knowledge you take in will “stick” a little better. Given that, kapha time is the best time to be productive with your self-care. Practice yoga or any exercise you enjoy, abhyanga (self- massage with oil), shower, eat a light, seasonal, breakfast without distraction, and read/study.

Pitta 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Pitta is primary in digestion, so lunch should be the largest meal and eaten without distraction, sometime between 11am and 1pm, but ideally when the sun is highest in the sky.

Vata 2 – 6 p.m.

Do you experience a mid-afternoon crash where you crave sugar and caffeine? This is another sign of excess vata, but in this case there is so much that it has burned you out physically and mentally. This is a great time of day to practice pranayama and/or meditation and drink something warm that is caffeine and sugar free. Naps are not recommended, unless you are sick or have a long term condition.

Kapha 6 – 10 p.m.

This is the time of day to follow the natural inclination of kapha and slow down your day. Eat a light dinner without distraction, the closer to 6 p.m. the better, try a relaxing yoga practice, begin to get ready for bed by 9 p.m., get into bed with a book or soothing music by 9:30 p.m., then go to sleep before 10 p.m.

Pitta 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.

As mentioned before, pitta is primary in digestion, but during this time of day it is not food, but thoughts, feelings, and emotions, that need digesting. This is why it is important to be asleep by 10pm so that the “janitor” can come in and clean up. If everyone is still up, the janitor cannot clean and just goes home, so the cleanup never happens and everything begins to build up.

If doing this seems overwhelming, pick one thing that you can do during the time window assigned to its dosha. Once that one thing becomes a part of your regular self-care routine, you can add something else. Most importantly, do not fret if you do not get everything 100% “right”. The best thing you can do to improve your self-care is to cut yourself some slack. An 80/20 approach can go a long way towards maximizing your health and wellbeing in an otherwise unstable time.

Christina Kuhn

Cristina Kuhn is a Yoga Medicine® E-RYT 500-hour instructor and Yoga Medicine® Therapeutic Specialist, a 500-hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher, a Reiki Master, an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, and a lover of gluten free baked goods and dark chocolate. She works one-on-one with clients who have autoimmune diseases, injuries, and mental health issues, with the goal of supporting their best selves in the current moment.