Ayurveda says ... Ondine Constable shares traditional Indian principles for staying in good shape and good health.

AuthorConstable, Ondine

The topic of Ayurveda brings to mind herbal medicine. Yet the healthcare system from the Vedic Tradition of India is amazingly comprehensive and addresses the mind and body not as a collection of parts, but as a holistic system integrated with our environment. Ayurveda includes diet, daily and seasonal routines, development of consciousness, exercise and, yes, herbs. Here are some Ayurvedic principles to help you enjoy the best results from exercise. Even if you hate to work out, keep reading, because you might discover why!

According to Ayurveda, all natural systems, including our bodies, are regulated by three functional principles called doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. Doshas can be understood as biological intelligence. Vata governs bodily functions concerning movement; pitta governs heat, metabolism and energy production; and kapha governs fluid balance and physical structure, such as fat, tissue and muscle. Ayurveda's goal is to prevent disorder (disease) by maintaining balance in our doshas.

We're each born with a predominance of one or two doshas. Knowing your body type helps you understand your strengths and avoid imbalances. This is particularly important regarding exercise. Vatas tend to have a slight frame and be quick in mind and body, but lack stamina. Pittas are medium-build, competitive and heat up easily. Kaphas are sturdy, strong and slower, but have endurance. Vatas excel in sports requiring balance and coordination, such as gymnastics, yoga, martial arts or dance. Pittas who run at high noon may come back to the office red hot and cranky; they'd be better off swimming or running in the cool of the morning. Kaphas do well in weight lifting, rowing, power walking and distance running.

The doshas are strongest at different times of day; you'll feel best if you schedule your routine accordingly. Kapha time, 6-10 am, is best for exercising (remember: fat, tissues and muscles). Pitta (heat) dominates from 10 am-2 pm. Digestive fire is strongest at noon, so lunch should be the main meal. Vata period from 2-6 pm is best for mental focus. The cycle repeats at night--a walk after dinner (kapha part II, 6-10 pm) balances all doshas, aids digestion and reduces heaviness, yet is not too stimulating before sleep.

"Exercise increases mind-body coordination," says Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf, physician and Ayurvedic expert (1). "Disease occurs when the body loses contact with the underlying intelligence responsible for its maintenance and repair...

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