An integral part of Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old Indian medicinal practice, is a person's dosha. Whether you're going to an Ayurvedic doctor or buying Ayurvedic beauty products, your dosha is what is used to connect you with the right products/remedies. There are three doshas, known as mind-body types (find out which one is yours by taking this quiz), and we all have elements of each, but one of them dominates to regulate our behavior and emotions. To find out more about them and how we can utilize Ayurveda's teachings to cure our skin and health woes, we spoke with Dr. Pratima Raichur, the founder of PRATIMA Skincare, a leader in Ayurvedic skin, body and haircare.
theFashionSpot: What exactly is Ayurvedic aromatherapy?
Dr. Pratima Raichur: Ayurveda is an ancient science that offers a profound understanding of ourselves in relation to the universe and in addition teaches us how to heal and find balance through all five senses: Sight, Sound, Nutrition (sense of taste), Massage (sense of touch) and Aromatherapy (sense of smell). Ayurveda describes our sense of smell, in particular, as ‘the ancient root of emotions’ and gateway to the brain, directly influencing our thoughts, emotions, memories and creativity. Ayurvedic Aromatherapy is traditionally administered by combining the traditional techniques and benefits of a Marma Abhyanga massage with pure essential oils, where small doses of these oils can work wonders within our bodies. Since Ayurveda recognizes different mind-body types, Ayurvedic Aromatherapy recognizes that not all essential oils are best for all people. What would be stress-relieving or invigorating for one could have a very different effect on another. Understanding your dosha can give you a great head start on finding the aromas best suited for you to achieve a sense of well-being and balance.
If, for example, you are a Vata type, prone to quick, spontaneous energy but quick to fatigue, warm, grounding/calming oils are most beneficial, such as lemon, neroli, sweet orange, cardamom or geranium. These oils should be blended and applied to the body in a base of sesame oil to give that extra rich nourishment that dry skin needs. If you are a Pitta type, prone to sensitivity and irritability, the cooling, calming oils are most beneficial, such as sandalwood, rose, gardenia, jasmine or vetiver, blended and applied in a base of coconut or sunflower oils to help balance combination skin. If you are a Kapha type, prone to depressed energy and lethargy, then stimulating, energizing oils are most beneficial, such as bergamot, sage, basil, cedar, pine or lavender, blended and applied in a base of safflower oil to deliver light nourishment for more oily skin.
tFS: Can you explain a little bit more what exactly a dosha is and about the differences between them?
PR: Ayurveda is a holistic medical science that believes the entire universe, and everything in it (including us), is composed of the five elements: Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. The three doshas are derived from these five elements — Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth) — and these primary forces are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion or combination of these three forces that shapes our nature, much like a fingerprint. Understanding your dosha can help you make the best choices for optimal health! Some key characteristics of the doshas:
- Vata: Governed by the elements of Space/Air; restless, dreamy demeanor, easily excitable, creative, energetic and changeable, quick to fatigue, fine-boned and slim, irregular appetite, dry skin and hair.
- Pitta: Governed by the elements of Fire/Water; passionate and determined, sharp intellect, organized, driven, goal-oriented, medium build, can easily become angry and irritable, greater tendency toward graying and hair loss, acne-prone or sensitive skin.
- Kapha: Governed by the elements of Water/Earth; loyal with a strong and steady demeanor, nurturing, easy-going, can become withdrawn or reclusive, medium-large build, easy to gain weight, smooth, thick skin with tendency toward oiliness and large pores.
tFS: Can you elaborate a little bit more about how our doshas can help solve our skincare issues?
PR: Ayurveda uses the doshas to help define all aspects of a person’s health, including skin, diet and exercise. In terms of skincare, Ayurveda utilizes the doshas to help us determine skin type. Because the skin absorbs the majority of what is applied to it topically, Ayurveda teaches that skincare is essentially “feeding” the skin, so the same plants and botanicals that would benefit your dosha through diet or aromatherapy are also beneficial to utilize through skincare. Pitta skin, which is prone to combination skin, has a tendency towards redness, irritation and breakouts, thus the botanicals that would be most suitable would be those that work to calm the skin, reduce redness, while also balancing the complexion. It is important that the doshas are taken into account when formulating skincare, as not all botanicals are as effective for all skin types and needs.
tFS: You mentioned that doshas tie into health. Can you talk a little but more about that?
PR: Just as with skincare, they help us to define proper diet, exercise and mental practices for each individual. By understanding your unique dosha, you will better understand your needs and how to achieve your unique balance for optimal health. Ayurveda recognizes that there is no one diet or lifestyle that works for everyone, as no two people have identical mind-body types. Ayurveda as a whole believes in prevention, and considers nutrition and diet the best medicine. Thus, by understanding your dosha and incorporating the best diet and lifestyle practices for your dosha, you will be able to achieve optimal health.
tFS: How does that tie into dealing with stress?
PR: Using the doshas to define your unique mind-body type will help you to better understand your triggers and what may cause you to become stressed and frazzled. By understanding this, you can make adjustments to help prevent unnecessary stress and recognize when these triggers may be present. For example, Vata types are defined by the force of movement, so they are quick — quick to make friends, quick-thinking and quick-moving, however that also means they are quick to forget, quick to fatigue and quick to worry. Because of this, Vata types are prone to anxiety, insomnia and indecision. By making decisions based on this awareness, Vata can counteract and balance these stressors (and the triggers that cause them) by incorporating grounding foods and exercises into their daily routine as well as aromatherapeutic activities, such as a Marma massage with Vata-balancing essential oils.