Ayurveda is the ancient system of natural medicine that was developed in India over 3,000 years ago. It offers a gentle yet effective method for encouraging total body health and well-being. Ayurveda — which means “science of life” in Sanskrit — is first and foremost preventive, and seeks to address imbalances in the body before disease takes root. With three principles of energy vata (movement), pitta (metabolism and digestion) and kapha (lubrication and structure) as its foundation, Ayurveda uses lifestyle interventions and natural therapies to restore balance in the body, mind and spirit. Everyone has the qualities of vata, pitta and kapha, but one is typically dominant, one secondary, with the third being least prominent. To learn more about how vata, pitta and kapha energies are acting upon your body’s ability to function harmoniously, take this quiz. For those who want a deeper understanding of how Ayurveda works, check out Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Dr. Vasant Lad.
There are several ways Ayurveda can inform our travels. An Ayurvedic rule of thumb to remember is that “like increases like” while opposites pacify. Additionally, Ayurveda considers the impact that the environment has on the body’s systems. So, when planning travel, it is important to assess which aspects of your unique doshic constitution are in and out of balance and choose destinations that support coming into harmony. By thoughtfully considering what climate, activities and accommodations can be most supportive to creating harmony in our bodies, we set the stage for the ultimate healing retreat. Read on for easy ways to plan holidays that support, restore and energize vata, pitta and kapha travelers.
Vata is the subtle energy of movement — air and ether. Everything about the human body that is in movement — breath, heartbeat, even thought — is governed by vata energy. When someone’s dominant dosha is vata, it’s important to find ways to ground, warm and soothe. When balanced, vata expresses as creative thinking and flexibility. When unsettled, vata can be nervous, fearful and prone to overthinking and digestive disorders such as gas and constipation.
Warm, temperate locales are the best remedy to balance vata constitutions, especially during cold winter months. Vata types should take extra care when traveling, as excessive movement can be highly aggravating for vata’s delicate systems. With conscientious self-care while on the road, vata benefits greatly from a visit to a tropical climate. All vata constitutions should add a visit to THE WELL at Hacienda AltaGracia, where each guest has access to their own “Compa” — or guide to their bucket list. Nurturing body treatments like the profoundly restorative River Bath massage, Botanical Yoga sessions, daily visits to healing Casa de Agua, a customized diet and views of the lush Costa Rican foothills are exactly the prescription to bring vata back to harmony. Vata types might also flourish in the Hawaiian Islands, the Caribbean and the French Riviera during warmer months.
Treat tip: When traveling, pack a nourishing body oil for self-massage. Choose a calming scent like rose, vetiver, Roman chamomile or lavender. Warm the bottle in a basin of hot water, then apply with long, slow strokes. Keep the oil on your nightstand for nightly hand and foot massages to ground and soothe.
Pitta-dominant constitutions should be mindful of how their bodies respond to different climates. Because pitta is expressed through metabolism and digestion, it also governs body temperature. The elements at play in a pitta constitution are fire and water. When in harmony, pitta is an action-oriented quick thinker; when out of balance, a pitta-dominant individual can be prone to anger, strong emotions and gastrointestinal disorders. Hot, humid climates can be draining for some pitta-dominant constitutions, and when traveling during summer months (and to warm-weather locales), avoiding the outdoors during peak sun hours can make all the difference. But remember that “like increases like,” so for pitta-dominant people who are in harmony, warm-weather travel can be quite enjoyable.
For pittas, it is very important to prioritize daily routine, diet and sleep. Choose accommodations that provide luxurious — and cool! — sleeping arrangements. Think luxury retreat centers that are focused on well-being and offer activities that are cooling in nature: swimming and water sports, forest bathing, restorative yoga and meditation. The lush mountains and pristine beaches of Kauai in winter provide a perfect backdrop for pitta-dominant travelers to balance adventure with relaxation. For year-round travel, look to Pacific Northwest cities like Seattle and Portland, and mild California climates like San Francisco and San Diego.
Treat tip: Prioritize healthy digestion by staying consistent with mealtimes and supplements. Eat slowly and be sure to consume cooling foods such as cucumber, melon, cilantro and mint. Research restaurant and food options prior to travel to ensure you will be properly nourished upon arrival at your destination.
Kapha is the energy of earth and water and governs the body’s structure. It lubricates the joints, moisturizes the skin and maintains immunity. When well, kapha types are easygoing, loving and grounded. When unbalanced, they can be lethargic and prone to attachment. It is important for kapha-dominant individuals to vary their routine and try new activities. They also do well to keep active, avoiding afternoon naps and sitting still for long periods. Winter is the most common time for kapha imbalance to occur, making it an ideal time for travel and adventure. When choosing a locale, kapha will likely feel most at ease in warm, dry climates. Think Sedona, Santa Fe and Palm Springs. Kaphas also do well with canyons, and could benefit from a visit to Moab and the Grand Canyon.
Waterfalls are healing for all constitutions, but can be especially stimulating to kapha types. Mountain towns that are centered on outdoor recreation are great for kapha; mountain biking in Bend, Oregon and hiking Red Rock Canyon in Colorado Springs will provide ample opportunity for inspired daily movement sessions and bring kapha types back to balance. Choose accommodations set in nature to inspire exploration. Miraval in Tucson offers kaphas a healthy balance of comfort, adventure and new experiences.
Treat tip: Keep it moving! Kapha needs stimulation and regular exercise to stay in harmony. When traveling, choose destinations that are walkable. Make sure to pack comfortable layers and supportive shoes. Kapha does well with new activities, so seek out new-to-you ways of moving like horseback riding, yoga hikes and walking tours.
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