Original post appears on Virtue + Vice | Celebrating Women.
It would be a pretty boring world if we all just wore off-white cotton colored clothes – we need color! In ayurvedic dying, plants give clothing pops of color and personality with the additional benefit of healing and medicinal properties.
What is Ayurveda?
To understand Ayurvedic colors and how it is possible for them to be beneficial to our health, first, we need an understanding of the holistic medical practices of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is an ancient medicinal system, over 5000 years old – to be exact. The practice revolves around the theory of creating balance in the body through diet, herbal treatment, and yoga. by doing this the body can function optimally and also self-heal. Ayurveda is what is a, a Vedic science. Vedic science comes from the scientific writings in ancient Hindu scriptures. Specifically, the now, (almost dead language) Sanskrit writings in the Vedas. The Vedas are the oldest recordings in the world of spiritual ideas. Maybe you have heard of Krishna in your yoga practices? Krishna is one of the most famous Vedic warriors in these Vedic texts.
Today Ayurveda is the largest medical organization with over 300,000 doctors in the All Indian Congress.
The Three Doshas or Body Types
In Ayurveda there are three different doshas also know as three different body types. The three doshas combine in a unique way to make up a person. Vata (air), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (earth-water) are the three doshas each represents a different component of a person both physically and mentally.
Vata regulates movement and communication. Pitta controls digestion and transformation. And, Kapha links to structure and hydration.
Doshas dictate everything from our personalities to the types of foods we should eat, the exercises we should do, and how we should live our lives.
The key to unlocking the powers of Ayurveda is first knowing your dosha, and then making lifestyle changes that will create harmony with that dosha.
If this interests you and you want to find out what your dosha is, try this free test here.
Each dosha has an influence on both the mind and body. When one is out of balance symptoms, both physical and mental, become noticeable.
Vata is the energy of movement. This energy is dry, cold, light, rough, mobile, ad subtle. Vata is the most important dosha because it also helps control Pitta and Kaphas functions. Vata representation is the wind, think the breath.
When Vata is in balance the mind is spiritual, creative, and calm. The bodies movements work in harmony. This means that blood flow, heartbeat, and breath are all working in synergy.
When Vata is out of balance the mind is anxious, stressed, has a poor memory, and the person experiencing symptoms often has trouble sleeping. The body displays symptoms of constipation, dry skin, gas, arthritis, and PMS.
Pitta is the energy of transformation. People who are Pitta are firey personalities. This energy is hot, short, oily, light, mobile, and smooth. When Pitta is balanced the mind is clear and intelligent and has a good memory. The bodies metabolic and digestive systems work optimally.
When Pitta is out of balance there is a lot of feeling of anger, hate, and control issues. Acid reflux, heartburn, acne, hypertension, nausea, and, migraines are symptoms in the body when Pitta is not in balance.
Kapha is the energy of lubrication and structure. It is cold, heavy, wet, static, static, dull, and dense. A balanced Kapha in loving, nurturing, patient, and compassionate. The body is strong, and joints, skin, and hair are not dry, but instead full of moisture.
When Kapha is out of balance we see emotions of greed, envy, attachment, and behavior like holding grudges. The body will show symptoms of congestion, obesity, allergies, and lethargy.
Getting Your Doshas In Check
When doshas are out of balance there are three main ways to realign them – diet, exercise, and herbal supplements.
Ayurvedic eating focuses on how, when, and what you are eating.
Generally, in the West, we focus on the what of food. We want the best superfoods, the ones that are pure, fresh, and farm to table. We want keto, high protein, low-carb, sugar-free, or fat-free as we calculate and record every calorie, adding up our micro and macronutrients. It feels like every day there is a new theory on what we should be eating, and whatever trend diet we are on, we are all doing it wrong.
We tend to forget about the how and when of eating as we run from meeting to meeting shoveling food into our mouths on the go. Or, slouched over in front of the tv at the end of the day mindlessly consuming what is put in front of us. Thanks to a global world we now eat foods year round, even if in nature they should not be available.
Ayurveda believes that as the seasons change we should also change what we are eating.
For example, during the winter (Vada) foods that are high in fats like nuts and also carbs, like gains that were harvested in the fall are optimal.
The spring (Kapha) is a time to eat leafy greens and berries. And, in the heat of the late summer (Pitta) cooling fruits and vegetables like watermelon, and peppers are optimal.
Some foods like lemons for detoxification, ghee for digestion, and dates for energy are Ayurvedic foods for year round.
Specifically, in the Jain religion, which is very similar to Hindu, there is a very strict set of eating rules. Food is eaten only when the sun is up, and practitioners avoid certain foods that are grown in the ground without sunlight like onions and potatoes.
Cook your foods simply, and try to keep them in their natural state. Do not eat processed foods that stray far from their natural form.
In Ayurveda the purpose of the exercise is to create physical stress in order to help us learn how to cope with other types of stress; like mental, emotional, and social. The theories we apply to the physical exercise we then carry over to all other areas of our lives.
One of the most infamous teachings of yoga is connecting the body to the breath. For this, Ujjayi Pranayama breathing practices are taught to relax the body during yoga allowing you to go deeper and block out physical pain. This same form of breathing is common in the natural treatment of anxiety and panic attacks. The beauty of Ujjayi Pranayama breathing is that you can do it anywhere at any time. There is no need for special high-performance yoga pants or accessories.
Recent studies have linked inflammation in the body to stress. Other studies have shown that inflammation leads to increased risk of disease and also premature aging. So, get to de-stressing your life if you want to stave off wrinkles.
Herbs and plants in Ayurvedic medicine complement the physical work you are doing. They are not a magic pill, that you pop like an Advil, to cure you.
Before we get into different plants and their healing properties, it is important to remember that they are just a boost, for all of the other ayurvedic work you are doing with eating, exercise, and breathing.
Ayurvedic plants can be eaten or rubbed on the body in salves… This is where clothes dyed with ayurvedic plants with healing properties come in.
Ayurveda in the Clothes You Wear…
Women preparing Ayurvedic dyes in India
Although traditionally in Ayurveda we ingest herbal tonics or apply them topically via salves directly onto the body, today they are giving color to clothing with them. And, their medicinal properties can slowly absorb into our biggest organ, our skin.
Indigo is famous for its hypnotic range of blues. Did you know that almost all ready to wear denim is made with synthetic dye? Traditionally, before the introduction of cheap synthetics, denim dye was made naturally using the indigo plant. That’s actually where the color gets its name from, a plant.
Indigo is good for detoxing the body as well as reducing inflammation. Wild indigo is used to treat a variety of infections including diphtheria, influenza (flu), swine flu, the common cold, and other upper respiratory tract infections and lymph node infections. It is also used for sore tonsils (tonsillitis), sore throat, swelling of the mouth and throat, fever, boils, and Crohn’s disease.
Ayurvedic teachings also recommend applying indigo directly to the skin for ulcers, and for cleaning open and swollen wounds to help prevent infections.
Indigo doesn’t just dye clothing. It is a key ingredient in natural and chemical free hair dye. The plant, in powder form, is typically mixed with henna to create deep blacks. Indigo is especially powerful at covering grey and white hairs.
Have you heard of the arsenic dress? During the Victorian Era, a new color deadly dye came into fashion, Emerald Green. The new bold color was a must have by women of the time, but it held a deadly secret. The color was made using arsenic. Aside from being straight up deadly, arsenic can cause ulcers on the skin. Those who come in close contact with making the dye or clothing made of the dye may develop scabs and sores wherever it touched. Arsenic can also make your hair fall out! And, can cause people to vomit blood before causing the livers and kidneys to completely shut down.
Today we no longer use arsenic in the name of fashion. But, could the story of Emerald Green be a warning for today’s toxic chemicals dyes?
Holy basil creates a muted olive green color. Holy basil in Ayurveda is the elixir of life and, is a divine plant. It heals the mind, body, and soul, and because of this many Indian families keep and grow their own holy basil plants. The plant treats everything from boosting immunity to cure a common cold to making acne disappear. And, therapeutically it can even reduce anxiety.
Watch out millennial pink, yellow is about to take over. Marie Claire is predicting that yellows will be the new it color. What are your thoughts on this? Are we ready to give up millennial pink yet?
Turmeric is one of Ayurveda’s most famous herbs and is a staple in Indian cooking. Recently in hipster coffee shops golden milk has become a popular artisinal option. Golden milk is an ayurvedic drink of coconut milk, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, honey, coconut oil, peppercorns said to help promote balance and longevity in the body. Another bonus, it’s vegan.
Some people even believe that turmeric can act as an anti-venom for a king cobra bite. IDK, I guess it would be better than nothing in a pinch, but I will stick to modern medicine for a cobra bite.
Turmeric creates bold yellow hues. This herb is a heavy hitter for reducing inflammation in the body which is believed to be one of the main causes of aging. Turmeric is also great for soothing skin irritation and aid in digestive health.
Red is one of the hardest colors to dye, but once it’s in a fiber it is really in there. This is because red dyes have very big molecular structures. A lot of heat needs to be used in order to open fibers enough to take in the color molecules, but once they are in, they tend to stay stuck. This is why red is infamous for staining.
Red is also the color of wealth, this is because red dyes were once the most expensive to make. Today, Christian Louboutin shoes play with the idea of red as a luxury color with their signature red the soles.
Pomegranate in Ayurveda is cooling to the body. Because of this, its medicinal properties are best during the hot and sticky summer months. The red fruit is also great to balance the bodies water retention (ie bloating) and combat indigestion.
Sandalwood is also a cooling plant. Ayurvedic practitioners use sandalwood topically as a natural antiperspirant to prevent sweating. Sandalwood is also a natural way to heal sunburn and rehydrate the skin after a day of too much sun exposure.
Burning sandalwood also promotes spiritual healing. No, it’s not just a quick fix for bad vibes, made famous in movies for getting rid of ghosts and evil spirits. The scent of sandalwood helps to create a relaxed inner state, with an increase in spiritual energy. This is because it is believed that sandalwood relaxes the heart and throat chakras.
The color that sandalwood dye creates is a light earthy peach tone. It’s a perfect color to add to a natural palate to add a pop of pink femininity.
Neem, aka the Indian Lilac, is natures diet pill. The plant aids in regulating the metabolism and balancing how we process fats and liquids in the body.
In organic farming, neem is a pest control plant. Bugs would prefer to eat the neem over cotton, so they go after that on the farms first. Neem does not need its leaves for making medicines or dye, so it is a win-win for both the farmers and hungry bugs.
Neem creates a beige color that is also perfect for a neutral color story. Along with being a dye, it is also a natural antimicrobial finish that prevents clothing from smelling after multiple wears.
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Original post by Virtue + Vice | Celebrating Women can be read at https://shopvirtueandvice.com/blogs/celebrating-women/ayurvedic-colors-and-healing-clothing.