By Premal Patel
Students everywhere have wrapped up their summer breaks and are back in school. Some struggle with the long days in the classroom and evenings of homework. Others are enjoying being reunited with friends and hitting the books.
However the student in your life feels about school, Ayurveda can make learning a more enjoyable process. The first place to start is to understand that your natural constitution (vata, pitta, and kapha) inherently affects how you learn. After developing this insight, you can adjust your daily routine to your unique learning style. Here, we offer some basic tips for all three doshas. Start by taking our Constitution Quiz if you don’t know your dosha, and then find the best tips for you.
Vata students typically display creativity and flexibility. They love being exposed to all sorts of new things, though they may have a tough time actually completing any one of the hundred projects they start. Vata students may get themselves in trouble because they can be talkers and are always moving around. They may be labeled as hyper or as having difficulty with focusing and paying attention. A vata mind is always racing with a million ideas, and daydreaming is often the subject it enjoys most. If you have a vata student in your life, try some of these Ayurvedic tips:
- Nurture the creative energy. Vata students often find themselves getting in trouble because they don’t fit the mold and aren’t “well-behaved”. They need an outlet to express their vata nature. This may be in the form of after-school activities, arts and crafts classes, or weekend projects. They have a ton of ideas and want to be free to explore. If available, look for schools and/or teachers that know how to work with teaching methods that are alternatives to the traditional classroom setting where the teacher talks and the student sits and listens.
- Establish a routine. Vata stays in better balance when the vata person follows a particular routine. Having a set time to wake up and go to bed really helps keep the unfocused part of vata in check. Vata doesn’t like routine and may even rebel, so make sure there are plenty of other places where these students get to express their ideas and choices.
- Eat a solid breakfast and dinner (and lunch if possible). Vata needs to be grounded by warm, cooked, heavy, nourishing foods. If your student is a child, lunch may be difficult to control. Make breakfast and dinner count, and use a little oil or ghee (clarified butter) in your cooking as it adds to vata’s stability. A vata child may also need a snack when they get home or before bed if your family eats an early dinner. Avoid dry, rough, cold, light foods.
- Use oil for daily massage. A daily oil massage in the morning before showering can work wonders! But if your schedule doesn’t allow for this, at least rub oil on the soles of the feet (and the scalp if you are willing) for a few minutes every night before bed.
- Vata balancing supplements. Chyavanprash keeps the immune system healthy so that the body can support your efforts to learn rather than spending time fighting illness. Brahmi, found in Mental Clarity, supports optimal focus, memory, and clarity. And a healthy colon prevents build-up of toxins, supporting healthy function of the brain and nervous system; to aid healthy bowel movements and colon function, consider Triphala.
- Get proper rest. The brain, nervous system and body need time to process and rejuvenate. Appropriate sleep leaves you refreshed and energized in the morning. Massage the feet and scalp with oil before bed, take a warm bath, or drink a glass of warm milk with a pinch of nutmeg for sound sleep.
Pitta students bring a sharp mind and laser focus to their studies. Pitta is able to get to the heart of the matter and digest it quickly. Often self-motivated and driven, a pitta student frequently seems to learn effortlessly and picks up new information with ease. Imbalanced pitta, though, can make a student overly critical and competitive. Pitta students may derive a tremendous amount of self worth from achievement and be self-judgmental when they feel unsuccessful or make mistakes. Help your pitta student find balance and enjoyment with some of the following tips:
- Learn for the sake of learning. Achievement often drives pitta students, and they can get into the mode of studying hard to get good grades. Remind your pitta student to enjoy learning. Have them turn some of their attention to reading or learning a skill or art that doesn’t lead to a grade or a competition.
- Grow from mistakes. Pitta students can easily start beating themselves up if they perceive lack of success. Help them by starting to define success in terms of effort—did they give 100%? And then teach them to take mistakes as terrific opportunities to learn and grow. Traditional wisdom says that if you are afraid to make mistakes, you’ll never truly push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and you’ll end up limiting your own growth.
- Find “sweet” friends. One’s company can make all the difference, and pitta is soothed by sweetness. If one is constantly surrounded by competitive people, they will live by the pressure of that. If one is rather surrounded by people who focus on excellence, not just beating the next guy, they will learn cooperation and a win-win mentality.
- Eat breakfast. A pitta person needs fuel to energize their sharp mind and if there is a strong digestive fire that is left unfed, it could create excessive pitta qualities. Warm oatmeal or pancakes can be a nourishing start to the day. Or you can try a date shake if you’d rather have something quick. A solid lunch and dinner are also an important part of keeping this strong agni satisfied. Stay away from spicy, sour and fermented foods to keep pitta balanced.
- Herbs and supplements. Brahmi, found in Mental Clarity, can be balancing for the mind and pitta. Also, staying hydrated is important, and if your student tends to get overheated, try adding a little aloe to the water or some natural coconut water in the warmer months.
- Get proper rest. Pitta always tries to do too much, and it is of utmost importance to give the body and mind time to recuperate. A nice massage to the soles of the feet and scalp with brahmi oil or sunflower oil can make a soothing bedtime ritual.
Kapha students are often great learners, but they may need to apply more effort. A kapha student takes time to learn and must study ardently. Once they have understood a concept, though, it is likely to stick with them for a long time. Slow and steady is the name of the game; balanced kapha can excel in subjects that require patience and analysis. The problem is that kapha’s natural tendencies often become an obstacle to putting in this needed effort, and lethargy and or boredom quickly jump into the picture. A kapha student often needs some external motivation. For the kapha student in your life, consider some of these invigorating tips:
- Exercise in the morning and afternoon. While it may already be tough enough to get the kapha student ready on time in the morning, working in some activity can be of great benefit. A little exercise can really get the lethargy and sluggishness to move, so the student is ready to face the challenges of learning. Starting the morning this way prepares one for class, and using this technique in the afternoon can bring focus and attention to homework. To motivate your kapha, make it fun!
- Eat light, and spice up the food. Kapha should really learn to listen to the appetite, and eat when hungry. Keep the food light and refreshing; heavy foods will only add to the lethargy. Sweets and chips can be a treat—only a small part of the meal. And whenever possible, add some digestive spices like cinnamon, black pepper, and ginger.
- Consider a neti pot. If your kapha student spends a good portion of the year with congestion and phlegm, this can really affect the ability to learn and think clearly. A neti pot, also called a nasal rinse cup, used regularly can really keep the nasal passages and sinuses clean and clear.
- Herbs and supplements. Brahmi along with some invigorating herbs can keep kapha motivated and focused. Mental Clarity provides just that, with a spicy kick from pippali and the energizing effect of ashwagandha.
- Keep kapha engaged. Push kapha students to find what they like and really strive for excellence. They may need that occasional reminder to keep them going. Motivate them with rewards that are not related to food; praise their effort, use fun activities as a reward, and don’t let things become routine or monotonous.
No matter what age, we are all designed to keep learning and growing. Understanding your constitution and how to work with it can make the process fun and stimulating. Best wishes for the beginning of the school year!