Guest post graciously contributed by Kara Aubin.

I hear some version of the question “What’s right for me?” often from my clients. We have a sense that there are foods that would work well for us, a type of asana or meditation that would be more beneficial than others, a best number of sleep hours, etc. We seek this connection to balance as evidenced by the rapid-fire transition many of us have moved through exploring diets (Blood Type, Atkins, South Beach, Raw, Paleo) or exercise (Spin, Bikram, Pilates, Ashtanga, CrossFit, Barre). We know there’s something out there that will leave us feeling like we have enough juice, and that we can rest into ourselves (feeling, you know, balanced). For various reasons we can find ourselves disconnected from our inherent wisdom, which means we aren’t all at a place where we can best intuit what’s going to bring us balance.

Ayurveda offers an amazing tool for sorting out this question of “Is this right for me?”. It’s the 10 pairs of Universal Qualities. Not as well known as the three constitutional types of Ayurveda (the doshas), these 10 pairs of opposites (the gunas) offer what I think is an even more practical, more applicable guide to personalizing the choices you make towards wellness.

So let’s look at the list…

Heavy Light

Slow/Dull Sharp

Cold Hot

Oily Dry

Smooth/Slimy Rough

Dense Liquid

Soft Hard

Stable/Static Mobile

Subtle Gross

Clear Sticky/Cloudy

In Ayurveda we see everything: organic and inorganic substances, thoughts, and actions as having these attributes. These qualities are the potential energy of a substance. This potential energy eventually becomes the action of a substance when it is transformed in a reaction like burning or digestion. That means this these qualities act on and in your body.

To understand how these qualities affect us we need to look at a precept of Ayurveda: “Like increases like, and opposites balance”. So, if we are experiencing a lot of a quality, like dryness, substances that are also dry will exacerbate the issue, where as substances that are oily will bring balance. This simple concept becomes mind-blowing when you begin to understand that these qualities apply to everything. That means that everything has the potential to be medicine (balancing) or poison (imbalancing).

If you take one thing away from this, here it is…

Everything can be medicine or poison. It depends on the qualities of the individual interacting with it.

This is why when I’m asked about the lasted fad diet, my answer is typically “It depends.” There is no one-size fits all approach that will work for everyone. While someone may thrive on particular foods, or foods prepared in a particular way, another may suffer indigestion, mal-absorption, weight imbalance, and a build up of toxicity in the body because of them.

So the next time you’re wondering “What’s right for me?” try this practice out. Ask yourself what symptoms you’re currently exhibiting and see if you can identify the qualities behind the symptom.

  • Are you constipated? Chances are that dry, rough, and hard are present. If so, then substances that possess the opposite qualities of oily, smooth, and soft will be medicine.
  • Do you have a rash? Is it a hot, oily, mobile rash? Then cold, dry, and static are for you.
  • Are you tired and sluggish after eating? Does it feel heavy, slow, and dense? You’ll want to bring in light, sharp, and liquid.

Using the Universal Qualities not only gives you a quick check on whether something is balancing or not, but it also helps to connect us to the world around us. We see ourselves as connected to the food we eat, the movement we partake in, and the qualities of our relationships. I invite you to enjoy exploring and being supported by the idea of the Universal Qualities. If you need some help deciphering and decoding how these qualities are present in the world around you an Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist or Practitioner can help.
Kara Aubin is a certified ParaYoga teacher (ERYT) and Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist based in Kalamazoo, MI and Albuquerque, NM. She weaves the teachings of yoga, ayurveda, and holistic living into group classes, workshops, and private sessions to share radical wellness with you.

Kara Aubin is a certified ParaYoga teacher (ERYT) and Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist based in Kalamazoo, MI and Albuquerque, NM. She weaves the teachings of yoga, ayurveda, and holistic living into group classes, workshops, and private sessions to share radical wellness with you.