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Ayurveda and the Enneagram: From Research to Publication

In 2014, Kacie Berghoef and I were learning about Ayurveda as a personal health practice, and we decided to present on this topic at two Enneagram conferences. Attendees at our first presentation were intrigued by our proposal that there might be connections between Enneagram type and Ayurvedic dosha, or psycho-physical constitution, and they invariably asked one thing: “Has there been any research on this?” There hadn’t, so for our next presentation, we did some.

Drawing on an Ayurvedic dosha assessment from a book we owned, we created an eight-question quiz that addressed psychological and physiological aspects of constitution. The aim was for it to be fun and not too overwhelming. We used SurveyMonkey, put the quiz online, and e-mailed each responder with a description and recipes tailored to their Ayurvedic dosha. We included preliminary results and quiz-taking in our next talk, to participants’ delight.

Over the next several months, we worked on this exploratory pilot study and a statistician, James Farnham, helped us analyze the results. Our survey had 232 usable responses, with some of them tied between two doshas. Suspecting there might be a difference between them, we looked at overall type-dosha correlations as well as each Enneagram type’s correlations with the psychological aspects of dosha.     

I’ve had a lot of questions about our Ayurvedic research over the years, and I’m gratified to share with you that it has finally found a home. This month, the Conscious Living Center has published our complete study on their website. You can read the full write-up of our process and results here.

Why did we embark on this journey in the first place? Here’s what our research article has to say:

“Maintaining a regular, structured practice that fosters mindfulness is helpful for using the Enneagram’s insights effectively. A good practice builds up the capacity to observe oneself, in order to see one’s automatic type habits at play and choose to engage differently. Ayurveda is one such practice that draws on the body center’s intelligence.”

If you’re interested in the intersection of these two systems, check our article out and see what correlations our surveys came up with. While the results are preliminary rather than scientifically rigorous, my takeaway from this process is that systems of learning can intersect in revealing and beautiful ways.


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Our Journey with the Enneagram and Ayurveda

The Enneagram is an amazing tool for personal growth. But the Enneagram is only one system, and increasingly, we’ve been exploring other tools that complement it.

We’ve found Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of holistic healing that focuses on maintaining health rather than curing illness, to be especially useful. It’s a tradition that’s been around for over 5000 years, and with its amazing specificity and individualized approach, remains one of the most popular systems of alternative medicine in the world. Ayurveda describes three basic doshas, or constitutions, with distinct lifestyle needs, and prescribes ways to balance the energy of each one. Most people have a dominant dosha, with some having a combination of two or three. In a nutshell: food pic

Vata (air) people are creative, quick-moving, and erratic. They benefit from nourishing and routine.

Pitta (fire) people are sharp, driven, and irritable. They benefit from calming and moderation.

Kapha (earth) people are generous, steady, and possessive. They benefit from stimulation and expression.

We love the agency that Ayurveda fosters–the commonsense ideas that we know our own bodies best, that all aspects of our being (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual…) matter, and that every choice of food or daily routine contributes to our health. Ayurvedic treatments include everything from exercise to nutritional supplements prescribed by a licensed Ayurvedic practitioner to changes in habits. A mainstay is Ayurvedic cooking, which can range from the traditional (yogurt lassis) to the novel (seaweed salad). Ayurveda values harmony with the natural elements, as well as balance in individual energy–this translates into nourishing, natural food which leaves us feeling great!

Many Enneagram teachers (including us!) encourage people to maintain a daily practice, and Ayurveda’s practical approach to lifestyle and eating is both workable and fun. We eat every day, and there’s no need to invest in expensive retreats or equipment to try Ayurveda out. Much like observing our own Enneagram type patterns, folllowing Ayurvedic guidelines requires self-kindness and attention.

In April, we presented about the Enneagram and Ayurveda at the European IEA. We had a wonderful time sharing and learning with Enneagram practitioners from around the world. One thing we learned is that people are interested in connections between the two systems. Which types correlates with which doshas? We decided to find out.

We’ll be presenting our preliminary research on correlations between the Enneagram and Ayurveda at the Global International Enneagram Conference next week! We currently have over 60 survey participants from around the world, and we’d love to have more. You can take our survey here to find out your most likely dosha and get recipes tailored toward it. (Note: the survey was closed in December 2014. Thank you to all our participants!)

We’d love to hear about your experiences using the Enneagram with other systems to develop a daily practice!