Ayurveda, which literally means the knowledge and wisdom of life, is the traditional holistic healing system of India. Often called the mother of all healing, it originated over 5,000 years ago. Recently, Ayurveda has been having a profound impact upon the world of health care. Popular books by Deepak Chopra, MD and others have called attention to the potential of this ancient system. Along with the potential to heal chronic diseases, Ayurveda promises to improve health and increase longevity.
Ayurveda is considered a sister science to Yoga. Both Ayurveda and Yoga strive to help a person re-connect to his/her true nature through direct experience. Together they encompass a complete approach to the well-being of the body, the mind, and the spirit.
Ayurveda views health and disease as the end result of how we interact with our environment. Harmonious interactions lead to health while disharmonious interactions lead to disease. Ayurveda aims at developing greater harmony with our environment through all of our senses.
According to Ayurveda, we create and recreate our state of health each day based upon how we interact with the world in terms of our beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings, which then ultimately determine our actions. Actions in harmony with our inner nature create health, while those dis-harmonious with our inner nature create disease.
Your innate nature is called your constitution or Prakruti. This unique balance was determined at the moment of conception and is with you the rest of your life. Your Prakruti is expressed physically through your DNA. It determines what is in harmony with your nature and what will cause you to become out of balance. Knowledge of your constitution is a road map and is essential to developing optimal health. Your constitution determines how you react to various foods, environments, and general life practices.
Your constitution is the fundamental and unique balance of three basic constituents called doshas. They are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The balance in each individual is different; thus, each individual is unique and distinct.
The Vata dosha is made up of the air and ether elements. Vata is very much like the wind; it is light, cool, dry, and mobile. The bodies of people with a predominately Vata nature tend to be light, their bones tend to be thin, and their skin and hair tend to be dry. They often move and speak quickly. When out of balance, Vatas may lose weight, become constipated, and have weakness in their immune and nervous systems.
Those with a Vata nature tend to be talkative, enthusiastic, creative, flexible, and energetic. When out of balance or under stress they may become easily confused and overwhelmed, have difficulty focusing or making decisions, and have trouble sleeping. They are challenged by emotions such as worry, fear, and anxiety.
In order to bring balance to Vata, we use the opposing qualities of warmth, heaviness (nourishment), moistness, and stability. In the diet this is reflected in the consumption of cooked grains, such as rice and cooked vegetables, as well as the intake of warm milk with spices. Pungent herbs, such as ginger that increase internal heat, and nourishing herbs, such as Ashwaganda, bring balance to Vata.
The Pitta dosha is made up of the fire and water elements. Pitta tends to be hot, sharp, and penetrating. It is also somewhat volatile and oily. People with a Pitta nature tend to feel warm, have somewhat oily skin, and have penetrating eyes and sharp features. They tend to be of moderate weight and have good musculature. When out of balance Pittas tend toward diarrhea, infections, skin rashes, and weakness in the liver, spleen, and blood.
Pitta people tend to be highly focused, competitive, capable, courageous, energetic, and clear communicators who get right to the point. They like to solve problems, and, when under stress, they dig in their heels. However, Pittas can also become overly intense and speak with a sharp tongue. They make great friends but feared enemies. Emotionally, they are challenged by the heated emotions of anger, resentment, and jealousy.
In order to bring balance to Pitta, try emphasizing the opposing qualities of coolness. Cool spices, such as fennel, are recommended in the diet, along with foods such as raw vegetables, cooked rice, and wheat, as well as most beans. Sweet herbs such as Shatavari are used to nourish the body, while bitters such as dandelion root temper the fire.
Within the Kapha dosha there is a predominance of the water and earth elements. Kapha tends to be cool, moist, stable, and heavy. In the body these qualities manifest as dense, heavy bones; lustrous, supple skin; low metabolism; and large, stocky frames. In addition, those with a Kapha nature tend to feel cool. When out of balance, Kapha individuals are prone to gaining weight and tend to have weaknesses in their lungs and sinuses where there is an accumulation of mucous.
The heavy, stable nature of Kapha is reflected in a steady personality that is not prone to quick fluctuations. Those with a Kapha nature handle stress very well, often not even noticing that it exists. They don’t like change, are generally conservative, and would prefer to keep things just the way they are. Those with a Kapha nature are also comfort–seekers. Too much comfort, however, can lead to a lack of motivation and a feeling of becoming stuck. When Kapha is out of balance, the heavy emotions of depression and lethargy result.
In order to bring balance to a Kapha nature, the opposing qualities of lightness, dryness, mobility, and warmth are recommended. Grains such as quinoa and amaranth are encouraged, as well as hot spices such as cayenne pepper. Prescribed foods include lots of vegetables and very few nuts or dairy. Cleansing herbs such as guggul and pungent spices such as clove bring balance to Kapha.
Knowing your Prakruti is like having a road map to guide you along the way of your unique life. With this road map you can implement dietary and lifestyle practices that will support you in health and wellness—and that will help you come back to health and wellness when a disease process has set in. Knowing your Prakruti means that you can avert imbalance by avoiding the factors that contribute to it. It also means that you can oppose any imbalances that arise and come back to Prakruti.
An Ayurvedic practitioner can help you by doing an in-depth and objective intake and subsequently offering a variety of recommendations designed to support you in wellness. This is coaching for life-long sustainable health and wellness!
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