The ancient Indian science of Ayurveda is more applicable than ever to modern life.
Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old Indian “science of longevity,” is recognized by the World Health Organization as an effective medical science, and has undergone extensive research at the National Institutes of Health. Many studies now suggest that Ayurvedic therapies may reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors and prevent or treat certain cancers, infectious diseases, immune system deficiencies, metabolic, neurological and gastrointestinal disorders as well as hormonal problems.
Perhaps most importantly, Ayurveda is a proven system for bringing balance to the mental and emotional layers of our being. After all, the distracted mind along with overwrought emotions is the cause of many of our aberrant behaviors.
My mantra has long been “self care is the ultimate health care.” We must realize that we have powerful, innate healing capacities. And this, my friends, is one of the central tenets of Ayurveda—that we become intimate with our true nature and the energy patterns that influence our tendencies. When our tendencies have gone off-kilter, we are not honoring our true nature. It’s as simple as that.
Finding Your Dosha Ayurveda is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach for whatever ails you. Treatment modalities are specifically geared to your own unique mind-body type (your dosha), and its specific needs.
When we know how the three doshas—Vata, Pitta and Kapha—are configured to make up our constitution, we can strive to create a harmonious balance between them. All three mind-body energies are in us and around us, although each of us usually has one or two predominant energies. When in balance, these energies manifest optimal health and well-being. If, however, your dominant energy is unbalanced, problems can arise. I recommend going to chopra.com and taking the dosha quiz (parts one and two) found there. Here is a quick summary:
Vata/Air People with a predominance of Vata in their nature tend to be thin, light and quick in their thought and action. Change is a constant part of their life. When Vata is balanced, it generates creativity, enthusiasm and liveliness. If Vata becomes excessive, it creates anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, irregular digestion and more.
Pitta/Fire Pitta is the principle of transformation represented in digestion of ideas, sensory experiences, emotions and food. People with a predominance of Pitta tend to be smart, determined and muscular. If balanced, Pitta supports warmth, intelligence and good leadership. If out of balance, Pitta can make us critical, irritable and aggressive.
Kapha/Earth People with a predominance of Kapha tend to have a heavier frame, think and move more leisurely, and are stable. When balanced, Kapha creates calmness, sweetness and loyalty. When excessive, it can cause weight gain, congestion and resistance to healthy change.
Dosha Rehab If we can recognize where our energetic imbalances lie, we can make adjustments in our lifestyle choices to gently nudge ourselves back toward a balanced state.
As a natural system of healing, Ayurveda draws on meditation, yoga, pranayama (“science of breath”), nutrition (including herbal remedies), along with sensory modulation techniques including massage, aroma, color and sound/music therapies. Ayurveda also encourages regular connection with nature and a daily routine that promotes stability. Stability is a wonderful soothing mechanism when facing stressful situations or challenges.
Honor Others’ Doshas As You Would Have Them Honor Yours When you come to see the qualities and characteristics of the doshas in yourself, your loved ones, your co-workers, it gives an understanding of how we can all be so different in our natures. Now this is a generalization, but a person governed by the air dosha tends to feel cold and dry more often than not, and will thus enjoy travelling to a warm, sultry climate.
What we’ve covered here only brushes the surface of Ayurveda theory. There are endless resources available for a more in-depth study of this exquisite and time-honored system for wellness and beauty.
MARY BETH JANSSEN is a certified mind-body health educator for the Chopra Center for Well Being and author of five books. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.