Ayurveda, Health, Health Education, Self-Care

Ayurveda: Part 3

If you haven’t already, check out Ayurveda Part 1 and Part 2.

Because, today we are diving deep!

In this post, you will learn about: health imbalances, the factors that cause imbalances, and what to do about them. In addition, you will learn more about your doshic balance and prakriti (innate nature or constitution).

Imbalances

  1. Excess
    1. Having too much of something causes disease.
    2. Most diseases in the western world, particularly chronic illnesses, fall into the category.
    3. Excess is harder to treat and correct.
  2. Deficiency
    1. Not having enough of something.
    2. This causes malnutrition and lack of energy.
    3. Deficiency is easier to treat.
    4. By the law of similarity, we know that if A is low, we should increase A.

Quantity vs. Quality

On the one hand, Western medical professionals and patients focus on quantity and quantitative markers of disease. This is good stuff.

On the other hand, Ayurvedic professionals and patients focus on quality and qualitative markers of disease and recovery. This is also good stuff.

My approach: look at both! I like to combine the quantitive emphasis of Western medicine and the qualitative approach of Ayurveda. That way, I get a detailed, holistic picture.

Factors That Cause Imbalances

  1. Genes – yes, everyone’s favorite. Genes genes genes. But you’re not off the hook, as they are usually not the sole determining factor at play…
  2. Food – what we eat matters! If you are reading this post, then you already know that. Good for you!
  3. Lifestyle – high stress/low stress, sedentary/active, amount of screen time, where you live, sun exposure, occupation, relationship status, kids, income level, social life
  4. Behavior – smoking or no, exercise, alcohol consumption, daily health habits, meditation, yoga, exercise
  5. Emotions – oh yeah, the full rainbow of emotions (happy, sad, anger, shame, guilt, fear, etc.)

How Imbalances Manifest According to Dosha

Vata

  • bloating, constipation, gurgling
  • painful joints, cracking
  • dry or rough skin
  • irregular appetite and hunger

Pitta

  • acid reflux, belching, loose stools
  • inflammation, burning joints
  • redness, skin secretions (e.g. ecsema, rashes)
  • increased appetite and hunger

Kapha

  • indigestion
  • sleepiness, yawning
  • stiff joints, coldness
  • heavy feeling
  • puffy skin, water retention
  • decreased appetite and hunger

In general…

Oil calms excess vata.

Ghee calms excess pitta. If you’re vegan, use coconut oil.

Additionally, oils need not be ingested. They can be used in oil pulling and applied externally.

Spices calm excess kapha.

Real Life Example

For instance, I got a mind-blowing massage last night. My massage therapist used a new cream on my face, neck, and shoulders. Within an hour of finishing the massage, BAM: red hypersensitivity rash all over those specific areas.

In Ayurvedic terms, this was excess pitta in response to an allergen. First, I took a shower and used lavender soap to remove the irritant from my skin. Then, I generously applied coconut oil to the affected areas. The rash faded almost instantly, and was gone within a couple hours.

Prakriti, Doshas & Lifestyle

Recall that prakriti is one’s innate nature or constitution.

As a result, prakriti is inseparable from the living form.

From the moment of conception, prakriti depends on the qualities of one’s mother and father: their food and lifestyle, the mother’s uterine condition, their karma, and the gestation period.

Because kapha is highest in the winter, Ayurvedic practitioners recommend conceiving during winter to increase the chances of survival.

Once formed, prakriti cannot be fundamentally changed.

However, deviations happen due to the doshic balance.

Example

For instance, my prakriti may be vata-pitta-kapha. I may have periods of my life when my mental/emotional vata and pitta are too high. Meanwhile, my physical and functional kapha are too high.

Fundamentally, my prakriti remains the same. So, I take actions to return to perfect balance between vata, pitta, and kapha.

First, I may focus on increasing mental/emotional kapha. Then, gradually, I notice that my mental/emotional vata and pitta lower. Finally, I notice my physical and functional kapha has decreased. With a balanced mind, I’m not overeating to deal with my emotions.

Factors That Contribute To Changes In Prakriti:

  • food and lifestyle (primarily), and
  • genes (secondarily).

Expression of Prakriti in the Mind:

Firstly, the mind is sattvic when all three doshas are balanced. In short, this is the goal!

Secondly, the mind is rajasic when vata and pitta predominate. As a result, anxiety, depression, and anger may be issues.

Thirdly, the mind is tamasic when kapha predominates. In consequence, dullness, laziness, depression, and mental lethargy may be issues.

Determining Prakriti

When determining prakriti, look at the doshic balance along 3 levels:

  • physical/structural (e.g. body size, weight, skin, hair, nails)
  • functional (e.g. digestion, metabolism), and
  • mental/emotional.

Example

For instance, I am vata-pitta emotionally and mentally.

When I have an excess of negative mental energy, my physical and functional kapha increase. Up goes my appetite and my weight.

As a result, I eat more. But really, I need mental/emotional kapha, not physical kapha!

To balance my vata-pitta mind, I need to increase mental/emotional kapha.

Activities and habits that increase mental/emotional kapha include: meditation, yoga, a regular schedule, raw foods, and healthy relationships.

When my vata-pitta emotional energy is eased, I feel calmer, more emotionally stable, and more emotionally kapha.

This is good! Kapha is golden for mental/emotional well-being.

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