What if someone were to hand you a manual for knowing yourself? Suppose they were to pass on to you a key to living your life according to a master plan.This blueprint has been laid out specially for you in accordance with your uniqueness?What internet site offers this rare gift you ask?What price must I pay and to whom?Strangely enough this grand scheme isn’t exactly expounded on u tube.Twitter and Facebook arent buzzing with it.The answer to this puzzle lies in the fact that the master plan belongs to the age old system of Ayurvedic medicine and is awaiting rediscovery by the masses.Dr David Frawley (renowned ayurveda practitioner and herbalist)describes Ayurveda as the 5000 year old Vedic” science of life.”It is the traditional natural healing system of India.Ancient Ayurveda has never been more pertinent than it is at this moment in time.It is about knowing ourselves truly on every plane physically ,spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
Unlike the modern medical paradigm where the physicians like “mechanics”look under the bonnet of the body engine so to speak and fix the part that needs repair, Ayurveda adopts a holistic aproach.Should ancient Ayurvedic physicians dialogue with modern doctors in some quantum realm (and knowing Shakespeare!) they might quote Hamlet “There are more things in Heaven and on Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy Horatio”.We are more than the sum of our parts and whilst working at the molecular level of medicine can certainly be fascinating and highly beneficial ,we can never ignore the interlinkage and functionality of every minute aspect of our bodies.
Coming from this unique holistic perspective is the certain awareness that each of us whilst very similar, is also astoundingly biochemically different.Therefore it is fundamental that we understand and accept our own nature, for our happiness and well being in life.Hence the arrival by the Ayurvedic physicians at the concept of the doshas or constitutional types.These are the biological humors of vata, pitta kapha.These three humors correspond to the three great elements of air fire and water.We are after all at our core, intrinsically part of the elemental world.An understanding of these constitutions is crucial in order for each of us to live according to our grand design.
It is said that our constitution or dosha or unique combination of doshas is whatis passed on to us by our parents (whose own doshic balance was in a particular place}at the time of conception.So how do we identify our particular dosha or combination of doshas?The elements of a man are earth, air, space, fire ,water.Depending on how these elements combine in our physical bodies we will be either vata, pitta, or kapha.
Vata translates to “that which blows “.Hence the properties of air are in this person.Space is the field in which the air moves.Vata =air and space.So as can be imagined, a vata person doesn’t have a very big physical frame.After all air and space are rather nebulous things.Vata people tend to have the following characteristics.They are thin,feel the cold,may have rough dry skin,favour sweet ,sour and salty foods.Their hands and feet may be small;teeth may be crooked with gaps.Appetite tends to be low or variable.Their disposition is somewhat nervous and sensitive.Very often they are creative types.In terms of disease they may suffer with rheumatic or arthritic pain, anxiety and digestive disturbances.They are light sleepers and in their dreams they are very active,running, jumping and climbing mountains.Vatas can be quick in speech .Memory is very good short term but not long term.They tend to overextend themselves in whatever they do.Endurance is poor. All of these attributes are those of air which after all is not easily contained.Vata types can be unreliable,or find it hard to make up their minds.. In balance, vatas are stimulating, exhilarating, alert, cheerful, optimistic ,flexible.These air types make good teachers, computer programmers and excel at communication as with the mass media.
Pitta is the biological fire humor and means”that which cooks.”Pitta consists of fire and water, as fire can’t exist directly in the body and so must be held in hot fluids like the blood and digestive fluids.Pitta people have the following characteristics.They are of medium build and weight .They can be uncomfortable in hot weather.They tend to perspire easily.Mentally they are sharp and efficient. In terms of diseases,this category tends to suffer from ulcers, skin diseases, acid reflux, blood disorders.They may be strong minded and forceful in argument and can be very determined.They can get easily irritated though they may not show this.They like cold foods and favour sweet astringent and bitter tastes.Hot and spicy foods are generally disliked by the fire type.However their appetite is very strong.Another trait of pitta is being critical of self and others.In balance this dosha is content, joyous chivalrous, pleasant and clear minded.Pittas make good policemen, military personnel, leaders, politicians, lawyers.They make good orators and are convincing in their presentation.
Kapha is the biological water humor.It means literally that which sticks. Kapha =earth and water as earth is the boundary in which water is held.Kapha types are well built .They tend towards corpulence or obesity, being the water element.They usually have large attractive eyes lustrous hair and moist skin.They possess a sweet tooth and have a low but constant appetite.They are sedentary in nature but possess strong endurance.They are faithful, loyal ,calm ,serene ,steady, strong, forgiving, courageous and affectionate when in balance.Negatively they can have much desire, attachment and may be greedy and possessive.They do best with pungent astringent and bitter foods.In disease terms they are prone to mucous secretions, respiratory ailments slow forming tumors.Generally they enjoy the best health of all the doshas.Kaphas are good parents and providers.They may be chefs or good vocalists with their large chests.They are good bankers and excel at real estate.
When assessing our own constitutional type, we obviously reference criteria laid down for each dosha.We may find ourselves strongly in the air, fire, or water category with some traits in one of the other categories.Many people have a double dosha We may also find a reasonable distribution between two doshas (again double dosha) and in some cases all three (tri dosha)which gives some lucky individuals the best overall balance in their lives.
How does knowing our predominant dosha help us in terms of our overall wellbeing and illness prevention?Specific foods are advised to mitigate and prevent body disturbances for each dosha in addition to advice on lifestyle, types of music, suitable massage oils, spiritual practices and daily routines.
Predominantly vata types are always advised to eat warm comforting foods such as soups, stews and all root vegetables which are seen as grounding to air types.Certain legumes and cruciferous vegetables are to be reduced or avoided including beans, brown lentils(to be avoided)broccoli , cabbage, brussels sprouts cauliflower(to be reduced)All are excellent foods but can create flatulence and may not agre with the air type.(The main seat of vata in the body is the colon)Vatas should favour sweet, sour and salty foods .Sweet includes dairy(unless lactose intolerant) grains (unless allergic to gluten or gluten intolerant)starches, sweet fruits and many vegetables which happen to be sweet as well as astringent.Sweet taste nourishes the nervous system which is akin in modern parlance to vata in the body.Sour and salty tastes stimulate digestion, often variable in vata people.Sour would include lemons, limes, all citrus fruits, cheese, yogurt,Salty would include sea salt , seaweeds ,roasted nuts in oil.Heavy foods containing the kapha like sweetness of butter ,milk ,fats and oils are all nurturing for the dryness of air types.
Pittas usually have excellent digestion but can have voracious appetites(fire being all consuming!]A little and often in terms of food is recommended here.Pittas can ,like vatas consume dairy(the same exceptions as for vata apply) and all grains (unless again like vatas a gluten allergy or intolerance exists)These would be sweet tastes.Sour tastes aggravate pitta so they should avoid foods like yogurt ,cheese lemons etc .Also one doesn’t put salt on a fire.All processed foods which are high in salt and fats are particularly bad for this type.Spices are not generally recommended either.They should favour salads over soups when out for a meal and avoid adding salt to a meal.Astringent and bitter foods are very beneficial in that they quench any internal heat and curb appetite.Hence all vegetables are suitable, especially potatoes, beans and carrots , all nicely astringent and leafy greens are all bitter.Tonic water is a very cooling drink.Lemon rind is also in this category and turmeric and fenugreek are a few of the acceptable spices in cooking .Bitter taste is very cooling to fire types especially when the body has been inflamed hot ,toxic or itchy(all pitta aggravations)
Kaphas have steady appetites throughout the day.They have a sweet tooth but kaphas are sweet enough in nature and don’t require the comfort of sweet taste to balance them as the other doshas do.Hence sweet food needs to be greatly reduced.Low fat or skimmed milk is recommended and other dairy should be avoided as many kaphas are prone to mucous secretions and lung congestion.Kaphas do well with pungent foods (nearly all spices)to move secretions and bodily fluids such as saliva, mucous and lymph,They need warm foods and curries can be very beneficial as can Mexican food with chilli peppers to help clear the sinuses.Heavy oily foods are obviously not recommended.Nuts are best avoided.Salty foods can cause fluid retention, a common kapha problem.
Knowing our doshas has a major impact on the lifestyle we choose .Vatas for example need more sleep than pittas as their sleep is variable.Generally a nap from 2pm to 4pm is recommended.They need routine as air tends to be everywhere at once!All doshas need a good hug but none more so than vata as touch is one of the sense organs associated with the air type.Sound being the other one, they should avoid loud noises.Listening to the wind in the trees is a calming vata experience.Calming classical music calms the emotions of fear, anxiety and grief which are very unsettling to this type.Pittas too need calming classical music.A good weekly spiritual practice is advised , as these types need to have their spirit nourished regularly.Baths or showers should be long and hot.Good massage oils include rose and sandalwood (primarily sweet)
Pitta types need to do important taxing things early in the morning preferably before 10am.They need regular exercise as many are sporty types .They should avoid inflammatory situations .Yoga is an excellent relaxation practice for them.Baths or showers should be warm, not too hot and not too long.They need to be in bed not too late and not read too late into the night.Bright lights disturb them.Walking by the ocean and spending time in nature soothes fire types as the eye is the main sensory organ associated with this dosha.Good aromatherapy oils would be mainly flower flower essences; lavender, rose, geranium.
Kapha types need plenty of exercise as out of balance they may be lazy and lethargic.Daytime naps are not recommended.They need to wrap up well in winter.Heavy cold and damp foods are clogging and constricting to them.Lunch should be the heaviest meal of the day.After work they need to push themselvesto be active and get involved in clubs and societies.Late evening is a good time for meditation.They should be in bed by 10 or 11pm.Dance music is stimulating for them.Suitable aromatherapy oils include cinnamon, camphor ,myrrh, frankincense cloves.
The ancient physicians of Ayurveda were very astute.Their knowledge of human nature came from observation both of their patients and of the physical world .They believed in treatment and prevention of diseases ,life enhancement and development of awareness.Life enhancement teaches us to boost our positive vitality .Creating and fostering awarenes requires a spiritual approach to life including meditation.Dr David Frawley (Herbalist and Ayurvedic physician)says that prolonging our lives with better health is not an end in itself”.The quality of our awareness is the real fruit of all we do.”We all contain the universe within us and living in harmony with our doshic nature makes that universe a splendid place for all.
The Yoga of Herbs
Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vassant Lad
Ayurveda and the Mind
Dr David Frawley
Deepak Chopra M.D.