Have you ever wondered why we become ill? Do you lack the energy or vitality that you had years ago? Have you spent your time and money searching for a cure to what ails you only to walk away somewhat disappointed each time? Have you given up? Do you believe that perfect health is possible?
Ayurveda, the 5,000 year old healing science from India becoming increasingly popular in the United States, offers answers to the question: Can I become perfectly healthy again? The answer is yes, but the path is not a simple one.
Ayurveda is a journey into understanding ourselves and how we create disease. Ayurveda begins with helping a person to understand what their unique constitution or mind–body type is. Once we begin to understand this we can then understand how we interact with our environment. This is the most important gift of Ayurveda, because this allows us to control our environment in ways that create harmony instead of disease.
Ayurveda is based on the idea that we are all unique individuals with unique constitutions. As a result, each of our paths to create health is different. For instance, some people thrive on a vegetarian diet while others become weak or ill. In the same way people are not bothered by spicy diet while others get indigestion. These types of unique needs are not only true for diet but for every aspect of our environment including colors, sound, aromas, and work.
By helping a patient, an Ayurvedic practitioner starts by understanding the patient’s constitution and helps them control their environment in ways that can produce health for them. Treatment programs involve putting the patient on the appropriate food program, preparing herbs to assist healing, educating the patient about what colors and aromas support their well being and perhaps most importantly, analyzing the patient’s lifestyle to determine where there is harmony and where there is disharmony.
It is in the details of our lives that we often see the root origins of disease. We may find ourselves caught up in addictive habitual patterns of overwork. We may find ourselves moving quickly, rushing about like a speeding car late for an appointment, weaving in and out of traffic. Our illnesses, to follow this metaphor, may be likened to a car accident. The Ayurvedic doctor analyzes a patient’s life from a non-judgmental point of view simply looking for harmony and disharmony. Sleep patterns and eating patterns along with work are all examined.
Yoga and meditation are a part of the Ayurvedic prescription for perfect health. Both vigorously train the body and mind to manifest harmony. An Ayurvedic practitioner guides you in methods of yoga and meditation that are harmonious for your unique constitution.
Ayurveda is based upon an understanding of the three doshas. These are the forces that govern the functions of the body and the mind. It is the balance of these three forces that defines your constitution. While all three exist inside of each of us, the balance of them is unique. The three forces are known as vata, pitta, and kapha.
Vata is often likened to the wind. Its qualities are light, dry, cool and mobile. People with a strong vata nature tend to be light of weight, have long narrow bones, dry skin, and often feel cold. Emotionally individuals of vata nature or imbalance are prone to fear and worry. These individuals are most prone to diseases of the large intestine, immune system, nervous system and joints of the body. Constipation, nervousness, anxiety, colitis, arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome to name only a few are diseases associated with vata imbalance. In order to bring balance to vata these individuals need heavier, more nourishing diets, greater calmness and stability and more oils in the diet.
Pitta is often likened to fire. Its qualities are hot, light, and slightly moist. It is unstable. People of strong pitta nature or imbalance tend to be of moderate weight with good muscle tone. They tend to feel warm and seem to sweat easily. Emotionally these individuals are prone to heated emotions such as anger, resentment and jealousy. These individuals are most prone to diseases of the small intestine, liver, spleen, thyroid, eyes and blood. Diarrhea, hepatitis, infections, hyperthyroidism, acne and other skin diseases are common during pitta imbalance. In order to bring balance to pitta, an Ayurvedic Doctor prescribes a mildly spiced diet, which is heavy or nourishing and slightly dry. Relaxation and play are advised and inner work to develop compassion is recommended. Herbs are prescribed to facilitate the process.
Kapha is often likened to mud, a mixture of earth and water. Its qualities are heavy and cool, damp and stable. People of strong kapha nature or imbalance tend to carry more weight naturally. They have thick bones and slower metabolisms. They have strong bodies. They are not necessarily overweight, however being stocky comes more naturally. If these individuals try to lose too much weight in order to look like societies idea of ideal, they will create imbalance, disharmony and disease. Emotionally people of kapha nature are most prone to melancholy, lethargy, and depression. These individuals are most prone to diseases of the stomach, lungs, pancreas and sinuses. Diseases such as diabetes, water retention, nausea, and congestive mucous conditions are common diseases of kapha imbalance. To correct an imbalance in kapha, an Ayurvedic practitioner prescribes a diet which is light, dry, and very spicy. Vegetarian diets are beneficial, and inner work to release attachments is advised. Herbs also facilitate the process.
While you may see yourself in these stereotyped descriptions, most of us are a combination of these three body/mind types. An Ayurvedic practitioner can help you understand your constitution and prescribe a program of care to help you reestablish balance and hence to reestablish health.
The path of creating health is a personal one. It often leads into a deeper understanding of ourselves. While an Ayurvedic practitioner can be a guide on your journey, ultimately it is a path we walk alone. Good luck on your journey.
Dr. Marc Halpern is the founder and President of the California College of Ayurveda. An internationally respected expert in the fields of Ayurveda and Yoga, Dr. Halpern received the award for Best Ayurvedic Physician from the Indian Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. A. Ramdas. He is a co-founder of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine. He is on the advisory board of Light on Ayurveda Journal in the United States and the Journal of Research and Education in Indian Medicine in Varansi, India. Dr. Halpern has published articles in popular journals and magazines of Ayurveda and Yoga including Yoga Journal. He is also a contributing writer in several popular books on Ayurveda and has written two textbooks. Dr. Halpern is a regular speaker at Ayurvedic and Yoga conferences and teaches regularly at the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers where he received his Yoga Teacher certification. Read more...