The ayurvedic health system: What’s your dosha?
Ayurveda is the ancient healthcare system of India, meaning the science of longevity or knowledge of life. It was put into writing by rishis and sages some 5000 years ago. In determining ones dietary needs and lifestyle routines to maintain or achieve health, Ayurveda takes into consideration ones doshas or physical, mental, and spiritual constitutions.
The doshas are named Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. They are combinations of the five elements and their twenty qualities, or gunas, and can be found in different forms through all of nature including ourselves. Everyone has a unique percentage of each of the three doshas with, typically, a predominance of one, a substantial percentage of another, and then a third in lower amounts.
Let’s begin with Kapha, as winter is Kapha’s time of year and can easily be seen in the weather of the season. Kapha’s elements are water and earth, with inherent qualities of heavy, slow, cold, oily, liquid, smooth, dense, soft, stable, sticky, cloudy, and hard. Some examples of Kapha individuals are people with heavier frames and creamy soft skin. They are slow and steady in work and relationships, making them stable employees and loyal friends. Spiritually, kapha types are naturally inclined to express compassion and unconditional love.
When Kapha is in excess, one may experience low digestive fire causing heaviness or nausea after eating, flabby body, excessive sleep, heavy depression, attachment, greed, and lack of forgiveness.
To maintain healthy Kapha one should avoid cow dairy products and nuts, eating pungent, bitter, and astringent foods such as garlic, brussel sprouts, and leafy greens, fruits like cranberries and pomegranates, and the white meat of fowl and freshwater fish. To think of it another way, take foods that are opposite of kapha’s qualities i.e. dry, hot, and mobile including the herbs cinnamon, clove, and mustard seed. Kapha should exercise regularly, working up a sweat, and go to bed late at night between 11 p.m. and midnight but wake early at 4:30 a.m.
Next, let’s examine Vata dosha, consisting of ether and air with qualities of dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile, and clear. Vata types are naturally slender with dry skin, hair, and nails and tend to dress in layers as they chill easily. Vata’s make decisions quickly but change their minds just as fast. Money comes and goes for vata as it has a hard time holding onto things. Spiritually, vata people are intuitive healers with a natural capacity for artistic expression, being a continuum of the clear and subtle aspects of space and its’ boundless creative potentiality.
Signs and symptoms of excess vata include gas and/or constipation, excessive talking, ringing in the ears, cracking joints, lower backache, confusion, anxiety, and fear.
To maintain healthy vata one should eat foods that are sweet, sour, and salty such as cooked beets, carrots, and potatoes, fruits like citrus and bananas and many meats, including seafood and beef. Or think of opposite qualities of vata, like heavy, dense and oily. For vata, most dairy is good and nuts can be eaten in moderation. Vata does well to have a regular routine but accomplishing a variety of things each day. Vata should go to sleep at 10 p.m. and wake at 6 in the morning.
Last, but not least, let’s look at pitta dosha, consisting of fire and water and the gunas, or qualities, of oily, sharp, hot, light, fleshy smelling, spreading and liquid. Pitta people aren’t too fat, aren’t too thin and sweat easily. The heat of pitta can be seen in natural redheads or premature gray. Pitta easily comprehends information with clear and sharp vision, giving pitta the ability to see “the big picture” or know the truth when in balance. Spiritually, this makes pitta people natural born leaders and teachers. Pitta can rally the masses and stir them to action with its ability to spread its message and knowing how to achieve the goal.
Signs and symptoms of excess pitta include hyperacidity and/or diarrhea, yellow discoloration of the skin or eyes, red rashes, burning types of pain, anger, resentment, undue bravery and fanaticism.
To maintain balanced pitta, one should eat sweet, bitter and astringent foods such as cucumber, bitter greens and mushrooms, fruits such as mangos and pears, and game such as buffalo, rabbit or venison. Or think of the opposite qualities of pitta such as cool, dry and pleasantly aromatic, i.e., mint, chamomile and jasmine teas. Pitta people need to know when to let go of rigid schedules and should go to bed between 10 and 11 o’clock at night, waking between 5 and 6 in the morning.
Jennifer Foote is an ayurvedic health care specialist with credentials including advanced studies of ayurveda at The Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M., and an internship at the Devi Ma Rural Ayurveda Hospital in Sipadole, Nepal. She began her practice of ayurveda at the Dhanvantari Ayurveda Hospital and Research Center in Kathmandu, Nepal. Currently, Jennifer teaches ayurvedic yoga at the Courthouse Athletic Club and to Nevada Union High School District employees under its wellness program. She is available for consultations. To schedule an appointment, call 477-1874.
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