Ayurveda, the ancient Indian study of life, uses the tridosha theory to explain human makeup and behavior. It is considered by the ancient seers that man’s psychological and physical makeup may be classified as belonging to a specific type of constitution called prakriti, the underlying or inherent nature of one’s being. It is nature that determines how we behave, what we desire, what we enjoy, our physical constitution and how we respond to all of the stresses of living. It further determines our physical, psychological, social and religious patterns of behavior. The prakriti is divided into three main doshas or forces that help to bind the five elemental forces into living flesh. These doshas are vata, pitta and kapha representing the philosophical elements air, fire, and water respectively. If we know our prakriti and are well versed in the foods and activities that are natural to or that aggravate the doshas, we can maintain a more peaceful and healthy body and mind. Very few of us have a pure prakriti of only one dosha, most of us have combinations. That is, we all have all three doshas within our makeup but there is usually a prominence of one or two. For perfect health the goal is to have all of the doshas balanced within our prakriti. There are seven possibilities of constitutional types: V, VP, P, PK, K, VK, VPK and balanced (equal force from each dosha). What causes these constitutional types? They are determined at the time of conception and depend upon many factors: such as, the spiritual state of the parents at conception, the astrology of the moment, physiology, genetics, and the physical health of the parents. Once the constitutional type is set, it is maintained for the balance of one’s life. It is possible by studying the various types to analyze one’s own type from the similarities and dissimilarities with the characteristic patterns and varying categories. The difficulty with this is that we have a tendency to chose characteristics that seem to be “better” or of a “higher type". It is more accurate to learn one’s prakriti through the Ayurvedic pulse diagnosis. Those who are trained in the method are able to determine which is the basic type and also able to determine if there are any imbalances. It is said that the real masters of this art are able to tell you about your entire past medical history, even to the extent of what surgery has been performed, as well as your present state of balance of the doshas. In order to simplify this rather complex theory, we speak of the prakriti as a structure; the basis upon which we (in all of our facets) are structured. We also speak of each dosha as though it were a truly separate and concrete form of energy with usual effects upon our being. The extensive study of the prakriti and the doshas is only a small part of the vast field of Ayurveda. Ayurveda has studied the natural construction of man and his behavior in order to bring his very being into a closer natural harmony with nature. The very ancient science has a great deal to offer to the health of the world today. Continued next issue. §
In order to be heal;thy, according to the Ayurvedic system of medicine, we must have some knowledge of the character of each dosha (as introduced last month) and how to maintain a balance between them. Balance is attained by varying the diet and activities according to the climate, time of day and the individual’s nature. Vata is the dosha that is the base or driver of all motion within the body. It is the nature of the air/ether elements. It governs all biological movement such as breathing, muscular contraction, heart beats and movement of single pulses through the nerves. It determines metabolism through the motion of the cell substances and controls the thoughts by leading the mind to constant desirable objects rather than determined ones. Vata is the root cause of the sense of hearing and stimulates the body fire for appetite. It causes the elimination of urine and feces. It distributes pitta and kapha in the body. It maintains the health and function of the body depending upon its balance. It also governs emotions such as pain, fear, nervousness, anxiety, tremors, and muscle spasms. Vata’s physical properties are dry, expanding, light, cold, penetrating, subtle, rough and dispersing. Vata dominates the fall season (Nov. to Feb.) and is also most prominent at 2:00AM to 6:00AM and 2:00PM to 6:00PM. during these times, it is not wise to do or ingest anything that may bring about an imbalance of the vata force. It is this time dominance that suggests that we rise from sleep each day before sunrise. Vata is also dominant in the old age period, that is, “life over fifty". Vata’s natural seat is in the colon, pelvic cavity, bones, skin, ears and thighs. Imbalance will cause an accumulation of vata in these areas with resulting diseases such as skin rashes and growths, constipation, abundant flatulence, bloating, bone and joint changes, decreasing mobility, impaired hearing, increased fear and memory loss and often confusion. In the fall we are still geared to a preponderance of pitta, so the changes in weather, although pleasant, may aggravate the vata dosha especially if we have a strong vata constitution. In order to counteract or attempt to balance this we should always keep warm and protect ourselves from the strong winds and draft. We must avoid cold foods and drinks, supplementing our diet with warmer, heavier and moisture foods but decreasing the vata aggravating foods such as beans, raw foods such as apples and anything from the cabbage family. Decrease pungent, bitter and astringent tastes as these aggravate vata: increase the sweet, salty, and sour tastes as they tend to balance vata. Dairy products are good to take in moderate amounts. It is advisable to follow very closely to a routine, which may be boring, for this tends to balance or ground vata. Long air travel tends to aggravate vata, and this can be remedied by keeping warm, quiet and by good deep meditation. Alcohol aggravates vata, especially in the artificial atmosphere of air travel. Sure ways to imbalance vata are to worry, eat on the run, get too little sleep, eat dry, frozen or left-over foods, keep on the move or work at night. §
We have seen last month that vata dosha has to do with energy in motion. Pitta is the force that balances the kinetic energy of vata and the potential energy of kapha. Pitta is of fire/water energy, is dominant in July to October and peaks at noon and midnight. It governs metabolism, the enzymatic and endocrine systems, and has great influence on the mental activities. Pitta dosha’s function is pigmentation, digestion, heat, intelligence, sight, hunger, thirst, softness and radiance of the body, cheerfulness and courage. The physical properties of pitta are lightly viscid, non-sticky, active, hot to touch and bitter to taste. It is a combination of elemental fire and water. The normal seat is the duodenum (first section of the small intestine), liver and spleen. It also resides in the heart, eyes and skin and accounts for the skin’s radiant heat and health. Deranged or unbalanced pitta may bring about changes in sight, digestion and inflammations of the skin. There is a tendency to be overheated and very thirsty. Ulcers, colitis, migraine headaches, hepatitis, allergies and hyperthyroidism are typical pitta diseases. Pitta people are of medium build and usually thin. They may have many moles or freckles or other skin blemishes. The skin is soft and warm; the hair is thin and silken. Normally these people have a strong digestion and huge appetites. They crave sweet, bitter, astringent tastes and cold drinks. They do not tolerate sun or heat well as their body temperature is elevated. They are intelligent and sharp and like to be leaders. They are ambitious and have emotional tendencies toward anger, hate and jealousy. In order to balance pitta, one must keep cool by avoiding heat and the warmer parts of the day as well as the warmer climates. Avoid oils, fried foods, caffeine, salt, alcohol and hot spices. Plenty of grains and moderate dairy products tend to balance as do sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. Lots of fresh air is advised. Remaining calm and serene helps the pitta person to remain balanced. The important thing is to keep cool physically and mentally with such aids as cool, shady spots and cooling rinses after showers. Hot spices and heavy oily, fried foods aggravate pitta. Hard cheeses, sour cream, buttermilk and yogurt are to be used in very small portions, if at all. The cooling spices such as cumin, coriander, saffron, dill, mint and parsley are valuable in the pitta diet. Garlic is very aggravating to this constitution, and thus must sadly be avoided. Deranging the pitta constitution is easily accomplished-but hardly recommended-by the following: drink plenty of alcohol, eat spicy foods, especially tomatoes, chilies, raw onions and highly salted foods. Engage in frustrating activities, use drugs, especially cocaine, speed or marijuana and wear tight, hot clothes. Avoid cool, fresh, peaceful places. Repress your feelings and eat as much red meat and salted fish as possible. These unhealthy forces are highly reactive and must be routinely excreted from the body. Vata is eliminated from the body as gas and muscular or nervous energy. Pitta is eliminated from the body through acid, bile and perspiration. §
This is the final article on Ayurveda, the ancient Indian study of life that employs the tridosha system to understand the subtle and gross human constitution by perceiving three different forces at work-vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (water). The last of the tridosha forces is kapha, active during March to June and early morning and early evening. Breakfast should be eaten by pitta and vata people between 6 and 7AM. However, this is kapha time so kapha people should not eat as it would increase the kapha within the body. Kapha is not mucus but produces mucus to eliminate its forces. Kapha dosha’s main function is viscidity, nourishment, binding of the joints, solidarity, fortitude, forbearance, patience and abstinence. Its physical properties are: motionless, viscid, sticky, heavy, sweet, inert, cold, soft, white and tamasic. Kapha is a combination of the earth and water elements. The challenge of a kaphic person is to overcome inertia and the desire to have and hold on to everything, even old outgrown attitudes and reactions. The natural site of kapha dosha is above the diaphragm. Unblanched kapha produces heaviness in the body, drowsiness, numbness, feeling of old age, dyspepsia, sweet taste in the mouth, loss of memory, decrease in sensations and general debility. If the kaphas is depleted there is dryness, weakness, thirst and feeling of internal heat and emptiness. Activities that imbalance kapha are: taking long naps after eating, eating lots of fat and oils, overeating, letting inertia take over your body and mind, not exercising, using drugs (especially sedatives and tranquilizers), never skipping desserts (especially ice cream and gooey, sticky ones), enjoying the sedentary TV life daily and interrupting viewing only by eating large meals and excessive snacking of salty and gooey foods. In order to balance the kapha dosha: exercise daily, reduce fatty foods, eliminate iced drinks and foods and excessive amounts of bread and pastries. Also, eat warm, light and dry foods and have a lot of variety in the menus with vegetables, peppers, ginger, garlic, and turmeric. Keep salt consumption low. Most seeds and all nuts should be eliminated from the diet. Popcorn with no fat or salt is excellent. The diseases common to kaphic constitution are: coughs, excess mucus, bronchitis, rheumatic fever, aching joints, pleurisy, peri-carditis, sinsuitis, nasal congestion, accentuation of greedy tendencies-holding onto things such as repressions, body wastes, lethargy and sloth. By careful attention to diet, varying it according to the season of the year and the time of the day with special reference to one’s constitutional dosha, we are able to balance the doshas. The balance is the first step to a healthy and disease-free life. If there is such an upset of the doshic balance that a disease process is present, treatments using pranayama, massage, cleansing, aromatherapy, herbals, gems and other techniques are available to the Ayurvedic physician. Remember that mental balance and a balanced diet according to one’s constitution are the basis of health. §
Keeping food fresh is a major problem, and the food industry is always looking for new ways to prolong the shelf life of our food supplies. In the past the industry has used various processing techniques: cooking, salting, drying, smoking, bottling, canning, freeze drying and addition of chemical preservatives. None of these methods have been 100% successful, and with each method there are variable effects upon the nutritional value of the food. The newest technique of prolonging food life is food irradiation. Irradiation uses large doses of ionizing radiation (X or Gamma Rays) to “treat” the foodstuffs. It is claimed that this process will prevent sprouting, delay ripening, kill insects and other pests in grain, fruit and spices, kill or render sterile worms that often infest meats and fish, and especially reduce the amount of salmonella, a dreadful killer bacteria, that often is present on vegetables, meats, eggs and in dairy products. This process, it is claimed by some, does all of this with no harm to the foodstuffs or the consumers. They claim that this makes economical sense and helps us to provide food to starving nations as the life of the food is prolonged sufficiently to allow shipment. There is a growing body of opinion, however, that realizes that there has not been sufficient scientific evaluation of the true effects that irradiation has upon the food. Are there changes in the nutritional value? Are there new and strange substances created that our bodies do not know how to handle? Even though the foods may look fresh longer, do they truly have sufficient prana to make them vital? Is the “protective” bacteria population hampered so that the toxins from the “non-protective bacteria” increase in amount? What really happens to the “life” of the foodstuffs? Is is said by some that “spoiled” food can be rendered sterile and edible by irradiation, however, the World Health organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Atomic Energy Agency have explicitly stated that food should always be wholesome before irradiation and this process should not be used to make an unsuitable product saleable for human consumption. Great Britain, West Germany and some of the Scandinavian countries do not allow food irradiation. Japan does not allow the importation of any irradiated food. Malaysia is the headquarters of the Food Irradiation Network opposed to food irradiation until all outstanding issues are fully resolved. We are opposed to the premature use of this methodology of prolonging the shelf life of food products especially for shipment to the less affluent nations under the pretense that there is no hazard to the health of the individuals consuming it. We are also opposed to the approval of irradiation without adequate scientific testing to assure us that the process is safe for the long term. Most of the tests done have only been followed for a short term of weeks or months. For more information on irradiation, contact: §.
Welcome to Summer! In the northern hemisphere as the mid-June season approaches, Mother Nature moves into Her pitta dosha (fire/ water energy) cycle. This extends until mid-October in most of the temperate zones. However, just as there are individual variations as to the time of onset and exit of the seasons, there also is some overlapping of the doshic periods. We must determine the cycle by the locale where we live as it may be that we are subject to a very shortened winter or fall season. There is always some variation in the doshic cycles of the world with tremendous local variations. Seasonal pitta is first characterized by increased heat, increase in humidity, less cloudy days with brighter sunshine and some decrease in the digestive fires of our bodies. To stay in balance with nature and to maintain our health, we must become accustomed to these seasonal variants and prepare and adapt to them. We should not make drastic changes in our routines, but we will need to make some adjustments. The springtime is a kapha/pitta season and becomes more pitta as summer approaches, so our summer routines will actually start to some extent in the late spring. Because the digestive fires are somewhat weakened in the pitta cycle, we tend to be less hungry and naturally choose lighter and cooler foods. We should attempt to avoid sour, salty and pungent foods, such as sour fruits, grapefruit, papaya, olives, radish, tomatoes, spinach, brown rice, sour cream and buttermilk. Also we should reduce spices other than coriander, cinnamon, fennel, turmeric and cut back on black pepper. In spite of the great temptation, we should not drink iced drinks, only cool drinks and less hot drinks. We should favor the sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes, such as sweet fruits, coconut, figs, melons, asparagus, potatoes, leafy greens, celery, basmati rice, oats, sunflower seeds and ghee. These moderate changes are always to be consistent with our basic constitutional doshas. The routine of our life must be maintained or the vata may be aggravated. These temporary and minor changes are more important for the adults (16 to 50) as they are in their pitta period of life. For those over 60, vata is the predominate dosha of the life and may easily be unbalanced at this summer period. Common sense, as always, must apply here so that we do not indulge in food or activities that will aggravate our basic constitutions. In order to alleviate some of the symptom overlay, if there is any imbalance, we may utilize modalities such as massage, aromatherapy, change of exercise, herbal teas, homeopathic remedies while always maintaining a routine that will assure us of good physical and mental health. §