Last Thursday, February 29th, Dr. Oz’s show featured a segment on Ayurveda. Yahoo!
How great that Ayurveda, the ancient holistic health system from India, is gaining recognition for it’s ability to provide guidelines for how your individual bio-chemistry can be balanced with food and lifestyle modifications in order to lose weight, prevent disease, and live a healthy and long life.
Dr. Chaudhary, the Ayurvedic practitioner on the show, did a great job of highlighting and demonstrating the three main bodytypes and a couple simple approaches to support those constitutions based on the three life forces or doshas that exist in all of our bodies.
However, one of the downsides of the quick summaries that come with television, radio interviews or articles is that they, by nature, can only give you a snapshot of information – not the whole picture. And while the information on the show provides a good introduction, there were two key points not mentioned that are important to know in order to use Ayurveda most effectively.
Let’s start with the bigger picture of the bodytypes or constitutions that were mentioned. Your “bodytype” is what is referred to as your constitution or prakruti which is the unique ratio of vata, pitta and kapha life forces in your body-mind that you are born with. When you maintain this constitutional balance, you are in your optimal state of health.
There are seven different bodytypes:
- a single dosha constitution characterized by a dominant amount of vata, pitta or kapha which is what was highlighted on the show
- a duel dosha constitution defined by a fairly even mix of two of the doshas: vata-pitta, pitta-kapha, or vata-pitta
- a less common tri-doshic constitution that consists of a fairly even amount of all three doshas
Each of you has all three of these life forces but in a different amounts, which is what makes you all unique. Your constitution is what determines your physical characteristics and personality tendencies. It also reflects what kinds of illnesses or diseases you might be prone to. For example, if you are a single dosha constitution, it means you have more of that energy in you and it is therefore easier to become imbalanced in it through your intake of food and activities with a similar energy. For example, Kapha bodytypes tend to have more kapha-type diseases such as colds and congestive disorders.
However, you will not always have symptoms or illnesses that are like your bodytype. You can also suffer from a disease of a different nature than your constitution such as a pitta person having a kapha-like cold.
The first important point not mentioned on the Dr. Oz show is that in addition to noting your constitution, the nature of the disease or condition must also be noted and both must be treated. Ayurveda calls what is currently bothering you, in terms of symptoms and disease, your current state of imbalance or vikruti. Your state of imbalance, along with your constitution, should be assessed by an Ayurveda professional to be accurate.
Allow me to illustrate with a personal example from my history. I am a dominant pitta bodytype with a secondary vata and a small amount of kapha. If I was looking at just this constitutional relationship, I should then not be vulnerable to getting many kapha symptoms such as weight gain, excess mucus in my system, swelling, lethargy, heaviness in my mind and mucus-related illnesses. However, when I became a vegetarian many years ago, not having the best knowledge on how to do this, I cut out the meat, ate lots of carbohydrates and added more dairy to make up the protein. I also had a sweet tooth so I ate desserts on a regular basis. In Ayurveda, most types of dairy, wheat, and sugar build kapha in the body. Over time, due to my eating habits, I built up a kapha imbalance even though I am not a kapha bodytype. Once I learned Ayurveda, I altered my diet and lifestyle to decrease kapha for a period of time to bring the energy back into balance and thus resolve the kapha-related symptoms.
The second important point not mentioned on the Dr. Oz show is that your health and the state of the doshas are continually changing rather than being a stable constant that gets treated the same way all the time.
On Dr. Oz’s show, simple herbal remedies and specific foods were offered as tools to keep the person in balance based on their bodytype. I can guarantee that from watching the show many people took the constitutional quiz then went out to buy some of those products, thinking this is what they need all the time. This is a faulty assumption and not correct in light of the big picture I’m showing you here.
Your state of health is affected by many factors: your diet, your activities, what self-care tools you’re using. These are factors that you have control over – but I’m guessing aren’t always consistent or consistently healthy! The balance of your life energies and your health is also impacted by such things as the weather, climate, and stage of life of which you don’t have much control over. As a result of your changing daily conscious choices along with those external aspects you have no control over, the reality is that your health and the balance between the doshas is not the same from day to day. And therefore what you need on different days, weeks or months will not be the same. The good news is that Ayurveda teaches you how to understand these changing factors and what actions you need to take to re-store balance.
Another personal example of this goes back to the time I was balancing my kapha-like symptoms. I mentioned I was using certain foods and lifestyle elements to re-balance the doshas. Newly into Ayurveda, I thought since my program was working so well I would just keep doing it. It had taken me awhile to get used to the new pieces and now i was comfortable and didn’t want to change. Unfortunately, the reality was that by continuing with the same program after my kapha dosha was back in balance, I actually went on to create an imbalance in my vata life force. Those food and lifestyle elements which decrease kapha tend to increase vata. My balancing efforts were well and good – for a period of time. But over time I then ending up creating too much vata in my body by not knowing when to stop and change my program.
For this reason, best results come from working with such a practitioner for a period of time to monitor your changes, help you develop resources and information to integrate in your life, and help keep you on track until you achieve a better place of health and balance.
Ayurveda provides a holistic healing system well suited to address today’s modern needs of chronic conditions and disease prevention. Knowing the bigger picture of how to integrate this healing science into your life will increase the success of your efforts.
Ways to get started…
- Schedule a complimentary consultation with me to find out how Ayurveda could support you.
- Take classes on Ayurveda that can be found in your community.
- Commit to working with a professional Ayurvedic professional for a period of time.
- Read books or watch videos on Ayurveda.
©2012, Jamie Durner, Ayurvedic Natural Health Practitioner and Wellness Educator