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Sustainable Health: Ayurvedic Body Types

In your dai­ly eat­ing habits you might have noticed that the effect of var­i­ous food items is dif­fer­ent on dif­fer­ent peo­ple in the fam­i­ly. As an exam­ple, while lemon juice may cool someone’s body, it may result in some­one else catch­ing a cold. Not only that, you might have noticed that drink­ing lemon juice at dif­fer­ent times of the day has dif­fer­ent effect. If you haven’t noticed this, then you must start pay­ing atten­tion!

Once we had trekked up the Himalayas and halt­ed at a place for the night. As soon as we reached the place, there were shops offer­ing “pota­to pako­das”. Down south, at home, we rarely eat pota­toes as it leads to flat­u­lence and oth­er issues. Up there in the moun­tains, it was almost as if the body need­ed the pota­toes. We just gulped many pako­das and then imme­di­ate­ly the body felt ener­getic. We can­not guar­an­tee that these pako­das will have the same effect on some­one else.

The Indi­an sys­tem of Health has always paid very keen atten­tion to the food we eat. The impact of food varies from per­son to per­son because of the inter­ac­tion between the inher­ent taste (qual­i­ty) of the food and the body type of the con­sumer. In this arti­cle we will look at the body type which the Indi­an sys­tem of health, Ayurve­da, calls as ‘dosha’. Most texts trans­late dosha as humor but for our under­stand­ing we will use the term body type.

The dosha are three in num­ber (Tri­dosha): Vata, Pit­ta and Kapha. It is very inter­est­ing to note how the dosha are a com­bi­na­tion of the fun­da­men­tal ele­ments in nature — the Panch­ab­hutas name­ly: air, water, fire, earth and space. It is def­i­nite­ly amaz­ing how Ayurve­da has traced the com­po­si­tion of the body and mind to the most fun­da­men­tal ele­ments even more gran­u­lar than the Panch­ab­hutas. For a begin­ner this could look very com­pli­cat­ed but as you read these series of arti­cles and observ­ing things around and with­in you, they will start mak­ing sense. The word dosha, in com­mon usage, means defect. The humors have been named so because they can be bal­anced or can go out of bal­ance due to var­i­ous exter­nal and inter­nal fac­tors. The Indi­an Health sys­tem looks at health and vital­i­ty as a bal­ance of these doshas. Now let us look at the dosha one by one:

Vata is a com­bi­na­tion of the ele­ments air and space. It is fun­da­men­tal­ly to do with all move­ment. It is also respon­si­ble for the var­i­ous flows with­in the body includ­ing blood flow. When vata is bal­anced, peo­ple expe­ri­ence great agili­ty, ener­gy and move­ment in their lives. Their limbs are strong and healthy. Imbal­ance of vata leads to prob­lems in the joints. Many old peo­ple suf­fer from knee pain and one of the rea­sons is vata imbal­ance. In com­bi­na­tion with prob­lems of oth­er dosha, vata may lead to gas­tric prob­lems and flat­u­lence.

Vata — Bal­ance Vata — Imbal­ance Fol­low­ing a dai­ly rou­tine as regards to time of meals, num­ber of meals, time to and from bed, exer­cise, relax­ingNev­er fol­low­ing any rou­tine, eat­ing meals at dif­fer­ent times, going to bed late (after 11:00 pm), sleep dur­ing the day­timeEat­ing warm cooked meals that are a lit­tle oil, not dryEat­ing raw veg­eta­bles, rice cakes, lots of beans, pop­corn, soft drinks, chips, munch­ing all the time, skip­ping meals.Warm oil mas­sageTrav­el­ling ‑espe­cial­ly by air­planeLiv­ing in a warm and moist cli­mate where you can get fresh air and sun­shineLiv­ing in a desert or high moun­tains where the cold and the wind increas­es the effect of vata and viti­ates it.Wear­ing cloth­ing that is warm col­or such as red, orange, yel­low or a calm­ing col­or like greenWear­ing cloth­ing that cre­ates light­ness in the body such as pur­ple, blue and whiteDur­ing leisure, choos­ing calm­ing activ­i­ties such as qui­et walks in nature or in parksDur­ing leisure, doing stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties, going to amuse­ment parks, dis­cos, rock con­certs.

Pit­ta is a com­bi­na­tion of water and fire. The nature of pit­ta is heat. Peo­ple who have very high diges­tive capa­bil­i­ties have excel­lent diges­tive pit­ta. Pit­ta has also the abil­i­ty to trans­form. One can say that the trans­for­ma­tion from infor­ma­tion to knowl­edge is also a form of diges­tion and hence pit­ta is at work. Imbal­anced pit­ta can lead to acid­i­ty. When we trav­el to hilly areas, the heat in the body reduces due to exter­nal con­di­tions and hence pit­ta enhanc­ing com­po­nents in the food can assist in the diges­tive process. Adding a bit of pep­per in the soup can be immense­ly ben­e­fi­cial. Pit­ta — Bal­ance Pit­ta — Imbal­ance Eat­ing the main meal at noon with the bulk of the food that is sweet, astrin­gent, bit­ter in taste and slight­ly dry in tex­ture. Mak­ing sure the food is pure and whole­someEat­ing hot, spicy, oily food that is most­ly pun­gent, sour and salty in tasteWork­ing in a cool, dry envi­ron­ment where you feel you are in con­trol (such as your own busi­ness)Work­ing in the hot sun for long peri­ods of time, in a job where you feel you have lit­tle con­trolSeek­ing bal­ance in all things, alter­nat­ing hard work with leisure and restBeing judg­men­tal and over­ly crit­i­calDecreas­ing the use of stim­u­lants. Using cool­ing bit­ter herbs like Aloe vera, Dan­de­lion, Gen­tian and CilantroUsing stim­u­lants — alco­hol, cof­fee, tea, cig­a­rettesWear­ing cloth­ing that is warm col­or such as red, orange, yel­low or a calm­ing col­or like greenWear­ing cloth­ing that cre­ates light­ness in the body such as pur­ple, blue and whiteDur­ing leisure, choos­ing calm­ing activ­i­ties such as qui­et walks in nature or in parksDur­ing leisure, doing stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties, going to amuse­ment parks, dis­cos, rock con­certWear­ing cloth­ing made of nat­ur­al fiber such as cot­ton or silk. The best col­ors are lighter col­ors like white, cream, blue, green and pur­pleWear­ing cloth­ing that is bright red, yel­low, orange or blackTak­ing cool walks in the moon­light

Kapha is com­posed of earth and water. Kapha has the prop­er­ty to hold and bind things. When chil­dren are grow­ing up, kapha plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in the for­ma­tion of mus­cles and the body struc­ture. Hence they are also prone to kapha imbal­ance, catch­ing a cold often. Kapha rep­re­sents cool­ness and hence peo­ple with kapha body type are gen­er­al­ly sta­ble (espe­cial­ly because of the earth ele­ment). Peo­ple who often catch a cold have weak kapha. Con­sum­ing too much sweet can cause kapha imbal­ance.

Kapha — Bal­anceKapha — Imbal­anceStrong phys­i­cal exer­ciseBeing a couch pota­to and eat­ing lots of can­dy, cook­ie and choco­lateSeek­ing a vari­ety of expe­ri­ences to be stim­u­lat­edSleep­ing in for days at a time, also tak­ing naps in the day after eat­ingEat­ing meals that are lighter and dry­er with more bit­ter, pun­gent and astrin­gent tastes. Reduc­ing sweet snacksEat­ing large lunch­es with food that is heavy (meat and sauces), oily, fried, sweet and salty and if pos­si­ble hav­ing a frozen dessertReduc­ing water con­sump­tion to no more that four cups per day (unless you are very phys­i­cal­ly active)Drink­ing lots of water and water con­tain­ing foods such as water­mel­on, can­taloupe, cucum­ber, zuc­chi­niStay­ing warm and dry, with lots of exer­cise out­side in the sunExpo­sure to cold, wet or snowy weath­erPutting that strong mem­o­ry to use by learn­ing new skills both per­son­al­ly and pro­fes­sion­al­lyNev­er chang­ing any­thing, doing things as you have always done themIf pos­si­ble liv­ing in a warm, dry cli­mate where you can often be out­sideLiv­ing in cold wet cli­mates such as the Pacif­ic North­westDeep tis­sue mas­sage with light, warm oils like mus­tard or cornSwim­ming in cold waterLearn­ing to let go of things and not becom­ing over­ly attached to things or peo­pleBeing greedy, hoard­ing things, and nev­er let­ting go of any­thing

Peo­ple are born with pre­dom­i­nance of one or more of the dosha. Most peo­ple are a com­bi­na­tion of them and as they grow up, with the right food and ambi­ence, the dosha can be bal­anced for a health and hap­py life.

The Indi­an way of look­ing at health is very intu­itive and most of it starts in the kitchen. The food that we eat is looked at in great detail so that one does not have to depend too much on exter­nal sup­ports to man­age health.

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