As a result of my ever-increasing anxiety, I am devouring any and every holistic approach to combat this heavy weight I have been carrying around as of late. My essential oil diffuser is running from the moment I get home from work until the moment I go to bed. It has helped me tremendously (subconsciously, looking back at how much better I feel) to relax. I am also on a constant phone rotation with healers trying to get me back on track into a place of security, and being a lover of most Ayurvedic practices, it is only natural that I turn to their basic principles to get me through this tough time.
Ayurveda considers each person unique, making their food and lifestyle choices the most important medicine. While no one diet is for everyone, Ayurveda is based on three doshas – the energies that make up each individual, with different physiological functions in the body. We each contain all three doshas, but most of us normally have one that dominates us. The natural balance of our doshas is what’s responsible for the physical, mental and emotional differences among us. When we are balanced, we are healthy, but it is when our doshas start to get imbalanced that most of our physical, mental and emotional problems tend to arise.
I actually dabbled a little in understanding my dosha when I was pregnant. A friend of mine introduced me to Gowri Motha, who, after years of following western medicine in her gynecology practice, turned to an Ayurvedic approach for pregnancy and birthing. She wrote a book that became my bible (my version of What to Expect When You are Expecting). The opening of the book starts out with a quiz of which dosha are you, and then from there you follow certain instructions to abide by your dosha. I was lucky enough to have an easy pregnancy and also rather easy labor, and so I fell in a deeper love with this approach.
Having realized I am dominated by Vata, the dosha of energy and creativity, I was more than curious to see how I can try to get my lead dosha back on track through this period of anxiety am currently in.
Here are the three doshas and what they control:
1. Vata Dosha (Air)
This energy controls bodily functions associated with movement and change – blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and heartbeat.
Characteristics: You tend to always be on the go; you love excitement and welcome new experiences. Your skin and hair tend to be dry and your build is thin and light. Inclined to have cold hands and feet. Just as their energy comes in bursts, so does their fatigue.
When it is in balance: Creativity and vitality is abundant. You will also be very lively and enthusiastic.
When it is out of balance: Fear and anxiety runs rampant (ahem, a.k.a. me). You can start to feel like you are losing control – your mind may race and you are not able to focus, hence the anxiety and even insomnia kicks in. Serious weight loss can come into play, because you may skip meals and your digestion becomes irregular. When things go wrong you tend to blame yourself – “What did I do wrong.”
How to get your Vata balanced: Slow down a bit, try to not do a million things at once. Especially take time to meditate. Try getting to bed a bit earlier. Increase warm foods, because Vatas are normally cold. Butter and fat are also good to incorporate. Moderate workout intensity – meditative yoga, walking and swimming.
What to Eat: Asparagus, cucumber, green beans, sweet potatoes, garlic, avocado, bananas, coconut, mangoes, papaya, pineapple, peaches, chicken, seafood, turkey, chickpeas, pink lentils, oatmeal.
2. Pitta Dosha (Fire)
This energy controls the body’s metabolic systems – digestion, nutrition, body temperature, and metabolism.
Characteristics: Hot headed, aggressive, impatient, sharp, medium physique, strong, concentrated, competitive, ambitious, passionate, generally good management and leadership ability (but can become authoritarian). Strong sex drive and a good leader. Skin is normally sensitive and acne prone, while your hair has a tendency towards early graying or thinning.
When it is in balance: Can lead to contentment and intelligence. They are orderly and focused, self-confident. Digestion is excellent and you have a strong appetite.
When it is out of balance: Heat begins to rise in the body and anger surges because of short temper. Irritated under stress. Susceptible to feeling negative emotions like hostility and jealousy. When stressed, it is more what did other people do wrong. Rashes and inflammations on the skin, acne, heartburn, acid stomach (especially ulcers), dry or burning eyes.
How to get your Pitta balanced: Try to keep cool and avoid overexposure of the sun. Stay away from fried and spicy foods. Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Take time to cool down with going to the beach to listen to the waves. Dodge conflict in order to keep your calm.
What to Eat: Stay away from vinegar, cheese, alcohol and fermented foods. Limit your coffee intake. Eat your broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, leafy greens, mushroom, cherries, bananas, coconuts, prunes, raisins (fruits should be sweet and ripe), red lentils, pumpkin seeds, chicken, shrimp and river fish.
3. Kapha Dosha (Earth and Water)
This energy controls growth in the body, it supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin and maintains the immune system.
Characteristics: Easygoing, relaxed, affectionate and loving, reliable, faithful, reliable, physically strong, heavier build, has the most energy of all the doshas. They have a deep sense of stability and inner calm. Kaphas tend to be detail-oriented and consistent. Their skin is smooth and oily while their hair is thick and oily.
When it is in balance: Love and forgiveness is flowing. High energy, but steady and enduring. Excellent health with a good immune system. Their skin is radiant and regular digestion. Kaphas are able to sleep soundly.
When it is out of balance: Insecurity and envy take over. Prone to depression – they become lethargic and sleep consistently. Excess weight gain, and fluid retention. With an abundance of Kapha, people tend to become resistant and stubborn – they hold on to jobs/relationships longer than they should. When they are stressed, they are inclined to refrain from dealing with the problem. Physical problems include colds and congestion, sinus headaches, and asthma.
How to get your Kapha Balanced: Be active on a daily basis with regular exercise because it is easy for Kapha’s to fall into sluggishness and being overweight. Wake up early and try not to sleep during the day. Purge things that you know you will never use.
What to Eat: Avoid heavy oil and processed sugars. The spicier the food the better – black pepper, ginger, cumin, cloves and marjoram. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, they should try to eat raw. Asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, eggplant, okra, spinach, apples, apricots, berries, papaya, pomegranates, and grapefruit, barley, buckwheat, milk.
Want to know your dosha? Try taking a quiz to find out how to balance your energies.