When we think of health outside of the Āyurvedic paradigm, some of the things I look for as definitions are :
- Absence of Pain – The body does not ache regularly and any pain does not last long
- Mental Clarity – Thoughts feel unfettered and easy to interact with
- Bright Skin – Skin feels soft, has an even tone, and heals quickly
- Sleep – Comes easily and is unbroken
- Energy – Expressed as enthusiasm, stamina, and get up and go
- Easy Digestion – We can eat and drink without experiencing suffering like bloating, indigestion, cramps etc afterward.
Generally, when we experience the absence of any of the above, what do we do?
Treat the Symptoms – our lives are busy and we do not have time to experience discomfort while we are expected to forge on.This might be with laxatives, naps, alcohol, caffeine, pain relievers, restriction dietsAccept it as Reality – Often in chronic cases we assume the suffering will remain consistent, so we get used to the discomfort and adapt our lives around it.”Cleanse” – Juice fasts, sweat fests, restriction diets to remove toxicity.
As we have discussed, Āyurveda’s point of view rests in the definitions of health which are :
- Svastha – stability of the self including a balance of mind and actions
- Arogya – the state of the being without Roga (disease)
- Dhātu Samyam – the state of balance of the tissues, wastes, and doṣas
- Sattva – Mental balance and ease. The ability to manage difficulty without tremendous strain.
We have learned that Doṣas are the causes of all disease and chatted briefly about their responsibilities.
Doṣa, dhātu, mala mulam sadā dehasya taṃ calaḥ|
Utsaḥ ucchvāsa niśvasa ceṣta vega
Samyaggatyā ca dhātunām akṣānām pātavena ca |
Anugrahātya vikṛtaḥ pittam pakta
Kṣūd tṛd ruci prabhā medhā dhi śaurya tanu mārdavaiḥ |
Śleṣma shtiratva snidghatva sandhi bandha kṣamādibhiḥ ||. (AH.SU.11.1-5)
Doṣa, dhātu (tissues) + malas (waste products) are the root causes + supports of the body always.
Out of them, Vāta, in its normal state protects the body bestowing enthusiasm, exhale + inhales, all activities of the body, mind + speech, urges of the body (feces, urine, sweat etc.), maintenance of the body tissues in their normalcy and proper functioning of the sense organs. Pitta, in its normal state attends to digestion, maintenance of the body temperature, vision, production of hunger, thirst, appetite, complexion, intelligence, courage, valor, and suppleness of the body. Kapha, when balanced, confers stability, lubrication, compactness of the joints, forbearance etc.
What does this mean?
It means that if these are the balanced states of health as per the function of the doṣas, then any imbalance can be corollated with a particular doṣa and treated as such.It means we recognize that the root causes of disease are due to doṣa. Thus we must discern which doṣa(s) is/are acting up and soothe or remove them. Covering symptoms will never treat the problem, though may give temporary relief. Āyurveda wants to remove the root to enable svasṭha.
How to Treat Āyurvedically :
AH.Su.11.28-39 : The increase of doṣas is usually due to too much heaviness in the food, drink, and activity, which is followed later by the increase of Kapha. Whereas, the decrease of them is due to loss of nutrition which is followed later with an increase of Vāta. Hence diseases arising from the increase and decrease of the of the aśraya (container) and aśrayi (resident) should be treated quickly by adopting lañgana (reducing) therapies for Kapha and bṛmhana (building) therapies for Vāta.This implies that no issue can have a blanket treatment. If we cannot assess exactly the doṣa, we can observe the qualities of the complaint (guṇ as) and be able to decipher from there.
What Are the Guṇas?
The twenty guṇas as are a collection of 10 pairs of opposites that make up all of our experiences as sentient beings. Knowing these allows for the removal of the causes of suffering rather than covering the symptoms.
They are :
- Guru (Heavy) – Laghu (Light)
- Manda (Dull) – Tīkṣṇa (Sharp)
- Śita (Cold) – Uṣṇa (Hot)
- Snidgha (Oily) – Rukṣa (Dry)
- Ślakṣna (Smooth) – Khāra (Rough)
- Sandra (Solid) – Drava (Liquid)
- Mṛdu (Soft) – Kathina (Hard)
- Sthira (Stable) – Cala (Mobile)
- Sthūla (Gross) – Sukṣma (Subtle)
- Picchila (Sticky) – Viṣada (Clear)
The Next Steps for Health
We have to become more sensitive in our awareness and be able to describe what we are feeling according to these guṇas listed above. They often reveal the keys to the nature of our suffering and lead us to which doṣa is the culprit.
By assuaging or removing the doṣas, the symptoms will go and thus we will no longer need to cover, mute, or ignore them. This method also allows us to be free of guessing our way to balance – or jumping from fad to fad looking for something that will work for us personally. Āyurveda is personal and comes from the ability to perceive what the body and mind are trying to communicate.
Remember : Like Increases Like + Opposites Balance.
Learn to experience the guṇas with all your senses and respond with the opposite quality (as well as remove the causative behavior) and your sense of health will improve dramatically!
Basic Maintenance to Avoid Imbalance :
SUPPORT YOUR DIGESTIVE FIRE
- Eat warm foods, properly spiced.
- Avoid excess salt, sour, heat especially in the summer months or if you notice guṇ as of Pitta.
- Avoid ice and cold foods.
- Avoid raw foods generally.
- Do not mix dairy with fruit or meat.
- Do not mix fruit with other things (with few exceptions)
- Avoid drinking before, during, or directly after eating.
- Avoid exercise, shower, activity directly after or while eating.
DO NOT SUPPRESS URGES OR ACT WITHOUT THEM
- Eat, Drink, Express when you are hungry, thirsty, or require expression (speech, bowels, gas etc).
- Do not eat, drink or act when you do not feel the inclination.
- Sleep when it is dark + awaken when it is night.
EAT SEASONALLY + COOK AT HOME
- Each season has guṇas. To balance their presences environmentally, we have to eat + drink with their opposite guṇ as. Avoid old or processed foods as they are difficult to digest well.