Modern medicine excluded constitutions from its vocabulary.
Although the ancient Greeks considered medicine as something mainly pertaining to the physical body, they also recognized constitutional types. Hippocrates spoke of four kinds of body types. Modern medicine, for which the symptomatic differences between diseases are more important than the differences among people, excluded constitutions from its vocabulary. It is under the influence of Greek medicine, that the three doshas of Ayurveda are mistakenly identified in Western literature as so called humours - wind, bile and mucus. This simplification leads to misunderstanding of the true nature of the doshas. These humours wind, bile, mucus and other body’s elements are all in fact the carriers of the three doshas; it is these elements through which the doshas display their qualities in the body. The three doshas are energies that keep the body healthy only when they can move freely in and out of the body. This freedom of movement is the basis for their harmonious functioning and overall health. The means for maintaining their fluent movement are waste products – Vata leaves the body through stool, Pitta through sweat and Kapha through urine. Constipation is therefore a typical sign of excessive Vata, skin problems and fevers are signs of increased Pitta and retention of urine and mucus points to disturbed Kapha.
If the body and mind are in a state of perfect balance, the biological doshas are created in an amount reflecting the actual physical needs of the body. If a prolonged disturbance occurs the equilibrium of the doshas is also disturbed. This happens at the cost of the weakening of vitality and immunity. If digestion is in full strength, the prana contained in food gets into the body in sufficient quantity and only a small amount of Vata is produced. If digestion is weak, only a small amount of prana is taken in and excessive Vata becomes the result.
If we only look at the external causes, the world which we live in is full of them - wrong diet, pollution of air and water, excessive noise, magnetic, radiological and electric smog, artificial light, side effects of chemical drugs, travelling at high speeds, the dependence on machines and technologies which are at odds with human nature, the wrong designing of our living and working spaces, etc.
How much a particular substance disturbs a dosha depends on its relative affinity with the given dosha. A substance, which consists for example of a combination of three qualities increasing Vata (such as dryness, coldness and lightness e.g.), increases this dosha more than a substance, which is only dry. Any of the three doshas can be normal, weakened or increased. The reason why a majority of people in the West have increased doshas is that they are used to taking in more things than they are able to digest. By this I mean food, sensational pleasure, information and experiences.
We are what we eat and think. Therefore everything begins with digestion. Each of us is unique in how we digest food and life experiences. The strength and regularity of our digestion is one of the main factors determining our mood, state of mind and – above all along our health.
Airy Vata has irregular and unpredictable digestion. Sometimes it is very fast and the individual is able to eat any amount of food without any problem. At other times he or she does not need to eat food at all and the appetite disappears. At home, Vata people always have something to nibble. They have a tendency of constant munching during the day. You can always find biscuits or something crunchy in their bags or pockets.
The digestive fire of Pitta burns strong and regularly, thus needing food given in a regular time of day. Their feeling of hunger is so intense that it often makes Pitta person irritable or angry if not fed on time. A husband of Pitta type demands lunch precisely at noon. Only after lunch does a smile come back to his face.
Earthy Kapha has slow digestion and therefore can last a long time without food. They feel hungry very gradually. When a Kapha person sits down to eat, he or she eats a lot, usually not from real hunger, but out of habit.
Vata is constantly busy processing information. Vata individuals are able to process a great amount in one go, but they do not store it for long. They love new ideas, but soon forget them. Information influences Vata a great deal and hence comes the tendency to easy mental and emotional disturbance. Emotions and thoughts in a Vata person’s head often resemble a whirlpool.
Pitta processes information systematically and purposefully. It filters information according to its utility. Practical use is very important for a Pitta constitution. Pitta person can remember things easily and can recall things even after a longer period of time. For their perfectionist tendencies, Pitta individuals tend to get into mental stress. It can at times bring overheating and disability to process any further information. Pittas’ emotions are intense, the same way as is its digestive fire. Pitta is always in a strong pursuit to satisfy its needs and accomplish its plans. If things do not move along according to his or her desire, a Pitta person reacts with anger.
Kapha digests information slowly, step by step. It needs enough time for digesting and sorting out information. All details have to be thought out well before a Kapha makes any decision. Kapha doesn’t like to change opinions and values. In their emotions Kapha people are steady and get attached easily.
Out of the three doshas, Vata is the most sensitive and quickest to derange. Its imbalance stands at the root of all diseases, because it leads all the other ‘Doshas’. Where the Pitta or Kapha type of symptoms occurs, an imbalance of Vata precedes. This is why people of Vata constitution are the most prone to imbalances in the body. Relatively most difficult to swing away from balance is Kapha. Kapha is therefore a symbol of harmony, strength and good health. Ayurveda has classified eighty types of Vata diseases, forty types of Pitta and twenty types of Kapha diseases.
I do not want to suggest to the people of predominantly Vata type that their constitution has come as a misfortune. The law of action and reaction works also the opposite way – what is easy to influence, can relatively quickly return to balance if deranged. So Vata type of derangements can be harmonized more easily than Kapha imbalance.
The first signs of increased Vata are the cracking sound in the joints, pain and stiffness of the joints and back, delicate and brittle fingernails, dryness of the hair and it’s falling out, dry and hard skin, darkish and hard stool, cramps of legs and arms etc.
If more of the Vata increasing factors come combined together in a person of Vata constitution such as cold, windy autumn weather, the habit of eating bread and raw vegetable salads and drinking black tea, Vata will let itself be known in a very short time. If the individual neglects the initial signs of imbalance, they become more prominent with indigestion, constipation, problems with sleep, an increased anxiety, confusion and depression, cracking of skin, weakness of smell and taste organs, dryness in the mouth etc.
With the passing years, the individual can develop atrophic changes in the body accompanied with constant pain in joints and the back, numbness of limbs, tremor or even loss of movement ability leading to partial paralysis.
If the body and mind are in a state of perfect balance, the biological doshas are created in an amount reflecting the actual physical needs of the body.
The first signs of increased Pitta are the burning of skin and eczema, heart burn, the burning of lips, eyes, increased thirst and perspiration, increased body temperature, irritability and explosiveness, yellowish loose stool and a tendency to diarrhoea. For a person of Pitta constitution summer is the critical season. The hot weather along with excessive activity, drinking of sour wine or strong alcohol or too much black coffee leads to an accumulation of Pitta.
Neglecting the first signals of increased Pitta, leads to inflammation, fevers, ulcers, chronic diarrhoea, jaundice and other types of infection.
The hardest thing for a person with Kapha constitution is the waking up from winter hibernation – when the damp and still cold spring finds Kapha sitting in front of the television in the morning how it is devouring its second cake, then symptoms such as fatigue and sleepiness during the day, loss of appetite, whitish stool and urine, heaviness in the body, especially on the breasts and top of the head, numbness etc., are bound to occur.
If these primary signs are neglected, then chronic complaints develop such as diabetes, obesity, high level of cholesterol and an increased risk of coronary disease.
The first step to a happy and healthy life is to learn about one’s own body mind constitution. Knowing one’s constitutional type has many advantages. It helps us to get closer to our ideal state of health, fulfil our own creative potential and gain more understanding about others and ourselves. It assists us a great deal in our decision making regarding appropriate lifestyle and type of nutrition. It helps us to prevent diseases, and when an imbalance does occur, to find the fastest and most effective way of curing it.
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Titled as “Roving Ambassador of Ayurveda”, belongs to the first generation of Ayurvedic practitioners and teachers who have pioneered the way for Ayurveda's recognition as a mainstream system of medicine.
Born and raised in Paris, she has always been looking at the horizon. The city that nourished her, it was her trampoline for courageous free flight around this planet. It’s inspiring to keep up with her.
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