How Can Ayurveda Help You Find a Healthy Balance?
Most people from western societies first approach holistic health by trying to apply the illness model of allopathic medicine. Traditional health systems look at disease as a set of symptoms that need to be removed, but it is actually better to see your health as a state of balance that can be achieved through making better lifestyle choices and following healthier diets. Ayurveda is known as the ‘science of life’ and has been developed over thousands of years as a method for bringing us all into greater harmony with life. Physicians in ancient Greece also looked to classical ayurvedic texts which formed the basis for western healing. There are three parts of ayurveda, known as doshas. These are vata, pitta and kapha. As with many forms of healing, this relates to the elements and are identified as air or ether for vata, fire and water for pitta, and water and earth for kapha. Every individual has a unique blend of these dohas – somebody who is primarily kapha, for example, is more likely to have a sturdy frame and a calm approach to life. Somebody who has a lot of pitta energy may have a more muscular frame than vata types, with an assertive and competitive personality.
None of these three types is more effective or better than the other – you can have a combination of the three, or exist in a state of balance or imbalance regardless. An excess of pitta may be created through inflammatory conditions, or an emphasis on vata may reveal itself through dry skin, chronic headaches and insomnia. Weight gain and congested sinuses are often a sign of an imbalance with kapha. Ayurvedic medicine sees a healthy balance of food consumption as rooted in six different tastes – sweet, sour, pungent, salty bitter and astringent. The sweet, bitter and astringent tastes have a cooling quality whereas sour, salty and pungent provide the heat. The individual must choose from these tastes both according to the season, and to the need to balance tendencies towards hot and cold, dryness and wetness.
Ayurveda suggests that we should eat foods with more heat, so meals that are salty, sour or pungent should take focus in winter. In summer, this is the time to eat more astringent, sweet or bitter tastes. This contrasts to the western diet where foods are either sweet or salty. If you’re diet is shaped by the kind of foods served at your local supermarket or fast food joint, you’re unlikely to be able to appreciate the astringency of raw fruits and vegetables or the sourness of unsweetened yoghurt. When people in western cultures take charge of their health, they tend to do so via a one-size-fits-all diet plan that doesn’t take into account their personal needs and bodily requirements. Ayurveda does just this – it takes the individuals climate, health history and state of balance into account, enabling it to pinpoint any imbalances and provide suggestions on how to restore this. This may be certain foods and herbs, as well as aromatherapy, massage, music and meditation. If you want to make use of this type of healing and system for health, you may want to start with a dedicated source or an ayurvedic practitioner in your local area. You will then be able to make use of the knowledge that they can provide, in order to follow a more balanced lifestyle and reap the many rewards for an improved wellbeing.