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Posts Tagged ‘Ayurveda foundations’

Goodness, how times flies in the summer! I just returned home after ten days in Portland, Oregon, enjoying the July 4th festivities as well as the wedding of some dear friends, Chris and Suji. It was blissful for this Pitta gal to wake up to temperatures in the 60’s!

While traveling, I was honored to be included in a survey of Ayurveda experts on the hot topic of juicing by fellow blogger Nadya Andreeva. There is a lot to say on the subject – and perhaps the best advice is that, as in all things viewed through the lens of Ayurveda, the wise choice depends on one’s constitution, the climate, one’s current state of balance and digestive strength. Our responses to her questions were included on two different blog posts: SpinachandYoga.com, and  MindBodyGreen.com. Thanks, Nadya, for the opportunity to share my two cents.

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And now, back to Ayurveda summer school! In my last Foundations post, I described the main qualities of Pitta dosha (the energy of Fire and Water): oily, sharp, hot, light, smelly, spreading, and liquid.

In human beings, Pitta’s primary responsibility is to coordinate digestion and healthy temperature. When Pitta is in balance (i.e., when it is maintained at the original baseline level set at an individual’s birth), then that person’s digestion and ability to manage internal heat are normal.

When Pitta dosha gets elevated, however, then signs of excess heat begin to show up. Fever, inflammation, irritation, hot flashes, diarrhea, ulcers, burning sensations, and skin rashes are all common signs of aggravated Pitta.

In the mind and heart, high Pitta can lead to anger, irritation, annoyance, jealousy, competitiveness, or simply a shorter fuse than usual.

What causes Pitta dosha to go up? As previously discussed, exposure to Pitta’s qualities (in the immediate environment, in foods consumed, or in the mind) will cause Pitta to rise in accordance with the law of “like increases like.” Watch out for greasy, acidic, and pungent-spicy foods, alcohol, hot temperatures, competitive activities, exposure to bright sunlight and overworking, which can all cause Pitta to rise.

During the particularly hot season of summer, Pitta tends to become elevated naturally. There is also a natural surge of Pitta during our mid-adult years when we are responsible for establishing our careers and making our mark on the world. With the emphasis on accomplishment and rational thinking in our culture, Pitta elevation can easily occur anytime.

The best “medicine” for Pitta contains or expresses its opposite qualities: dry, dull, cool, heavy, stable, and dense. Given that it’s mid-summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, now is a good time to drink cooling coconut water, hibiscus tea, pomegranate juice, and organic milk, to schedule in periods of rest (and actually follow through on it!), and to find a shady spot by a pool of cool water.

The trickiest part of managing Pitta is to keep our inner heat under control without putting out our digestive fire, or agni. Drinking ice cold beverages while eating a meal, for example, or piling on the ice cream after a meal, will disrupt digestion entirely. Extremes of cold cause constriction of vessels internally, which is why we ice an injury – to reduce inflammation. When we are trying to digest, however, it is helpful to keep vessels dilated with foods and liquids that are warm.

In the next post, we will begin to explore Kapha dosha, the energy of Earth and Water.

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A pivotal concept in Ayurveda is the theory of the tridosha. This theory explains how and why energy moves in nature in certain ways.

Since humans are part of nature, this system also describes us. For example, it gives a rationale for why some people always get heartburn after eating tomato sauce, while others don’t.

The word dosha refers to an organizing principle or pattern. The ancient teachers noticed that certain qualities show up in nature together like a constellation and move in predictable ways.

They observed three primary organizing patterns in the world, and they correspond to the major elements. Since there is no equivalent concept in the English language, we use the Sanskrit terms for these three forces: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Vata dosha is made of the elements Air and Space (or Ether). Vata is the most mobile dosha (like air), and it is involved whenever there is movement – when wind blows the trees, when a rabbit’s leg muscles contract and he leaps, or when someone sneezes a piece of dust out of their nose.

Pitta is made primarily of Fire (although there is a little Water in there, too). In any instance of heat or transformation, Pitta is at work – when the sun heats the desert floor, when an apple core decomposes in your compost, or when your face flushes as you step up to the karaoke mic.

Kapha includes the qualities of Water and Earth. The heaviest dosha, Kapha is present wherever there is stability and structure – in the form of a boulder, or the stillness of sleep. Kapha also governs lubrication, both the moisture in the atmosphere and the moisture in the body.

The three doshas interact and influence each other in nature to maintain an overall equilibrium, balancing out each others’ qualities. At times, one dosha will be dominant, and then naturally give way to another dosha, creating a dynamic yet balanced whole. It is a beautifully comprehensive and complex system, which becomes clearer the more you learn about it and look for it (I promise!).

In subsequent posts, I will dive deeper into each dosha and explore how they govern the activities of our bodies and minds. Until then, let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below. I look forward to hearing from you!

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