Ayurveda Day 98: Heart Disease

Heart disease is a  serious problem in North America. It is the cause of almost 25% of deaths in the United States, and is the leading cause of death for both men and women!

It’s often overlooked for funding in favour of other illnesses for whatever reason – but Ayurveda can help us to understand it better.

So how do we treat heart disease if it’s such a serious risk to so many of us? How can we prevent it? The great thing about Ayurveda is that the answer is always the same regardless of the disease, as you will read more on in a moment. But let’s take a look at heart disease from an Ayurvedic perspective first.

According to the Madhava Nidanam (an ayurvedic text), heart disease is caused by impure lymph that returns to the heart and causes chest pain.

There are also several psychological components that go with this disease.

Vata

Causes:

Grief, excessive exercise, ignoring natural urges (urination for example), and a vata vitiating diet (drying foods).

Symptoms:

Sense of emptiness, trembling, cramps, feeling of being torn

Treatment:

Soothe and fill the emptiness – this means taking warm and moist foods, tonifying herbs (best are bala and arjuna) in medicated ghee or oil, bastis (enemas), vamana (induced vomiting), and oleation (under supervision of a CAS).

Pitta

Causes:

Stress, alcohol, anger, over-exposure to sun, and pitta vitiating diet (heating foods: spicy, fried, greasy)

Symptoms:

Burning chest pain, thirst, giddiness, perspiration, bitter taste in mouth

Treatment:

Cool and calm the intensity – cool substances and foods, tonifying herbs (best are bala and arjuna) in medicated ghee, induced diarrhea, bastis (enemas), and vamana (induced vomiting) if necessary (all under the supervision of a CAS).

Kapha

Causes:

Sedentary lifestyle, excessive sleep, inadequate mental exercise, kapha vitiating diet (heavy, dense, rich, moist foods)

Symptoms:

Heaviness in chest, slow heart beat, anorexia (loss of appetite or taste), stiffness, drowsiness

Treatment:

Relieve the stagnation – a diet of light, dry, and warming substances, increasing downward energy, cleansing the body via urination and sweating, herbal churnas (arjuna and triphala), vamana (induced vomiting), virechana (induced diarrhea), and basti (enemas) (all under the supervision of a CAS).

You may notice a common thread in a lot of treatments in Ayurveda. Often, for multiple pathologies, the treatment is the same. Why is this?

Although the herbal formulation may vary for symptomatic relief, in the end the doshas are the doshas.

Every disease has a vata version, pitta version, and kapha version. We always treat vata, pitta, and kapha, from the same perspective.

Vata disease is caused by dryness in the body and too much movement in the mind.

Pitta disease is caused by too much heat in the body and intensity in the mind.

Kapha disease is caused by stagnation in the body and not enough mental exercise.

But this a blessing. It means that knowing your doshas, knowing the doshas of the disease, and knowing the doshas of the treatment allow us to help you to heal in the fullest way possible as well as the simplest.

No matter what disease you have, we are always going to work on a vata’s dryness, or a pitta’s heat, or a kapha’s stagnation. It’s just that simple. We just have many different tools to accomplish this.

So in preventing heart disease or any other disease for that matter, it’s always about getting your doshas in balance. This is ultimately what will make you healthy and strong to lower your risk factors across the board.

With gratitude,

S

Ayurveda Day 97: Highest Forms of Healing for Vata, Pitta, and Kapha

Today I would like to talk about ways to heal the doshic imbalances within us. In this blog I focus on certain fundamental tools we can use to help us balance the doshas:

– proper diet

– herbal remedies

– following eating guidelines

– pranayama

– meditation

– daily practices

Doing these things are great ways to reduce symptoms, maintain health, and prevent further doshic imbalance.

However, these aren’t really speaking to the fundamental cause of disease.

There are three main causes of disease:

– misusing our senses

– making poor choices

– decay due to time and motion

Underlying all of this is one fundamental cause to disease that causes us to go out of balance in these three areas in the first place: forgetting our true nature: as one, as spirit, as god, connected to all of existence…whatever you want to call it. It basically means surrendering the ego (that which makes us feel separate from everything else).

Each of us can develop certain imbalances regardless of our constitution – this is known as vikruti. It basically means that if I eat a lot of hot, spicy foods and am constantly bitter and angry about everything, I will have high pitta. This is unavoidable, even if I have a lot kapha in my inherent constitution. We are not immune to the effects of the doshas.

But our constitution, known as our prakruti, lays the way for our tendencies to show up. If I have a lot of vata in my prakruti, I will be more likely to lean towards talking quickly, being enthusiastic, have poor circulation, etc. I will tend towards vata in my life.

It is important to remember however that we are all three doshas. And having balanced health does not mean having equal parts of vata, pitta, and kapha, all at 33.3%. Within each dosha, there are healthy aspects and unhealthy aspects.

For example:

Pitta types are prone to anger, but make great leaders.

Vata types are prone to anxiety, but are great visionaries.

Kapha types are prone to stagnation, but are extremely supportive.

Balance within each dosha is about understanding which traits are moving us towards health and focusing on those. It’s about using the dosha as a tool rather than it using us. But if we do actions in life mindlessly, we will always lean towards the unhealthy aspects.

For vata, pitta, and kapha, there is one fundamental practice that each can do. When I list these, you will immediately resonate with one more than the others. This is a sign of your largest internal struggle, and what you need to focus on. Ultimately, we need to do all three of these practices. But focusing on that one will tend to balance the others as well.

Vata

Vata types experience a lot of fear, worry, and anxiety in life. They fantasize about the future and dwell on the past. They have a hard time believing that things will be okay.

The highest healing practice for a vata is to cultivate faith. Faith that everything is alright, that nothing is wrong. Faith that everything they require is in the present moment. Just unwavering faith. Faith is the cure for fear. Have faith my vata friends!

Pitta

Pitta types experience much anger. A pitta sees everything as a problem that they can fix. You will often be able to pinpoint a pitta based on their speech: “If everyone just did ______, then we wouldn’t have this problem!”. They see clearly all the problems and all the solutions – it makes no sense to a pitta how others can’t see what they see.

The highest healing practice for a pitta is to practice non-judgment. The truth is, that there is no problem. Practice non-judgment. Accept that things are perfect the way they are!

Kapha

Kapha types get attached to things so easily. They have a hard time letting go. A kapha is the kind of person that will be in a burning room and when they see it catch fire will say “it’s not so bad”. Then the fire will engulf the walls and the ceiling and they will say “it’s getting hotter in here”. Finally, when the chair they are sitting on is on fire, they will finally say “Maybe it’s time to leave!” Kapha types stagnate due to their attachment to things. It takes them a long time to change.

The highest healing practice for a kapha is to strive for non-attachment. This doesn’t mean detachment. Detachment implies they are already attached! By then, it will take a lot for them to detach! A kapha must not become attached in the first place, accepting that change is natural and holding onto things won’t make them any better. A womb is a great example – it provides everything for the baby to grow and thrive. But at some point, the baby must leave the womb, or it will become a tomb. So practice non-attachment!

The truth behind these practices: to have faith for vata, to practice non-judgment for pitta, and to practice non-attachment for kapha, is that having that inner dialogue connects us more with our higher self. It sheds the skin of the ego that seeks to be more separate in it’s own vata, pitta, and kapha ways. This train of thought of faith, non-judgment, and non-attachment heals us at our fundamental and spiritual layer.

Whenever a vata feels afraid, rather than continue down that spiral, they learn to say “have faith.” Now they won’t in fear grab the foods that will imbalance them, forget to do their daily practices, etc.

Whenever a pitta feels critical, judgmental, they instead say to themselves “practice non-judgment. There is no problem.” Now they will have a much clearer picture and can make better choices for their health.

Whenever a kapha feels too attached and stagnates, they instead must remind themselves “practice non-attachment”. As they have fewer things they are attached to, they will feel the freedom to move and end the stagnation. They will be able to change and become healthy.

Studies have shown that stressed people tend to make poor choices for their health – they grab the donut instead of the veggies from the veggie tray. Changing our inner dialogue trains us so that when we become stressed, we are overriding the ego’s programming and reprogramming a pathway to our higher self.

Have faith. Practice non-judgment and non-attachment.
With gratitude,

S

Ayurveda Day 96: The Cycle of Stress

So this blog is super late. Normally I write after every class. You’ve probably noticed this schedule has been slowly getting away from me.

I’ve had midterms to study for and I have admittedly not felt motivated to do much of anything. I just wrote the midterm today, and though I can’t talk about it much (people still need to write theirs), I can say there was an awful amount of information to memorize. I’ve spent weeks studying and countless hours memorizing the same flash cards over and over again.

Sometimes in life we have things that throw us curve balls. In Ayurveda, we talk about regular routines and their importance – doing abyhanga, neti, nasya…having a daily meditation practice…doing pranayama…eating at regular times and following the food guidelines. It can be a lot to manage sometimes and it does take discipline to do all of these everyday. I am FAR FAR FAR FAR FAR from perfect. The only difference between an Ayurvedic Practitioner and others is that we just are aware of the path – we know what it takes to be healthy. Doesn’t mean it’s any easier for us!

So I was living a somewhat decent life, taking care of my health. But this midterm had me stressed out. Things started to fall to the wayside. My daily practices stopped. I ran out of groceries and still haven’t bought any two weeks later. I’ve been eating out more as a result, and that always leads to unhealthy choices. I’ve been staying up late studying, and sleeping in. I’ve let a whole bunch of things just domino out of control and it all has just caused one thing:

Stress.

It’s cyclical. It causes itself! I was stressed about the midterm, so I started to lose sight of that which reduces my stress, making me more stressed, and so on. What an unfortunate cycle.

But the reality is, life does throw you anomalies like this. Even though I knew the midterm was coming and could’ve prepared myself better in my life to stay healthy, I didn’t. It was just all too much and I couldn’t stand to add one more thing to my load. Something had to give. Unfortunately, that thing was all my daily routines.

After I finished my midterm I vented a bit about my stress to my girlfriend. I then came home and took my dog, Indy, for a walk. I suddenly completely changed my mood. I was happy and excited to go out with her and she was excited to. I was talking to her playfully and we went to the park to play with other dogs, to the river for a swim, and came back (she’s popped now and lazing in the sun on the patio). Why the sudden change in demeanor?

As soon as the midterm was over, I felt a huge burden lifted from me. I felt like now I had the capacity again to get back to normal. But this is a dangerous loop to be in. What can I learn from this?

I have finals and a research paper in a few months to “stress” about. But if I take a lesson from this and get my affairs in order with plenty of time to spare – go shopping, prepare meals, continue my daily practices, etc. – then I can set myself up for success.

It may seem like it’s okay to just “suck it up” and deal with the stress and chaos for a time. After all, it’s temporary and fleeting. But while you “suck it up”, you’re actually being sucked dry of ojas, and lowering your immunity. It’s not worth it.

The lesson here is that during stressful times, the correct response isn’t to reduce your energy – it’s to actually increase it. Raise your willpower and put it into that which will refuel you. Otherwise, the stress just controls you and you’ll be a slave to it again the next time something comes along that just makes you throw up your hands and quit.

But man am I glad those midterms are over!

With gratitude,
S



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