Ayurveda Day 30: Digestion pt. 4 – The Tree of Disease

Imagine yourself as a tree. You have 3 main parts – roots, a trunk, and branches. From the roots you absorb the qualities of your environment. If you absorb that which is harmonious, you will grow and thrive. If you absorb that which is disharmonious, you will wilt and decay. From the roots, whatever you absorb makes it’s way up your trunk, and eventually to the tips of your branches where they may or may not bear fruit and foliage.

At each of these three layers, we have a choice to rectify the situation. Unlike the tree, who has no choice but to stay wherever it was seeded, we have the ability to change things. We can change contributing factors to disease: our thoughts, words, actions, environment, etc. We are lucky in this regard.

    The Roots – Digestion

We can relate the roots of the body to our digestive system. It is how we take in the energies we need to grow and thrive. If a tree’s roots are planted in a toxic environment, it will in turn become toxic, and eventually wither to die. We place little to no emphasis on our daily digestive patterns, and yet it is the first place we need to look when asking why we have disease. Why is this?

The answer is really simple. We experience very subtle side effects at the digestive level when disease is first forming. Depending on whether or not you are kapha, pitta, or vata, you will experience sluggishness, burning indigestion, or mild constipation and gas. For each of those types, you will consider this normal. Every time you eat, you might feel one of these three ways. But you think nothing of it, because it’s always that way. It doesn’t interfere with your day to day life. Why treat something that isn’t that big a deal?

We must treat it here, at the roots, because this is where it grows into larger problems. It accumulates, and aggravates, and if it doesn’t get alleviated via diet and lifestyle, then it only gets worse.

    The Trunk – Blood and Lymph

From the digestive system, if we continue to support poor digestion, the disease then overflows into the blood and lymph. This is like the trunk of the tree. Here we will start to experience more more mild and transient symptoms. If we are Vata, we will feel cold/dry. If we are Pitta we will have burning mucous membranes and increased heat and intensity. If we are Kapha, we will have paleness and feel more lethargic.

Again, these symptoms seem minor to us. Just normal, a part of our regular lives. If they get too out of hand, we reach for a product to satisfy it. We grab moisturizer for our dryness, crack open a window for our heat, or drink coffee for our lethargy. But this doesn’t solve the problem, and only masks what are body is desperately screaming to us:

“Fix this issue before it gets worse!”

It is important to note at both the root and trunk stages, the symptoms I listed are these warning signs. They are our body telling us something needs to change. If you experience any of these, you need to change your diet and lifestyle with the help of an Ayurvedic Practitioner!

    The Branches – Noticeable Symptoms

Finally, if we let the disease follow further up our tree, it relocates to different sites in the body. There it manifests in various ways, and is symptom specific. This is when most of us can no longer deny there is an issue. We have let the problem get so out of hand that now (for example) we have skin that is so dry it is cracked and peeling. These sites of the disease are like the branches that bear fruit and leaves. Depending on how well the whole process has gone, from root to trunk to branch, will dictate whether we produce good quality tissues and ojas (reserves of energy) or poor quality tissues, diseases, and ama (toxins).

Ayurveda is great because if you are willing to change, it can give you the tools you need to work on your roots. It can help us manage via lifestyle and diet all that we take into the body, and ensure it gets converted into what we need, and not what we don’t need.

But perhaps deep down we don’t really want to change. It is so hard, even for myself, to stay on a regular healthy routine. I have spent 29 years building bad habits! They are hard to break, and my ego screams for them to stay the same. I get impatient when I don’t see immediate results. That’s why we like taking pills so much; they seem to solve our problems. But the problems will return, or manifest in other ways. That much is certain. If I choose only to treat a symptom that has gotten out of hand, I am just pruning back the dead leaves and fruit.

Again, ayurveda is simple, but not easy. It is a science of personal responsibility. If you have the goal of living a long, healthy, pleasant life, then it does take discipline. Just remember that you are like this tree in how you grow, but also remind yourself how lucky you are to be able to change your fate, whereas the tree cannot.

I have midterms coming up! I will not be blogging during this winter break, but the blog will start up again on Jan. 6th, 2015.

Happy holidays and may the new year be the year of healing for you.

With gratitude,



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