For the next three weeks, I'll be sharing posts related to Ayurvedic medicine and making specific suggestions based on the three different energies, or "doshas" identified by this tradition. If you missed last week's blog post, which provided an introduction to Ayurvedic medicine and a link to the doshas quiz, find it here.
The goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to help people understand and balance their energies. Imbalances often come from problems in one of three areas: lifestyle, diet, and movement. I'll explore diet and movement in the upcoming weeks, but for now let's focus on lifestyle. Lifestyle factors that contribute to imbalanced energies are different depending on the type of energy that tends to be dominant in you.
VATA- AIR TYPE
Last week, I described vata imbalance as leading to a sense of restlessness and anxiety. More specific symptoms may include low self esteem, trouble sleeping, poor digestion, impulsivity, and compulsive behavior. Triggering events that may bring on these symptoms of vata disturbance are often related to change. Inconsistent schedules, shifting seasons, and even positive changes like a move or a marriage can trigger heightened anxiety. From a psychological point of view, this could be diagnosed as an adjustment disorder.
As you can imagine, cutting down on stress and increasing self care is very important for people experiencing an imbalance in vata energy. And what should these vata-specific lifestyle choices look like? Many experts recommend avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and refined sugar as the first step, but other stimulants should be considered as well. Loud places, overwhelming people, high pressure situations, and even tense movies should be avoided during the imbalance to allow a return to peacefulness, calm, and regularity. Boost this sense of calm by engaging in slow movement, such as light stretching or gentle yoga. Take warm relaxing showers or baths and schedule breaks for yourself throughout the day. Try to stick to a regular daily routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day and eating meals around the same time.
In addition, addressing anxious thoughts directly through the help of a professional trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or a CBT app such as SAM- more on that here) is often incredibly beneficial for those wishing to reduce their tension and worry
PITTA- FIRE TYPE
While airy vata types tend to struggle with anxiety and worry, fiery pitta types are more prone to anger and irritation. When pitta is imbalanced, they may feel overly critical or judgmental, rigid, and controlling. Some contributing factors and triggers that lead to these feelings may be pushing too hard at work, setting impossible expectations for oneself (perfectionism), excessive heat and humidity, insufficient exercise, and failing to communicate negative feelings or deep sadness. In my clinical practice, I have found that anger often exists as a coping mechanism to help us deal with unspoken emotions or buried hurt. Feeling mad often tends to be less painful than feeling sad, so we choose anger.
Activities that contribute to cooling the temper and calming the emotions tend to benefit pitta types who are seeking balance. Cut down on work load if possible, push back deadlines, and give yourself time to engage in sports, martial arts, or other stimulating physical activity. Swimming is an especially helpful activity for pitta types, as it prevents the body from overheating; numerous studies have linked hot weather to increases in anger, sometimes erupting large-scale in the form of summertime riots. Minimize your exposure to heat and hot weather. This might involve seeking out air conditioned spaces or making sure you've always got a bottle full of ice water on hand.
I would also recommend journaling as an activity for fire types. It can be a very helpful way to get in touch with emotions and then release ourselves from them by communicating them through writing. Engage in other creative forms of expression such as painting, photography, or enjoy art created by others through museum visits or watching the sun set.
KAPHA- EARTH TYPE
While vata and pitta imbalance tend to lead to increases in energy, whether anxious or angry energies, kapha imbalance looks more like a depletion. Low mood, inflexibility, low energy, increased sleep, withdrawal from life and connections, and passivity often accompany kapha imbalance. A person with an extended kapha imbalance may meet the diagnostic criteria for depression. So recognizing the first signs of imbalance and intervening early can be an important way to prevent ongoing mental health issues. Triggers for kapha imbalance sometimes include under-stimulation (in job, relationships, etc.), prolonged severe stress, lack of movement, and cold and damp weather.
In order to rebalance kapha energies, earth types need to find ways to shake up their routines and find excitement in daily life. Consider beginning a new hobby, take a class on a topic you've always wanted to learn more about. Watch movies and read books that are dramatic and thrilling; seek out forms of entertainment that will engage you and get your heart beating fast. Listen to passionate music, whether rock and roll or classical music, seek out stimulating albums (Some ideas here). What's important here is arousal of your senses. It's important to shock your system out of the state of lethargy brought on by kapha imbalance.
I want to add that if you are experiencing feelings of sadness that lead to thoughts about self harm or a severe disruption in your daily functioning, it is wise to seek out professional help in the form of a psychotherapist or psychiatrist. The Psychology Today website has a very helpful tool that allows you to search by zipcode for therapists in your area.
Have you noticed yourself gravitating toward any of these types of activities in an effort to bring balance into your life? Anything new you may want to try after reading this blog post? Let me know in the comments!