Your breathing is short, mind is unclear and you are short-fused. Appointments are missed and sleep is just about nonexistent. The bottom line is you are stressed. We all have stress in our lives and depending on our personality and habits we handle it differently.
“Stress is a term that was coined by Dr. Hans Selye. In his studies, he concluded that stress is the cause of hormone imbalance which can to body imbalance and disease,” explains Dr. Harsha Jayatilake, the Medical Director of the Michigan Wellness Associates. If stress is not controlled effectively, it is known to lower the immune system and contribute to the increase of illnesses such as cancer and hypertension as well as anxiety, weight gain and depression. “When we are stressed, the body is no longer in harmony,” says Andrea K. Lindsey healer and owner of Kandascent Temple of Love. “Once the body experiences this over a period of time, it will create a habitual pattern.”
Although stress is an inevitable part of life, it can be managed through many techniques such as diet, exercise, prayer and meditation — just to name a few. But, there is also an ancient practice called Ayurveda that incorporates lifestyle habits per your body elements that will not only manage stress but increase your overall health.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term coming from ancient India that means the science of life. “The practice incorporates the whole system of the body, mind, and spirit,” says Jayatilake. “Depending on the personal vital force and elements of the individual, treatment is administered on a subjective basis. This includes yoga, meditation, diet, massage, and herbal remedies.” Essentially, a client gets a plan that is geared specifically towards their body element.
Elements of Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, there are five elements that are the foundation of the physical body — water, air, fire, space, and earth. These elements are the foundation.
“Then we group them into three body types,” explains Dr. Rakesh Kumar, founder of the Ishwar Center and Sai Herbals in New York. The body types are also called doshas, which are simply the mental and physical makeup of our body — Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The belief is that we all have these elements in our bodies. “If any of these are out of balance, then disease is likely to occur in the body,” Kumar continues. “Depending on our personal makeup some are more dominant than others. In Ayurveda we want to keep them all balanced.”
The Dosha Basics
Vata/Air and Space: This element is closely related to the nervous system. The personal characteristics include hyperactivity, a naturally thin frame, and dryness of skin, hair, and lips. When in balance creativity and clarity is consistent. If there is an imbalance this leads to anxiety and fear.
Pitta/Fire and Water: Pitta is related to digestion and metabolism. The personal characteristics include excessive sweating, oily skin, strong digestion and a good appetite. When the Pitta element is balanced there is contentment. If there is an imbalance one can expect anger and frustration.
Kapha/Water and Earth: This element is related to the immune system. Personal characteristics include a heavier body, stability, and softness of hair and skin. When the Kapha is in alignment there is a lot of love and forgiveness. When the balance is off one can expect insecurity and envy.
If you would like to take a quiz to identify your personal dosha, click here.
Ayurveda practitioners look to the whole person — body, mind, and spirit – according to Jayatilake. “When clients come in with aliments such as headache or eczema we go after the symptoms or root of the problem and stress is usually the factor,” Jayatilake continues.
He also explains that Ayurveda is simply a lifestyle. “We create a plan that will help you balance your doshas. As you start to [incorporate] these techniques, the body will reprogram itself and your health will naturally improve. You will [then] be able to manage stress.” Unlike traditional medicine, Ayurveda doesn’t show tangible data, but it shows improvement on a subjective basis. “Ayurveda is like a navigation system for both health and stress management,” Jayatiklake says. “It creates an inner resilience so you can be firmly rooted and stand strong.”
* I originally wrote this article for The Grio.