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There are so many theories about why we each are the way we are. While there's no one answer to this, the ancient science of Ayurveda offers a very logical, simple explanation based on the universal five elements found in nature and within each of us. People in the West are now becoming more familiar with this Ayurvedic concept of constitutional types, and you can easily find quizzes that are supposed to help you determine which Ayurvedic type you are. But it's actually very hard to discern the difference between your original constitution and your present imbalance. There are a million reasons why we might be experiencing a present imbalance. Here's an explanation of the difference between who you are meant to be, i.e. in a balanced state, and who you may be today.
How I Learned That I Wasn't Who I Thought I Was
My first exposure to Ayurveda was in 1991 through Dr. Vasant Lad's book, Ayurveda The Science of Self-Healing. I took the quiz in the book to determine which Ayurvedic type I was, and after answering all of the questions, I concluded that I was predominantly Kapha (earth + water). I began to identify with all of the attributes of a Kapha person and started to see myself in the world as that. There was a great deal of comfort in finally understanding why I was the way I was -- sometimes lazy, sometimes greedy, usually even-tempered, always congested, and adoring of my bed.
Do you ever feel like you're walking and thinking in a mud bog? Can you relate to feeling sluggish or stagnant, less vibrant than you know you can be? Maybe you suffer from extra weight or allergies? All of these are symptoms of your system being clogged. Before doing my first Ayurvedic detox, my "normal" was congested, lazy, and bloated. But after the cleanse, I experienced such a heightened level of mental clarity and physical vitality that I've made it something I do several times each year. It's actually pretty easy, and totally worth it, to take 8 days of your life and do everything in a different, clean way.
The Root Cause of Disease
According to Ayurveda, the root cause of all disease is the accumulation of toxins produced by improper digestion. The traditional method for removing deep-seated toxins is a seasonal cleanse called panchakarma. Nowadays you can go to Ayurvedic spas and clinics worldwide and spend significant time and money receiving this 2500-year-old detox treatment. You also can adapt these ancient principles and receive huge benefits by doing a home version on your own schedule.
According to Ayurveda, the root cause of all disease is improper digestion. Why exactly? Because when we don't fully break down food and assimilate nutrients, we accumulate this undigested, toxic material that in Sanskrit is called ama. When we have ama, our pipes get clogged. All kinds of pipes. Physical and mental. This is a big deal, because any number of bodily functions may be compromised. The bad news is there are many, many causes of ama. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do about it. Here we go.
Adopting new food habits is probably one of the hardest, if not the very hardest, things in our life to do. We all have so many attachments to certain foods and the feelings we associate with them. Believe me, mine come up all of the time. According to Ayurveda, there is a "Yes" food list and a "No" food list for each constitutional type. You can imagine the look on my patients' faces when I show them the Ayurvedic Dietary Guidelines handout and they see all of their favorite foods on the "Avoid" list! Over the past 13 years in practice, I've realized that equally important to steering my patients in the right direction as far as "what" to eat, is "how" to make the change to an Ayurvedic diet. Here are some tips and a video that are really helpful to make your Ayurvedic diet, or any diet for that matter, stick.
What is the ultimate purpose of good nutrition? Is it just to stay alive? Is it to avoid disease? We have so many food choices in our modern society, yet diet and nutrition are controversial and confusing subjects for most Westerners. Ayurveda, the traditional healing science of India, offers us a profound understanding of the ultimate purpose of good nutrition. Coming from the ancient Vedic tradition that valued spiritual enlightenment above all else, it's no surprise that Ayurvedic nutrition serves to further that same goal.
In the 2500 year old Ayurvedic text, Caraka Samhita, it is stated:
When diseases cropped up creating impediments in penance, abstinence, study, celibacy, religious observances and life-span of living beings, the holy great sages, out of sympathy on creatures, assembled on one of the auspicious sides of the Himalayas.