Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What are Doshas?

What are doshas?

To begin an explanation of Doshas, one must start with Ayurveda.  Ayurveda is a tradition over 5,000 years old. It is arguably the oldest, most widely practiced wellness tradition on earth. The concept of "dosha" is an integral part of Ayurvedic practice.  Let's first look at a textbook style definition.

According to Wikipedia:
A dosha is one of three bodily humors that make up one's constitution according to Ayurveda. These teachings are also known as the Tridosha system.
The central concept of Ayurvedic medicine is the theory that health exists when there is a balance between three fundamental bodily humours or doshas called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
  • Vāta or Vāyu (wind) is the impulse principle necessary to mobilize the function of the nervous system. It affects the windy humour, flatulence, gout, rheumatism, etc [1].
  • Pitta (bile) is the bilious humour, or that secreted between the stomach and bowels and flowing through the liver and permeating spleen, heart, eyes, and skin; its chief quality is heat [2]. It is the energy principle which uses bile to direct digestion and hence metabolism into the venous system.
  • Kapha (phlegm) is the body fluid principle which relates to mucous, lubrication and the carrier of nutrients into the arterial system.
All Ayurvedic physicians believe that these ancient ideas, based in the knowledge discovered by the Rishis and Munis, exist in harmony with physical reality. These Ayurvedic concepts allow physicians to examine the homeostasis of the whole system. People may be of a predominant dosha or constitution, but all doshas have the basic elements within them.

On a more practical level,  each person is born with a natural predisposition toward either one of the doshas or a combination unique to that individual. This helps to predict how that person's body will react to stimulus, such as stress, illness, whatever. This is why some people will react better to exercise, when dealing with stress, while others do better with quiet mediation. We now know that the trick is to maintain (or regain) a balance in life. The question is -how? For most simply taking a walk, eating what is generally considered a balanced healthy diet, getting a reasonable amount of sleep, avoiding excesses with alcohol etc... just doesn't seem to be acheiving the desired effect...enter the Ayurvedic concept of Dosha's! There are 3 : Vata, Kapha & Pitta. As we mentioned before, everyone has either 1 dominate dosha or 2 predominant in some combination.  That is what makes us individuals :-) This is true for your emotional/pychological self as well as your physical body.  It is good to incorporate all of your senses when balancing your doshas.  Interested in taking an online quiz to help you find your dosha tendencies? The Chopra Wellness center has an excellent one - just follow this link & have fun! Chopra Dosha Quiz

To watch an informative presentation about the importance of Dosha balancing and how easy it can be visit the Dosha Harmony website and choose the Video Library Tab at the top of the page - or just follow this link: Click on the Waterfall picture to View the presentation . Relax and enjoy! Until next time - Namaste'

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Does food & nutrition really matter to health?

Recently I stumbled across some thought provoking material on nutrition. This material is clearly presented and easily understood, yet I thought it would be very controversial in view of the public debate in the US over healthcare.  To test how well it would be received by the general public, I posted the official trailer on my Facebook profile and waited.  It did get many comments, all positives, and "likes".  This material is so important to anyone that consumes food - a very large number of us, that I have decided to dedicate the next several posts to reviewing the various topics presented in FoodMatters.
The first topic that jumps out from this work, tackles a misconception that almost all of the general eating public holds.  It is that it's possible to get all of your needed nutrition from the produce section at the local supermarket.  What many people don't realize is that "modern" growing techniques whether it be the pesticides, growth hormones, fungicides, genetic modification of the plants themselves...any and all actually deplete the nutritional value of the produce.  Thus, one apple does not contain the same nutrients as another.  Eating organic has more to it than just avoiding the toxins of chemicals - it also means higher nutritional quality!  The soil that has been depleted from years of production and only more and more chemicals put into it cannot grow the same nutritient valued crop as soil that has had its crops rotated and allowed to lie fallow to replenish itself without the added toxicity of more and more chemicals. 
That leads to the debate of the benefit of supplementing  our diets with vitamins, minerals et al.  Dr Andrew Saul discusses at length the myth that exists against supplementation and the reasons that these misconceptions continue throughout our society.  For me one of the best quotes from the DVD comes from Dr Andrew Saul when he says, "Good nutrition makes a lot of sense (cents) but it doesn't make a lot of dollars." Since it isn't possible to patent a kiwi, for example, there's no reason to advertise the benefits of eating one.  Also noteworthy is the same chemical companies that produce and sell the products used in "modern" farming techniques, produce and sell products in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. To see for yourself, just check out Dow Chemical's and look under the products and services section.   Interesting stuff, huh? Anybody hungry yet? :-)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What are Adaptogens? (Part 1)

What are Adaptogens?

In the 1980’s the “buzzword” for the health and wellness community was “anti-oxidants”; today there is a new movement sweeping the community, “adaptogens”.

The benefits of these plants now classified as adaptogens are not new. Many have been used for centuries by herbalists and heath practioners. What is relatively new is the grouping of these 30 beneficial plants into a category and given the term adaptogen.

For the non scientist, the best way to understand why adaptogens are creating such a stir is to look at what they do. Simply put, adaptogens help the cells of your body “adapt” to stressors. Let’s take a quick look at “stressors”. Stress can come in many shapes and sizes. Most commonly thought of as an emotional response to a stimulus, whether that is traffic, kids, a nasty boss, whatever; it is really much more. Stress to your body can also be physical (lack of sleep, improper nutrition, response to injury, sedentary lifestyle and even the opposite overexertion in exercise) as well as environmental (toxins in health care products, pollutants in the air, water and foods, artificial ingredients in nutritional supplements and foods). The tricky part is that these three can be interrelated. For example, the body’s natural chemical balance could be thrown off due to lack of sleep that comes from worrying about the economy which in turn is exacerbated by overeating of chemical and toxin ridden junk food or over consumption of alcohol which in turn throws off our body chemistry and causes us to overreact emotionally to life which in turn causes us to lose energy levels and while sitting around worrying we overeat, under exercise and worry more.
Does that cycle sound familiar? It is way too common when things get so out of balance and we begin to notice negative effects in our health. That is why the American Medical Association has stated numerous times that stress causes over 80% of all non emergency trips to the doctor’s office or hospital. Stop and think about that a minute – over 80%! Well meaning, main stream physicians have been trained that natural remedies are something to be smirked at, and have all too ready pharmaceutical companies ready and waiting with medications to treat one isolated physical issue or another.

The compounded results of years of this disjointed view of health has resulted in a population that seem to feel that we were born into a state of "unhealthy" and thus need to take pills daily! Does that sound extreme? Stop for a minute and consider how many people over age 45 that you know that are NOT on a daily medication either to prevent something from happening later in life or to correct for something else. I would guess that the majority are taking something and that those that are not on any medication are the minority. Luckily, it is becoming more and more widely accepted (albeit grudgingly) that emotional, environmental and physical factors are interrelated in terms of our overall health. People and wellness practioners are looking for natural remedies to help rid us of these stressors, no matter where they originate.

Later posts will include: Adaptogens (Part 2), as well as posts on specific adaptogens.