Managing stress through an Ayurvedic life style

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Over the years, I keep going back to Ayurveda every time I become overwhelmed with stress. Because I never kept this life style going for more than a few months, I am always reminded again and again each time I go back, how import this system has been for me to help me identify my unique stress symptoms and the life style changes that help me manage them.

Ayurveda is the ancient medical system of India which is over 2000 years old. It treats each individual based on their unique body type. Unlike our modern systems of treatment, in Ayurveda, two people with the same symptoms may not be treated in the same way. The focus is also on getting to the root of the problem more so than treating symptoms. What I am mostly fascinated with is the lifestyle management aspect of Ayurveda.

In Ayurveda, there are three basic body types which are called doshas which means qualities. Each dosha has its own unique characteristics under normal circumstances and also display unique symptoms during stress. The three body types are known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Doshas and Stress Symptoms

Vata body type is governed by air and ether. This body type tends to be slimmer, taller, drier specially the hair and skin, cold, easily stimulated, like movement, agile, has an active mind, fearful, restless, lively, easily changeable and talkative. When stressed all the above qualities become more extreme. The person experience more dryness, coldness and lack of appetite. Their minds start to raise and become hyper analytical. This often leads to anxiety and insomnia. Not only that, their minds become spacious and they may even experience disassociation from their bodies. They can become very fearful and often resort to fleeing their situations and circumstances.

Pitta type is governed by the elements fire and water. This body type tends to be medium build, strong, active, goal orientated, sharp, easily angered, impatient, intelligent, like being in control, make good planners and executers, have hot skin and thick hair and like physical activity. When stressed their body type experience anger, impatience, skin reactions like rashes and become super focused on achieving goals. They can become like fighters when stressed.

Kapha type is governed by the element water and earth. This body type tend to be bigger in built and has a tendency to hold on to moisture and mucus, kind and loving by nature, can be stubborn, slow to anger but once angered hard to recover, can remember things for a long time once learnt, move with slow grace, like to stay with their community and what is comfortable, responsible and have good stamina. When stressed, this body type become even slower preferring to just do nothing, can become sulky, can stress eat and put on weight, can become insecure and envious, start preferring sweets and stop physical activity all together.

A person can be one or two or in rare cases all three of the above body types at birth. This is said to be their body type in normal circumstances. But throughout our life, as we loose balance we develop negative qualities of our doshas. We may even develop qualities of another dosha when external circumstance change in some cases. The whole aim of ayurveda is to get back to our normal state using food, herbs and other life style changes. Often this involves cultivating the qualities of the opposite dosha to what you are showing symptoms of.

Stress Management

Vata type needs to cultivate Kapha and Pitta qualities to get back into balance. This means slowing down, staying rather than fleeing, trying to get involved in the community, showing love to one self and others, increase hot qualities in the body and manage anxiety and insomnia. Some lifestyle changes they can adapt include meditation and yoga each morning to manage anxiety and to become slower, use mantras to do with self love/community/belonging each morning, eat heavier root vegetables, avoid cold food, incorporate some spice in the food for heat, introduce fatty food for lubrication, do warm oil massage, introduce a routine and stick to it which will help ground the vata person.

Pitta type needs to cultivate more Kapha and Vata type qualities to get back into balance. This means meditating to avoid angry thoughts, do loving kindness meditation to develop acceptance towards others, eat light, cold and sweet food like salad, fruit and smoothie, swim for a intense yet calming physical activity and take time to just relax.

Kapha body type needs to cultivate Vata and Pitta type qualities to get back into balance. This means eating warm and spiced food to heat up the body and to cut the build up of mucus, introduce more physical activity to generate more heat in the body and more mental stimulation, try new things and move out of their comfort zone more to overcome insecurity and allow Vata and Pitta friends to take them to new places.

The above is just a very brief description of the body types and different lifestyle recommendation I learnt from reading on the internet and reading some books. Personally I found that knowing all three qualities and what to do for each is helpful as our bodies change seasonally and through out life. But our doshas at birth will always dominate through out our lives. For me this tends to be mostly Vata followed by Pitta. So for me, most of my lifestyle choices needs to be focused on cultivating Khapa type qualities. But more recently I experienced a Kapha imbalance initially triggered by medications. So it takes some awareness and paying attention to the current needs of the body to adapt our lifestyles to suit the current conditions.

I found this to be such a great way to tailor a lifestyle for my unique nature. Though given my vata nature I struggle to stick to routines, I still feel most balanced when I follow a lifestyle according to what’s prescribed for my constitution/body type.

I am hoping that this time I will continue with this lifestyle and I will still allow my self some time for my vata/pitta nature each day so I don’t loose the routine.

~~Thanks for reading~~

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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