Adventures in Ayurveda

As I have mentioned on here a bit, I have been working for the past 5 months or so with an Ayurvedic doctor here in Brisbane, who also happens to be a friend and amazing yoga teacher.  I went to a workshop she put on months ago, and was inspired to learn more about ayurveda and how it could help me improve my own health and wellness.

It’s been an adventure delving into this.  First, I learned about my dosha, which in ayurveda means your constitution. There are three; kapha, pitta, and vatta.  They all have very specific qualities that make them unique and reflect elements of the natural world like fire, water, air, and earth.  The way these elements interact together helps to explain the way your body and mind work; your energy levels, your mindset, and many elements of your physical and mental health. Most people are a mix of all three doshas – often the way the three interact will change with the seasons.  But each person has their own unique mix, which is something you’re born with and can’t really change.  You can, however, manage the way the doshas work within your body to attempt to achieve balance and improve your health.

In my case, I didn’t come to Heidi, my doctor, with any specific health issues.  I basically had a host of small things that had bothered me for a long time.  I could hardly eat a meal without being doubled over in stomach pain shortly thereafter.  I had skin rashes, inflammation, and my mind often felt foggy and tired.  I was also extremely moody.  But I took all of these things to be normal – and assumed that most people dealt with the same health frustrations.   I just wanted to see if ayurveda could offer me an alternative to it, and after hearing Heidi talk about it, I thought it might .

When Heidi sat down with me, we had a talk. A serious talk. I walked away feeling like I had bared my soul.  She knew about my mental state, the way I felt about my friends and family and their health issues, my relationships, my stressors, my libido, my sweat, my exercise habits, and every last details about my excrement.  She looked at my tongue and drew pictures of it, and she looked into my eyes and furrowed her brow.  She looked at my fingernails and my skin, and by the time I was done I felt there was nothing Heidi didn’t know about me (and she probably knew things even I didn’t).  It was all a bit intrusive at first, but as we went on I could help but wonder why no doctor had ever asked me some of these questions.

I learned from her, that I’m a pitta.  A pitta pitta.  Where most people are more of a mix of three, I’m pretty much all pitta.  In short, that means I have a fiery nature, a strong metabolism, a strong desire to work and stay busy, and I’m prone to skin and stomach issues.   There is a LOT more to that – but that’s the quick and dirty.  It felt oddly validating to be deemed super pitta.  I’ve been told on more than one occasion, by more than one person, that I am the most intense person they know – which I have never fully understood.  But, Heidi saw it too in my “crazy eyes”, so I’m just accepting it as fact.  I’m intense, apparently.

So, to help balance out the pitta in me and bring me to a more healthful place, I have been going heavy on bitter foods like rocket, kale, broccoli, pomegranate, berries, and other “cooling” things like coconut water, coriander and fennel.  I’m laying off some of my favorite foods like tomatoes, anything salty, all nightshades, and sour things like lemons and oranges.   I also take all sorts of tinctures (not the sketchy type…) and potions.   I meditate and do breathing exercises.  I feel like a witch.  And, I like it.

The end of summer here in Australia is a hot, and extremely wet time of year.  It’s a hard time to be a pitta.  Things go all out of whack – and my body has.   I got a serious infection which I tried to treat with ayurveda – and which was working pretty well until guests arrived, I went traveling, and drank a lot for my birthday (which I do not regret!).  The inability to keep a routine and follow the rules I needed to follow to heal myself totally backfired on me.  I ended up in a lot of pain, upset with myself for failing ayurveda, and in a doctor’s office getting myself some antibiotics – which I try to avoid like the plague.   I am wiped out from battling nasties for weeks now, both with ayurveda and with western meds.

But despite that, I’m pretty hooked on the benefits of ayurveda,  It’s amazing to recognize that by observing my body more closely and recognizing what my symptoms mean, I can figure out how to be healthier and happier by making dietary adjustments.  I don’t have pain after my meals now, because I have worked on cultivating the right flora in my digestive tract.  That has helped my moods (because eating without pain is always a good thing!).  My PMS is less intense, my temper flares less easily, and I don’t feel that inner sense of hardness that I did for so long, which made it hard for me to cultivate empathy for other people.   I feel (more) comfortable being vulnerable. My skin has cleared up so I barely have a hint of skin rash or inflammation.  And I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to work rather than groggy all day and alert in the evening when I want to sleep.  My whole life seems to make more sense and feel more aligned with what is healthy and right.

I know some people might think ayurveda is a bit wacky and out there, but to me you simply cannot argue with results.  I feel amazing. And even though I have been unwell recently (during a hard wet season with LOTS of rain, heat, and humidity – all which really throw off my dosha), I know that I am on a course towards much better health than I have had ever before.  It feels so, so, good.

I want to encourage everyone out there to learn more about ayurveda and improving your health in a natural, diet-based way – because health is so much more than the absence of disease.  The goal is feeling vibrant, alert, and whole.  And I’m finally feeling that way!

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