Ayurvedic practices are a comprehensive system of health techniques and information which asserts that we need to take into account 10 key health factors in order to enjoy good health. These factors are foundational understandings about how we create health. Too often in Western society, we have a restricted and limited view of the factors that govern health. Some food, vitamins, a little exercise, a trip to the dentist and we think we are in good shape. Not so.
To understand the 10 health factors, it is important to understand the ayurvedic body types called doshas. These body types represent aspects of nature that are part of our physical nature. They are Vata: air, Pitta: fire, and Kapha tissue and structure. Each person has the three doshas but in a different combination.
You could say that we each have a unique dosha signature. Some people have one dosha that is very strong and other two weaker, others have two that are equally strong and the third weaker, and a few have all three doshas in balance. Once you know your body type you can start to live in harmony with your body. To find out more about your body type, you can take this Dosha Test.
Dr. Vasant Lad, of the Ayurvedic Institute and one of the most important Ayurvedic doctors in the United States today, has written extensively about ayurvedic medicine and health. In his book, The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies,p. 32-38, he elaborates about the 10 health factors. They are:
- Like increases like. This is an important concept and an easy check on healthy habits. Whatever your biological tendencies are, likes will create imbalance and opposites will create balance. One example is the Pitta body type. Pittas who represent fire and digestion are naturally warm. They become imbalanced in heat and stabilized in cool weather.
- Eating foods for health. The right foods will create balance in the body, depending on your dosha type. The Kapha dosha is a moist dosha and benefits from food that are light and drying. Cornbread would be an example. The Vata dosha is light and moving and needs heavier food.
- Seasons and health. Ayurveda has 3 seasons – one for each dosha: Vata in autumn/winter, Kapha in spring, and Pitta in summer. The most challenging time of year will be that time that is related to your body type(dosha) because the factor – like increases like – applies with the seasons. Vata will have difficulty in winter which is dry, Kapha in spring which is moist, and Pitta in the summer which is hot. Therefore, health practices need to be adjusted for the seasons.
- Exercise and health. Exercise is good for everyone; however, we do not all need the same amount, type and intensity of exercise. We should not all be runners. Vatas need light exercise, Pittas, moderate and Kaphas benefit from strenuous exercise.
- Age and health. Each stage of life corresponds with one of the body types. Childhood is a Kapha time – a time of building the body; adulthood, a Pitta time – a time of ambition and competition, and old age corresponds with the Vata dosha. Individuals need to adjust their habits to be in sync with their stage of life.
- Mental and emotional factors. Each of the doshas is susceptible to different unhealthy emotions when they are out of balance: Vata – fear and anxiety, Pitta – anger, hatred and jealousy, and Kapha – possessiveness, greed, and complacency.
- Stress. Stress is one of the plagues of the modern age and a particular difficulty for highly sensitive people. Following the best practices for your dosha type can be a kind of insurance policy against stress.
- The senses. The senses have a role in balancing our body type since they affect our biochemistry. A good example is the effect of listening to loud music, which disturbs the ears and potentially our balance. Another is staying in the sun for too long. Everything we do involves our senses and affects our body chemistry which is why we need to be careful about our choices of activities.
- Acting against our nature. Sometimes we act contrary to what we know we need. We fail to get sleep when we need it or eat something that does not agree with us. These actions always cost us. Even in the short term, we are harmed but in the long term, we are creating disease.
- Relationships. Relationships can be a joy or a source of stress and unhappiness. Because relationships can often be long term, it is particularly important to make sure that they are healthy, because relationship problems can be one of the biggest causes of illness.
Highly sensitive people have many health challenges. Taking on the ten conditions for creating health can help HSPs master their health. The 10 health factors may seem restrictive, but in reality, they will free HSPs to be their best.