Disease can be a very controversial topic and I do not claim to be any sort of medic, I am simply sharing what I have learnt through my own personal yoga journey and what I have found enlightening. I don’t understand why some people get horrible illnesses and others don’t, I am fascinated by how much is a result of external circumstances or lifestyle, and how much is a result of the mental space or stress and how that affects the chemicals in our space. I am constantly reading into that, but one of the things I have felt useful and which relates to yoga most closely is yoga’s healthy sister, Ayurveda.
In the world of Yoga and Ayurveda, the general belief is that your body will show you disease when it is in ‘dis-ease’, or in other words, out of balance. In our culture, if we have a rash or a pain, we tend to whack a cream on it, or pop a pill and hope that it will go away, that the external quick fix will numb or silence the message from the body.
What we are failing to realise in that moment, is that we are not supposed to be against our body, the body it just trying to communicate with us, we are supposed to work together. In Yoga and Ayurveda, they believe that your physical state is a representation of your emotional state. If we can get healthy in our mind, our body will follow. Our body is a messenger, we have to LISTEN, not silence it! If we take a moment to ask ourselves, truthfully, where is this ‘pain’ coming from, what is my body asking me for? How can I shift my lifestyle to come back into balance, into ease and out of dis-ease? If we continue to ignore the body, it will shout louder and louder until we are forced to listen (maybe even eventually bed ridden, where we can’t do anything else but be with our thoughts and so then hopefully we are forced to listen to our body and get to the truth), so we are encouraged to ‘listen to the whisper, don’t wait for the shout’.
I learned this the hard way… I didn’t realise at the time, but I was in burn out. I don’t think I fully understood what that meant until I learnt about Ayurveda.
Ayurveda and Yoga are sister practices. Both developed in India, they have their roots in ancient Indian Vedic culture, but they are two distant traditions that crossed paths in the last few hundred years, 16th century.
Yoga was initially solely invested the mind and became fascinated with how this can be achieved through the body. Poses or ‘asanas’ (in Sanskrit) directly translates as ‘seat’ – poses were designed as seats for meditation, we began to change the shape we sat in for meditation to create additional physical benefits for the body during meditation, like cleansing the digestive system, strengthening muscles etc. In yoga, the mind was the priority, the body a welcomed bi-product. Ayurveda was initially solely invested in the purification of the body and then noticed how this moved towards mental refinement. So, we can see how the two practices crossed paths and are often used in collaboration to achieve optimal health.
Ayurveda is a wellness system based on listening to the body and adapting lifestyle and diet both to heal the body and maintain everyday health. VERY simply put, there are 3 Doshas ‘body types/ constitutions’ which are – Wind (Vata), Fire (Pita), Earth/Water (Kapha).
Our physical attributes (skin/ hair/ figure) and personality show which Dosha we are predominantly (often we can be a mixture – bi or tri Dosha), once you understand the system it’s quite easy to recognise Doshas. You can do quizzes (Pukka quiz here) or better, have an in-depth consultation to find out your Dosha. Your Dosha will then determine your recommended lifestyle, informing you which foods to eat and which activities to do to bring you into balance or into disease. Doshas are not genetic, they occur at point of conception, when your soul comes into being.
Very generally speaking, those who tend to be anxious are often Vata dominant. Those who tend to be fiery are Pitta dominant, those who are more sluggish are Kapha dominant. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m a combination of Pitta/ Vata. So, if I am out of balance, I get stressed / angry / anxious. Being Pita dominant, if I am too ‘firey’, I do too much, too fast, have too much fire in my life, after a while, I turn to ash… burn out! Now I understand that, I can recognise the signs of being out of balance (Pitta often comes out in redness, heat, rashes, fire characteristics etc) and so I adjust my diet and my lifestyle to slow and cool myself down.
Once you understand yourself in that way and you move from silencing the body to listening to your body and your whole understanding of health and well-being will change. Again, it’s about being honest with yourself, and prioritising health over ego or achievement.