The goal of Ayurveda is to maintain the health of a healthy person and heal the illness of a sick person. But staying well is far easier than curing an illness, especially once an imbalance has progressed through the later stages of the disease process. That is why prevention is so strongly emphasized in Ayurvedic medicine. In this chapter we will consider some of the fundamental principles and approaches recommended by Ayurveda for remaining healthy.
The master key to remaining healthy is awareness. If you know your constitution, and you can remain alert to how your mind, body, and emotions respond to the changing conditions in your environment and the numerous facets of your daily life, such as the food you eat, you can make informed choices to maintain good health.
The cause is the concealed effect and the effect is the revealed cause, as the seed contains the potential tree and the tree reveals the potency of the seed. To treat the cause is to treat the effect, to prevent it from coming to fruition. If a kapha person always has kapha problems in the spring season, such as hay fever, colds, congestion, sinus headaches, and weight gain, such a person should watch his diet and eliminate kapha-producing food like wheat, watermelon, cucumber, yogurt, cheese, candy, ice cream, and cold drinks. (Ice is not good for a kapha person; it will produce congestive disorders.) The knowledge of the causes of disease, and the understanding that “like increases like” and “opposites balance,” give us all the information we need to maintain or restore our health, simply through conscious attention, moment-to-moment awareness of our behavior.
If I am living consciously, I may observe that after I ate yogurt two weeks ago, I felt congested and a cold developed. Then it cleared up and I was okay for a few days. When yogurt comes my way again, the memory will come up and my body will say, “Hey, last time you ate yogurt, you got sick!” If I bring lively awareness and listen to my body, it will tell me, “I don’t want yogurt.” To listen to the body’s wisdom, the body’s intelligence, is to be aware, and this is one of the most effective ways to prevent disease.
Developing an awareness of the potential causes of imbalance, and of one’s moment-to-moment state of well-being, is the necessary first step to maintaining health. The second step is taking action.
Taking Action to Modify the Cause
You can’t control the weather, but you can dress properly, so that cold winds, or rain, or summer’s heat will not aggravate the doshas. Changes in the weather are a potential cause of doshic imbalance. Windy, cold, dry weather will aggravate vata dosha; hot, sticky weather is sure to provoke pitta; cold, cloudy, wet weather will increase kapha dosha. Once we have knowledge and understanding, it is time to take action. Put on a hat, a scarf, a warm coat; stay out of direct sunlight. Modify the cause.
Potential causes of illness and imbalance are constantly arising, both within us and on the outside. The weather is changing, our surroundings are changing, our thoughts and feelings are changing, and stressful situations are coming and going. In response to these changes, we have to act skillfully. As the Bhagavad Gita says, “Skill in action is called yoga.”
I have to be smart enough to know my previous history and to learn from it. When I eat garbanzos, I get a stomachache, so this time I should not eat them. Or if there is nothing to eat except garbanzos, then I can add cumin powder, ghee, and a little mustard seed, and it will be suitable for me to eat. The garbanzos’ dry, light vatagenic effect will be modified by the moist, oily ghee and the warming spices.
A substantial part of the Ayurvedic pharmacy is the Ayurvedic art of cooking. Adding specific seasonings changes the property of food and can cause a “forbidden” food, one that might have provoked imbalance, to become acceptable. Some people, for example, are sensitive to potatoes. Potatoes give them gas and little aches and pains in the muscles and around the joints. But if they peel off the skin and sauté the potato with ghee and a little turmeric, mustard seed, cumin powder, and cilantro, it mitigates the vata-provoking property of the potato and the body can then handle it. One can take action to modify the cause; the body’s response will be different, and that particular causative factor will not have an adverse effect.
This principle applies equally well to psychological factors. You may know that watching violent movies upsets you and gives you nightmares. The violent imagery disturbs your doshic balance, provoking anxiety and fear. You have observed this happening to you; the next time you are confronted with the “opportunity” to subject yourself to a violent movie, you can just say no.
It keeps coming down to the same central issue: consciousness, awareness, finding out, “What is my role in this situation? What do I know? What can I do?”
Source Credits: The Complete Book of Ayurvedic – Vasant Lad, M.A.Sc, Published by Harmony Books, 1998