Now we come to another important aspect of Ayurvedic theory, which will help you to make intelligent choices for self-healing. Ayurveda delineates twenty fundamental qualities, which appear in ten pairs:
The Twenty Basic Attributes or Qualities
These qualities are found both in the world around us and in our bodies. Today’s weather may feel light or heavy, and it may be liquid or dry, mobile (windy) or stable, hot or cold, cloudy or clear. Food we eat can partake of any of these qualities. Ice cream, for example, is heavy, oily, cold, soft, and liquid. Our skin may be oily or dry, rough or smooth. Our moods, too, can be heavy or light, cloudy or clear; our thinking may be slow or sharp, our mind quiet and stable or mobile and hyperactive, clear or cloudy.
We are constantly affected by changes in these qualities. Cold, windy, clear, dry weather aggravates vata dosha and may lead to colds and any number of vata ailments such as insomnia, constipation, or arthritis. Hot, humid weather aggravates pitta and may lead to outbreaks of irritation and anger as well as physical complaints like acne, eczema, or skin rashes. Cloudy, gray, humid or rainy weather can aggravate kapha, leading to colds and coughs, depression, lethargy, overeating and oversleeping, and weight gain.
Each of these paired qualities represents the extreme on a continuum. The two qualities in each pair influence or affect one another according to two fundamental principles of Ayurveda:
1. Like increases like.
2. Opposites decrease each other.
These principles are a key to healing with Ayurveda. When an imbalance has manifested, successful treatment requires increasing opposite qualities. For example, if there is too much heat (excess pitta), a cool drink, a swim, or some herbs with cooling properties will greatly help pacify pitta and reduce the heat. A person suffering from too much heat will not be helped by playing tennis in the sun, eating spicy foods, or taking a sauna. Similarly, if you are cold and shivering from exposure to cold windy weather, have a bowl of warm soup, wrap up in a blanket, or take a hot bath. These simple remedies immediately make sense when we hear them because they are so natural.
Ayurvedic physicians have carefully observed nature and located these qualities within all things, both organic and inorganic. Ayurvedic treatment consists to a great extent of identifying a person’s disorder in terms of these qualities, and setting right any imbalances.
How is this done? Speaking in very general terms, excessive dryness in the body—constipation, dry skin, emaciation, and so on—is frequently associated with aggravated vata; excessive heat—burning urine, irritated eyes, fever, inflammation, anger, or a critical attitude—with aggravated pitta; and undue heaviness—lethargy, overweight, congestion, and excess mucus—with unbalanced kapha. Whatever the symptoms may be, for self-treatment you need to understand them and then adjust your lifestyle—diet, exercise, and so on—to restore a state of balance and health.
The hundreds of remedies given in other posts will help you to do this, but essentially it is your own moment-to-moment awareness and self-observation, your sensitivity to your own constitution and your own unique requirements for health, and perhaps most importantly, your willingness to act on your knowledge, that will make all the difference between poor health and a vital, happy, healthy, long life.
The Complete Book of Ayurvedic – Vasant Lad, M.A.Sc, Published by Harmony Books, 1998