LIFE IN BALANCE
Part 8. Putting It Together
by Elena Greco
LIFE IN BALANCE is a multi-part series exploring health–
what it is, how to get it and how to maintain it, easily and naturally.
To read the complete series, click here: Life in Balance.
Typical reading time: 3 minutes
So far in this series, we’ve learned the true meaning of health. We’ve looked at healthcare paradigms and learned the value of using a holistic healthcare system, one which takes all aspects of you and your life into account. And we learned that true health is reflected in vitality and resilience.
In the last few segments, we began an assessment of traits and lifestyle that will form the basis of our healthcare plan. We evaluated four areas of our lives: physical body, mind, environment and lifestyle. Now that you’ve completed your four-part life assessment, it’s time to flesh out a complete picture that encompasses the whole of your life. This complete picture will form the basis of your healthcare plan.
First, combine the physical, mental, environmental and lifestyle parts of the four assessments in this series that you’ve just completed into one document. Look over it as a whole.
Were you surprised at how many things in your life might affect your health? Health is influenced by far more than what we eat and how we exercise. Everything in our environment is a potential influence on our health—as is everything about us, including our bodies, minds and proclivities. Did you learn anything about yourself in doing the assessments?
Notice any areas that might need attention, as well as thoughts that came to you about the effect of your habits, tendencies, preferences, habits or your environment, and make a note of them. What thread do you see running through your four assessments?
Now let’s think about your constitutional category. We all have physical and mental tendencies that can fall into a few categories. Knowing what categories you fall into physically and mentally can provide a starting point for finding your balance in health. Thinking in terms of these categories is a sort of shorthand that makes things easier.
You might recall an old constitutional type system developed in the 1940s that described our physical constitutions as endomorph, ectomorph or mesomorph. Remember those? Well, there’s a similar way of categorizing not just the body, but the mind, too, in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In those holistic paradigms, the categories are much more complete and detailed.
In Ayurveda, a dosha is similar to a constitutional type in that it reflects a certain combination of characteristics. In that regard, Ayurveda speaks of elements—air, water, fire (TCM adds wood and metal). Think of the qualities that those elements represent. Air (vata) is light, potentially ungrounded or unfocused, quick to move. Water (kapha) Is fluid, heavier, dreamier, moves slowly. Fire (pitta) is quick to consume, has strong energy, appetite, anger, passion and focus. Those are qualities that can easily be ascribed to the physical and mental characteristics of human beings. Learning which of those qualities dominate or might be out of balance can be important in remaining healthy.
In modern Ayurveda, most practitioners now focus on a balance of the doshas. Because Ayurveda includes information about both body and mind, it is possible that physically you’re more aligned with one dosha and mentally you’re more aligned with another. Or you could be mentally and physically aligned with just one. That’s why I put the “(s)” after dosha; you can have either one or two predominant ones. The tests won’t separate mental and physical because that isn’t necessary for the practice of basic Ayurveda that a layperson uses. For example, the test might indicate that you are Pitta-Vata or that you’re predominantly Kapha. Please don’t fret over these terms that might sound strange to you. You’ll be using them with ease very shortly.
Once you know what your predominant type(s) is/are, you can choose elements of your lifestyle that best support those qualities or attributes and keep them in balance. Fortunately, there’s already a huge bulk of information about what balances each type. And once you know your type(s), you will instinctively know a lot, too. With only a little study or effort—no more than you might spend reading a few articles on the internet or social media—you’ll come to know what practices and remedies can help you stay healthy.
Please don’t give up because I mention study! You don’t have to know or practice Ayurveda, other than understanding the doshas in a very basic way, in order to put into practice healthful and health-balancing practices.
I like using Ayurveda as a starting point for restoring and maintaining health because it’s simple, it’s easy to learn the basics, it’s easy to practice, it doesn’t conflict with most other healthcare systems, and it fits easily into our lives. Most of all, it’s remarkably effective! Obviously, if Ayurveda doesn’t appeal to you, there are other systems of holistic health that are useful. And using my method of healthcare doesn’t require that you use Ayurveda. But I do suggest you give it a try, or at least read a bit about it.
Assignment: I recommend that you take a simple online test to help you determine your dosha and to determine the elements in your constitution (mental and physical) that might need balancing. Once you have your test results and know your dosha(s), you can learn what supports that/those doshas and what might get it/them out of balance. Using Ayurveda in your life doesn’t require a lot of work!
Here’s a simple, quick dosha test I find to be amazingly accurate in assessing doshas: Banyan Botanicals Dosha Quiz. Banyan is a reputable Ayurvedic website which also offers good quality Ayurvedic herbs and other remedies, and this is the best dosha test I’ve found online. And it’s kind of fun!
Once you complete the test(s), save the results to your health document or folder, along with the previous four assessments.