Yoga For Your Doshas: Pitta
It’s one of those days: You had a project due at work and even though everything was going according to plan, someone had to take it a different direction at the last minute. Why did they not realize that you know best and things should be done your way? No wonder you are feeling a little short-tempered.
Coming home you notice that your dog chewed on your favourite new heels and you have a water stain on your beautiful teak coffee table from the tea bag your honey left laying around (again, not using a coaster). You feel the pressure building as steam comes out of your ears and your face turns a rich shade of scarlet. In short, your Pitta Dosha is stretched to its limits and your are off balance. You need to cool down.
According to Ayurveda, Yoga’s five thousand year old sister science, everything is governed by the natural elements of air, space, fire, water and earth. Each of these elements are associated with one, or in some cases two, of the Ayurvedic Doshas; the constitutional types. Vata Dosha, which I spoke about in part I of this series, is governed by space and air; Pitta Dosha is governed by fire and water, and Kapha Dosha is associated with water and earth.
Each of these Doshas are linked to certain qualities and can be pacified or aggravated by inner and outer circumstances that display these qualities.
What Dosha Are You?
In this article I will address Pitta, the Dosha that is governed predominantly by fire. If you are a little bit hot headed, have a “my way or the highway” attitude and would much rather go skiing down the slopes than lay in the tropical sun, you will want to read on.
Cool As A Cucumber: Food for Pitta
The flavors that sweeten a hot-headed and hot-bodied Pitta person are sweet, bitter and astringent. The tastes most aggravating to this type are salty, sour and pungent. The Pitta type tends toward acidity, and this may surface in heart burn and inflammatory conditions. Keeping a lightly alkaline blood environment is beneficial for Pitta and can be achieved by eating lots of yummy green leafy and alkaline veggies. Sweet and cooling fruit, such as sweet mangoes, apples berries and melon (particularly watermelon which is sweet and cooling in nature and has many healing benefits) are great choices for your diet. Sipping cool (never cold) water with a spritz of lime or lemon is a great way to keep a cool temper and keep your blood from boiling.
Pitta and Exercise
If you are a Pitta person, you likely love yourself some friendly competition both in your athletic endeavors, and in your personal and business life. Getting into a sport that requires a certain skill level and allows you to achieve and compete will likely give you a much needed outlet for your competitive and perfectionist work style. Competitive sports, such as running, cycling, playing tennis or racket ball, or even training for a body building competition, will give you a sense of purpose while jiving with your sense of drive and achievement.
There’s nothing wrong with being a little competitive, but you’ll want to consider a cooling or calming activity to balance your Dosha. Consider swimming (sure, compete if you must) as an active form of cooling refreshment with the added ability to push and challenge you. You will be a very happy Pitta camper if you allow yourself regular evening walks in the cooling moonlight, especially when sharing this down time with a sweet friend or loving partner.
Be Still: Meditation for Pitta
The Pitta person tends to be strong willed, determined and driven, and is often busy pondering and planning out new endeavors. If you are a Pitta planner and leader you may know how difficult it is for you to step out of busy mode to chill and relax. Meditation is a fantastic tool for Pittas who need to take a break from thinking and planning. Spend time calming your mind, and you’ll resurface feeling refreshed, with new ideas and increased problem solving skills.
The Pitta mind responds well to a meditation centered around soothing sound, smells, and colors. You may wish to listen to calming sounds of water or light a scented candle with a fresh cooling scent. Surrounding yourself with cool and light colors, or focusing your gaze on a cooling and calming Yantra, will guide your mind into a peaceful and tranquil state. Gentle or cooling Pranayama (breath work) such as Shitali or Sitkari Pranayama will also soothe your temper and focus your mind.
If you are of high Pitta constitution, you’ll be drawn to hot yoga classes like a bee to honey. But remember that hot yoga, Vinyasa flow classes and traditional Ashtanga are styles best practiced in moderation.
The often A-type-ish Pitta person likes nothing more then working hard and reaping the benefits in business, their relationship, or in physical activity. Pitta tends to be of a strong and agile build and they like to move and sweat. To balance the challenge of the challenge with cooling calmness and to keep from over extending your limits, consider switching your Hot Yoga shorts for comfy casual wear and a Restorative or Yin style class once or twice per week. Forward bends and twists in particular are beneficial for Pitta as they are cooling and have a refreshing and rejuvenating effect on the blood and lymphatic system, thus allowing for optimal oxygen-blood exchange that is perfect for releasing built-up heat and tension from the midsection, while also fueling the mind.
The Pitta Motto
For you, dear Pitta type, relaxation should be your preferred motto. Staying calm, cool and collected while focusing and leading your team to success is the perfect balance. Remember to take time out for family, friends, loved ones and to enjoy the sweetness life has in store for you.
Alternative Medicine Part 2: Ayurvedic Medicine
Twenty — even 10 years ago, if a patient wanted to explore unconventional treatment options, they were on their own. Traditional health professionals generally didn’t encourage alternative medicine or treatments, discouraging departures from allopathic treatment models such as drugs and surgery. But as the efficacy of non-traditional treatment models, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) mentioned here in part one, ayurvedic medicine, massage and chiropractic adjustment, naturopathy, diet and natural supplementation — even homeopathy and sound therapy, is being validated by research, new branches of medicine are emerging.
Integrative, Functional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine
The “integrative” medical model developed during the early 1990s, but was formalized when the National Institute of Health (NIH) created the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). This classification covered non-conventional treatment and research, and was the beginning of a slow recognition of alternative systems. Integrative models include consideration of a patient’s lifestyle, body, and mind, and how to promote well-being for the whole person rather than just diseases and their symptoms.
“Functional” medicine refers to holistic and alternative medical practices intended to improve overall functions of the body’s systems, and explores individual biochemistry, genetics, and environment to determine underlying causes of disease.
According to the NIH, “complementary” medicine combines non-mainstream practices with conventional treatment in a coordinated way. This has helped drive acceptance of alternative therapies such as TCM, diet, and nutraceuticals, or supplements.
Alternative medicine is any practice that falls outside conventional systems, and is not combined with traditional treatments. For example, if a patient chooses ayurvedic medicine, dietary changes, and supplementation to treat their cancer, and excludes conventional therapies, they have entered the realm of alternative medicine.
Exploring Alternative Medicine Models
In recent decades, relatively obscure healing modalities have emerged as treatment options. Some are ancient, such as TCM, Ayurveda, herbalism, and shamanic energy medicine. Others, such as osteopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy, and chiropractic, arrived in the 19th and 20th centuries. Most recently, biofeedback, structural integration, aromatherapy, energy medicine practices such as reiki and sound wave therapy, music therapies such as singing bowls, and mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) have found enthusiastic patient support.