Modern Living and Aggravated Doshas
Do you remember your childhood as a simpler time? When food was real and actually bore a resemblance to its original source, when talking to someone actually meant seeing the person in flesh and blood, when time was not such a dwindling resource and walking into a friend’s house uninformed was not such blasphemy as it is in today’s world? Modern living has made our lives easier in many ways, and has simplified the amount of physical labor that we need to put into our day-to-day existence. But has this come at a certain cost that we were unprepared to handle? Have these modern-day conveniences created complications in our lives that our bodies and minds were not designed to handle?
At the root of Ayurveda, are the universal mind-body energies namely vata, pitta and kapha. These energies when balanced within us, create health and when distorted or imbalanced, create disease. In this article, I will attempt to demonstrate how several habits and practices that go hand in hand with modern living throw our doshas out of balance and start the disease process within us. So, what are these practices and what specific aggravated doshas do they result in?
Kapha is good. We need it to “hold things together” both physically and mentally. In excess though, kapha slows and bogs us down, making us dull and lethargic. Let’s take a look at our diets these days. An abundance of sweet, heavy, processed foods like cookies, ice-creams, sweetened beverages, cakes, deep-fried foods and sodas are a big contributor to the obesity epidemic that is slowly taking over the world. Even a seemingly harmless habit of drinking iced water and beverages can clog the body channels and cause sludge to accumulate, leading to kapha aggravation. Let’s look at our lifestyles. Gone are the days when mild, physical labor was a part and parcel of our daily lives. Modern day conveniences like our smart machines, appliances, cars and devices combined with our sedentary jobs and lifestyles have taken any sort of physical exercise out of our lives. Waking up late in the mornings, groggy and lethargic from a late night of work or partying is another habit that can aggravate kapha.
So what can we change? Eat natural, whole grains, pulses, organic fruit, vegetables and dairy products, nuts and seeds. Stay away from processed, preservative laden, artificial food-like substances that are piling on our plates and our waists! Drink warm (or room temperature) beverages, water, juices and herbal teas. Get up and get moving – make regular exercise a part and parcel of your daily routine. Sleep early and wake up early before 7am and before the kapha time of the day begins to set in.
Pitta is synonymous with “digestion” – not just of food, but also of perceptions, thoughts, ideas etc. In excess though, pitta burns everything in its wake. Modern living is rife with pitta aggravating factors. Take a look at how highly competitive our social and business practices are. The increasing emphasis on personal achievement and success is another factor that is making modern living inherently pitta aggravating. Habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, exercising during mid-day (hot pitta time of day), saunas etc. are other contributing factors for throwing pitta out of balance.
So what can we do differently? Live your life not to compete with others and appear successful and happy in others’ eyes. Do what makes you happy from inside – success will follow. Drop the cigarette and alcohol and get a natural high from living life to the fullest! Exercise early in the morning. Avoid saunas and also being exposed to the hot sun for extended time, especially during the summer months. Adopt an easy-going and relaxed personality and lifestyle. Work hard and party hard, but take breaks, spend quality time with your loved ones, relax and unwind doing things that make you happy. Last but not the least, don’t measure your success and happiness using someone else’s yardstick!
Vata is the dosha that “moves things”. It is the dosha that makes the other 2 doshas move. There are several factors in modern living that contribute to vata aggravation. As more and more short-cuts have started making their way into our lives to “save” time, our food is becoming more and more removed from its original source and hence more and more deprived of life-force or prana. Practices like microwaving, freezing and reheating, eating leftovers, junk food, processed and overly refined foods all contribute towards a vata aggravation caused by a diet deficient in prana. Frequent traveling is another factor that vitiates vata because of the mobile and light qualities of vata. Over-exercising is also similarly a factor where too much movement throws vata out of whack. Another important one these days is over-exposure to mass media. There are several facets to this aspect. Firstly, mass media has acclimatized us to receiving an abundance of superficial information that keeps our minds in a constant state of want, distraction and emptiness that we crave to dispel (albeit unsuccessfully) by turning more towards the media for more such information, thereby aggravating vata even more. And the vicious cycle continues. Also, overuse of media can lead to a state of too much stimulation that once again is vata aggravating. Other aggravating factors that are prevalent in modern living are frequent exposure to a high noise level, drugs, pain-relieving medication, tobacco, caffeine, and raw food diets.
What are ways to alleviate the debilitating effects of these factors? The best cure for vata is to have a routine. Here are some recommendations for a daily routine in Ayurveda. Have fixed times for rising and sleeping, eating and exercising, working and unwinding. Even a good thing like exercise if done at an inappropriate time of day will end up becoming more hazardous to health than useful. Exercise is best done early in the morning or early in the evening. The latest fad of late night exercise disrupts the sleep routine and aggravates the doshas. Another remedy for vata aggravation is oil massages. Give yourself regular oil massages on a daily basis to alleviate aggravated vata. Balance in diet and exercise is a key to keeping vata in check. Switch off all media devices every once a while and enjoy some time reflecting, relaxing and living life with friends and family, rather than living a virtual life!
Evidently, modern living has proven to be a double-edged sword! It is up to us to embrace the modern practices that will benefit us and not give up on the age-old proven practices that have been backed by generations of wisdom and experience.
Choose wisely and live well!
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