When it comes to dieting and maintaining a healthy and fit lifestyle, we have all tried the basics. Nearly every woman out there has done the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet and the Zone diet. We’ve lived on protein shakes, Lean Cuisine meals and some of us have even braved the notorious cayenne pepper drink that promises dramatic weight loss. We drink coffee to wake us up in the morning and sometimes a glass of wine to help us sleep at night. We fight the flu with the help of cold medicines and only remember to take our vitamins when we are grabbing one for our child. But what if being healthy and fit could be as easy as knowing your dosha??
What is a dosha? A dosha is a way to describes one’s body type when practicing Ayurveda, a traditional and holistic medicine that originated in India. Those who practice Ayurveda believe that everything you eat and drink, the way you sleep and even the type of workout you do should be customized to you in order to work. This means that not only do your common genetics factor in, but the way you react in stressful situations and even your outlook on life determines your dosha and the lifestyle you should be leading in order to keep it balanced. In preparation for this article I did a little research and even found a website where you can take a quiz about yourself to find out exactly what your dosha is.
After logging onto a couple different sites I took some of the suggested quizzes, and discovered that I am a Kapha. Kapha individuals tend to gain weight easily, lose it slowly, have steady appetites, sensitivity to the cold, slow digestion and slow metabolism… BINGO!! The sites also listed specifics about the Kasha personality; deep, steady mind, loving and compassionate, creative. Again I agree with all. However, the reading went on to suggest that when a Kapha dosha is imbalanced they become lazy, possessive and overly attached. Not quite how I think of myself, but I’m open to learning and so I read on to find out what causes imbalances, what I should be eating and what exercises are best. Based on the Kapha dosha, the sites suggested that I avoid heavy or oily foods, avoid dairy, and avoid cold food or drink and stick to lighter more vegetarian style meals. As for exercise, the sites suggested that endurance cardio training such as long distance running, dance classes, aerobic classes and kickboxing classes were best suited for me. The sites also discussed specific herbs, vitamins and even yoga poses that help to balance Kapha Doshas.
Yoga and meditation are another significant component of Ayurveda, regardless of your dosha. The purpose is to connect the mind and body, release stress and tension and bring more awareness to individuals about what their body needs to be in true balance. When practicing Ayurveda, yoga becomes more of a spiritual exercise than a workout. Meditation is also seen as a part of the daily ritual and is said to cleanse the mind of toxins much as yoga and exercise cleanses the body. In some cases with certain doshas who have difficulty relaxing or handling stress, it is suggested that those individuals meditate two or three times a day and try to create serene settings through fragrance and atmosphere to keep themselves calm and focused.
Ayurveda also discourages against the use of processed foods, caffeinated beverages (aside from green tea) and even suggests avoiding the use of microwaves when possible. Okay, so this part is not quite doable for me and my family but still, I was curious to read some “before and after reviews”. While I could not find many cases of major weight loss success stories after switching to an Ayurvedic lifestyle, I was able to find quite a few dramatic cases of improvements in health. Everything from psoriasis to insomnia to alopecia (hair loss) to infertility; all seemed to be improved if not completely cured after several months of a dosha specific Ayurveda diet and exercise along with yoga and massage therapy.
So while this holistic approach may seem a bit quirky and will clearly interfere with your Starbucks addiction, if you have struggled for years with other plans and still fall short of success it may be worth a try. At the very least Ayurveda can serve as a stepping stone to a healthier diet and an exercise plan that’s a custom fit to your needs and let’s face it in a world of cookie cutter diets, we could all use a little bit of customization!