Mind-Body Matter: An Ayurvedic Approach

By Rebecca Capps   |   April 5, 2022
We are what we eat, and wellness can be viewed from the perspective of each person’s unique constitution, or dosha type

Editor’s Note:

Without our health, what are we? Through the pandemic, we have been challenged in countless profound ways. Many of us have faced the loss of loved ones, careers, or even just lifestyle. As discussed by Rebecca Capps below, mental health issues and chronic illnesses are on the rise in the US, and recent events have not done much to alleviate those stresses. There are many schools of thought on health. In this new recurring section, Wealth of Wellness, we will have experts and other guest writers discuss the body, mind, and everything to be healed in between. Because what is wealth without good health?

It is clear that mental disorders and chronic illnesses are rising at unprecedented rates. What is not so clear, however, is why. Why are conditions like eating disorders and addictions happening now more than ever before? According to a June CDC survey — a staggering 41% of U.S. citizens suffer from at least one mental or physical health condition. This astronomical rise in illness points to a clear need to expand our knowledge of the prevention and treatment of illness. From an Ayurvedic perspective, all illnesses may be viewed as a deeper expression of something in the mind and body being out of balance. Thus, pairing modern Western medical practices with the ancient science of Ayurveda gives people an opportunity to work toward a more holistic recovery — so that they’re not just treating symptoms but also improving their overall sense of well-being.

The three types of dosha

In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “the science of life.” It originated from India nearly five thousand years ago and is the oldest known medical system — one that still holds true and can be applied in tandem with modern healthcare practices. However, unlike modern Western medicine (which often just treats symptoms as being isolated from the rest of the body), Ayurveda focuses on treating the root of one’s symptoms and views them as part of an interconnected whole. Ayurvedic wisdom is foundational and a missing piece in our modern-day American healthcare system. It encompasses aspects that Western medicine often overlooks — from psychology, nutrition, or spirituality to a deep understanding of the disease process.

The way you approach any sickness or imbalance depends on how you view it in the first place. Ayurveda offers us a new lens by providing a comprehensive framework to better understand our body type, personality traits, and ways to respond to our environment. Ayurvedic practitioners view wellness from the perspective of each person’s unique constitution, or doshatype. There are three primary mind-body types that guide treatment protocols; Vata, Pitta, Kapha (however, we all contain aspects of all three to some measure). Where there is a doshic imbalance — sickness is sure to follow. Learning about your general predispositions can help you start the process of deeply listening to your body’s signals and paying attention to what may exist underneath so that you can prevent or better mitigate any sickness.

Pairing ancient Ayurvedic wisdom with modern healing practices can help clinicians optimize their treatments to garner better results. As a clinician who treats eating disorders, I often draw from Ayurvedic protocols given the uncanny resemblance between the three dosha types and the three subtypes of eating disorders. For example, Kapha dosha types tend to be warm in temperament, steady, and inhabit a larger frame. When out of balance, they’re especially prone to emotional eating — similar to those who suffer from a Binge Eating Disorder. A Kapha’s healing work involves learning how to engage in mindful eating and gentle movement practices that will help them to reduce inflammation and ignite metabolic function. In contrast, Vata types are naturally slim but underweight when out of balance – similar to those with Anorexia Nervosa. Vatas are also often predisposed to anxiety, poor circulation, and adrenal fatigue. Thus, Vatas may benefit from a wellness plan that includes higher-fat foods that satiate. They may further benefit from grounding self-care practices, such as abhyanga or self-massage, that will help them to calm their overactive nervous system. Lastly, Pitta doshas are natural-born leaders who are traditionally strong with a quick metabolism. However, similar to the Bulimic profile, when out of balance, they can be impulsive and irritable if they’re constantly skipping meals or waiting until they’re ravenous to eat. Those who are Pitta-dominant should focus on establishing more regular mealtimes and a greater work-life balance.

Tending to each person’s unique constitution is essential for achieving total mind-body wellness; it is when we fail to honor this holistic understanding that it can hinder the path to healing. Although our modern medical system has yielded significant progress, it could do more to honor the patient’s voice and personality in the healing process, recognizing that they are more than just the sum of mechanistic parts. And while medications have their place, so does a more holistic approach. What if we are to re-envision a medical system that values and includes both traditional and holistic medical practices that treat mind-body imbalances? 

Western compared to Eastern medical practices are clearly very different, however, both have a place in our current health care system and deserve to be thoughtfully integrated to provide citizens with a complete system of healing. People tend to gain the most benefit when they have a variety of treatments available to them so that they can establish what works best for their unique symptoms and health goals. And, as Ayurveda teaches, by listening to the body’s inherent wisdom and ability to heal — we can take our health and wellness to a whole new level. 

Rebecca Capps, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Wellness Coach who specializes in the treatment of Eating Disorders and Addictions. mindbodythrive.com; rebecca@mindbodythrive.com 


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