by Guru Sri Shukla
©2009 by Guru Sri
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Lesson Two

Alright, let's talk about Ayurveda. Ayurveda, in case you don't know, is the ancient, traditional system of medicine from India. It dates back, the estimates are, about five thousand to ten thousand years, although my understanding is that any actual written treatises on Ayurveda go back maybe to around two hundred or three hundred B.C. Ayurveda comes from two root words, "ayur," which means "life," and "veda," which means "science" or "knowledge." "Ayur" can also mean "longevity," so Ayurveda can mean in essence "the science of life," or "the science of longevity," or "knowledge of life"--something along those lines. Usually it's translated as "science of life."

The first concept that is usually taught in Ayurveda is the concept of the doshas. Usually what is talked about is "tridosha theory." Now a dosha--"dosha" means a "fault," or an "impurity," or an "imperfection," and usually there are three doshas talked about--tridosha--although in actuality, if you want to be nit-picky about it there really are five doshas, because there are two psychological doshas in addition to the three physical doshas. The three physical doshas are referred to as vata, pitta, and kapha. Sometimes we say vat, pit, and kaph--we leave the "a" off the end of a number of these Sanskrit words. Don't get confused by that. It's the same word, it's just that it can be pronounced either way in Sanskrit, so a lot of people will drop the last "a" in vata and just call it vat. That's a common thing that's done. Now, the idea of a dosha as an impurity or a fault indicates that there is something more pure beyond this physical world. Going back to what we talked about in the previous lesson, this does relate to the concept of Sat-Chit-Ananda. As we said previously, Sat is the here-and-now, is the physical universe. Chit is the mind stuff, or the realm of thought, and Ananda, usually translated as "bliss," is pure mind not affected by any qualities or attributes. So we can see that the doshas exist here in the material world, and to some extent in the psychological or the thought world, because they are imperfect. They are impure. They are not pure mind void of attributes or qualities. To put this in terms of life energy, we can see then that even in the thought world, and also in the physical world, the doshas, or the imperfections, or the faults, which have an energetic component, are the result of resistance to the pure life energy, just as a piece of copper wire resists electricity going through it to some extent, although it is also conducting electricity.

Our bodies and our minds resist, put up a resistance to, the life energy that is flowing through us all the time, and it is this resistance to this life energy that makes what we call "life." Using this same analogy, then, we can see how with an electric current flowing through a copper wire there is heat created from the resistance to that electricity, although there is a conducting aspect to the copper wire. In the same way our bodies and our minds can only handle so much life energy flowing through it. If we get an excess of life energy beyond what we're able to handle, then we see diseases creep in. We'll get into this in more detail in a few minutes, but first, let's go over the characteristics of the three physical doshas, vata, pitta, and kapha.

Now vata is associated with the elements air and ether, sometimes translated as "space"--the Sanskrit word is akasha. It is said to rule the other two doshas, pitta and kapha, so if you have vata in balance and you don't overextend it, you don't try to push more life energy through you than your body or your mind is able to handle, then disease cannot enter. If vata is kept in perfect balance, an imbalance of pitta and kapha cannot occur, as vata rules the other two doshas. Characteristics of vata include that it is cold, it is dry, it is light, it is rough, it is hard, it is variable, it is moving, it is quick. Now there are a number of other characteristics but we'll stop at that point. You get the idea. These characteristics or attributes are sometimes referred to as "gunas". I don't want to get people confused because gunas also refers to other aspects that we are going to be discussing within Ayurveda, such as the mental aspects, two of which are doshas--sattva, rajas, and tamas. In any event, the three most important attributes to remember in a practical day-to-day sense for vata are that vata is cold, vata is dry, and vata is light. And if you only had to remember two out of those three, I would say remember that vata is cold and dry. Because when vata becomes aggravated, when vata becomes blocked, when vata becomes a problem that is causing disease, the symptoms, the characteristics that you see in your body and your mind, often have to do with these characteristics, especially the coldness and the dryness.

Pitta, the second of the three physical doshas, has also a number of characteristics--hot, wet, light, sharp, oily, fluid, foul-smelling--sometimes this is referred to as the smell of rotting flesh--and acidic. Again, there are other characteristics but we'll stop at that point. I don't want to get too involved in descriptions that aren't going to be practically useful at this point. As I stated in the first lesson we are more interested in being "lumpers" instead of "splitters." We are more interested in seeing the connections between things rather than making minute distinctions between things. Vata is concerned with movement, and pitta is concerned with metabolism. The third of the three physical doshas is kapha, and it is concerned with structure and with lubrication. Some of the characteristics defining kapha are that it is cold, it is wet, it is heavy, it is soft, it is steady or stable, it moves slowly, it is smooth or oily, it is sweet. Again the most important characteristics of kapha are, however, that it is cold and wet, and also heavy. Pitta is hot and wet and light, and vata is cold and dry and light.

We can not only attribute these three principles to our own body and our own mind within the system of Ayurvedic medicine, but we can see them, for example, in the hours of the day, and in the seasons of the year. For example, if vata is cold and dry, we can see that vata season would be that season which is cold and dry, and that is usually in the fall in most places of the world, although there is a lot of variation depending on which books you read, or which Ayurvedic experts you talk to. Generally, vata season is said to start around September, or the middle of September, and usually goes until about the beginning of December or maybe the middle of December, depending on where you are in the world. That is generally time when it is getting much cooler, and it is very dry. In many parts of the world the rainy season doesn't start until around December or late November. Of course if it, wherever you are living, is very cold, and has been raining for a week and a half, and it's only November twenty-fifth, then obviously you are into a kapha weather pattern rather than a vata weather pattern, so these dates I'm giving are general guidelines and are not absolute. Kapha season is the season, then, that would be cold and wet. For most places this would be around the beginning of December until about the middle of March, depending on how much precipitation there is in the particular area where you live. If there's a longer rainy season then kapha season may be said to last a little longer. If it's very warm during those traditionally winter months where you live, then the kapha season may be very very short, even if in February it is still raining frequently, you may already be into pitta season if it is extremely hot. Again, I'm just giving the generalities here. Pitta season is generally said to begin around the middle of March and extends then throughout the summer until vata season hits, again around maybe the end of August or the beginning of September, some time around there.

In the same way, we can see how vata, pitta, and kapha work during the hours of the day. The easiest one to start with is pitta, because pitta is more dominant during the day between the hours of ten a.m. and two p.m. Pitta peaks at noon, as you might expect, because the sun is at it's height at that time. This is why in Ayurveda it is often recommended that lunch should be the biggest meal of the day, should be eaten between ten and two, because pitta, as a regulator of metabolism, also is very important in digestion, and the body is better able to digest food between ten a.m. and two p.m. Now from two p.m. to six p.m. is vata time. From six p.m. to ten p.m. is kapha time. This is the time during which we should get ready to sleep, prepare to sleep for the night. Staying up beyond ten p.m. brings us into another pitta period between ten p.m. and two a.m. If we don't go to bed before ten p.m. and stay up later, we are going into another pitta cycle which naturally gives us a burst of energy and makes it more difficult for us to fall asleep. So the tendency we have in some cultures to stay up past ten p.m. is really not healthy from an Ayurvedic perspective. Between ten p.m. and two a.m.--we should be sleeping during that time. In Ayurveda it is taught that during that time the body should be sleeping because this is the time that pitta again hits a peak, only during this peak the part of metabolism that is taking place is gathering together of all the different toxins that have been accumulated throughout the day and preparing them for being expelled from the body in the morning. Two a.m. to six a.m., once again, is a vata time, and in Ayurveda this is the ideal time when we should be getting up and doing our regular activities. We shouldn't sleep, according to Ayurveda, really, past six a.m., because again, from six a.m. to ten a.m. we're moving into another kapha period, and since kapha is heavy and moves slowly, if we sleep past six a.m., consequently, we will be more heavy and slow than we would be otherwise.

Again, to review the elemental correspondences to the three physical doshas, vata, pitta, and kapha--vata is attributed to air and ether, or space. Pitta is attributed to fire and water, and kapha is attributed to water and earth. From an Ayurvedic perspective, each person is constantly a burning fire. That fire is a chemical fire. Our metabolism itself is a fire. We are giving off heat. We are using oxygen as we maintain that fire, and we are always burning some sort of fuel, which is the food we take in, and to some extent the fat, or sometimes even the muscle tissue that we store gets burned up as fuel depending on the situation. From an Ayurvedic perspective, then, we need to be able to develop the tools and the understanding to regulate that burn within ourselves, to be able to control how we are burning, the quality of that burning, and we do that through keeping vata, pitta, and kapha in balance. Now as we stated previously, vata has to do with air. Vata, in addition to having to do with the movement of our body and the movement of things within our body, also has to do with our breathing, and our breathing does directly regulate the amount of oxygen that is getting into our body. That has a terrific impact on controlling the burning within ourselves. Just as a fire will flare up as more oxygen is put on it, so can we, through the regulation of vata dosha, have an impact on the rate and the quality of the chemical fire that is within us. Similarly, pitta, which has to do with fire and metabolism, can be aggravated and increased to unhealthy levels if pitta itself is increased beyond our capacity to handle this. Kapha also has to be in balance because it maintains the structure, it maintains the lubricating qualities, and it can put a damper on the fire when needed. A good example of this is the lining of the stomach, which is a particular type of kapha. If this kapha were not present the very strong acids within our stomach would literally eat our stomach lining. However, this layer of lub

rication of kapha that we have within our stomach prevents this from happening. So kapha is also essential in controlling how this chemical fire burns.

The next thing we really need to understand within this Ayurvedic framework is something that I mentioned previously in my analogy to the electricity going through a copper wire. Copper wire, just from the nature of it being copper, and the thickness of the wire, has a certain tendency to conduct a certain amount of electricity, but also to resist that electricity to some extent. In the same way, we have to move things through our body. For example, we have to move blood through our bloodstream. We have to move nervous impulses through our nerves. We have to move food that is being digested through our digestive tract. And depending on how efficient we are at doing these things determines how healthy or unhealthy we are. In Ayurveda, these different channels of movement through the body, for examples the nerves, the arteries, the intestines, all of these different pathways or channels for the flow of energy and for the flow of matter within our body are called "srotas." These are analogous but not identical to the meridians in Chinese medicine. In Ayurveda there is also the concept of "marmas." Now marmas are analogous but not identical to acupuncture or accupressure points that are talked about in traditional Chinese medicine. When functioning properly, these srotas and the marmas should expand and contract according to what is necessary for the normal functioning of the body and the mind. That is to say, they should be able to regulate the flow of energy in all parts of the body in an efficient manner so that nourishment is taken in, oxygen is taken in, food is digested and assimilated efficiently, and any waste materials are evacuated from the body efficiently.

It is not possible for a person to get sick, then, unless they have some sort of a blockage, some sort of a malfunction in some of their srotas and/or some of their marmas. Virtually everyone nowadays has major blockages in their marmas and in their srotas. Once in a great while you'll run across a person that is very healthy and doesn't have these blockages and virtually never gets sick, but that's the exception rather than the rule. We will to some extent in this lesson and in upcoming lessons go over the major reasons for these blockages, because ultimately without some blockage in the marmas or in the srotas, the body and the mind could allow any excess life energy to simply pass through and not accumulate into a dosha and not cause any disease. Essentially, when a marma or a srota is blocked and not allowing the energy to go through it that should be going through it, doshas accumulate behind that blockage. As the doshas accumulate, this is what leads to disease.

There's a long period, however, that these doshas can accumulate without giving any outward symptoms. This is a great advantage of Ayurveda over more modern, so-called scientific Western versions of medicine in that Ayurveda has the ability to diagnose these imbalances before symptoms come to light. So there are essentially two different ways that we can help the body come back into balance from the perspective of balancing the doshas. The first is to decrease the exposure to whatever dosha is already in excess. We can do this in a number of ways. For example, there are foods that increase vata, and there are foods that decrease vata. There are foods that marginally increase vata, and there are foods that greatly increase vata. By going on a vata soothing diet when vata is aggravated, or vata is accumulating too much in the body and in the mind, we can calm down the vata in the body, give the body a chance to get rid of that accumulated dosha excess, and get the body back into balance. Similarly, since vata dosha has to do with air and ether, and is cold and dry, if you stood outside in a cold, dry wind all day, you're going to increase your vata. So our lifestyle choices are also very important in regulating our exposure to vata, pitta, and kapha. If we have too much vata in our system, then it's best to avoid activities that are going to increase that vata even more. We've already reached a point where our srotas and our marmas cannot handle the amount of vata that is being pushed through, and vata thus is being blocked and accumulating behind those blockages, so it only makes sense that we should avoid aggravating that problem by exposing ourselves to the things that will increase that vata even more.

The other major way, then, we can help balance our doshas when they go out of balance, and unfortunately it is a way that is not practiced nearly as much as the first method I just described--the second method is to help the marmas and help the srotas open more efficiently to allow that excess dosha to flow through so normal balance can once again be attained. This stimulation and opening of the marmas and the srotas to help balance the physiology can be accomplished through massage. It can be accomplished through certain breathing exercises, and it can also be accomplished through the taking of particular herbs. As I say, this particular approach to balancing the doshas is much less common and much more difficult to find. It's much more difficult to find a practitioner who will balance the doshas in this manner, but in many ways it can be considered more powerful and more efficient than simply altering one's lifestyle, or altering one's diet, so as to decrease the amount of exposure to the dosha that is in excess and is creating the imbalance or the disease within our body or within our mind.

All right, I would like to interject here a few comments regarding the Ayurvedic diets. These should be up on the website at thekeytoitall.com as tables, but because of the limitations of the epub format I will reproduce them here as separate columns rather than tables with columns. There is one diet for each dosha--vata, pitta, and kapha. Now traditionally in Ayurveda it is said that vata imbalances occur twice as often as pitta imbalances, and pitta imbalances occur twice as often as kapha imbalances. So that gives us a ratio of four to two to one for vata vs. pitta vs. kapha. In my experience, though, since we live in such a vata-deranged society, for reasons we've gone over to some extent and will continue to go over, I've found the number of vata imbalances to be much greater than the two to one or four to one ratio that is traditionally taught. As a general rule in Ayurveda, however, the dosha that is causing the most significant symptoms is usually the dosha targeted first by the diet choice. But your mileage may vary. These diets are not carved in stone. It's not absolutely always that way. For example some people may have lots of kapha symptoms--they may have heaviness, dullness, and lots of phlegm, excess fluid--but surprisingly sometimes a vata-soothing diet will bring about much better results than a kapha-reducing diet. One last point I'd like to make about the diets is that even when a diet seems to be working in an individual, that individual's response to the diet may vary from what's on any given list. For example, somebody might be doing great on an anti-vata diet, but for some reason when they eat brown rice, which by most people's accounts should be perfectly ok for vata, it makes them sick. It aggravates their vata. So there are individual variations--that's basically my point. What is presented in these lists, in these diets, are general trends found to be true for most people.

AYURVEDIC VATA SOOTHING DIET

Please note this list is a general guideline and results may vary depending on season, the strength of one's digestion and how the particular food is prepared, among other factors. Food choices that vary greatly from person to person have been placed in the "MAYBE" column.



Yes

Maybe

No

Fruits

Apples (cooked)
Apricots
Avocado
Bananas
Berries
Cherries
Coconut
Dates (fresh or soaked)
Figs (fresh or soaked)
Grapes
Grapefruit
Kiwi
Lemon
Lime
Mango
Melons
Orange
Peaches
Papaya
Pineapple
Plums
Raisins
Rhubarb
Strawberries

Dates (dried)
Figs (dried)
Prunes

Apples (raw)
Cranberries
Pears
Persimmons
Pomegranate
Watermelon

Vegetables

Artichoke
Asparagus
Beets
Carrots
Chilis
Cucumbers
Green Beans
Leeks
Okra
Olives
Onions (cooked)
Parsnips
Pumpkins
Radishes
Rutabagas
Shallots
Squash
Sweet Potatoes
Turnips
Zucchini

Corn, fresh
Daikon Radish
Jerusalem Artichoke
Lettuce
Peas, fresh
Tomato sauce, cooked

Bitter Melon
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery
Corn
Eggplant
Kale
Kohlrabi
Mushrooms
Onions (raw)
Peas
Potatoes
Spinach
Tomatoes

Animal Foods

Beef
Buffalo (Bison)
Chicken
Duck
Eggs
Fish
Goat
Seafood
Turkey

Chicken, white meat

Lamb
Pork
Rabbit
Venison

Grains

Oats (cooked)
Rice
Wheat

Wheat Bread

Barley
Buckwheat
Corn
Dry cereals
Millet
Oats (dry)
Rye

Legumes

Mung Beans
Tofu

Aduki Beans
Lentils
Miso
Soy "Meats"
Soy milk
Soy sauce

Black Beans
Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas)
Kidney Beans
Lima Beans
Navy Beans
Pinto Beans
Soybeans

Nuts

Almonds
Brazil Nut
Cashew
Coconut
Filberts
Macadamia Nut
Pecan
Pine Nut
Pistachio
Walnut

Peanuts, raw

None

Seeds

Flax
Pumpkin
Sesame
Sunflower

Psyllium

None

Sweeteners

Barley Malt
Brown Sugar
Fructose
Honey
Maple Syrup
Molasses
Raw Sugar

None

White (refined) Sugar

Dairy

Butter
Buttermilk
Cheese
Cottage Cheese (may cause gas)
Cow's Milk
Ghee
Goat's Milk
Ice Cream
Sour Cream
Yogurt

None

Milk, powdered

Oils

Almond
Avocado
Coconut
Olive
Sesame
Sunflower
Walnut

Safflower

Canola
Corn
Flax
Soy (including Margarine)

Misc

Basil
Black Pepper
Cardamom
Cilantro
Cloves
Cumin
Fennel
Ginger
Lemon Peel
Mayonnaise
Mustard
Nutmeg
Orange Peel
Pickles
Salt
Turmeric
Vinegar

Alcohol (small amount)
Chocolate (small amount)
Coriander
Green Tea
Mint (small amount)

Coffee
Ketchup
Tea
Yeast

AYURVEDIC PITTA SOOTHING DIET

Please note this list is a general guideline and results may vary depending on season, the strength of one's digestion and how the particular food is prepared, among other factors. Food choices that vary greatly from person to person have been placed in the "MAYBE" column.



Yes

Maybe

No

Fruits

Apples
Avocado
Coconut
Dates
Figs
Grapes, red or purple
Mango
Melons
Orange
Pears
Persimmon
Pineapple, sweet
Plums
Pomegranate
Raisins
Raspberries
Watermelon

Kiwi

Apricots
Bananas
Berries
Cherries
Cranberries
Grapes, green
Grapefruit
Lemon
Lime
Peaches
Papayas
Pineapple, sour
Rhubarb
Strawberries

Vegetables

Acorn Squash
Artichoke
Asparagus
Bell Peppers
Bitter Melon
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery
Corn, fresh
Cucumbers
Green Beans
Jerusalem Artichoke
Kale
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Okra
Parsnips
Peas
Potatoes
Rutabagas
Sweet Potatoes
Turnips
Yellow Crookneck Squash
Zucchini

Carrots, cooked

Beets
Carrots, raw
Chilis
Daikon Radish
Eggplant
Kohlrabi
Olives
Onions
Pumpkin
Radishes
Shallots
Spaghetti Squash
Spinach
Tomatoes

Animal Foods

Chicken, white meat
Goat
Egg whites
Rabbit
Shrimp
Turkey, white meat
Venison

Fish, freshwater

Beef
Buffalo (Bison)
Chicken, dark meat
Duck
Egg yolks
Fish
Lamb
Pork
Seafood (generally)
Turkey, dark meat

Grains

Barley
Oats, cooked
Rice, basmati
Rice, white
Wheat

None

Buckwheat
Corn
Millet
Oats, dry
Rice, brown
Rye

Legumes

Aduki Beans
Black Beans
Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas)
Kidney Beans
Lima Beans
Mung Beans
Navy Beans
Pinto Beans
Soybeans
Tofu

Soy cheese
Soy flour

Lentils
Soy "Meats"

Nuts

Almond Butter, smooth
Coconut

Almonds, soaked

Almond Butter, crunchy
Almonds
Brazil nuts
Cashews
Filberts
Macadamia Nut
Peanut
Pecan
Pine Nut
Pistachio

Seeds

Psyllium
Sunflower

Pumpkin

Flax
Sesame

Sweeteners

Honey, fresh
Maple Syrup
Raw Sugar
White Sugar (refined)

Fructose

Brown Sugar
Honey, old
Molasses

Dairy

Butter, unsalted
Cheese, no salt added
Cottage Cheese
Cow's Milk
Ghee
Goat's Milk
Ice Cream
Yogurt, fresh

Soft Cheeses

Butter, salted
Buttermilk
Cheese (generally)
Sour Cream
Yogurt

Oils

Avocado
Canola
Coconut
Olive
Soy
Sunflower
Walnut

None

Almond
Corn
Margarine
Safflower
Sesame

Misc

Cardamom
Cilantro
Coriander
Cumin
Fennel
Lemon Peel
Mint
Yeast

Black Pepper
Ginger
Green Tea
Turmeric

Alcohol
Basil
Chocolate
Cloves
Coffee
Ketchup
Mayonnaise
Mustard
Nutmeg
Orange Peel
Pickles
Salt
Tea
Vinegar

AYURVEDIC KAPHA SOOTHING DIET

Please note this list is a general guideline and results may vary depending on season, the strength of one's digestion and how the particular food is prepared, among other factors. Food choices that vary greatly from person to person have been placed in the "MAYBE" column.


YES
MAYBE
NO

FRUITS

Apples
Apricots
Berries
Cherries
Cranberries
Figs, dried
Mango
Pears
Persimmon
Pomegranate
Prunes
Raisins

Lemons
Limes
Peaches
Strawberries

Avocado
Bananas
Coconut
Dates
Grapes
Grapefruit
Kiwi
Melons
Orange
Papaya
Pineapple
Plums
Rhubarb
Watermelon

VEGETABLES

Artichoke
Asparagus
Beets
Bitter Melon
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Chilis
Corn
Daikon Radish
Green Beans
Jerusalem Artichoke
Kale
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Okra
Onions
Peas
Potatoes
Radishes
Shallots
Spinach
Turnips
Yellow Crookneck Squash

Bell Peppers
Eggplant
Rutabagas
Zucchini

Acorn Squash
Butternut Squash
Cucumbers
Olives
Parsnips
Peanuts
Pumpkins
Spaghetti Squash
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes

ANIMAL FOODS

Chicken (white meat)
Eggs
Goat
Rabbit
Shrimp
Turkey (white meat)

Chicken (dark meat)
Turkey (dark meat)
Venison

Beef
Buffalo (Bison)
Duck
Fish
Lamb
Pork
Seafood

GRAINS

Barley
Buckwheat
Corn
Millet
Oats, dry
Rice cakes
Rye

Rice, basmati

Oats, cooked
Rice, brown
Rice, white
Wheat

LEGUMES

Aduki Beans
Black Beans
Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas)
Lima Beans
Navy Beans
Pinto Beans
Soy Milk
Tofu, cooked

Mung Beans
Lentils

Kidney Beans
Soybeans
Tofu, cold
Miso

NUTS

Almond Butter, smooth, in moderation

Almonds, peeled and soaked

Almond Butter, crunchy
Almonds
Brazil
Cashew
Coconut
Filberts
Macadamia Nut
Peanuts
Pecan
Pine Nut
Pistachio
Walnuts

SEEDS

Pumpkin
Sunflower

Flax

Sesame

SWEETENERS

Honey


Barley Malt
Brown Sugar
Fructose
Maple Syrup
Molasses
Raw Sugar
White Sugar (refined)

DAIRY

Ghee
Goat's Milk

Buttermilk

Butter
Cheese
Cow's Milk
Cottage Cheese
Ice Cream
Sour Cream
Yogurt

OILS

Canola
Corn
Sunflower

Almond
Olive

Avocado
Coconut
Margarine
Safflower
Sesame
Soy
Walnut

MISC.

Alcohol
Basil
Black Pepper
Cardamom
Cilantro
Cloves
Coriander
Cumin
Fennel
Ginger
Lemon Peel
Mint
Mustard
Nutmeg
Orange Peel
Tea
Turmeric
Vinegar
Yeast

Coffee

Alcohol (in excess)
Chocolate
Ketchup
Mayonnaise
Pickles
Salt

One method of opening up the srotas and the marmas through massage is precisely the type of exercises that were used by psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich in his body-oriented psychotherapy. We will get to that in much more depth in one of the later lessons. For right now, lets cover the subdoshas of vata, because it is important to understand how that works if one is going to make an assessment on one's own health and balance on a day-to-day basis. Now each of the doshas, vata, pitta, and kapha--have traditionally five subdoshas attached to them. We're only going to go over in any great detail the subdoshas of vata in this lesson. The subdoshas of vata are traditionally given in the following order: There's prana vata, udana vata, samana vata, apana vata, and vyana vata. We're going to save prana vata for last because it is distinctly different from the other four types of vata subdoshas, and you'll see in a minute why it's different and why I'd like to save it till the end.

Now, the last four subdoshas of vata--udana, samana, apana, and vyana--can best be understood if we think of the functioning of our body as a series of tubes and a series of hollow spheres. For example, our heart could be considered a hollow sphere. Our stomach could be considered a hollow sphere. Our brain could be considered a hollow sphere. On the other hand, our aorta, or our blood vessels in general, would be more like tubes. Our bones, our long bones, are shaped like tubes. Our nerves are shaped like tubes. So to understand these subdoshas of vata I'm going to be describing the movement, the direction of the movement within a tube or a hollow sphere. Now, udana vata, which is actually one of the very important subdoshas of vata, and is very often out of balance, almost as much as apana vata--that is also another subdosha that is very commonly out of balance in people these days--udana vata is said to exist mainly in the throat, in the chest, and in the diaphragm. Udana vata moves toward the head end of the body. For example, if somebody vomits, that is udana vata. The movement through the esophagus is going from the middle of the body toward the head end of the body. Any movement, then, that goes in that same fashion would be associated with udana. For example, if you burp, that's udana. If you cough, that's udana. Talking, I would also consider to be udana. Exhaling in general is udana.

The next subdosha, which is samana, is traditionally said to be located in the small intestine. Some sources will also say it is located in the stomach, but mainly it's in the digestive area. Samana, if thought of as energy within a tube, or in a hollow sphere--samana is that movement which goes from the inside of the tube or the inside of the hollow sphere toward the outside of the hollow sphere or the outside of the tube. But samana, for example, is said to help regulate the absorption of nutrients during the digestive process. We can see that in this instance nutrients and water are pulled into the body by going from the inside of that tube, the small intestine, or the hollow sphere, which is the stomach, through the wall of that tube or that hollow sphere and into the bloodstream. So the movement for samana is from the inside of the tube or hollow sphere to the outside of the tube or the hollow sphere. Some books will tell you that samana is that energy which moves the food along the intestines from the middle of the body down toward the end of the body, the tail end of the body. I would consider this to be more a function of apana, which we will get to, rather than samana. Samana is more concerned with the absorption movement. Another role that is sometimes mentioned for samana vata is the absorption of oxygen in the lungs, from the lungs into the body. Once again we see that the movement is from within the tube to the outside of the tube, in this case the tube being the bronchioles. And you could also say that the alveoli are hollow spheres that the air, the oxygen, is moving from inside the hollow sphere to the outside of the hollow sphere. Samana, because it is so closely linked to digestion, is often associated with the digestive fire, agni, but it is distinct from it. We'll get more into agni later.

The next subdosha of vata is apana vata. This is very, very commonly out-of-balance in most people. Apana vata is that movement which is going from the middle of the body to the tail end of the body. In other words it is a movement along a tube from the middle to the tail end, or you could even say from the head end to the tail end in that it is going in that direction. So a number of functions are required for apana. For example, having a bowel movement is apana. Urinating is apana. When a man ejaculates during sex, that is apana. When a woman gives birth to a baby, that is apana. Because of these functions apana is said mainly to occur in the colon and in the pelvis, and when it is imbalanced it causes problems mostly in these areas.

The next subdosha of vata is vyana. Now vyana, if you read some books, or listen to some Ayurvedic doctors, they will tell you vyana is located all over the body, but in most books vyana is said to occur primarily in the heart. Vyana is said to govern the circulation of the blood, the heart rhythm, and blood pressure especially. The movement for vyana vata is opposite the movement for samana vata. As we saw with samana, the movement was from the inside of the tube or the hollow sphere to the outside. With vyana vata, it is the movement from the outside of the hollow sphere or the tube to the inside. So there is a contraction of the hollow sphere or the tube. And you can see that as the heart beats, it is contracting. This is movement of vyana vata. When people get high blood pressure the arteries are contracting to the point that there is too much pressure needed to push the blood through the arteries. Now this can also be because buildups of cholesterol on the walls of the arteries--that's another cause of high blood pressure. It makes it more difficult to push the blood through the blood vessels. But the vyana vata component of that is the contraction of the artery itself, narrowing the blood vessel and causing the need for more pressure to push the blood through the artery to all parts of the body where it is needed.

Alright, lastly, lets discuss prana vata. Now prana vata is usually listed first among the subdoshas of vata. Just as vata is said to rule over the other doshas, pitta and kapha--if you keep vata dosha in balance pitta and kapha cannot go out of balance--in that same way prana vata is said to rule over the other subdoshas of vata. So if you keep prana vata in balance those other subdoshas can not go out of balance, and if you keep all your vata subdoshas in balance, vata is in balance, and the other doshas cannot go out of balance, and you stay in good health. Prana vata is probably the least well described subdosha of vata in traditional Ayurveda, and I think that is mainly because it has such a strong psychological component. From what I have been taught, the parts of the Ayurvedic texts that dealt with psychology and dealt with psychiatric medicine have essentially all been destroyed many, many centuries ago. So there might have been at one time a very advanced and sophisticated theory of psychology and psychiatry that is a part of Ayurveda, but those works have apparently been lost. The only references to the psychiatric and psychological aspects within Ayurveda are from general medical Ayurvedic texts, and surgical Ayurvedic texts. As I say from what I have been taught the writings that deal specifically with psychology and psychiatric medicine were destroyed many, many centuries ago during wars fought between India and the Middle East.

Now prana vata is traditionally said to be located in the brain. Some sources will say it's also located in the heart or in the chest, but most of the sources that you see will locate it in the brain. It is primarily responsible for our perceptions, our ability to sense things in our environment. That would be in our external, Sat environment, as well as our internal, Chit environment. It's especially important for us to understand how prana vata becomes imbalanced since prana vata is so closely associated with the mind, and as we mentioned in the first lesson, our soul, according to all sorts of authorities from the ancient East as well as from the ancient West indicate that the mind is one component of the soul--the other component, of course being the life energy. Prana is of course the life energy. So prana is especially important to the hygiene of our souls.

So how does prana vata in a mental sense become imbalanced? In order to understand that we first have to go into the structure of the human mind. We'll go into that briefly right now, and we will be going much more in depth into that area during the next lesson. The human mind has a conscious component and an unconscious component. Now lately in science and in mainstream psychology there's been a great effort to negate all the science over the past century relating to the function of the unconscious mind. This does not mean that the unconscious does not exist, although there are scientists who would like to abolish the concept altogether. From an Ayurvedic perspective, and looking at how the mind works we can see very easily, though, how prana vata gets aggravated. We said previously with regard to the other subdoshas of vata that the way vata gets aggravated is that there is some sort of pathological contraction in the srotas and in the marmas, and this blocks the vata from flowing through those channels, and vata therefore accumulates behind those blockages that are formed from that contraction. Our mind, our conscious mind, has in fact a very limited channel through which conscious thoughts can flow.

Back in the 1950s there were studies done that showed quite conclusively that the maximum amount of information, the maximum number of bits of information that the conscious human mind can handle at any given instant is seven plus or minus two—7plusorminus2. That is to say, the experiments that were done initially, if I am remembering correctly, were flashing a series of numbers on a screen for a split second, and seeing how many of those numbers a person could remember. What was found was that on average the person could remember about seven numbers, and not much more than that, and generally not much less than that. If somebody was having a particularly bad day, then perhaps they would only get five of the numbers correct. If someone was having a particularly good day, they might get up to eight or nine numbers correct when able to be exposed to that stimuli for a split second. The average, though, was seven. And you can see this in your own mind if you try the experiment yourself. Look at a series of numbers or letters. See how many you can remember just glancing at it for a split second.

Now there are those out there--and I've read articles on this which are really ridiculous--but there are psychologists out there who claim that the concept of the 7plusorminus2 slots or tracks within the human consciousness is a ridiculous concept, and there's really nothing to back it up, when in fact it's one of the easiest things to prove. And you can prove it to yourself by doing the simple experiment as I've described. The articles that I've read have really misstated what the 7plusorminus2 is, claiming it is related to short term memory. These slots or these tracks within our conscious mind have nothing to do whatsoever with short-term memory. Short-term memory has to do with seconds to minutes of memory. For example, if something is handed to us for a moment and then taken away, five minutes later will we remember what that object was? That's short-term memory--or two minutes later will we remember what that object was? That's short-term memory. The 7plusorminus2 concept that I just described to you, that we have a limited number of tracks or slots in which to put a particular bit of information only occurs in the instant--at any given instant. The older term in psychology was immediate memory, or chemical memory was another term that was used. I'm not sure these days what terms are being used for this at all because it's probably not discussed in most psychology courses. But all the articles that I've seen trying to put down the concept of these 7plusorminus2 tracks--that that is the limit of human consciousness--claim that it has something to do with short-term memory. It does not. It only has to do with what can we remember, what can we perceive in any given instant.

Just as in the physical sense there's only so much vata that can be pushed through a channel in the physical body, there is also only so much vata that can be pushed through our consciousness without causing a disturbance in our vata. Let me take a step back and try to be even more clear about what I am saying. We have a capacity to handle approximately 7plusorminus2 bits of conscious information at any given instant. We're always getting more than seven bits of information at any given instant, even when we're sleeping. When we consistently try to push our conscious mind to go beyond that limit that we can comfortably handle, to go beyond what we are able to assimilate, then our prana vata becomes aggravated, and we're less efficient in our thinking. Our 7plusorminus2 becomes more blocked, and we are really not able to handle on an ongoing basis, instant by instant by instant as we move through time, the stimuli that are being presented to us in an efficient way, because we're trying to take on more than our conscious mind can naturally handle.

This is something that can be corrected fairly easily through our behavior. However, most people don't have control over their behavior. Usually, their behavior is regulated by other people. And this goes back to our discussion in the first lesson about why money is so important. People are usually forced to push the limits of their conscious mind beyond what is healthy in maintaining a healthy dose of prana vata. We are pushed beyond that and accumulate excess prana vata. Since most people have to work for a living, this puts them between a rock and a hard place. Do they work for a living, even knowing that that work they are doing is pushing beyond their human limits and is in fact making them ill? Or do they stop working, not have enough money to pay the bills, and face those consequences? Neither choice is a good choice. We can easily see that we live in a society that is extremely unhealthy for our souls in the sense that most people are forced against their will to make themselves unhealthy by pushing their conscious mind beyond its limits, thus aggravating prana vata and opening the door to all sorts of mental and physical imbalances. Remember, if we can keep prana vata in balance, prana vata rules all the other subdoshas of vata, and vata rules the other doshas, pitta and kapha. So, by imbalancing this one subdosha, this opens the door to all sorts of disease processes in our life. If we can keep this subdosha in balance, it brings back into balance all our physiological functions.

I'd like to clarify one thing at this point. I don't want anybody thinking that I'm saying or even implying that work is somehow a bad thing or that we should avoid work because it can unbalance our doshas. What I am saying is that depending upon what a person's work duties are, work can quickly lead to an imbalance of prana vata subdosha when those duties require a person to consistently overload the 7plusorminus2 consciousness slots. There are jobs that are done at such a pace that the 7plusorminus2 doesn't become imbalanced, but those kinds of jobs tend to be rare these days. There are some types of work, of course, that may necessitate at least a temporary overwhelming of the 7plusorminus2, and this overwhelming simply can't be avoided. But even in those types of jobs there can be built into the work schedule adequate time for rest and rebalancing of prana vata subdosha. Nowadays, though, most people have no idea how unhealthy the pace is at most jobs, and they have no idea that working at such a rapid pace without adequate breaks for rest--not only a break for the body, but more importantly time for the mind to rest, specifically the conscious part of the mind--people don't realize how seriously damaging this is to their health over the long term. So I'm not saying that we shouldn't work, or that we shouldn't work hard, but I am saying that there really is no need for us to create disease in the process. And that is so common today that most people don't realize how they are destroying their health by the work that they do.

In the next lesson we will go much more into depth into the ramifications of this aggravation of prana vata. We will go much more into depth into how this 7plusorminus2-capacity consciousness that we have is related to our unconscious, and how that is related to what is commonly called "trance," although we are going to define trance in a somewhat different way than it is normally defined. I know this can be a confusing point for some people, so let me explain this concept--this concept of the link between how we use our conscious mind and how that can aggravate prana vata--let me explain that in a somewhat different way to help people understand better exactly what I'm talking about. We talked previously about srotas and marmas, and we talked about them, about the srotas being the channels through which life energy flows, and the marmas being kind of analogous to acupuncture points. They tend to vibrate, they tend to open and close and allow life energy to flow through them. In yoga, a concept that is often talked about is the chakras. And the chakras are seen as these circular energy areas that go from the top to the bottom or from the bottom to the top, however you want to look at it, of the body. These are considered main marma points, and one of those main marma points is of course in the area of the brain, and it is commonly referred to as the brow chakra, and it is a marma point.

As we consciously think, as we consciously fill our 7plusorminus2 slots with ideas, conscious ideas, we are in a sense contracting that marma. We are restricting to some extent flow of life energy through that marma. The life energy can flow much more freely through that marma if we completely empty our 7plusorminus2, if we have no conscious ideas within there at all. And this is the goal of many types of meditation. For example, meditations in which people sit quietly with their eyes closed and repeat a mantra over and over and over again--and it's been shown that it doesn't have to be an ancient Sanskrit word, it doesn't have to be any kind of holy or divine or supernaturally imbued word--it can be any word that's repeated over and over and over again. And a response will occur within the body and within the mind in which the body will become extremely relaxed, and the mind will be emptied of any ideas, any conscious ideas within that 7plusorminus2 limit that we have on our conscious thoughts.

Back in the sixties or early seventies there was a book written called The Relaxation Response--and for those who want more background on the scientific study of this particular process, you can read that book--the author was Herbert Benson, who is an M.D. Dr. Benson actually posts on the internet the procedure that he came up with for eliciting this response, and we'll see if we can put a link to this on thekeytoitall.com. Dr. Benson gives, as I recall, six steps to follow to get into this mental state, but in my opinion all six steps are really not necessary to achieve that mental state. I would agree with Benson on several points, though. For example I would agree that it's better if you have your eyes closed and are in a position where if you fell asleep, you would be ok. So, for example, you don't want to do this while you are standing up, or you don't want to do this while sitting on a stool. I would also agree with Dr. Benson that it's better if as you are repeating the word you have chosen--and you're repeating that word mentally over and over again--as your internal dialogue tries to compete with that word you're repeating, for example when extraneous thoughts tend to come in an disrupt that mental repetition of that word, you should calmly ignore those interruptions as best you can and focus on the word you are repeating. But don't try to force anything--just a gentle return to the word you're repeating when you notice the internal dialogue creeping in. And by internal dialogue I mean any idea that pops into your consciousness, into those 7plusorminus2 consciousness slots. It could be a picture, a sound, or even a physical sensation. Now, where I would to some degree disagree with Dr. Benson is that he lists as one of his steps synchronizing your breath with the word you are repeating mentally. If I'm remembering correctly I think he says that after each exhalation, that's when the word should be repeated. Every breath should correspond with one mental repetition. I think for most people that's not necessary, but if it turns out for some people that it's helpful, that's perfectly fine. I do agree with Dr. Benson in that when you are breathing, generally you should breathe through your nose, not your mouth.

So the essential factors, as far as I am concerned, to attain this heightened, relaxed state include sitting or lying in a quiet setting--I think sitting is better than lying. Your eyes should be closed, and you should mentally repeat over and over a word that you have chosen. And while some people think that certain words work better than others, as I mentioned previously, Dr. Benson found that this really doesn't seem to matter as much as some people would claim, as long as the word is just repeated calmly over and over mentally. Basically this procedure is a way of slowing down the brainwaves, and in a normal waking state, we are in what's called a beta state, and your brainwaves as you practice this procedure, your brainwaves tend to slow down, perhaps into an alpha state or even a theta state. Now I'm not going to go into defining these different states in this lesson, but we will be discussing brainwaves in more detail and how they are affected by meditation in later lessons. And I should add that there are simple technologies also that can be used to very effectively manipulate the brainwaves and to bring someone into a meditative state, a relaxed meditative state, even without repeating a word mentally over and over again. So if we have time in the later lessons we might discuss that as well.

In any event, the point I'm making is that when we fill those 7plusorminus2 slots with conscious ideas, we are in a sense contracting the marma that is there. We are restricting, then, the flow of life energy through that part of our body by filling those slots in our mind with conscious ideas. When we overload the number of ideas that we can fit into those slots over any given time, we can aggravate prana vata that way. There is a limit in each of us as to how many conscious ideas we can fit in our consciousness over time. A person with an I.Q. of 170 will probably be able to fit a lot more ideas inside that 7plusorminus2 limited slots, than somebody with an I.Q. of 100 over, say, a two minute time period. So it's not identical for every single person. It depends on a number of factors, one of them being intelligence. However, everybody has a limit beyond which they cannot go without aggravating prana vata. And this is probably the most common cause of aggravation of prana vata and therefore probably the most common cause of the creation of disease in general. Because as we mentioned previously, vata rules all the other doshas. Vata rules over pitta and kapha. Also, within vata, the subdoshas within vata, prana vata rules over all of them. So if we can keep prana vata in balance, keep it from going out of balance, we can keep all the other doshas and subdoshas in balance. That's why it's so vital to understand how prana vata becomes imbalanced and take steps in our lives to keep it from becoming imbalanced. And that may be easier said than done, especially in the society in which we live, in which we are constantly overloading our conscious mind, we are constantly overloading those 7plusorminus2 consciousness slots to the point that virtually everybody in modern society has an aggravated prana vata subdosha as a result.

Now, one final area I'd like to go over before we move on to the next lesson, and in the next lesson we will be going much more deeply into how the mind is structured, how the mind works, and what steps we need to take to keep our mind from overloading, our consciousness from overloading and pushing us into a prana vata aggravation or imbalance, which leads to the whole disease process. And that concept I'd like to go over now is the concept of the gunas--G-U-N-A is guna. Now previously we mentioned that gunas can also refer to the attributes or the qualities of the different doshas, and we went over some of those. For example, vata was dry and cold, and pitta was hot and wet, and kapha was cold and wet--those are called gunas. But another definition for the term guna has to do with the mental or mind doshas, as well as a concept of something called "sattva." Now, the three gunas, as we're using the term now are sattva, rajas, and tamas. Now sattva, strictly speaking, is not a dosha because you really don't create disease by increasing it. You really can't increase sattva too much. It doesn't hurt you to continually increase sattva. So what is sattva? Simply put, sattva is clarity of thought. It is the clearness by which we think. And it is cultivated through balancing rajas and tamas.

Now rajas is activity. Rajas is action. Tamas, on the other hand, is often translated as "inertia." I would prefer people to look at it as a slowing-down or a resting. Therefore you can see that within our minds we need to have a balance between times when our mind is very active--for example during the day when we are working, we are concentrating, we are having to pay attention to things that are happening in our external world. We have to balance out that activity with periods of resting our mind, of slowing down our mind, and emptying that 7plusorminus2 consciousness part of our mind, and to give our mind adequate rest. Of course rajas and tamas are also considered doshas. They can become aggravated. They can become imbalanced and also lead to disease. If we constantly have activity in our mind that is unceasing and never-ending, that of course stimulates our 7plusorminus2 too much, and as we just discussed a little while ago, that aggravates our prana vata and leads to who knows what kinds of diseases. It can lead to anything. So we can get too much rajas.

In the same way we can also get too much tamas. We can be lethargic. We can never use our conscious mind. We can sit around and vegetate all day long and never get anything done, and this also leads to imbalance. Now in our society a rajasic imbalance is much, much more common than a tamasic imbalance. In other cultures in the world, a tamasic imbalance may be much more likely. But in our particular culture our problem tends to be that we become too active with our mind and don't allow enough time for our mind to rest. And I'm not only talking about meditation, or just sitting quietly and contemplating and unwinding at the end of a busy day, although those are things that will help balance out the rajas with the tamas--but also sleep. Sleep is also something that is extremely important and is a period of time every day that we need to have an adequate amount of tamas to balance out the rajasic aspects of our mind during the day. Very well, so that gives you the basics of that concept and shows you that there are in reality five doshas in Ayurveda, although in most textbooks the three dosha theory, or tridosha theory will be the one that will be discussed most commonly. That only refers to the physical part of the doshas, however, although we have shown that prana vata is that connecting link between the physical doshas and the mental doshas. And we've also shown exactly how prana vata becomes imbalanced through ill-conceived and ill-advised overloading of the conscious mind, of the 7plusorminus2 consciousness slots. Alright, so that's enough for this lesson. Next lesson we will be going over in more detail how the mind works, since the mind, as we saw from lesson one, is a vital part of the soul, and how to help keep the mind, and thus the soul, in balance and keep the soul healthy and working properly.

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