Ayurvedic Balancing: An Integration of Western Fitness with Eastern Wellness


Discover Ayurveda, the ancient holistic health system from India. Ayurveda is not just about treating sickness, but rather, emphasizes preventing disease and enhancing health, longevity, and vitality. It is a complete way of life, based on balance and harmony with nature.

Ayurvedic Balancing offers a simple, but not simplistic, approach to integrating these Eastern wellness principles into a Western fitness lifestyle. It's simple because it focuses on concepts, rather than ...

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Discover Ayurveda, the ancient holistic health system from India. Ayurveda is not just about treating sickness, but rather, emphasizes preventing disease and enhancing health, longevity, and vitality. It is a complete way of life, based on balance and harmony with nature.

Ayurvedic Balancing offers a simple, but not simplistic, approach to integrating these Eastern wellness principles into a Western fitness lifestyle. It's simple because it focuses on concepts, rather than complicated detail, and breaks the process into practical steps. It discusses the psychology behind fitness imbalances and provides effective ways to reduce mental/emotional and physical hunger and enjoy constructive, lasting change.

Fitness professional Joyce Bueker shows you how to:

·Determine which mind-body type predominates in your constitution
·Learn about the six tastes and their influence on lifestyle
·Learn Ayurvedic cooking with recipes that nourish and satisfy
·Identify and achieve healthful goals
·Reduce stress through meditation and guided imagery
·Use exercise to shift your body from fat-storing to fat-burning

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738701882
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2002
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Bueker, M.A. (California) competed nationally as an amateur bodybuilder. Her eighteen years of experience in the fitness industry include personal training, Yoga instruction, and management. She has a Master's degree in Modern Social History from Lancaster, England, and teaches workshops on weight management and developing a healthy lifestyle.
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When trying to understand why we are the way we are, particularly in conjunction with an active desire to work with weight, stress, and personal growth issues, it is useful to have a definition of balance as a starting place for our inquiry. In the study of Ayurveda [i-yur-VAY-da], the sister science to Yoga whose literal translation means "life science," the definition of balance is universal in nature, containing common elements that are inclusive of all mind and body types; it is personal in nature, individualized to fit the unique attributes of each individual. This definition allows us to relate to characteristics everyone carries, as well as our own views of ourselves.

Often when we are under stress, or are continually displeased with our bodies, when we view ourselves as "less than on top of our game," we examine our less constructive tendencies too harshly. The concept of balance allows us to step back from our passions and see ourselves more objectively, and so more clearly see the thoughts and actions that combine to make up our distinct selves. As we learn more about the common tendencies within these mind-body types, we may then discover how these tendencies relate to our individual situations and conditions. Understanding our tendencies lets us examine those aspects of ourselves that keep us in balance and allows us less judgmental, more creative ways to view and address the causes of imbalance.

According to Ayurveda, everyone is made up of the same elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth), and personal differences stem from the unique combinations of these elements in varying amounts as they manifest in physiological, mental, and emotional patterns. These elements combine to form three main mind-body types, or doshas:

Vata [VAH-tah]
Airy and ethereal (manifesting as movement, breath, consciousness)

Pitta [PIT-tah]
Fire and water (manifesting as metabolism, vitality, perception)

Kapha [KAH-fah]
n Water and earth (manifesting as bodily tissue, evenness, patience)

We all have these qualities in various and unique proportions, which make up our constitution or Prakruti, and usually two of the three types predominate, such as Vata/Pitta, Vata/Kapha, Pitta/Vata, Pitta/Kapha, Kapha/Vata, or Kapha/Pitta. In a balanced state, it is rare for a person to have a single predominating mind-body type or all three equally. However, a person can be in an aggravated condition and currently be overinfluenced by one category. In most cases, a person will have one mind-body type that will tend to be a predominate influence on physiology, thoughts, or emotions followed by a secondary type that, to a lesser degree, also manifests. The remaining mind-body type is also present but influences the person to an even lesser degree.

A good starting place for finding balance is recognizing andunderstanding both the nurturing and the disruptive qualities of your mind-body type, so you may increase and engage your positive, more constructive qualities to assist you in reaching your goals. Determining your mind-body type may be confusing at first, since sometimes you may identify with one grouping of characteristics, and at other times another. The more you begin to explore the combination of mind-body characteristics that creates your constitution, however, the more you will begin to learn which categories predominate and influence you most.

As you begin to identify characteristics specific to your constitution, you may also begin to notice similarities between yourself and life around you. In Ayurveda, not only are human aspects comprised of the five elements, but all aspects of life come from at least one of the five elements. It is helpful to look at these qualities from a broader perspective, and engage the imagination (and sense of humor!) while doing so. Looking at Ayurveda from a more metaphorical perspective will allow you to see a broader connection with life around you, while simultaneously gaining benefit from your introspection. In a mature Ayurvedic practice, a person can begin to feel in sync internally as well as externally with the surrounding environment. In this way, your sense of "feeling centered" has less likelihood of being disrupted by outside events; they are allowed in, but not blindly, maintaining your feelings of balance.

Table 1 (see page 6) describes the three main mind-body types in a worksheet format.* As you become more familiar with these terms and their qualities, you will begin to see how these attributes have shaped who you are, on physical, emotional, and mental levels. You may also gain insight into the constitutions and tendencies of those people around you. To determine your predominate mind-body category, put a checkmark in front of each line of characteristics (in each column) that best describes you when you are in a peaceful, healthy state, or perhaps the way you were as a child. Sometimes these characteristics may differ from your current condition, which is a clue to a potential source of irritation or imbalance.

If you are not sure if an aspect is your "true" nature but rather a response to an imbalance, indicate what is currently true for you. Count the checkmarks in each column, and add up your totals. The column with the greatest number of attributes marked is your primary mind-body type, and the column with the second greatest number of attributes marked is your secondary mind-body type, or dosha. As you become more familiar with your characteristics, your initial vision of your mind-body type may change, much like layers of an onion peeled back to expose a core. It's all a part of the self-discovery process, which may be frustrating as you first begin to gather information, but rewarding as insight comes.

The Psychology of the Doshas Now that you have begun to get an idea of your particular constitution, let's take a look at each dosha from a broader perspective.

Vata is a combination of ether and air. Consider the characteristics of ether and air: you know both exist but you can't actually see them, only their results. You can't see wind, but you see trees moving in the wind. Something that is ethereal does not exist literally,in a tangible, physical form, but rather in our minds and imaginations. Hence, Vata is a light, changeable, hard-to-pin-down quality; it's creativity and imagination, or playfulness and shyness. As represented in the seasons, Vata is found in the changeable seasons of spring and fall. Both seasons are transitions from definite states of hot and cold. Anyone who has ever tried to plant a vegetable garden can tell you that spring is unpredictable, with bursts of sunshine and warmth (should I plant those seeds now?), followed by dark clouds and rain (oops, the carrot seedlings just got washed away)-perhaps within moments of each other. Fall is a jittery time, too, with dry, brittle leaves carried capriciously by gusts of wind, with bursts of glowing, changing color against deep blue skies. Other examples in our world that illustrate the quality of Vata are quickly moving chipmunks always watchful for danger, or the fluffy foam on a cappuccino, or certain jobs such as a receptionist, whose job is juggling many tasks while conducting short, brief conversations with a variety of people.

In contrast to the lightness of Vata, Pitta is much more intense and purposeful. Composed of fire and water, Pitta is summer, the time of heat, thunderstorms, chili peppers, and an industrious time for growing crops. Pitta is athleticism, intelligence, the need to get things done and impatience when things aren't done correctly. Pitta is how you feel when someone cuts you off on the freeway in rush-hour traffic. Pitta can be very clear and to the point, and often offensive if the feelings of others are not taken into consideration. Pitta types usually take charge of a situation or exert leadership influences in some way. They are good at getting to the source of a problem. Pitta eyes see right through you, like a jackhammer rat-a-tat-tatting through to your bones. When Pitta is not balanced by rest and play, stress is the result.

Kapha, comprised of water and earth, has a much smoother quality than jumpy Vata or forceful Pitta. People with a lot of Kapha are usually well liked, as their natures tend to be more jovial and thoughtful of others. Kapha can be soothing, as a much deserved nap after a long hike, or numbing, as in watching too much TV and eating too many potato chips while on the couch. Steady movements, like a farmer plowing row after row after row with his tractor, are Kapha-like; so too is winter with its icy, wet weather, and animals who hoard food and hibernate through the cold. Kapha doesn't like letting go; they're like human pack rats, who collect lots of "neat stuff" (Pitta types, however, would refer to it as junk). It's hard to make Kapha people angry, but once you do, watch out-their long fuses have finally been lit, and a big explosion is likely to follow. Pittas quickly get mad and blow up, Vatas may hide anger in fear. Kapha has many sounds, like the soothing sound of waves coming onto a beach (or the sound of your partner snoring away in the middle of the night!).

Influences on Weight and Stress Management Let's examine the mind-body types and their combinations from a weight and stress management perspective. Remember, none of the categories is more important or better than the others in terms of managing body fat, stress, or personal growth. In fact, each category has its strengths for moderating appetite and managing stress; conversely, each mind-body category has potential disruptive qualities, too, which are usually set in motion from an accumulation of insupportable habits, unawareness, natural changes, or possibly a life disruption of some kind.

Since Vata-type people are, on an essential level, influenced by the qualities of ether and air, they carry these same characteristics with regards to appetite and stress. In a healthy, relaxed state, Vata people are lighthearted and busy, often forgetting meals or leaving a sandwich half-eaten as they see or remember something else they want to do. It's ironic that Vata-influenced people often say they eat a lot, but when you actually watch them eat, they take forever to finish their food and many times don't even finish at all. They don't mind having a big meal and then waiting a long while for the next one, but heaven help the guy next to a hungry Vata person (crankiness is a clue here!). So if Vata appetites are irregular, and they get distracted by other things, Vata-influenced people in a healthy state don't think about food all that much and like expending energy. For weight management, less food combined with lots of activity usually means less physical weight.

What becomes difficult about this mind-body type with regards to weight management is when Vata is off-balance. If the less constructive aspects of Vata include nervousness, fear, and erratic appetite, then an imbalanced Vata can overeat when nervous, lonely, or emotional. Their appetites can be overstimulated to make them hungry all the time, with the constant urge to nibble or munch. (And what in our modern world do we usually munch on but junk food, which satisfies the desire for stimulation of the sense of taste, but eventually makes us even hungrier!) Vata is the most sensitive of the three doshas; it is most easily thrown off balance because of its fragile nature. So Vata-influenced people who are under too much stress often use food as a buffer, a way to find immediate comfort. Food can be very comforting, especially in our age of abundance, with supermarkets filled with an incredible array of choices. As we shall see later, food eaten Ayurvedically can still be comforting-without being disruptive to weight, digestion, or energy levels.

Since predominantly Vata types have natures that tend toward nervous energy, a regular exercise pattern is beneficial for moderating this energy. So is a regular eating pattern, where appetite is tended to-like growing a well-tended garden, instead of allowing it to spill its plants in every direction. Specific habits with healthy intentions are greatly beneficial for Vata to feel balanced; the key is to not get stuck into old patterns that no longer serve. Fitness-oriented people who are primarily Vata types often become over-exercisers, relying on the frenetic expenditure of energy to balance weight instead of combining moderate exercise with quiet time (to soothe Vata's jumpiness) and regular food habits-which all combine to balance the appetite. However, the ability to be imaginative is also a Vata trait, so an inclination for a scattered approach to eating, exercising, and resting can also become a creative integration of personal time for nurturing, combined with a variety of recreational and exercise-oriented activities.

Vata people need variety. Diets seem too restrictive, and exercise becomes a burden when it feels forced or too rigid. People with a lot of Vata are usually small or thin-boned, and moderate training with weight equipment can be very beneficial for bone density and posture. However, if lifting weights is difficult or too intense, Vata people will often avoid this type of exercise (and the perceived discomfort that it brings) altogether, and therefore not receive its benefits. Workouts for Vata folks, therefore, need to be playful and varied, but with enough purpose to be effective.

Pitta influenced people, on the other hand, are much more likely to keep to an exercise routine because they like intense activity, and like the results even more. Bodybuilders and gymnasts remind us of muscularity and symmetry, both Pitta characteristics. Often, Pitta people love sports, and the "no pain, no gain" approach to exercise. Exercise may be used as a release from built-up pressures, since Pittas can accumulate during the day a lot of frustrated and sometimes angry feelings. Pittas mean well, but sometimes their insistence on perfection can lead to irritation with the rest of the world (which, unfortunately, isn't perfect), and the inability to quit a project or task to make room for regular rest and meals. If a Pitta person gets caught up in a task, the task takes priority over self-nurturing-which is why Pittas are often goal-oriented salespeople, project leaders, or CEOs who have a high potential for developing stress-related problems. Success, at any price, can be the motto of a Pitta not in balance with other needs.

Pittas who overwork often become overweight, since food becomes a way to soothe irritated nerves. A Pitta person normally has a well-developed appetite to begin with, and a powerful constitution, which can expend great amounts of energy. Too often, however, heated agitation from a fast-paced, intense day is too often placated by too many sweets and large meals. Combined with a tendency to sacrifice rest and exercise in order to accomplish a work goal, Pitta folks can often "eat their way" out of shape. Chapter 3 discusses in more detail the influence of the doshas on our sense of taste and the corresponding actions our "appetites" produce.

The quality of Pitta allows us to get motivated, focused, and disciplined enough to accomplish goals. Harnessing Pitta can be useful in engaging the intellect and becoming aware of the necessary influence of other doshas. If Pitta people can find a balance between work and play, they are capable of managing their weight and stress; first, however, they must learn to not be so hard on themselves (and others) as they invite balance into their lives.

Kapha influenced people, by their nature, are well equipped to maintain balance, as their temperaments tend to be even and calm. They also have great physical resiliency and show a much steadier pace for work and exercise. Like the proverbial tortoise and hare, Kapha people are steady and dependable tortoises, whereas Pitta people tend to burn themselves out if not mindful of their need for balance. Kapha people, therefore, have the ability to maintain a steady appetite and not "pig out" from exhaustion or nervousness. They seldom need breakfast and are happy with moderate meals. Their constitutions are strong, making them good for strength training and endurance events. They arenot as distracted by the need to succeed or complete something (a Pitta trait) or the fear of failure (a Vata quality), so once they find a rhythm for work, rest, and play, Kaphas are able to navigate life's ups and downs well and maintain a sense of well-being inside.

If the quality of Kapha is brought out of balance, however, it can have damaging results to weight management and sustaining healthy habits. Kapha gives us a heightened appreciation of our senses, which often translates in our modern, overabundant world as a hunger for the finer things in life-good food, good drink, nice clothes, beautiful surroundings, and lots of time to spend enjoying these things. Kapha people are drawn to healthy, low-fat foods in a balanced state but heavier, calorie-rich foods when off-balance. If the quality of Kapha, which by its nature desires calm and rest, gets understimulated, often only excess will do to placate a Kapha's need to overcome boredom. Probably all of us have all experienced the "couch potato" phenomenon, where physical, mental, or emotional fatigue leads us to overfeed our mouths and underfeed the need for release of pent-up feelings in healthy exercise or play. Kapha people are very tolerant, but this means that often they hold on to their feelings until their emotional reservoirs can't take anymore, and then they explode in anger or "numb out." As mentioned earlier, there is a direct correlation between the tastes we are drawn to and the actions we demonstrate, both in balanced and imbalanced states.

When Kapha is out of balance, weight gain is often a result. Kapha people tend to be heavier than other mind-body types, with bigger bones and more body tissue than Vatas and Pittas. Because our modern culture wrestles with the notion of thinness and self-esteem, Kaphas feel the most pressure to fit in to modern notions of what is attractive and desirable. Eating disorders and prolonged dieting are often experienced by modern-day Kaphas, and the subsequent frustration produced can turn the regularity of Kapha into sluggishness and apathy. Another aspect of Kapha is the tendency to feel understimulated, which in turn produces the need for excitement and adventure. The opposite is also true, namely, a Kapha person who is overloaded with work or feelings can simply shut down (figuratively, as in emotionally numb; mentally, as in unable to make a decision or implement a positive change; or physically, as in an underachieving couch potato). Kaphas are kept in balance when they are able to define clear goals and rewards for their efforts, and are given enough time and instances to satisfy their lust for life and need for play.

In summary, most people's constitutions give them constructive tendencies to feel balanced and well, as well as destructive tendencies that can bring undesired states of being. In addition, since we are comprised of all three mind-body categories to varying degrees, we may sometimes feel at odds with our own natures (a Vata/Kapha's need to be both active and relaxed). As we will see in chapter 2, often our balance is defined as a careful dance between the three states of being.

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Table of Contents

List of Tables ix
Introduction xi
Part 1 Defining Balance
1 The Three Mind-Body Types 3
2 The Three States of Being 15
3 The Six Tastes and Their Influence 25
4 Examining Lifestyle Imbalances 33
Part 2 Identifying Hunger
5 Overgrown Appetites 41
6 Dieting and Deprivation 49
7 Emotional Hunger 53
8 What's Eating You? 59
Part 3 Calming the Appetite
9 Satisfying Foods 65
10 Becoming Well Fed 73
11 Ayurvedic Cooking 81
12 Balancing Recipes 91
Part 4 Creating a Foundation for Well-Being
13 Achieving Healthy Goals 111
14 Engaging the Imagination 119
15 Stress Reduction and Relaxation 125
16 Balanced Exercise 135
Part 5 Using the Cornerstones of Balance
17 A Rhythm of Self-Care 165
18 Your Personal Definition of Balance 171
References 177
Bibliography and Resources 181
Index 185
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