Ayurveda / Five Elements Wellness by Emily McMorran
By discovering your Ayurvedic Doshas, and working in sync with your Five Elements, you can bring balance to your Mind, Body and Soul
Dr. Bala Manyam, a neurologist and professor emeritus at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, was intereview in an article about the facts of Ayurveda and the scientific basis to this 6,000-year-old Indian Science. You can read the full article here
We only work with Ayurveda (and indeed the Five Elements Wellness) in terms of refining and tailoring individuals' food habits, according to their unique Mind-Body Make-up, as well as the practices of Meditation, which form a cornerstone to our Workplace Wellness Programmes and Workshops. We do not prescribe ANY ayurvdic medicnes whatsoever.
In the hustle and bustle of work life, it is so easy to ‘slip’ into eating ‘on-the-run’; stuffing down emotions through binge-eating and generally not listening properly to what our bodies really would like us to eat to be in optimum health!
In the summer of 2009, Emily McMorran studied both the Ancient Ayurvedic Tradition and also followed a system called The Five Elements Wellness - based on the Chinese Five Elements Wisdom.
In 2014, she fused together both of these practices to create a unique easy-to-follow Balance & Wellness programme to enable individuals to come back into full health using these ancient teachings. She has worked with many business people since and will be giving a brief introduction - with some of her own-recipe ‘food’ and ‘drink’ samples for you to taste as she guides you through the Six Healing Tastes in her Talk.
She first learned about Ayurveda and the Ayurvedic Doshas in 2009 through studying Deepak Chopra's Magical Mind; Magical Body Programme, which centres on the ancient practice of Ayurveda, which has been around for approximately 6,000.
The word, Ayurveda means Knowledge (Veda) of Life (Ayur) and essentially has its basis in the following ancient wisdom:-
As is the atom; so is the universe
As is the human body; so is the cosmic body
As is the human mind; so is the cosmic mind
As is the microcosm; so is the macrocosm
The premise, therefore of Ayurveda is to understand our physical body types, and, through this, come to respect our unique Physical; Emotional and Intellectual make-up. Once we have done so, we can fully appreciate our inherent strengths and weaknesses as a result of our own personal Mind-Body make-up.
For instance, one of the following may resonate with you as your typical reaction in the following scenario:-
You are driving along in your car and come across a huge long traffic jam......
begin to feel your nerves jangle on end and become anxious and upset?
find yourself getting really angry and impatient?
take a deep sigh, switch on the radio and listen to some nice, relaxing music such as Mozart or gentle smooth jazz?
Or, you could find you swing between two or more of these states of being depending on how you are feeling! That would be because your unique Mind-Body type could be two – or even more – of the three Mind-Body types!
The principle of Ayurveda is that once you know your Mind-Body type, it can enable you to understand your reactions to certain situations or foods. You can then, in turn, work on moderating this behaviour or habit to bring your Mind-Body into a more balanced state. One of the easiest ways of doing this is through the use of food. By eating the right types of food for your Mind-Body type, you can bring your whole life into a more balanced state over a period of time. This can also enable you to enhance and increase your energy levels and “cure yourself” of chronic conditions, such as Diabetes; Heart disease and Arthritis and, if you are overweight, enable you to improve your metabolism and bring your body back to its ideal weight.
Emily continues....."For me, I found that combining this ancient Indian knowledge of Ayurveda with the equally ancient practice of the principles of the Five Elements, I could more effectively see what was going on in my Mind-body as a whole. I then found it easier to seek to eat the foods that I knew would bring both my emotions as well as my physical body into balance. I have also increasingly become aware of which foods trigger an adverse response in me, usually as a physical reaction. I have also found that, over the years, my lowest Mind-Body type has receded even further, I guess as I have become more acutely aware of who and how I am and how I am evolving."
The idea of a Mind-Body comes from the fact that our mind can influence reactions we have in our body and vice-versa. Thus, if we are in a highly emotional or stressful state, depending on our Mind-Body type, we might rush immediately to the biscuit barrel or cake tin; reach for the red wine or whisky or make ourselves a double espresso. In all of these cases, this can signal an imbalance in our primary Mind-Body type and tip it even more out of sync! By recognising what and who you are, you can at the very least give yourself the chance to change your behaviour on a more constant basis to ensure you prevent yourself spiralling out of balance in whatever is your usual manner. You can, over time, re-train your Mind-Body to react differently to situations enabling you to be more at ease in trying situations.
In Sanskrit, these Mind-Body principles are known as “Doshas”, which means exactly that – Mind-Body Principles!
There are three main types, and we can be either one or, generally speaking a combination of two of these Doshas. There are those who are “purists” in the field of Ayurveda who claim, categorically, that it is impossible to be a combination of all three, and yet, I feel that is perfectly possible, depending on how you are as a person and how in-balance you are at the time of completing the simple questionnaires. I was pleased to read in The Ayurvedic Encyclopedia, by Swami Sadashiva Tirtha, (a leading expert), that he agrees with my feelings that it is possible to be a “Tri-Dosha” type! This can be exceptionally challenging for the person concerned, as all three Doshas have very different personality traits, as well as needs around specific tastes! I have come across a number of people who have been a combination of two major, with a high third Dosha. Some of them have, through becoming aware of their Doshas and the “high scoring” elements in each category, been able to change and transform into a two-Dosha person instead,: this happened once they became aware of truly who they were, and started to eat according to their two highest doshas. Consequently, their whole Mind-Body came more into balance and a year later, their scores changed accordingly.
The three types of Doshas are:- VATA – which controls movement PITTA – which controls metabolism KAPHA – which controls structure
A “pure” or High Vata Personality tends towards being very thin; very quick with everything – eating; speaking; thinking; walking etc and, though can have a propensity towards being anxious easily and prone to emotional highs and lows, when out of balance. These changes can also lead to sudden changes of mind and / or a propensity to forget to eat! When left to their own devises, they will tend towards changeable behaviour and a lack or routine. They tend to be very quick learners, and, yet forget the information just as quickly! They can also suffer with insomnia, because of their propensity to worry about things: sometimes this can keep them awake at night or wake them up in the middle of the night instead! The seat of imbalance with a Vata tends to be their Colon, so digestive complaints such as Irritable Bowel; Chrohn’s Disease; Colitis and a propensity towards constipation. They also tend towards feeling cold very quickly and suffer from cold hands and feet.
A High Pitta Personality is the opposite of a Vata! They tend to be the “radiator” kind of people: often feeling too hot in a room rather than too cold! They can also get easily inflamed, so feeding them curry when out of balance or giving them a whisky, is inadvisable as they are liable to “blow up” at you, so stand well back! They are also love challenges or to be challenged, as they like nothing better than to have a good debate! They have excellent digestion and tend to have rather large appetites, being naturally of a medium frame. Due to their love of food and ability to eat large portions at any time, they can become overweight, if they become out-of-balance. Pittas are THE most organised of all the Doshas, and consider themselves very ordered and efficient. They love routine and tidiness, and are excellent leaders. Due to their natural tendency towards becoming “inflamed” they can suffer from high blood pressure; night sweats and biliousness.
To bring a Pitta into balance, all things “pure” are required, like pure water; raw foods and a reduction in stimulants, like coffee. The tastes that bring them into balance are SWEET – BITTER and ASTRINGENT. It is best to avoid PUNGENTfoods, like Chilli, as this can inflame them and lead them to feeling too hot.
Where Vatas and Pittas are similar is that, when out of balance, it is best to avoid stimulants of all kinds. Why? It can make the Vata even more changeable and emotional, and the Pitta – well, giving them a stimulant is like putting kerosene onto a raging fire!
The third Dosha, Kapha, are the peace-loving; sweet-natured personalities. Those who would do anything for anyone. They hate confrontation and will avoid an argument like the plague! They are the only Dosha to have a taste associated with them: Sweet! They LOVE cakes and anything sweet! The trouble with this is that a pure Kapha tends towards slow metabolism; a naturally large frame and a propensity to hold weight rather than not. I joke sometimes that just showing a Kapha personality a slice of cake can make them feel like their bottom has expanded immediately, whereas a high Vata body-type could eat an entire cake and one would wonder where they put it!
Kapha personalities do tend to have light appetites and can go for long periods of time without needing to eat, in part due to their slow metabolism. A sign of a Kapha person out-of-balance is if they are suffering from congestion of any kind, like mucus / phlegm. It is therefore best for a Kapha personality to avoid exactly the foods, which bring the Vata personality INTO balance! Namely: SWEET -SOUR -SALT! Instead, it is best for them to favourBITTER – PUNGENT and ASTRINGENTtastes, with a particular bent towards Pungent. Why? Because….. adding pungent foods, such as chilli; mustard; horseradish etc to our foods, increases our body’s metabolism by 25%! I know of no exercise that increase the body's metabolism by such an amount, as quickly as just eating just a little more of these types of foods.
The Five Elements Weakness Questionnaire that Emily developed helps to identify the actual “Dosha imbalances” in a person, as the weaknesses identified correspond directly to specific “out-of-balance” states in the Ayurveda Mind-Bodies. Thus it is an invaluable diagnostic tool for us to use during our Health and Wellbeing Check-ups and can lead us to further “drill down” to specific types of foods according to the Five Elements Wellness Practice as well as the Traditional Ayurveda. We have developed a useful colour-coded table of foods according to the elements. These also relate directly to specific organs in the body. In turn, Obi C Agor uses this information to then work with the individual using Qigong practices to enable them to come back into balance, physically as well as emotionally and mentally.