Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga, which heals patients by putting us back in touch with nature’s eternal rhythm. Ayurveda explains the macrocosm (the universe surrounding us) and the microcosm (the universe within: our individual mind and body containers) in terms of the five great elements. These elements include ether, air, fire, water, and earth.
5 Natural Elements And Doshas
The five great elements combine to form three bio-psychic forces called doshas in the body and mind. These doshas, called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, are explained by Ayurveda as being the building blocks of the entire universe.
The ether and air elements combine to form what is called Vata dosha, which is responsible for all movement. Fire and water merge to create Pitta dosha, which governs the principle of transformation. Earth and water coalesce to comprise Kapha dosha, which maintains stability.
When Vata Dosha goes into a state of imbalance, as it does in the case of Anorexia Nervosa, It can manifest in many different ways.
For me, this imbalance showed up in the form of deep-seated fear and anxiety, cracking joints, frequent headaches, insomnia, nightmares, and a feeling of light-headedness. I also experienced excruciating menstrual pain, which I could feel deep in my bones. My hair started to fall out of my head in copious amounts. This was all in addition to my inability to maintain a healthy weight.
I am no longer super-thin, yet I continue to marvel at the wonders of what is called Kapha Dosha in Ayurveda: a bio-force that creates fat and other essential tissues in the body. You see, for me, anorexia was not actually about being thin as much as it was about wanting to be free.
Ayurveda and Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia can be said as a physical manifestation of a deep internal battle regarding personal control over your body. The way Ayurveda explains anorexia is that, in suppressing the natural urge for hunger, Vata dosha becomes vitiated.
The more we suppress our physiological urges, the more potential we actually invite for disease.
And while Pitta and Kapha doshas are responsible for 40 and 20 respective diseases, Vata dosha is the driving force behind a whopping 80 different diseases.
Though my experience with anorexia was actually more about finding ways to make myself less physically attractive to detract unwanted attention at a young age, I can’t help but feel sorry when I see how models portray the modern-day beauty ideal. Thin may be in, but at what cost to those who strive so hard to be skinny? The skinnier the woman, the more compassion I feel for her, as I know from hard-earned experience how much emotional emptiness exists in the attainment of being ultra-thin.
Ayurveda is, rather, all about balance, and cultivating the right amount of the elements we may lack in our minds and bodies. Because I have always been on the skinnier side of the equation and have had to work hard to gain weight, and because fat is given such a bad rap these days, I truly appreciate the value of the earth and water elements, which are responsible for body mass.
When the earth and water elements coalesce, they create Kapha dosha, which is responsible for stability. The earth aspect of Kapha dosha makes those who embody it enduring, like a rock or tree. Having enough healthy Kapha dosha is the key not only to stability, but strength, stamina, lubrication, patience, fertility, calmness, and contentment.
Kapha dominant individuals are those we can rely on to be there, no matter what. They have a grounded presence that makes them great parents, teachers, and other roles requiring consistency and compassion. Having healthy Kapha dosha provides one with an amazing capacity for incredibly hard work, both of the physical and mental variety. I have been amazed at how much more grounded and committed I have been able to be, not only towards work-related responsibilities, but to keeping my promises to myself across many spectrums of my life. I now know that I can count on me.
The water aspect of Kapha dosha manifests as softness, beauty, and a naturally nurturing disposition, which easily and deeply cares for others. One of the qualities of Kapha dosha is called Sneha, which means oiliness. Another meaning of Sneha is “to love.”
Learning how to love myself, however, has been the key to the inner freedom I sought through anorexia.
The ancient Ayurvedic texts extol the virtues of Kapha dosha. One of these texts, called Charaka Samhita, praises healthy Kapha dosha in the following ways: it gives an “excellent, compact, stable body, well-developed and perfect organs, strong ligaments, clear eyes, face, and complexion, a sweet, clear voice. Because of the presence of these qualities, Kapha dominant people are strong, wealthy, learned, brave, calm, and long-lived.”
Gaining weight by cultivating healthy Kapha has given me not only the ability to love myself and others more, but also provides me with stability, strength, and satisfaction that comes from deep within my own self. It has taught me how to give not from a place of lack, but rather from a space of fullness inside, which has been incredibly liberating.