Ayurveda and Weight
Find Your Balance (Part 1)
Your weight and the overall shape of your body are influenced by a multitude of factors. All these factors interact: genes, economic status, lifestyle factors, diet choices, food quality, relationships and the environment.
So-called “yo-yo dieting” has been linked to poor health and shortened life. The fact is that most who lose weight gain it back within a few years. Some even regain more.
In both the Ayurvedic and the Western medical view, excessive weight can be caused by several factors.
In Ayurveda, obesity is regarded as medoroga, a disorder of meda dhatu, which includes fat tissue and fat metabolism. According to Ayurveda, obesity begins with an imbalance of the doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha), an imbalance of agni (digestive fire), an imbalance of the malas (waste products) or an imbalance of the shrotas (microcirculatory channels). This collection of imbalances then interferes with the formation of the tissues, or dhatus (pronounced da’ too, singular) and leads to a tissue imbalance that we experience as excess weight.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, the key cause is found in lifestyle and diet choices that disrupt balance. Ayurveda views weight imbalance and obesity as something that should be corrected before it can contribute to other health problems.
The Ayurvedic word for digestion and metabolism is agni. Agni, loosely translated, means fire. It actually signifies something much more than just fire and includes the idea of a precise and powerful functioning intelligence. Agni has remarkable transformative qualities. All the food we take in must be transformed into that which can be made useful by the body (nutrients) and that which is not needed (waste). The nutrients, or most refined products of our agni, are then used to create the body’s tissues (dhatus).
The Vicious Cycle
There are seven dhatus, and they are created sequentially.
The creation of dhatus is an ongoing, complex process. The key word is sequential. If at any stage there is an imbalance, this disrupts the whole sequence of tissue formation. The shrotas, or channels, play a big role, because they carry the information required to properly form the tissues step by step. If blockages occur in the shrotas due to toxins (ama), an imbalance starts. This explains the time-tested Ayurvedic teaching: “…to maintain balance and health, keep agni strong and the shrotas clear.”
The cause of weight gain, from the Ayurvedic perspective, is cyclical. It begins with balance-reducing choices in diet and lifestyle that weaken the digestive fire, which in turn increases toxins, clogging the communication channels, and thereby disrupting the formation of the tissues. This poorly-formed tissue layer manifests as an increase in fat dhatu and an imbalance in Kapha dosha. This in turn leads to increased accumulation of toxins, which leads to a greater imbalance in fat dhatu.
And this causes a new problem: an imbalance in the naturally-flowing energy of Vata. When Vata is restricted or imbalanced, it ends up increasing agni – the digestive fire – leading to an increase in appetite and thirst. This leads in turn to an increase in Kapha and fat and the whole cycle starts again.
Breaking the Cycle is Easy
To break the cycle, the Ayurvedic expert (vaidya) determines the unique nature of the individual (called prakriti in Sanskrit), and the nature of the imbalance (vikriti). The essence of the recommendations generally comes down to addressing a few core issues: strengthening digestion (balance agni), removing ama (purification), improving dietary habits, adjusting inapproprite daily routines and lowering stress.
These changes ultimately support a stronger state of mind-body balance. In this state the body’s powerful natural ability to purify itself and restore wellness operates unrestricted.
A variety of approaches help the body restore balance. They include avoiding the causes of the imbalances through better choices in diet and lifestyle; the use of herbal formulations that help remove ama, strengthen digestion and balance appetite; changing the kind of foods eaten and daily routine; aromas; exercise; and Ayurvedic purification therapy, known as panchakarma.
Research shows environmental toxins are also linked to weight problems. Removal of toxins may be an effective way to support balanced weight. According to scientific research, the Ayurvedic treatment known as panchakarma has been shown to be effective at removing fat-soluble toxins from the body.
The Raj Ayurvedic spa offers special traditional purification treatments called panchakarma. These spa treatments are administered by trained Ayurvedic experts who assess your state of balance, digestion and ama and then provide expert recommendations that help support balanced, healthy weight levels.
End of Part 1: Coming next week in Part 2: How Weak Agni Can Mean Easy Weight Gain
(Cover photo credit: Photo ©2010 lululemon athletica , Flickr Creative Commons)
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.