When we think about our physical health, it is usually in terms of nutrition and exercise. Occasionally we consider how stress might be impacting us. However, some traditions that argue that an individual’s physical health must be examined within a much broader context of their life — in terms of their personality type, mental state and energetic constitution.
So how can we understand the links between physical health and healing, and our psychological and spiritual practice?
In this episode, Clay and Sarah discuss:
* Ayurveda – the traditional Indian health practice, known as the ‘Science of Life’
* The three types of bodily constitutions (known as doshas) in Ayurveda – Vata, Pitta & Kapha – including physical characteristics, approaches to work & social situations, responses to stress and lifestyle tendencies
* Sarah and Clay discuss their own results of the ‘dosha test’ — you can take it yourself here!
* How we can use the knowledge from this Ayurveda ‘dosha’ test to keep ourselves in balance physically and mentally
* Similarities to Hippocrates’s concept of bodily ‘humors’ (fluids) and the way the balance of these humors in the body impact mood and personality
* The Keirsey Personality Test – derived from Hippocrates’s understanding of the link between the physical and psychological aspects of the self
* Four ‘types’ of the Keirsey Personality Test – Guardians, Artisans, Idealists, Rationals
* Clay and Sarah discuss their own results from the Keirsey Personality test... You can take the test for yourself here!
According to Ayurveda, the mind and the body are inextricably linked. Therefore, it makes no sense to only consider ‘physical’ aspects such as nutrition and exercise when attempting to maintain overall health. In the same way, physical medicine is not considered enough to uproot the causes of disease.
Perhaps we should consider something that western medicine almost wholly dismisses — the way an individual’s health and healing from disease is influenced by a whole range of factors including our psychological makeup, our mental state, even our underlying energetic ‘constitution’.
Ayurveda’s goals include preserving the health of a healthy person, preventing disease, and promoting longevity through improved quality of life in mind, body and spirit. Sounds pretty good!
According to this system of health, there are three principle energies governing the cosmos and manifesting in certain ways in our bodies. Vata is the energy of movement, associated with the element Air, and governs things like our blood circulation, breathing, heartbeat, communication and even the movement of our thoughts. Pitta is the energy of transformation, associated with the elements Fire and Water, and governs things like our digestion and turning our thoughts into action. Kapha is the binding energy, associated with Earth and Water, and in our bodies is the aspect that closes cuts and generally keeps our body in a particular shape.
Although these energies are in a constant state of flux depending on our diet, lifestyle, weather, emotions and state of mind, all of us typically have one energy that is dominant in us, and a secondary energy with the third being quite weak. For instance, a person with high Vata energy tends to be physically slight, a light sleeper, and anxious under stress. They tend towards hyperactivity and restlessness and like a lifestyle that is free and unattached. A person with high Pitta energy, by contrast is typically of medium weight and build, and tends to be purposeful and intense in their working life. They become irritable and frustrated under stress, are generally active and prefer their lives to be well-planned. People dominant in Kapha energy tend to be slightly heavier build and are deep sleepers. They tend to be easy-going and accepting in personality, a good listener with lots of friends. Under stress they become withdrawn, and although prefer a regular, reliable lifestyle, have a tendency to get into a rut.
If you want to know your Ayurvedic constitution, take this dosha test here.
Hippocrates, the supposed ‘Father of Modern Medicine’, had a surprisingly similar understanding of the body. He incorporated the idea that there are four tempermental types into a medical practice based on four physical bodily humors.
Derived from this Ancient Greek system of medicine, the Keirsey Personality Test highlights psychological tendencies and distinguishes individuals into four ‘types’.
The Guardians are concrete and organised, seek security and belonging, and are concerned with duty and responsibility.
The Artisans are concrete and adaptable, concerned with making an impact.
The Idealists are abstract and compassionate, seeking meaning and significance. They are concerned with personal growth and finding their own unique identity.
The Rationals are abstract and objective, seeking mastery and control. They are concerned with knowledge and competence, and are excellent at strategy.
One last note, and something to take to heart. In these systems that link our physical health with our psychological and spiritual constitution, self-care becomes a sacred duty! So take care of yourself! 🙂