Exercise for building bone is a major focus for us in 2019, and one piece of information I would like to share with you is why it’s so beneficial to bone when you exercise according to your mind-body constitution — something the ancient Indian science Ayurveda describes as your dosha.
While this ancient science is extremely complex and reveals subtleties about the human body that modern science has yet to imagine, it’s clear that each of us is born with a unique body-mind-spirit constitution. We all have certain strengths and weaknesses, which can be seen as distinct patterns of energy within us. Ayurveda proposes that we can maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. Ayurveda also appreciates that certain constitutions or body types are more likely to be challenged by disorders such as osteoporosis.
Understanding our elemental forces
Many ancient traditions regard four or five basic elemental forces—fire, water, earth, and air, and in some traditions, wood—as essential building blocks of all existence. Ayurveda includes “ether” (space) and combines all the elements into three different doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha dosha.
In simplistic terms, vata dosha (the energies of “ether” or space and air) is a cold, dry energy that governs body actions such as the beating of the heart and muscle movements. Pitta dosha (the energies of fire and water) is a hot energy governing metabolism, digestion, absorption, assimilation and body temperature. Kapha dosha (the energy of earth and water) is an energy which forms the solid structure of the body. Kapha is the source for lubricating the body, keeping the joints flexible and the skin moist, and maintaining immunity.
Ayurveda holds that we each have a certain combination at birth, and maintaining this combination brings good health; however, the dosha energetic forces can change quickly and are prone to moving out of balance as we respond to life stressors. Accumulated dosha imbalance leads to the development of illness and certain disorders are linked with certain types of imbalance.
Ayurveda for osteoporosis
Here’s where osteoporosis enters the picture. With stress, and with age itself, the vata element increases leading to coldness, dryness, frailty, and weak bones and teeth. Osteoporosis, from the Ayurvedic perspective, is associated with excesses and imbalances in the vata dosha, just as acid reflux or skin rashes are found with excessive pitta energy, or mucus congestion linked to excessive kapha.
My top Ayurvedic tips for regaining bone health
The Ayurvedic approach to preventing and treating osteoporosis involves restoring balance to all three doshas, and most particularly pacifying vata energy. Due to the stressful and fast pace of our modern life, everyone has some degree of vata imbalance and can benefit from these simple lifestyle modifications aimed at reducing excessive vata while balancing all three doshas.
1. Develop regularity in your life.
– Get to bed by 10 and rise at 6.
– Establish regular eating times.
– Make the midday meal your largest (when pitta is strong) and eat a light dinner.
– Adhere to a daily routine; the body likes regularity.
2. Meditate on a regular schedule.
– The best meditation time is upon rising and before the evening meal.
– 15 to 20 minutes in the morning and in the evening is sufficient.
3. Consume nourishing and easy-to-digest hot and cooked food.
– Avoid cold foods for the most part, particularly when the weather is cold.
– Avoid excesses of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
– Use high-quality fats such as ghee, coconut and olive oil, and butters or spreads made from nuts or seeds.
– Consume more nuts and seeds (particularly sesame seeds). Other beneficial foods include basmati rice, avocados, fermented dairy, and small amounts of raw sugar and honey.
4. Reduce stress and seek peace of mind.
– Avoid comparing yourself to others.
– Develop an optimistic attitude; see the glass as half-full.
– Become aware of your thought patterns and focus on how you want to look and feel rather than focusing on what you do not want.
Exercise according to your dosha body type
Putting all this information together, here are some ways to harness Ayurveda for osteoporosis in how you exercise for bone health.
Ayurveda recognizes vata types as being smaller-boned, thinner, prone to indigestion and tiring easily, and possibly having a physically weaker constitution. These are the very people I often see in my practice with concerns about bone loss. For vata types, Ayurveda recommends exercises that bring a calming energy into the body — like yoga, tai chi and qi gong. It’s no coincidence that these exercises are also very beneficial for osteoporosis, along with moderate strength and aerobic training as tolerated.
Ayurveda sees kapha types as larger in bone and body size. Kaphas are sturdy, but can be lethargic, and thus need intense, rigorous exercise to energize and invigorate themselves.
Fiery pitta types, on the other hand, have average body and bone size and are natural athletes with strong stamina. They enjoy and benefit from intense, challenging exercises, but also should cool down their fire with yoga and mindful exercises.
Think about your own exercise goals — how will do they match your dosha?
Join me on a journey to rediscover the body’s ancient wisdom
I personally find it fascinating to see how other cultures perceive the world and what they understand about the nature of human health. If you’re a student of Ayurveda, and have used Ayurveda for osteoporosis, please share your experiences. If this ancient health science intrigues you, think about joining us at our next Love Your Bones, Love Your Life Retreat to be held at an Ayurvedic retreat center in northern Pennsylvania, May 2-5, 2019.