Ayurveda Made Simple

What is Ayurveda? What is a dosha? See if knowing helps you feel better.

Posted Aug 30, 2016

Laura Deutsch
Source: Laura Deutsch

On my journey to inner peace, I flew to San Diego. I've been to India, Bali, Italy and more. At the Chopra Center in San Diego, I experienced three treatments and met with an Ayurvedic doctor. which helped me immensely. These treatments may be pricey, but a journalist's work is never done. (Check out Groupon and other sales.)

Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that originated in India. It offers the balanced integration of environment, body, mind and spirit.

Day One

Brian, my therapist, began my Odyssey treatement with Garshana, a dry glove massage to refresh and stimulate the skin and lymphatic system. Next came Abhyanga, a massage with warm herbalized oil. He used specialized friction strokes to move the oil deep into tissues to loosen stored toxicity. The slow, penetrating strokes of Vishesh followed. The treatment ended with Marma therapy to awaken my inner energy. No complaints; the treatment felt wonderful.

Though I live in California, I am not an expert on “inner energy.” But the Chopra Center makes Ayurveda accessible. This is Chopra’s genius. He takes complex spiritual subjects and talks about them in a way that western laypeople like me can grasp. When I took Seduction of Spirit twenty years ago, I anticipated going crazy during meditation, but by the end of the week I was meditating for two hours a day without a problem.

Day Two

I met with Dr. Sheila Patel, an Ayurvedic MD at the Chopra Center, to discuss my doshas. Ayurveda describes three fundamental energies, known in Sanskrit as Vata (Wind), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Earth). Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shape our nature. If Vata is dominant, we tend to be thin, light, enthusiastic, energetic and changeable. If Pitta is dominant, we tend to be intense, intelligent and goal-oriented. If Kapha is our major dosha, we tend to be easy-going, methodical and nurturing. For each element, there is balanced and unbalanced expression. For example, a Vata in balance is lively and creative, but out of balance, a Vata can experience anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, digestive irregularity and difficulty focusing. (For more on doshas in and out of balance, visit http://www.chopra.com.)

Twenty years ago I met with Dr. David Simon, who founded the Chopra Center with Deepak in 1985. He told me then that I was a Vata out of balance. I can’t believe that I still am! I would receive Dr. Patel's report and suggestions the following day, but I'd already started balancing my Vata. Cooked food was recommended, as well as eating some oils.

In the afternoon I went to the spa, but it was too cold and gray to spend much time outside. Instead, I used the steam, sauna and Jacuzzi in the women’s lounge.

4:30 Shirodara treatment. Danyll left me black and blue, but the extra work on my sacrum was a great help. The session was a full body massage, followed by oil dripped on the forehead. Oil dripping on my forehead sounds annnoying, but it completely relaxed my nervous system. By the end I felt I had no body.

Day Three

I went to meditation at 7:45 a.m. I thought I’d be bored and fidgety for the half hour session, but the dark and silence were calming and pleasant. The leader suggested using "So-hum," the mantra du jour at the Chopra Center. I am so So hum.

Mid-morning I had a Gandhara treatment with Sonia. A full body massage with Vata oils punctuated by vibrations from a resounding glass bowl. I felt the vibration in my hands, heard a deafening roar in my ears. “It will move your energy,” Sonia assured me. I did manage to pack and get to the airport.

My report says I'm part Vata, part Kapha with a dose of Pitta. I have features of all three doshas. But Ayurveda rang true. I do feel better when I eat cooked foods and meditate. I am creative, but my skin is dry and I don't sleep well. Ayurveda merits more exploration. There's more to this than meets the eye.