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Written by Aliza Bloom   

Exploring the tastes of addiction through understanding the doshas

In the not-too-distant past, people struggling with addictions would likely be sent to an asylum or subjected to an exorcism, taken to a priest or seen as having a character flaw. But from the perspective of Ayurveda, an addiction is a disease in which a person has dis-ease, as described by Durga, a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist who has also been involved with the 12-step fellowship for more than eight years and teaches a program called Yoga of Recovery.

All diseases, Durga states, involve forgetting our true nature and our source. Life is longing for reconnection and suffering has its roots in spiritual ignorance. The healing process of Ayurveda for addictions or other afflictions involves coming back to the spiritual source.

Ayurveda and yoga, Durga explains, are an integral part of healing from addictions, alongside a 12-step program which incorporates principles of karma yoga, the practice of service in action. A simple remedy, a yoga practice and meditation are not stand-alone treatments for the complex socio-spiritual-physiological disturbance of addiction, but they are important aspects of a holistic plan to bring mind, body and spirit into balance. Durga teaches the integration of Ayurveda and yoga with 12-step principles and meetings, in retreats and courses around the world. According to Durga, Yoga and Ayurveda both offer a path to work with the body, to satisfy our cravings for sweetness in our lives in a way that nourishes us instead of simply feeding our addictions.

Life is relationship, and we often seek love (sweetness), satisfaction through the satiation of our senses, from things external to ourselves. This is our forgetting; we forget we are whole in our own inner nature, at our source. Many of us have become unhealthily conditioned to express our longing for source/spiritual connection physically, through our relationships with people and our relationship with food. This leads to great suffering from unmet expectations and unsatisfied cravings. Yoga of Recovery teaches us ways to connect with our innate sense of health, well-being and joy through internal practices rather than external seeking.

Ayurveda recognizes or describes six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. Of those, 80% of the food on the planet is sweet. The sweet taste is the most nourishing, the heaviest of the tastes. Product marketers are well aware of this; sweet smells are often emitted in a store to stimulate us to buy more, to seek that satisfaction. Sweet also relates to love, and when we crave sweet, when we will do anything for sweet, we are looking to feel loved, nourished and grounded. According to the principles and philosophies of yoga and Ayurveda, while there is a real, biochemical basis for the disease of addiction, there is also a component of this quest that must be satisfied. By understanding the principles of Ayurveda as they relate to taste, we can understand why some people may be addicted to some substances more than others.

Elements and Ayurveda

The five elements:

  • Earth
  • Water
  • Fire
  • Air
  • Ether/Space

Are organized into the three doshas:

Water and Fire: Pitta
Earth and Water: Kapha
Air and Ether/Space: Vata

Elements and Addictions

 

EARTH

WATER

FIRE

AIR

ETHER/SPACE

SENSE

smell and the nose.

taste and the tongue.

sight and the eyes.

touch and the hands.

sound and the ears.

DAMAGED BY

snorting drugs, sniffing glue and smoking.

overeating, alcoholism or an addiction to hypersweet foods like soda pop.

computer games, the internet, pornography, disturbing/violent scenes on TV or movies.

physical violence, seeking adrenaline rushes through extreme sports or sexual addictive behaviors.

negative thoughts, verbal abuse and abuse of others and the self.

REMEDIES
INCLUDE
neti and nasya (nose drops),

pranayama and

aromatherapy.

fresh, sweet fruits,

warm spiced milk,

moderate use of natural sweetners like honey rather than refined sugars and

ritual offering of sweet prasad (offerings).

candles,

color therapy and

hanging inspirational art on the walls or pictures of spiritual leaders such as Gandhi or the Dalai Lama.

wearing or viewing the color gold.

therapeutic massage, yoga asana (posture) practice,

taking care of pets, giving and receiving loving hugs.

repetition of mantra (sacred sound or prayer),

healing kirtan (call-and-response chanting) and

silence (silent retreats).


Doshas and Addictions

Vata

The vata dosha, with the qualities of the wind, has the capability of driving the most addictive personality. According to Durga, the majority of people with addictions will have vata as a primary imbalance.

A vata personality is changeable; they may fear stillness and are constantly on the move. This dosha is the most easily addicted and the most easily harmed. When stress kicks in, the response is either not to eat or get too busy and forget to eat.

A person with this dosha predominant is likely to be attracted to any stimulants, including caffeine, negatively affecting their adrenal glands and increasing a tendency for dehydration. Fear is part of this dosha’s imbalance and these people need to develop faith to overcome their addictions. Recommendations for a holistic plan include: regular satsang (supportive company of wise people – 12-Step Fellowship), stimulating creativity, the arts, restorative hatha yoga, bhakti (devotion) and karma yoga for healing.

Pitta

The pitta dosha is associated with fire and water. A person with a predominantly pitta dosha is intense and can be perfectionist, fearing failure and craving success. Alcohol, sugar, narcot- ics, and smoking are some of the associated addictions. Since pitta is controlling, bulimia also falls into this category – overeating under stress but controlling the results by purging or even overexercising. Pittas are intense, hence they can become addicted to substances and behaviors that increase their intensity and accordingly increase their fire and heat, affecting the liver and eyes. They appreciate and understand a more linear approach to healing (the structure of the 12 steps and the process of doing them in order). Pittas benefit from the cultivation of compassion and appreciate the logical progression of the raja yoga path. They can offer karma yoga (service) to balance their strong desire for success.

Kapha

The kapha dosha is related to earth and water and can be associated with codependency type addiction. The earthy nature of kapha fears and even resists change. Kapha energy tends to overly attach and manipulate and one of the most notable addictions is overeating. When this dosha is out of balance, there is an increase in heaviness, weight gain, high blood sugar and depression. The kapha dosha needs to practice the art of detachment. Ayurvedic remedies include: sup- porting the process of healthy love through practicing bhakti, the yoga of devotion, and some stimulating hatha yoga practices.

In Conclusion

As part of the disease process, addictions include a misuse of the senses. In this process, spiritual longings become physical/emotional cravings that can tear a person apart. Proper use of the senses and learning to develop a positive relationship with body, mind and spirit cultivate balance. Practices of yoga and Ayurveda can help assist with the ongoing process of finding the balance of living in harmony with our true nature. When we are in balance, we truly see that life is sweet.

For more information about Durga and the Yoga of Recovery, visit: http://www.yogaofrecovery.com.

The information in this article is given for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, be sure to seek appropriate treatment.

Aliza Bloom is a certified Kripalu yoga teacher and has also studied with Srivatsa Ramaswami. She currently resides in the Bay area. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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