Dr. Emmons describes Ayurveda and its Vata, Pitta, and Kapha body types, and shares how this can help you live a balanced life.
Let me start by just describing a little bit about my understanding of different subtypes of depression, very briefly.
I mentioned earlier that depression, I think of it in three distinct categories or subtypes – those who have an anxious depression, those who have an agitated depression with lots of more anger and irritability and then those who have a sluggish depression with more lethargy and lack of motivation.
So those three types have different things going on with their brain chemistry, I believe.
Then with Ayurveda, Ayurvedic medicine, the medicine that comes from India, ancient system, but they have a beautiful way of thinking about different mind-body types that they call the doshas, the dosha system.
There are three basic forms – Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which I refer to a little differently. I call the Vata the air-type, the Pitta the fire-type, and Kapha the earth type.
So thinking about the different forms of depression that I mentioned anxiety is very close to what is described as an imbalance in Vata, or the air-type, where people get, their mind gets kind of speeded up.
They get kind of anxious and nervous and fretful, wanting to move all the time. Everything is happening kind of quickly. Everything seems speeded up – that’s an imbalance in a Vata type.
The imbalance in Pitta, or fire type, sounds very much like an agitated depression where a person becomes more angry or irritable.
They have too much energy but it comes out in sort of an uncomfortable way, a little bit of an agitated sense.
Very often they are looking at things in their environment or people around them in a way that’s critical, kind of harsh or rejecting.
That’s very similar, then, to what happens when a Pitta body type becomes imbalanced.
The third type, the Kapha or earth-type, when that gets imbalanced, people become sluggish, lethargic, wanting to sleep too much, gaining weight, accumulating, not having much energy at all.
And that’s very similar then to what I call a sluggish depression and for many people that’s what happens with them in the winter with a winter depression.
Those three different types are, what I have described are the imbalances, but one of the things I like so well about Ayurveda is that it also tells us what’s it like when you are healthy and balanced and recognizing that not everyone is the same. We are not all built the same.
If you are a balanced Vata, you generally have a body-type that’s kind of thin, sort of tall or thin or lean and you are very quick.
You are quick of mind, quick of wit, body moves quickly but still it doesn’t get into that pattern of anxious ruminative thinking.
If you have a Pitta, or fire type, and you are balanced, then you tend to be kind of medium-build, tend to be athletic, somewhat competitive but not over the top, very sharp, sharp of mind and often make a good leader.
The third type, the Kapha type in balance, are people who tend to move a little more slowly. You could say elegantly.
Their mind isn’t as quick but they retain information. They hold on to things and they are very loyal.
They are stable people and they tend to make great co-workers, great friends, great partners when they are in balance.
They don’t get overly sluggish but they do kind of glide through life, you know, without a great deal of stress.
So those are those in balance, and then the Ayurveda gives us suggestions for how to keep in balance.
You know, depending on your type or different practices, different spices, different foods that you can use that it will help you stay in balance depending on your own nature.
If you are thinking about yourself with your Ayurvedic subtype, there are several good questionnaires by the way, I have some in my book, you can find the questionnaires online that will help you determine your dosha type, dosha or Ayurvedic type. I have given brief descriptions but there are questionnaires that help refine that.
If you understand that and then you combine that with a mindfulness practice so that you are living in a way and eating in a way that is true to your nature and you are working with your mind, calming your mind, learning to turn toward your emotions and let yourself really experience your emotions in a full and healthy way and also learning to open, practicing opening yourself, connecting with others, really creating a good heart – those things are so protective against depression.
If you can stay with them for 6 or 12 months, I tell my patients if you can stay with these practices for that long you can create a very different brain, a very different internal state that can give you a long-term prevention against depression.
About Dr. Henry Emmons, M.D.:
Dr. Henry Emmons, M.D., is a psychiatrist who integrates mind-body and natural therapies, mindfulness and allied Buddhist therapeutics, and psychotherapeutic caring and insight in his clinical work. Dr. Emmons obtained his medical degree from the University of Iowa College of Medicine and did his residency in psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where he was Chief Resident. He practices general and holistic psychiatry and consults with several colleges and organizations nationally. Dr. Emmons is the author of “The Chemistry of Joy: A Three Step Program for Overcoming Depression Through Western Science and Eastern Wisdom.”
Visit Dr. Emmons at his website