This weekend, my family and I hopped on a ferry and spent a day in Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula.
Getting out of town was good medicine and Port Townsend was the perfect place to have some family play. It’s a small Victorian style coastal town, full of metaphysical bookstores, handmade furniture and toy stores, spice shops and other artsy store fronts. Basically, it’s a hippie town.
Over the last year, I’ve had some really strange health issues that mostly manifest themselves on my face. I get this bizarre skin rash on my forehead, cheeks and nose and certain foods seem to worsen it. I’ve tried steroid and anti-fungal creams, different diets, natural ointments and balms… all to no avail. Recently, I’ve had about enough of it. It isn’t about vanity – the shit burns and itches all the time and nothing makes it better. A few days ago, from some random Googling around, I discovered Ayurveda - something that I’ve known about since doing yoga from time to time, but never really took time to explore. Ayurveda is about balancing your physical and emotional self through food and mindfulness. According to Ayurveda, an unbalanced Pitta mind-body type (called a ‘dosha’) can result in a similar type of skin rash. It can also result in difficulty sleeping, being hypercritical and quick to be irritated. Pitta mind-body types tend to overwork themselves as they are incredibly driven and rest and play can be difficult for these types. So far, Ayurveda has hit the nail on the head and at this point, I am willing to try anything to make this rash go away.
Wandering the streets of Port Townsend led us to one metaphysical bookstore: The Rising Phoenix. Something called me inside and I found my way to an entire shelf of books on Ayurveda. I cracked open one book, Ayurvedic Balancing by Joyce Bueker and my mind was blown. Not by my mind-body type or the suggestions on how to eat to balance it, but on how deeply Ayurveda seems to understand the role that emotions play on how we treat and feed our bodies.
Check this out: ”the body’s unchecked appetite is a symptom of an unchecked lifestyle that is not “getting fed” all of what it needs…” All too true. How many times, in my own experience, have I had a day filled with frustration and lack of feeling any kind of validation or even care from a boss or peer or parent and came home to soothe myself with sweet foods because sweetness, whether in the form of food or of tenderness from a loved one, is comforting? Ayurveda classifies foods into six tastes: sweet, salty, pungent, astringent, bitter and spicy. Each of those tastes can balance or irritate us depending on what our minds and/or bodies are currently experiencing. If you’re already feeling frustrated, spicy or pungent can further irritate you. If you’re already lonely, bitter can increase that feeling of isolation. But sweet can balance the lonely with the emotional attributes of the taste. Astringent can balance and soothe the frustration.
I believe that everyone has emotional associations with food and I’m really excited by what I’ve read so far – it’s so simple but it makes so much sense to me. I know that I have been out of balance. I’ve been so easy to irritate. I feel stressed out all the time regardless of how much yoga I do and thus, how I eat has been reflecting that and even though I’ve been increasing my physical activity since being out of the walking boot, I’m still gaining weight. I agree with people like Deepak Chopra and Dr. Andrew Weil that how we feel inside can manifest itself in our physical bodies. Can all of this imbalance really be the cause to what’s going on in my face? I guess we’ll see.
Have you ever explored Ayurveda? If so, what did you think?