As humans living in this beautiful world we are constantly on the quest to alleviate suffering - suffering of the mind, suffering of the body, suffering of the soul. In India, the path to relieve that suffering is found through the thousand-year old sciences of Ayurveda and Yoga.
Both provide a set of basic principles that define proper lifestyle and diet, all in accordance with your individual nature and your environment, as it is said that which is outside is also inside.
The main principle of Ayurveda is based on the five elements: ether, air, water, fire and earth. They are found in everything external and internal of the body. These elements are found in our body in the form of the doshas or "humors" or "natures." They are separated into three categories, Vata - ether and wind, Pitta - fire and water, and Kapha - earth and water.
In Ayurveda we receive our life vitality from two main sources, 30% from food, and 70% from our external environment. It is when these sources of vitality become imbalanced in the body that problems begin. In terms of the food, problems occur through the digestion of food, due to lack of or too much fire (agni) in the digestive track. The outer environment can cause imbalances in the mind and body when we are stressed, in a chaotic space, surrounded by pollution, possess a lot of anger, etc...
Our bodies always let us know externally when there is an internal imbalance. This can be seen through acne, constipation, redness of the eyes, etc. In Ayurveda they would say that one of your doshas are out of balance.
The first step in the diagnosis is determining what your dominate dosha is:
Do you have dry skin, and tend to get cracks in your feet, and split ends in your hair?
Do you dream of warmer weather?
Do you get pain in your joints, pains everywhere?
Do you find it hard to finish things, and long to travel all the time?
If so you are most likely Vata dominant.
Do you have fair skin and hair?
Are you hungry all the time?
Do you feel like you can become angry very quickly?
Are you thirsty all the time?
If so you are most likely Pitta dominant.
Do you have oily skin?
Do you have a hard time waking up in the morning?
Do you sweat a lot?
Do you have a strong sweet tooth and could eat a whole container of ice cream in one sitting?
If so you are most likely a Kapha.
So how to fix an imbalance. Well one way is to learn everything you can about Ayurveda (which takes about minimum 5 years in an Ayurvedic school), you can self diagnose looking at your own poop (yes people the poop tells it all!) or you can do what Seth and I did and visit your local Indian Ayurvedic doctor.
On our one day off, we went to the main city of Haridwar, with a group of 6 people from our course, to visit the doctor. We enter a small crowded room, where in the middle sits a desk and at the desk, is a very small, very old (I am guessing 90) man with the largest Yoda like ears I have ever seen. He is the doctor, and we are all there to witness the open examination of each of his patients, which goes something like this: I sat next to him, he felt my pulse for about thirty seconds, then asked my age, and from that he said to me three very startling facts about my past and present medical conditions, information that only I know about, wrote me out a prescription, and the whole process was over in less than two minutes. He did the same to Seth: in less than a minute he told him that his Vatta and Pitta were out of balance and that he needed to 'focus more on his asana practice.' Then he stuck a flashlight down his throat and told him that his tonsils were swollen, which they were.
I am a believer, it is true, but I also know that this man after all of these years of training is so sensitive and acute to the smallest sign and behaviorisms that the average person would never notice, that along with the science of pulse reading, he can tell exactly where the imbalance is.
After a week of medications, which were a combination of herbal tasting powders, all carefully prepared in individual newspaper packets, I feel amazing and completely healed. For example I have had a planters wart on my foot for over a year and I tried all sorts of western medicine and nothing worked, and these magic powders have done the trick....there were other things as well, but I will keep my pooping issues to myself....
The conclusion is that this is a science that has been practiced for over two thousand years and is still going strong, I think that is just one proof of it effectiveness. India has known for a long time that healing is a process of not just body and remedy, but a process of sustaining the vitality of the mind, body, heart and soul.