As a parent you may have marveled at the differences in your children and wondered why what works for one may not help another? According to the Ayurvedic theory of doshas everything in the universe is comprised of different proportions of space, air, fire, water and earth. In our physiologies we also have a combination of these elements called Doshas.
Comprehension of the variations in doshas enables us to understand our children’s likes and dislikes, reactions to certain food, behavioral and sleep patterns and most importantly ways to maintain their health and happiness.
Children with a predominance of Vata in their nature have a light build; they are quick, enthusiastic and changeable. Their digestion and sleep patterns are easily disturbed if they get anxious or too excited. They have active imaginations and tend to daydream.
Pitta natured children have a regular build and strong digestive system. They are good eaters and get irritable if they miss a meal. They tend to have red or blond hair and fair or freckly skin. They are generally strong willed and active by nature.
Children with more Kapha in their constitutions are chubbier and have thicker hair. They have big eyes and lustrous skin. They are sound sleepers and are generally slower and more emotionally stable then their Vata or Pitta counterparts.
No one is purely one dosha but a combination of all three. Our basic nature can be obscured by imbalance. Through lifestyle, diet and seasonal influences we can experience too much or too little of the doshas.
Too much Vata can create irregular or weak digestion, trouble concentrating and poor sleep, tendency towards constipation, dry or flaky skin and a tendency to be fearful. Excess Vata can be balanced by warm oil massages, warm food and drinks, avoiding exposure to wind and cold, regular sleep and eating routines, and gentle, soothing music.
An increase in Pitta can cause angry outbursts and frustration, skin rashes, diahorrea and feeling hungry all the time. Pitta is soothed by favouring sweet food such as fresh fruit or milk and avoiding spicy, sour or acidic foods, bathing, being in nature and regular meals.
Too much Kapha can manifest in excessive mucous, lethargy and frequent coughs and colds. Kapha is pacified by reducing sweet, heavy food, exercise, avoiding cold, wet environments and enjoying stimulating activities.
The health or temperament of a child is also influenced by that of the parents. Balancing a mother’s Vata can often soothe her child without any actually adjustment to the infant’s routine or diet. This is especially evident in the early days of breast-feeding as the baby is relying solely on the mother for sustenance.
By understanding the doshas and their imbalances, we can better understand that each child is unique and be better able to offer the most appropriate form of teaching in each case. Vata predominant children are quick to learn but also quick to forget. They like to embrace new activities and love creative pursuits. They are more easily distracted and can get overloaded by being given too much information at once. Students with more Pitta in their nature have inquisitive minds and like to know how things work. They ask lots of questions and enjoy being physically active. They tend to be competitive and can tend towards anger when out of balance. Children with a more Kaphic constitution may seem slower to take in new information but once they have learnt something they are excellent at remembering it. They are patient by nature and good at creating things with their hands. Kapha types can sometimes need encouragement or stimulation to get going on new things.
Knowledge of the doshas and the practical application of Ayurvedic knowledge specific to the needs of the individual child gives educators and parents the power to completely tailor learning experiences and styles, utilise a childs diet and daily routine to create balance and develop the whole child. Maharishi schools worldwide integrate the principals of Maharishi Ayurveda including Transcendental Meditation for children into the cirriculum with amazing results!
Behavior that may have previously been viewed as negative can be understood as an imbalance and treated accordingly. Instead of disciplining a child for being distracted, aggressive or lazy, addressing diet and lifestyle factors can provide a more positive and long-term solution.
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How many times have you lovingly prepared what you felt was a nutritious and delicious meal for your child to be greeted with exclamations of “yuk, I’m not gunna eat that!”
Although this may be a frustrating experience there may be a reason for their lack of appreciation.
Unless we are pregnant most people dismiss cravings as something bad that should be controlled. A desire for a particular taste or texture comes from the need of the body to create balance. Not yet exposed to the influences of advertising and addictions, children’s cravings more accurately reflect what their bodies actually need.
Just as the qualities of Vata, Pitta and Kapha can be seen in our physiology they are also present in our food. Food that is light, dry and cold is Vata in nature such as lettuce or rice crackers. Spices and chili, sour yogurt and tomatoes express the fiery qualities of Pitta. Food that is heavy, unctuous and sweet like milk or cheese is Kaphic in nature.
Excessive doshas are balanced by bringing in the opposite quality. For example if you have too much of the heavy, mucous like qualities of Kapha it is best to avoid ice cream and dairy products and favour leafy green veggies or barley grain. Pitta’s excess heat is soothed by sweet juicy fruit. While airy feelings associated with too much Vata can be balanced by a sweet, warm drink or a salty dish.
Each dosha is pacified by particular tastes. Vata is balanced by sweet, sour and salty foods. This explains why when people are feeling stressed or spaced out they crave junk food. In fact the fast food industry predominantly consists of Vata pacifying food. While hot chips and sugary donuts may be soothing when you have been rushing about or overworking, the airy feelings associated with Vata are also appeased by warm soups or fruit toast. Pitta is pacified by bitter, astringent and sweet tastes. A salad is a perfect Pitta pacifying meal as leafy greens contain both the bitter and astringent tastes. The astringent taste has a drying quality that draws moisture to it and is also found in lentils and honey. Kapha being almost opposite to Vata is balanced by bitter, astringent and pungent tastes. A spicy lentil curry offsets the sticky, cold, heavy characteristics of Kapha.
Understanding the influence of the doshas can help us to satisfy our children’s culinary desires while keeping them balanced and healthy. Instead of dismissing our child’s craving for sweet food and insisting they eat a salad, or giving in to their demands for lollies and chocolate, offer them sweet fruit, rice pudding or pancakes. If the desire for sweet is prompted by Vata being out of balanced, it may also be satisfied with salty or sour tastes.
It is important to offer your child a variety of tastes. With the western diet predominant in sweet, sour and salty foods, children can grow up unaccustomed to bitter, pungent and astringent foods. Using small amounts of spice in your cooking such as ginger, turmeric and fenugreek can ensure that all the six tastes are included.
While it is good to follow the guidelines for balancing your basic constitutional type, our desires for particular food is also influenced by the climate, seasons, time of life and daily activities. With all the physiological changes going on in a child, their needs may vary widely, changing from day to day. One day they may love cauliflower and the next want nothing but pasta. By respecting your child’s desires and offering them nutritious options you are giving them the best chance to acquire both a balanced physiology and a healthy attitude to eating.
For more see also these topics:
Immunity, allergy, sleep, Mother and Baby Program, What is my imbalance, Doshas