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Connecting Attitudes with Illness: The Science of the Pulse

by Dr. Mary Jo Cravatta
Winter 2011 4 Comments

Q: Dr. Cravatta, I understand that you are both a chiropractor and an Ayurvedic practitioner. How did you become interested in the practice of Ayurveda?

MJC: I’ve been a direct disciple of Babaji of the Kriya Yoga lineage for many years. In 1979, I felt the inner guidance, which I believe came from Babaji, to begin studying Ayurveda. I realized a few years later, however, that for karmic reasons I also needed to become a chiropractor, so in 1982 I enrolled in chiropractic college. Being a chiropractor has proved helpful in my practice of Ayurveda – I will sometimes combine an Ayurvedic consultation with a chiropractic adjustment.

After graduating from chiropractic college in 1987, I studied Ayurveda with a number of Indian practitioners in this country, including an outstanding doctor from New Delhi who would visit the United States once a year. When this doctor no longer came, I prayed to Babaji that I needed further study. From then on, I received the teachings from Babaji intuitively. Most of what I know about the deeper aspects of Ayurveda comes from Babaji.

Q: What is Ayurveda?

MJC: Ayurveda is a system of natural medicine from India that is said to be over 5,000 years old. It is based on truths that were cognized by the rishis (sages) in deep meditation. Much of the original Ayurvedic science became lost during the Dark Age of Kali Yuga, but the deeper Ayurvedic truths are again beginning to surface.

Q: Do you see yourself as blazing a trail for a new type of Ayurvedic practice?

MJC: In my practice I try to present the deeper aspects of Ayurveda in a way that helps people see the connection between their attitudes and the “imbalances” that lead to illness, and how their attitudes relate to their karmic lessons in this lifetime. I believe there is a divine purpose to our lives and that illness can motivate us to work on important karmic issues and fulfill our life purpose.

Q: I understand that pulse diagnosis is one of the main diagnostic tools for Ayurveda. How does Ayurvedic pulse analysis differ a nurse’s reading of  a pulse?

MJC: When a nurse feels your pulse she’s tuning into a physical process. Ayurvedic pulse analysis is a means of accessing information stored in a person’s energy body. Everything relating to a person’s physical, mental, and emotional nature is stored in the energy body. By reading someone’s pulse, I can determine if that person has an illness and the imbalances that led to that illness. I can also determine whether that person has  imbalances that might lead to illness.

Q: Can you explain what you mean by “imbalances?”

MJC: Yes. In every person there are three basic health-related influences or what in Ayurveda we call doshas. These are known as vata, pitta, and kapha. Everyone has all three doshas in their body type but in differing proportions. For each person there is an optimal or properly “balanced” combination of these three influences, which varies from person to person. Deviations from the optimal create imbalances.

Q: In your many years of practice, what are the main imbalances you’ve seen?

MJC: By far the most frequent imbalance occurs in the vata dosha and is known as prana vata. I’ve read over 40,000 pulses in my career and rarely did I encounter someone who did not have a prana vata imbalance.

A prana vata imbalance causes a person to have a restless, overly active mind and difficulty in perceiving reality correctly. Often there’s insomnia, and a tendency to worry and replay mental “tapes” of past experiences. There may also be a tendency to be paranoid and to jump to wrong conclusions.

Q: Are there other common imbalances?

MJC: Yes. The two other most common imbalances involve the pitta dosha. Pitta is related to the fire element and people with an excess of pitta have a tendency toward negative attitudes and emotions — frustration, sadness, disappointment, impatience, anger, irritability, self-pity. The failure to process and release negative attitudes and emotions is the main cause of sadhaka pitta, which is the second most common imbalance that I see in my practice. When not processed and released, negative attitudes and emotions are stored in the energy body.

The third most common imbalance is ranjaka pitta. A ranjaka pitta imbalance usually results from feelings of being wronged or abused. Often there have been instances of actual abuse, persecution, or other serious “wrongs” in the person’s life. The imbalance occurs when a person feels justified in hanging on to the feeling of being wronged and is unable to accept responsibility for having attracted that karma.

Q: Can you give an example of how these imbalances lead to illness?

MJC: Let’s look at adult-onset diabetes.  Most cases of adult-onset diabetes involve a pitta imbalance caused by not fully processing emotional experiences. Usually there’s a holding on to disappointments, regrets, and to feelings of being wronged. There might also be the kind of intense, driving energy associated with “type A” personalities.

The accumulation of these unprocessed emotions and attitudes generates heat and inflammation in the body undermining the functioning of the body’s internal organs and cells, a process which can, in time, inhibit the cells’ ability to process glucose.

With adult-onset diabetes, it is said that unprocessed emotions block one’s ability to experience the “sweetness” that life can offer. The life lesson will include understanding that absolutely everything that happens in life is an opportunity to work on our karma. Without this understanding, a person will usually feel “wronged.” It’s the holding on to the feeling of being “wronged” that leads to diabetes, a heat-related disease.

Q: If having a predominance of pitta in one’s body type can predispose a person to certain imbalances and illnesses, it seems that it would be important to know one’s body type?

MJC: It’s very important. Our body type reflects the life lessons we need to learn in our soul journey. Understanding your body type is like having a roadmap to better health. You understand what attitudes you need to work on and what lifestyle changes you need to make.

Q: You stated previously that the most common and also the most serious imbalance is prana vata. Can you explain how a prana vata imbalance affects a person’s health?

MJC: A prana vata imbalance is a factor in all major diseases, including diabetes and cancer. A long-standing prana vata imbalance constricts the flow of life force in the body and weakens the immune system. The more active, and restless a person’s mind, the more constricted the flow of life force and the greater the impact on the immune system and on all bodily systems and cells.

Q: You mentioned that a prana vata imbalance is often a factor in the onset of cancer. Can you explain how that occurs?

MJC: Yes.  Let’s look at colon cancer, which is relatively common today. When people hold a lot of stress in the abdominal area, it affects their digestion and elimination, causing toxins to build up. The build-up of toxins and wastes in the colon aggravates prana vata, which weakens the immune system and constricts the flow of life force.

In my experience, most if not all cancers also involve negativity. Negativity generates heat and inflammation in the body which, as we saw with diabetes, can undermine the functioning of the internal organs and bodily cells. The negativity may not be obvious. It might be that someone is highly critical but doesn’t show it outwardly.

So, to sum up: the combination of toxic build-up in the colon, a reduced flow of life force throughout the body, a weakened immune system, and an increase of heat and inflammation throughout the body can in time result in colon cancer.

Q: Does breast cancer also involve unprocessed attitudes and emotions, and inflammation in the organs and cells?

MJC: Yes. Breast cancer is very much related to the heart and to unprocessed feelings and emotions. In this instance, the resulting heat and inflammation will often increase the rajasic element in the body’s hormonal cells.

Q: How do you help your patients transcend the attitudes that lead to imbalances and illness?

MJC: I think a big lesson for many people with serious illnesses and especially cancer is forgiveness—learning to forgive people for not being perfect and to recognize that all people are working on their life’s lessons. With an attitude of forgiveness we become grateful for life’s lessons. We recognize the truth that there are no “mistakes” and that every single aspect of our life is designed to facilitate our working on our life lessons.

Q: Of all the imbalances, which is the most important one to try to correct?

MJC: I would say prana vata because of its powerful effect on the immune system and the flow of life force in the body. Yet people today tend to do things that aggravate prana vata.

Q: Can you give a few examples?

MJC: Multi-tasking is a big one. Driving and talking on a cell phone. Talking on the phone while watching the computer screen. Reading while eating a meal. When you do more than one thing at a time, it divides the mind and increases prana vata.

The solution is for people to put their attention on one thing at a time. When they’re working on the computer, that’s should be all they are doing. When they’re eating a meal, they should only be doing that. Doing only one thing at a time is a big help in reducing prana vata.

People also need to watch what goes on in the mind. They may think, “Oh, I’m not doing two things at the same time.”  They may not be doing two things, but if their minds are focusing on more than one thing at a time, the mind becomes scattered. The more scattered the mind, the greater the prana vata imbalance.

Having a regular schedule of sleep, waking, and eating is also very important in preventing and reducing prana vata. Caffeine and alcohol aggravate prana vata.

Q: Is it correct that Ayurveda places a great deal of the responsibility for healing on the individual?

MJC: Yes. To benefit from Ayurveda people need to take responsibility for their own healthcare – meditation, diet, exercise, getting enough sleep. What kind of thoughts do they have? Are they multi-tasking?

Q: Why do some people not take responsibility?

MJC: I can think of a number of reasons. Some may have such a big prana vata imbalance that they become scattered and simply forget. They may intend to work on calming the mind but then forget!  Also, the more active and busy a person’s mind, the less able they are to see themselves in reality and to see that they are not taking care of themselves.

Another reason is second-guessing the diagnosis, which can also stem from prana vata and an overly active mind: “Did the doctor do the diagnosis right?  Am I taking the right herbs?” The mind just goes on and on.

A third reason is that a people with a prana vata imbalance often don’t think clearly and can misinterpret what they’ve experienced. When you combine that lack of clarity with the kind of pitta imbalance that makes a person inflexible, you can easily have someone who is resistant to treatment.

A final reason would be a pitta imbalance in the heart, and a sense of sadness and lack of fulfillment. People with this kind of imbalance often believe that no form of treatment will ever help them. Usually they don’t take care of themselves because they think, “I’m not worthy of love,” or “I’m overweight anyway, so who really cares?”

Q: Roughly what percent of your patients listen to you?

MJC: I always have drawn a lot of devotees in my practice but I’m now drawing devotees who are deeper on the spiritual path and highly motivated to work on their imbalances. They understand how getting rid of their imbalances and becoming more grounded, less restless, and more flexible will help them spiritually.

Q: What kind of remedies and practices do you recommend for people?

MJC: Meditation is at the top of the list, but if a person is not yet calm enough to meditate, I might first recommend breathing exercises such as alternate nostril breathing, which is calming and cooling to the nervous system. I also recommend affirmations and visualizations relating to the chakras affected by their imbalances.

Herbs are a very important part of what I recommend. With Babaji’s guidance, I recently developed a number of herb formulas that address the kinds of imbalances I commonly see in my practice. The herbs have a balancing effect on the doshas, chakras, and the energy body. There are also nasya oils based on the same herb formulas that give a quick input into the nervous system through the nostrils.

Q: You describe what you practice as “Shaktiveda Ayurveda.” Can you explain what that means?

Shaktiveda Ayurveda includes pulse diagnosis and the different therapies and practices I recommend for the imbalances that lead to illness. I also recently completed a DVD which combines a number of different therapies.

Q: How do you see the future of your practice?

MJC: Eventually, I may focus more on people who are prepared to delve deeply into the underlying imbalances. My specialty is being able to help people see what blocks them, and as I evolve spiritually, that ability evolves in me. Today I’m better at reading pulses than I was five or ten years ago.

Q: Does Babaji give you more understanding of the pulse as you grow spiritually?

MJC: Yes. I gain a deeper understanding of how everything revealed by the pulse fits together. Having this big picture enables me to see why people have certain symptoms, what the imbalances are, and what life lessons they need to work on. But it’s all from  Babaji, not from me.

Q: When you do Ayurvedic pulse readings, how would you describe Babaji’s relationship to you?

MJC: He opens up a channel that allows me to get the truth. But it’s his blessings. It’s not from me.

For more information about Dr. Cravatta or to contact her for an in person or phone consultation, please click on the ad at the top of this page.

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4 Comments »

  • Cat says:

    Wow, very profound! This explains it all! Funny how society does not operate this way and we are blamed for things as children (for example for being naughty) and then we are hard on ourselves as adults when all we really need to do is be easy on ourselves and everyone around us and that will be better for us and them! We each have to find the Divine within and follow it, that is, go with Its flow and not that of society’s 9-5, boxed cubicle narrow existence.

  • John M. Peters says:

    Dr. Cravatta mentioned alternate nostril breathing which I’ve practiced often in past decades but have not practiced in recent years. Upon reading her reference to it I immediately stopped reading for several minutes and practiced it…and I benifited from it as much as I ever have in the past. And this is a very fine interview/article, thanks.

  • Tonya says:

    That was fantastic. I love Ayurveda and would like to know more.

  • Jerry Champagne says:

    Dear Dr. Cravatta,
    Thank you for this very informative overview of Ayurveda. Have a blessed Holiday Season.

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