10 Pairs of Opposites: Hot & Cold
This is a 10-part series where I will be reviewing each of the 10 pairs of Opposites (AKA qualities or Gunas) in depth.
Everything in this Universe (man made and natural, physical and abstract) are based off the five elements; Ether (Space), Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. From these five elements, the Rishis (or Ayurvedic Seers) determined that there were 10 pairs of Opposites that are used to view the Universe and restore balance. Through observation, palpation, and questioning an Ayurvedist will see where you have excess or depleted gunas, and work to restore them to their proper ratio.
These gunas impact everything!!
Hot (Ushṇa) and Cold (Shīta)
Since you were a child you could say when things are hot or cold. Right!? So why is this so revolutionary?? Because the revolutionary things typically tend to be the items we overlook. And when you get down to it, you might even start to realize that hot and cold are on a spectrum and that this spectrum is actually all relative. Take for example, cinnamon versus hot peppers. Both are hot. But clearly hot peppers are a different type of heat compared to cinnamon. We could think of the peppers as being hotter, and the cinnamon as more of a warmer. This is how an Ayurvedist thinks about you and your imbalances. Maybe there is extra warmth or maybe there is HEAT being found in the body (or in modern day terms, inflammation, heartburn, rashes, diarrhea, etc.)
Physiological / Body - Hot & Cold
Let’s take a look at that thing you call your body! What happens if all of it or parts of it get hotter or colder than they should be. Fever is an easy one that might come to mind. But rashes, heartburn, diarrhea, or inflamed joints (like arthritis) could all indicate excess heat as well. Coldness could be seen by constipation, shivering/goosebumps, slowed heart rate (low blood pressure), or poor circulation (cold fingers and toes).
Psychological / Mind – Hot & Cold
Ayurveda says there is no difference between the mind and the body, in fact we actually refer to it as the MindBody. But for the sake my more Western Audience, I thought we could look at the mind through this hot and cold lens. A hot mental sphere can be driven towards goals and get them done, these people are going to have a million things going on all at once and think that it is fine. A cooler mind can potentially step back and filter a bit better, but may become cold to the point of no-action.
Stress can sometimes heat a person up so much, that they become cold. Think about during finals week. You get so worked up (dry heat in the mind) that you just shut down and end up watching an entire season on Netflix instead of studying… or maybe that is just me.
Emotional / Spiritual – Hot & Cold
Ever heard the expression “ She’s hot headed” or “keeping a “cool head”. Hot headed people tend to be quick to anger, very passionate, lusty, or impulsive. Cool headed people tend to (over) analyze things, keep calm in a crisis, and can sometimes appear emotionally cold/distant.
Spiritually a person who is more heat prone, could potentially become a passionate zealot. And a person who is on the colder side, may just freeze out all spirituality for whatever reason.
External Environment – Hot & Cold
Where you live and how you live in it can absolutely impact your health and well-being. Right now as I type this it is freezing cold in Kansas, and my body is yearning for warm foods trying to keep that cold away. But if you are a hot-prone person, living in a hot area (dessert has dry heat, jungles have wet heat, and New York City has stressful trapped city heat), these heat issues will start stacking more and more.
Ayurveda looks at using opposite qualities to reduce the excess. For example, if you are having a lot of cold constipation, we would want to warm up the GI tract in order to relieve this problem. Please keep in mind that the human body is a complex system, and rarely that easy to balance. Talk to an Ayurvedist before trying to balance things on your own. But at home you can start to bring awareness, try to start looking at your body through this hot and cold lens. Maybe you will notice that in certain areas you have heat, but overall are cold.
Heightening awareness is always the first step in Ayurveda, and you can do that safely in your own home.