“No pepper for you!”

by Randall Volberg

“No pepper for you!” Dr. Varma chimes as a playful grin skips its way around his mouth, “it will make you angry!” Naturally my next thought is “what the hell?” why is this guy involving me? Doesn’t he see I’m trying to be Mr. Objective Reporter while my girlfriend guinea pigs for this ayurvedic assessment.” This was one of those special times when my social filter was working, and so I reply, “How can you tell Dr. Varma?” “The shape of your nose is the signature of your composition. You are a rare, even combination of all three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha.” In keeping with my gender, I naturally interpret this to mean that I possess superpowers and this wise, wise man was smart enough to realize this and would proceed to tell me how to unleash them, as long as I avoided pepper - my personal kryptonite. Alas, this doesn’t happen, and from the look on my girlfriend’s face, her own analysis concludes that pepper is not my only weakness. Perhaps sensing I had enjoyed pepper that day, Dr Varma returns to his original client.

He takes her pulse, ganders at her skin, hair, eyes, facial features and factors in her general composure. From this, he identifies her predominant energy and its current level of balance. As he proceeds to instruct her on how to “pacify” her pitta overtendencies, I take notice of an office adorned with a series of seeming contrasts: a picture of Einstein on one side and a old yogi priest on the other. In the bookshelf, Principles of Internal Medicine is leaning against Heavens Balance. To reinforce a point about his 5000 year old medical practice, Dr. Varma fires up a presentation on his new 17” widescreen Apple laptop. On the desktop is a picture of the Hubble telescope’s recent wide-view image of the universe teeming with countless galaxies dancing in every direction. I zone in again and listen: “you would benefit from ghee and sesame oil, but not the toasted kind…avoid cayenne pepper or chilli as it kills your red blood cells…turmeric, beneficial bacteria, B-complex, iron, and black pepper will be of benefit.”

In contrast to the western allopathic tendency of treating specific disease states, ayurveda (ayur – “life” and veda – “knowledge) takes a more holistic approach to medicine with the primary aim to maintain balance of the mind, body and consciousness in the belief that disease states manifest when these “energies” are out of alignment. This balance is affected by adjusting a person’s specific and innate constitution, manifesting from the five main elements: Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. These elements interact with each other and express themselves in the form of the three principle energies or “doshas” (vata, pitta, kapha) that make up the fabric of our reality – from food to personality. In relation to the physical body, vata corresponds to movement, pitta is digestion and metabolism, and kapha is structure and support (lubrication, secretions, etc.).

Aside from his warm and serene composure, I could tell Dr. Varma is a playful man – one might even say frisky. With those keen observational skills he probably senses we are a new couple, and extends a more palatable analogy, “The doshas correspond to love making as well.” he declares, “vata is the thought of sex, pita is the sex act itself, and kapha is the orgasmic experience.” No troubles with this doctor’s bedside manner.
Ayurvedic philosophy supports the idea that we have many “bodies,” and each has its own requirements for nourishment. For the person to survive, Dr. Varma explains that “the most important thing is light, the second is air, the third is water, and the fourth is food…ayurveda is not a rule-driven system, it is strongly based on listening to the body and making adjustments to suit. The overriding principle is based on “watering the roots, to enjoy the fruits.”
It’s definitely worth checking out. Dr. Varma and his partner Dr. Susan Barr, who is also an ayurvedic physician, operate The Pacific Institute for Wholistic Living on West 4th, kittycorner from Banyen Books. Aside from the consultations (initial $90 for 1.5 hours and $15/15min for follow up), the centre provides cooking classes, ayurvedic massage, herbal supplements and foods, oil therapy, and detox programs. Drs. Varma and Barr also live in Kits, and local lore has it that, if you’re lucky, you can sometimes see them frolicking and tussling in their front room as you walk by. Hhhmm, maybe this “constitution” business works for relationships as well...
I’d be curious to know your experiences with ayurveda.

If you have any to share, please email me at volberg@opencircle.ca.

About Dr. Varma

Sivakumar Varma is a Vaidya (Ayurvedic Physician) trained in India. He's a certified yoga therapist, and certified as a Mind Body Educator by the Chopra Center for Well Being. With years of experience under a traditional master in ayurvedic medicine, mind/body counselling and yoga, he brings a timeless wisdom to his unique consultations and treatment programs.

In addition, he is an international speaker, and has assisted in organizing two world Holistic Health Congresses and innumerable health expositions and seminars. He is a pioneer in setting up Ayurvedic Spas and retreat centers around the world. BE NOW Natural Wellness, is honoured to have Vaidya Varma assist with the implementation of their new well being center in Victoria and offer ayurvedic consultations.

About Dr. Barr

Susan Barr was trained in India as a doctor of Alternative Medicine, specializing in Ayurveda. She is also certified as a Mind Body Educator by the Chopra Centre for Well Being. With more than 15 years of experience in the field of Wholistic Healthcare, she brings a multifaceted and innovative approach to her work.

The Pacific Institute of Wholistic Living Inc.

3543 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver, BC, V6R 1N9