Why Grieving is Important: Understanding Sadhaka Pitta

Our culture often encourages us to ignore hard feelings, including sadness, fear, and grief, but allowing yourself to fully feel all of your emotions can lead to a whole and healthy life. The Ayurvedic concept of sadhaka pitta helps us realize when we’re putting up walls.

In This Article

What is Sadhaka Pitta?

In Ayurveda, there’s an aspect, or subdosha, of pitta called sadhaka pitta that controls communication between the heart and mind. Sadhaka pitta is essentially the heart asking the mind to listen to its feelings. It’s the heart saying, It’s now time for me to hold the reigns and drive this chariot; it’s time to stop thinking and worrying, and start feeling.

When we experience loss, the pain is often too great to tolerate, so many of us emotionally wall off that part of ourselves, creating an imbalance in sadhaka pitta. It’s natural to retreat, protect ourselves emotionally, and become numb, but it can also prevent us from processing loss and feeling whole.

Sadhaka Pitta and Grief

Grieving is a process of starting to feel again, and it can be extremely painful at first. But it’s through grieving that we learn to tolerate pain as we move through it. Grieving is an important part of the process of becoming whole again after loss, regaining one’s passion, and even building a spiritual connection with those who have passed.

Many years ago, when I was codirecting Deepak Chopra’s Ayurveda Center in Massachusetts, I had a patient I diagnosed with a sadhaka pitta imbalance. I first noticed it in his pulse, then I inquired about his emotions and asked if there was any recent emotional trauma or heartbreak in his life.

His eyes immediately welled up and he told me that two years ago his son, the quarterback of the high school football team, crashed his car into a tree on prom night and died.

My patient was a well-known real-estate developer in the area and I remembered hearing about the accident. It was very disturbing news for everyone in that small town. The patient told me that he hadn’t built anything since his son died. He said his wife wanted him to be with her, but he couldn’t connect. He told me: “I just go for long walks all day, come back, eat, and go to bed. I just want to be alone.”

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Treating Sadhaka Pitta

Ayurvedic practitioners often treat patients for sadhaka pitta imbalance when the connection between heart and mind is lost, severed, or broken from emotional trauma or the passing of a loved one. It’s also treated when there is a strong desire to know God or experience true love.

Sadhaka pitta is a defensive strategy often described as a protective block in the emotional aspect of kapha called tarpaka kapha. Kapha is the heavy (earth-water) dosha and tarpaka translates to retain or record. You can think of kapha tarpaka as memory, as well as stored emotional trauma (in some traditions this is called samskara).

Kapha tarpaka is linked to congestion of lymphatics, or the glymphatic system, in the brain and central nervous system. Congestion of these newly discovered brain lymphatics has been associated with a series of health concerns, including anxiety, depression, inflammation, infections, cognitive decline, and even auto-immune issues.

To remove lymphatic congestion in the tarpaka kapha and restore balance to sadhaka pitta, as a way to free old emotional trauma, Ayurveda has developed a deep cleansing strategy called SAN, or shiro-abyhanga-nasya. This is a series of nasya treatments that involve sniffing herbalized oil with ginger into the deep sinuses.

Learn how to perform this Ayurvedic spa therapy at home.

Creating a Spiritual Bond with a Loved One Who Has Passed

There is also a Vedic idea that helped me find peace and then a deeper relationship with my dad when he passed a few years back:

Pain and fear are directly across from bliss. The reason for pain and fear is to get your attention so you can go to the pain, through the pain, and then access a deeper part of yourself and let that part out.

The extent that we loved someone and they loved us is the extent that through their loss we—through the pain—have access to a deeper part of ourselves. According to the Vedas, when someone passes, they shed their emotional armor and find themselves yearning for and finally free to love us fully, purely, and deeply in a way they may not have been able to do while here.

When a loved one passes, they tug on our hearts, encouraging us to go through pain and grief so we too can shed our emotional armor and feel the love we have buried inside.

What is the point of all the pain of grief? To help us find a place in our hearts where loved ones are waiting to have a new, heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul relationship with us. According to Ayurveda, we can have a new, different, but somehow deeper, relationship with them, one that they are ready for now because they’ve shed their emotional pain, and so have we through grieving.

We can sometimes find a place of peace, love, and deep contentment that we may have never known before.

When our loved ones pass, they sink a hook deep into our hearts that they will never let go of. It tugs on us to grow, shine, and be free. This is a special holy time, as it is the birth of a new relationship, and this time, it is eternal!

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I dedicate this blog to a dear friend who lost their father too soon.

18 thoughts on “Why Grieving is Important: Understanding Sadhaka Pitta”

  1. I love this so much. I am grateful to experience a connection with loved ones who have passed. With one in particular I receive daily love and support, often in the form of humor! For those who want to hear more about the pure love without emotional armor that you describe, check out Anita Moorjani’s beautiful book “Dying To Be Me.”

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  2. So very beauitful written! My mom passed 2015 and I had some really amazing conncections in dreams, and also through her old ipad …

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  3. Thank you for this — on a rainy spring morning when nature’s own cycles are supporting the arising of grief (according to the Chinese 5-element system, I believe). What about healing grief that’s about loss of a major part of oneself, a significant part or aspect of one’s own life? That’s the grief I’m facing right now. I’m trying to map what this article says onto that kind of grief….

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  4. Our cat passed away last December. He was with us all his life (17 yrs). We miss him dearly, and my daughter tells me she dreams of him and that she still cries when she thinks of him. What you wrote about humans passing, do you think that also applies to animals? Thank you.

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  5. This is a very helpful perspective. I lost my Mother on Good Friday last year but even that pales in comparison to suddenly losing my husband of 44+ years to a heart attack just before Christmas, who had no disease and took no meds or any OTC pills – a health nut. I will meditate on this. Thank you!

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  6. the best thing to do for a loved one, alive or dead is to pray for them! they will then let you know what they need and give tips on other loved ones and their needs..

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  7. Wow! Another clue for me, and the same treatment you recommended a few years ago. Am putting a Spring detox plan together right now, and doing the ginger-drops nasya is on it. Thank you so much for this article, it answers questions I didn’t even know I had, and that’s the truth! May God less you and yours always, Dr. John.

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  8. I lost my partner last Saturday after caring for him for a year. This is so timely, especially as the emotion is overwhelming at the moment. Thank you.

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  9. My beloved son died November 2000. I have never recovered. Initially I had hallucinations. I had to resign from my career job. Initially my heart felt as if it was being squeezed by a giant fist. Later it was numb. I became a yoga instructor, certified in the tradition of Paramhansa Yogananda and nationally registered. I was unable to open my chest in poses without suffering and sobbing. I can do chest opening poses now. My heart still hurts, in a physical way as well as emotional heart pain. My life is crippled in many ways, although I have been productive and completed many courses and certifications and licensing. I have also written and published a book. I am working on two more books I expect will be published. I read constantly. I keep my mind active. I am primarily a recluse but with life long loving friends and husband. These days, I have a pall of sadness always. It is in my dreams. I wake with it. I know other people move on, I haven’t. I believe that my life will be shorter than it would have been if I had not lost my son. That is the data. I also have read Yogananda on contacting the spirit of the lost one. I turn back on this because I feel that if I do make it real, I will become completely detached from this life, I want to be with him anyway as it is. I ordered your oil and will give it a try. I am not excited about snuffing things up into my sinuses. It does seem rather complicated and difficult. Any lifting of grief would be appreciated.

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