Love, Fat and Happiness

“Tita knew through her own flesh how fire transforms the elements, how a lump of corn flour is changed into a tortilla, how a soul that hasn’t been warmed by the fire of love is lifeless, like a useless ball of corn flour.”

Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

Ayurveda and yoga share a unique understanding of our basic anatomy and physiology in that the human body (and all things in nature) consists of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These five elements combine to form what is known as the doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha–commonly understood to be one’s constitutional type.

Going into greater detail, our body can also be dissected into layers, the dhatus, or tissues of the body. Through proper nourishment, digestion, and elimination we are able to build and maintain healthy tissues. Interestingly enough, each of these tissues has a subtle purpose. For instance, it is our rakta (blood) that gives us invigoration, our mamsa (muscle) that assists in protection and a healthy ability to exert will, and our medas (fat tissue) that provides a sense of contentment and love.

Snehana, the word for oil therapy in Ayurveda, contains the root sneha, meaning love, affection, AND unctuousness. “Well nourished flesh feeds fat, whose function is ‘sneha,’ which literally means unctuousness.” ~Robert Svoboda. Svoboda goes on… “Fat, and to some extent flesh as well, provide us with that sublime satisfaction that a sound sleeper receives from a warm quilt on a cold night.” (Prakriti, Your Ayurvedic Constitution).

If healthy medas leads to a sense of love and contentment, does this mean that thin people can’t be happy? Well, not exactly. Like all good things in life, it’s about quality over quantity and striking the constitutionally correct balance. Insufficient medas leads to emotional coldness and dissatisfaction, whereas overabundant medas leads to complacency. However, correct balance is a highly subjective matter and varies from person to person. Regardless, nourishing your body with high quality oils both inside and out is one key to developing healthy medas and thus a sense of self-love, as well as protection from the harsher forces of the external world.

I often get questions about which oils are best–for cooking and for external application. And of course, the answer is that it depends…on you, the season, the temperature, your present situation…

These are a few ways to enjoy sublime snehana this season:

  • Make ghee! Ghee is tridoshic, meaning it is appropriate for all constitutional types. See easy recipe:
  • Apply a fine layer of oil to your skin before bathing: sesame, coconut, almond, or mustard depending on you.
  • Especially good for allergy season: oil your nostrils daily with sesame oil or a special nasya oil:
  • Receive Abhyanga (massage with hefty amounts of oil) or Shirodhara (an oil therapy that pacifies the nervous system).

Here’s to love, fat, contentmet and keeping your body a well-oiled machine!



  1. Louiza says

    Dear Greta,

    You have taught me the value snehana and I continue to practice it. From cooking with Ghee… I sometimes take a teaspoon dose of ghee straight out of the jar when I’m feeling cold and dry. When my body calls I respond with oil, inside and out. Oiling the skin is still a daily ritual… It’s warming, moisturizing and it enlivens me.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge of Aryuveda,


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