“And the Lord said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light,” (the Bible). Since the beginning of time, light has been present in our lives. The sun, the original source of a rainbow of light rays, impacts a number of biorhythms of the body. Sunlight on the skin helps in the formation of the essential Vitamin D. Light entering the eyes is the main stimulus for the pineal gland, a small gland that sits behind the middle of the forehead and secretes the hormones, serotonin and melatonin, which regulate our sleep and wake cycles. Serotonin is released during the day to help with energy and motivation, and melatonin at night to help us wind down. The pineal gland also releases other less understood substances that can impact the pituitary gland and the production of many other hormones in the body.1
In Part I of this Positively Ayurvedic series on “Good Vibrations,” we explained how electromagnetic vibrations affect the physiology of the body, and we explored which types of sounds were the most healing. In Part II, we will delve into the effect that colors can have on our mental, emotional and physical states.
Chromotherapy, or color therapy, is the use of color for healing. By taking in the proper color of light or pigment vibration through our eyes and skin, we can help balance our body, mind and consciousness in the same way that we do with sound therapy. Chromotherapy tends to work directly on the mind and the subtle body.
HEALING EFFECTS OF COLOR
In Ayurveda, we have the subtle gunas or subtle qualities. They are Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Sattvic colors are expansive and promote peacefulness and spiritual growth. As a general rule, pastels are the most sattvic, regardless of the color. Rajasic colors are stimulating and exciting; they increase the desire of the mind and senses. As a general rule, bright, flashy, neon and psychedelic colors are the most rajasic. Tamasic colors dull the mind and make it heavier and lethargic. They can bring out a person’s darker nature and interfere with spiritual growth. Dull and dark colors tend to be tamasic.1
Despite color’s subtle nature, it can have a dramatic effect on health. For example, consider the use of light blue light in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the addition of the calming effects of pink paint in some prisons, and the use of blue light to break down the bilirubin in infants who are born with jaundice.
In general, here’s a breakdown of how colors can help heal1 and 2:
Red – is used to stimulate and cheer up patients. Red-colored baths and light therapy have actually helped patients recover from complete paralytic states. There is a caution though: red can sharpen the mind, but it can also easily agitate it. An individual needs strong Ojas (vitality) in order to handle a lot of it. Spiritually, it is a Rajasic color.
Orange – while still exciting and energizing like red, it is not as stimulating. It enhances sexual energy and reduces depression, but overuse can result in mental disturbance. Spiritually, it is also a Rajasic color.
Yellow – lifts the spirits, increasing joy and enthusiasm. It helps in managing depression and stimulating the intellect. Yellow sunlight can be enhanced through yellow glass to help treat patients suffering from chronic bronchial irritation and colds. Drinking water stored in yellow wine bottles is known to help treat severe constipation. Spiritually, it is a Rajasic color.
Gold – lifts the spirits, increases the intellect and stabilizes the mind. Of all of the colors, it is the only one that builds Ojas (vitality). As a result, it increases immunity and mental stability and helps improve the endocrine function. It is a Sattvic color that supports spiritual transformation.
Green – is a combination of yellow, an energizing color, and blue, a pacifying color. As such, it is a very moderate color that is considered to be grounding. It has a unique effect on the fatty tissue of the body, supporting weight loss in those who are overweight and weight gain in those who are underweight. Spiritually, green is a Sattvic color.
Blue – reduces anger and passion. It has alterative, anti-microbial and cholegogic properties that assist in cooling the blood and reducing fevers and inflammation in the body. It helps reduce obstructions in the body and is beneficial in drying up phlegm and reducing the size of tumors. Blue light color therapy has helped heal sciatica, and even complex cases of lung hemorrhage. Spiritually, blue is a Sattvic color.
White – contains all colors in its light form and is absent all color in pigment. Its light nature supports purification, and its cooling nature counteracts fever and infection. It is expansive, helping to make a person feel more connected with God. White is the most Sattvic (and expansive) of all colors.
Black – contains all color in pigment and is absent all color in light. Physically, black does not have a dramatic effect. Emotionally, however, it is very potent. It can be used to remove a person from the world of the senses, allowing for inner contemplation and development, or it can increase a person’s feelings of isolation and separation, eliciting fear, paranoia and a person’s darker side.
Brown – is very grounding. It increases strength and endurance and supports the development of Ojas. It helps reduce fear and anxiety and will temper one’s critical or angry nature. Spiritually though, it is a Tamasic color that contributes to laziness and a lack of motivation in cases of overuse or excessive Kapha.
Purple/Violet – are combinations of red and blue. Purple contains more red, which makes it warmer and more Rajasic. Violet contains more blue, which makes it cooler and more Sattvic.
COLORING BY THE DOSHAS
It’s important to note that balance is essential when working with colors. Too much of any one of them can have an undesirable effect. Knowing your overall body constitution (Prakruti) and your current imbalances (Vikruti) will help guide you through the subtleties of working with light and color to create harmony in your life. If you don’t know your Prakruti and Vikruti, I recommend consulting with a certified Ayurvedic practitioner like Positively Ayurvedic. If you already have that information, you will find the chart below helpful:
Best for Vata: Orange, Yellow, Green, Gold, Brown, Purple
Best for Pitta: Gold, Blue, White, Brown, Violet
Best for Kapha: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Gold, Blue, White, Purple, Violet
Best for Spiritual Healing (Sattvic): Yellow, Green, Gold, Blue, White, Violet
Keep in mind that balancing a variety of colors is advisable. For example, in your home, using a palette of orange, brown and white might be a nice balance for someone who is predominantly Vata AND Pitta. Wearing black and white or red and blue strikes a nice balance between the stimulating and relaxing qualities of each.
HOW TO HEAL WITH COLOR
There are numerous ways to use color to help balance and maintain health. You can paint your house, or just a room, add flowers or colorful decor to your home or office, change your clothing color palette, meditate with a vibrant photo or a candle of a certain color, ingest colored water, use light therapy or simply wear colored sunglasses. You will also notice the correlation between the colors of food and the way that they make you feel. Click here for Positively Ayurvedic’s online article, The Many Shades of Food.
For meditations, it’s helpful to use a natural source for the color. Often these sources include gemstones. Here’s a few recommendations!
Red: Garnet, Ruby
Yellow: Yellow Saphire, Yellow Citrine
Gold: A burning ghee flame
Green: Grass, Tree leaves, Jade
Blue: Sky, Blue Topaz
White: Snow, Moon, Pearl, Calcite
Flowers of any color are also recommended. Flowers provide both color and aroma, and the visual beauty of the flowers add a Sattvic quality that purifies the mind, opening a direct connection to God.1
THE IMPORTANCE OF LIGHT
I hope you have enjoyed this article. As I head off into the warm orange-yellow sunset on this article, I’d like to leave you with this rather lengthy quote referencing a scientist’s perspective on how light and color therapies impact our physiology.
“Light is responsible for turning on the brain and the body. Light enters the body through the eyes and skin. When even a single photon of light enters the eye, it lights up the entire brain. This light triggers the hypothalamus, which regulates all life-sustaining bodily functions, the autonomic nervous system, endocrine system, and the pituitary (the body’s master gland). The hypothalamus is also responsible for our body’s biological clock. It also sends a message, by way of light, to the pineal organ, which is responsible for releasing one of our most important hormones, melatonin. The release of melatonin is directly related to light, darkness, colors, and the earth’s electromagnetic field. This necessary hormone affects every cell in the body. It turns on each cell’s internal activities, allowing them to harmonize with each other and nature. The pineal gland is believed to be responsible for our feeling of oneness with the universe and sets the stage for the relationship between our inner being and the environment. If that relationship is harmonious, we are healthy, happy, and feel a sense of well-being. An imbalance in this relationship makes itself known in the form of disorders or disease in our physical, mental or emotional states. The Pineal is our “light meter”, and receives information from the heavens above, to give us that sense of oneness with the universe, and from the Earth’s electromagnetic field below to keep us grounded. A perfect balance is necessary to maintain our health and to keep us in harmony with the environment.”–A. Peterson, 20013
Color therapy! Powerful stuff!
1 Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine, Dr. Marc Halpern, 2010, P. 331-340
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.