Updated: Nov 19, 2022
“Ayurveda is a sister philosophy to yoga. It is the science of life or longevity and it teaches about the power and the cycles of nature, as well as the elements.”
Ayurveda - (translated from Sanskrit - "knowledge of life") is an ancient science about achieving harmony and balance in the body, about healing ailments with the help of food, herbs, oils, and spices. Ayurveda uses methods aimed at restoring and maintaining the balance of the five elements of the Universe - Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Ether. A person as a part of the universe consists of these elements and when they are in balance, a person is healthy and harmonious. The elements are grouped into three main life forces - doshas - Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Doshas regulate all functions of the body and the goal of Ayurveda is to bring the doshas in the human body into harmony. Let's take a look at the basic principles of Ayurveda.
1. Balance Doshas
Vata (the elements of air and ether) is cold, dry, light and rough in nature. Associated with movement - blood circulation, lymph movement, breathing, muscle contraction, and more. Responsible for anxiety, fears, pain. People with a predominant Vata dosha are most often thin, freezing, almost without subcutaneous fat. Vata balances the excess energy with warm, warming, moisturizing, grounding foods with healthy fats. For example: soup, stew, olive oil, ghee, organic cream and avocado, sweet fruits - bananas, figs, grapes, peaches; eggs, seafood, chicken and other white meats. Spices: allspice and hot peppers, turmeric, ginger. Avoid: lettuce, tomatoes, fresh onions, buckwheat, sour fruits and dried fruits.
Pitta (the elements of fire and water) is inherently hot, oily, light and pungent. It is associated with metabolism, intelligence and transformation. People with a predominant Pitta dosha have an average athletic build, with an excellent metabolism. For balance: consume foods that are cooling, astringent, mild. For example: fresh leafy salads, cucumbers, cabbage, asparagus; fresh herbs such as mint, basil; all legumes, ghee are perfect for them. Spices: mint, dill, cinnamon, fennel, coriander, turmeric. Avoid: meat and seafood products.
Kapha (the elements of earth and water) is inherently heavy, cool, oily and smooth. It is associated with the processes of growth, recovery, hydration from joints to skin. People with predominantly Kapha dosha have a strong physique. They have a lot of vitality, but a very slow metabolism, so they are prone to being overweight. For balance: light, warm, dry foods. For example: legumes, corn (especially popcorn) vegetables, dried fruits, ginger tea. Spices: cumin, coriander, turmeric, pepper, dried ginger, cloves. Avoid: heavy foods (fried, fatty, animal), large portions, simple carbohydrates.
2. Stages of Digestion
Kapha energies prevail in the first hour after eating, when we feel full and calm. Over the next two to four hours, hydrochloric acid increases, the digestive fire rises and food is transformed, and our body receives nutrients. It is the power of the Pitta element that regulates digestion. Four to five hours after eating, Vata's energy rises. It is at this time that lightness returns and appetite appears.
Interrupting the digestive cycle with large amounts of food leads to incomplete digestion. Over time, incomplete digestion leads to the accumulation of ama (toxins), which can manifest in a variety of symptoms. For this reason, Ayurveda recommends three meals a day without snacks to support digestion and relieve stomach stress.
3. Big Lunch
Agni (the fire of digestion) is the most powerful when the sun is high, so lunch should be the most abundant meal of the day. By consuming the most food at noon, the body can use its powerful inner fire to break down and absorb nutrients with less energy output than at other times of the day. Noon is the best time of the day to eat heavier or hard-to-digest foods. This is also the perfect time for dessert.
4. Listen to Your Body
Learn how to eat just enough, eat slowly so you know when it’s time to stop, even if you have food on your plate. Avoid overeating. Besides the obvious consequences of weight gain, overeating increases the production of free radicals in the body, which in turn accelerates the aging process.
5. Eat Fresh Food
According to the Ayurvedic diet, in order to increase the source of vitality in the body, we must eat fresh produce. During the harvest season, it is advisable to take products from local farmers. Thus, we not only get fresh produce, but also support small businesses.
In addition, food must be freshly prepared. A few hours after cooking, food begins to lose its vitality and nutrients.
6. Include Six Tastes
Ayurveda recognizes six flavors, each of which conveys a unique combination of physiological energy and information. Overall, the six flavors communicate the following cellular information to the body:
Sweet: grounding, firming, nourishing
Salty: balancing, regulating
Bitter: detox, mineralizing
Astringent: anti-inflammatory, cooling
Sharp: warming, stimulating
Try to include a small amount of each flavor with every meal. It can be just a pinch of salt, a few drops of lemon, or a slice of pepper.
7. Cold Food and Ice
Agni is the digestive force of the physical and energetic body. Agni is like a blazing fire. Perfectly functioning, hot, vibrant and able to digest food, thoughts, emotions and experiences. To ignite your inner fire, you must avoid cold foods and drinks, especially those with ice. The constant flow of cold food or drinks depletes Agni in all doshas.
8. Show Mindfulness
The Ayurvedic diet assumes that we enjoy the meal we are connecting with natural energy and information of the food we consume. See colors, taste flavors, and draw attention to sunlight, soil and earth, which came together to create bundles of food energy.
Start with one meal a day in silence and focus on each of your senses.
9. Between Dinner and Sleep
During sleep, the body recovers while the mind digests the thoughts, emotions and experiences of the day. If energy is directed towards physical digestion, then the processes of physical healing and mental digestion have stopped. For this reason, Ayurvedic medicine recommends that the last meal of the day be relatively light and completed three hours before bed to avoid the imbalance.
10. Herbal Teas
Tea is not only a delicious drink, but also a powerful healer that can help restore health, vitality and joy. You shouldn't drink a lot with meals, but you can drink plenty of herbal tea between meals. Tea between meals infuses the body with "liquid medicine", reduces snack cravings, promotes detoxification and rekindles the digestive fire.
For Vata dosha would be perfect hot, spicy tea like cinnamon, ginger and cloves. For Pitta dosha - hot or cooled tea with soothing herbs like peppermint, coriander and rose will do. For Kapha dosha to Increase energy, digestion and optimism with licorice, black pepper and cardamom.
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In addition to dividing food into doshas, Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of the Gunas of nature, which are Sattva, a state of harmony, balance, joy, intelligence; Rajas is the state of passion, action and movement; Tamas is the state of darkness, inertia,ignorance. We will talk about Gunas in more detail in another article.