Perhaps the oldest healing science in the world, Ayurveda is a vast and detailed holistic system designed to help people live a balanced, healthy life. This ancient Indian science was developed thousands of years ago as a powerful medical system, built around a sophisticated knowledge of our mind-body connection. It focuses on optimum physical health, as well as mental and emotional wellbeing. Modern medicine eventually caught up, proving the mind-body theory, and Ayurveda has spread throughout the western world in recent decades.
The 5,000-year-old healing science is more than just a system for treating illness. It is considered the science of life (ayur, meaning life and veda, meaning knowledge, in Sanskrit terms). It allows people to become their healthiest selves, both in the body and the mind, with the intention of avoiding illnesses, rather than treating them if they develop later on, due to lifestyle choices. However, Ayurvedic medicine also includes remedies for diseases and ailments.
Ayurveda encourages optimum health of the body and mind, as well as an understanding of what different people and body types need to lead a healthy, vibrant life…
The 3 Doshas & Eating For Your Body Type
If you’ve ever wondered with envy why some of your friends seem to be able to eat as much as they want without ever putting on weight, or why your partner doesn’t stress out about the everyday things that you do, the three doshas in Ayurvedic science might go some way to answering that for you. The system explains that there are biological energies found within the human body and mind that fall generally into three categories: Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which are like blueprints for people’s natural characteristics, body types and states of mind. Often people can be made up of all three doshas, or have one or two dominant ones, but they constantly change in response to the food you eat, the seasons, your actions and emotions. According to Ayurvedic science, an imbalance in people’s energies caused by stress, unhealthy diets, weather and strained relationships can increase their risk of becoming more susceptible to different diseases.
Eating food that compliments your dominant dosha can help keep you balanced and in shape. But there are a few other guidelines on eating that ensure your Ayurvedic diet has the greatest and most positive impact it possibly can. Firstly, eat only when you are hungry, not because the clock says it’s time to eat. Part of Ayurveda is realizing your mind-body connection, which means listening to your body and what it needs. Secondly, opt for room temperature or warm water rather than iced water during meals, and sip it rather than gulping it down. And finally, when you eat, sit down, turn off the television, put down your book, magazine, phone or tablet, and concentrate on your meal. Chew slowly and enjoy your food – that way you will know when you’re full. It sounds strange, but if you are distracted by the things around you and don’t concentrate on eating, you don’t actually realize when you’ve had enough, and that often leads to over-eating.
Vata energy reflects the natural elements of space and air, linked to movement, breathing and circulation. Predominant vata characteristics include a slender build and vata people are generally fast moving, creative, excitable and impulsive, prone to cold hands and feet, anxiety, and in some cases, digestive problems. When out of balance, people with vata characteristics can often suffer from joint pain, constipation and dry skin.
Comprised of fire and water, people with pitta characteristics often have a medium physique and easily build muscles, with general strength, good concentration, focus and a competitive nature. They are generally romantic, opinionated, don’t deal well with heat, and can have a tendency to become angry or agitated rather than stressed or worried in difficult situations. When pitta energy is out of balance, people can be susceptible to ulcers, inflammation, digestive issues, heartburn and arthritis.
Kapha elements include earth and water, and characteristics can include affection, compassion, and an easy going, peaceful nature. They are generally forgiving, slow moving and resilient to illnesses, but can be prone to depression, diabetes and obesity.
Ayurvedic doctors can discuss your dosha or doshas with you, but there are also questionnaires that can help you figure out what your dominant dosha is, if you answer them 100% truthfully.
The 6 Tastes Of Ayurveda
An Ayurvedic diet consists of six essential tastes – sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent, and each one is essential to a healthy, balanced diet. Modern diets get plenty of sweet and salty (too much in most cases) but often completely ignore the other four. A typical Ayurvedic diet consists of the following sources for these six tastes.
- Sweet – for example, sugar, honey, milk and rice.
- Sour – such as lemons, hard cheese, yogurt and vinegar.
- Salty – usually Himalayan or course sea salt.
- Pungent – including chili, cayenne pepper and ginger.
- Bitter – for example, leafy greens and turmeric.
- Astringent – such as pomegranate, beans and lentils.
When you include each of these tastes into your daily diet, you generally feel more satisfied than if you have, say, a salty meal, which can often lead to a sweet craving afterwards.
An important part of Ayurveda and eating for your body type is understanding Agni, which translates to ‘fire’. It is the digestive and metabolic functions of the body. Balancing your agni through your diet is basically the key to good health and longevity in Ayurvedic science, and practitioners believe that most diseases, ailments and illnesses can be traced back to an unbalanced, weakened agni. To understand and take care of your ‘digestive fire’, you first need to know which of the three doshas applies to you and eat according to that, as well listening to what your body is asking for.
TIP: By eating something bitter or astringent at the end of a meal, you can reduce the likelihood of a sweet craving, which is a great way to slowly weed out any dessert habits you may have!
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