What Is Ayurveda?
Updated: Feb 11, 2021
Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga. Ayur meaning life and Veda meaning sciences in the Sanskrit language. It is a holistic wellness system designed tens of thousands of years ago to balance the body’s energy by relating to the body a microcosm for all of nature and the universe. We are made of the invisible prana (life force) which flows in the elements of earth, wind, water, fire and space. The same forces which sustain the planet and space are within us as well so when we work with the bounty of nature to cleanse the body we are literally able to thrive and live our best lives though the food we eat and the treating the body well with special types of oils and massage.
Ayurveda encourages eating foods which are promote sattva (balance) and are naturally found in the earth, are inflammatory, easy to digest and unprocessed such as legumes, lentils, tofu, cumin and turmeric. The Ayurveda system suggests we feed ourselves foods which do not promote the energy states of rajas (turbulence) or tamas (inertia/stagnation). Foods which are said to be tamasic are alcohol, bread, pastries and fermented foods. Rajastic foods include onion, garlic, tea, coffee and chocolate. This being said, I am a firm believer in autonomy and balance so one must make discerning choices about diet to make sure foods are included that you really enjoy, because its not fun to deprive ourselves. Also, some Ayurveda products are very pricey, so I cannot afford to follow the finer points of the system but trying the basics is enough to be able to benefit.
Ayurveda teaches that Nature is Queen. Her natural foods provide a feast for us to enjoy. To enjoy and digest well we must slow down, be easeful, fluid and balanced. Food is not for rushing but for savouring like all enjoyable life experiences. We can be easeful, fluid and balanced on the yoga mat and at the dinner table. Ayurveda is a many layered pathway to health through food and nature. As a former anorexic, I am re learning the healing quality foods and the calm that some foods can instil.
Ayurveda teaches that each person has tendency towards a particular Dosha which are known as Vatta, Pitta and Kapha. The Sanskrit dosha has been taken to mean type but it is more related with the words imbalance or dysfunction. The doshas are governed by one or a blend of the elements. No dosha is better than another, but when the dosha becomes imbalanced or overactive there can be health implications for that person. We may notice that our Dosha has become out of balance if we begin feeling over anxious (Vatta) , heavy(Pitta) or lethargic (Kapha). For example, I have Vatta dosha. If my Vatta state becomes overactive I have a tendency toward being flighty, cerebral, anxious, cold (physically and emotionally), hard to pin down, over active and overanalytical. Vatta is governed by the wind element and the cold. To bring my Vatta back into balance if it has become over active, Ayurveda suggests that I use gentle spices in tea and cooking to help counteract and calm the cold, ungrounded anxiety spurred on by the imbalanced Vatta. I feel at my best when I eat warm foods, warm drinks, avoid alcohol and stir in a little ginger, cinnamon and turmeric to most of my meals. These spices give a big boost to the food’s own flavour so I can savour and enjoy while benefiting from the warming, antioxidant qualities. I feel like a healer in my kitchen, giving my body what she needs to be well and balanced.
I definitely recommend looking up your own dosha by taking an Ayurveda Quiz. I like the one on Banyan Botanicals. You might even find some spices to enhance your experience of eating and calm any over active dosha activity!
I had a nasty flare up of gastritis after Christmas. Anybody who has had indigestion or heartburn before will realise just how uncomfortable it is, in fact gastritis is downright painful. I often struggled with bloating and gastric pain, sometimes anything I ate seemed to balloon my tummy. I have had medical intervention but all was well on paper and the blood tests. I was not surprised I had a flare up around Christmas. The end of 2020 was the difficult ending to a difficult year, one fraught with challenge (some healthy, some not) and tensions which left unchecked bubble up and burn us from the inside. I was feeling churned up and turbulent already, add to that state a few glasses of prosecco, rich and Christmassy hard to digest foods like sautéed cabbage and sprouts which well and truly messed with my healthy digestive fire. There was not much sattva. Instead,
rajastic and tamasic foods weakened my healthy digestion along with the burning annoyances of 2020 that mounted up. Voila- Gastritis.
I bought an ayurvedic cookery book. The basic recipes are restoring balance to my digestive system. I have had no bloating for a month. Overactive vatta is being calmed, warmed, soothed. Ayurveda is teaching me another layer of Yoga; the importance of bringing tolerance, balance and nature into every aspect of life, making my kitchen a sacred space where healing foods are prepared. I am eating slowly with awareness, sipping ginger tea as I go. Everyday gets a little more sattvic.
Savour your food. Eat Slowly. Do some Ayurveda research. Practice Yoga that will calm your dosha, vattas like me might enjoy slow, strong flows and Yoganidra!
Do consult your Doc before looking at a new eating plan.