Green vegetables are showing up everywhere lately -- raw in salads, pureed in smoothies, even baked as chips. It’s good to see more people interested in eating healthfully, but just because a little bit is good for you doesn’t mean that more is better. In fact, too many green vegetables without enough grounding, nourishing foods can quickly send vata dosha soaring.
The next time you are tempted to eat lunch while checking email or want to have dinner in front of the television, pause and take a few slow, deep breaths first. As you inhale, you welcome prana, the life force that is our connection to the divine.
We get prana from our breath, but also from the food we eat. Plants have done the work of transforming the prana from nature into nutrients that make it possible for our bodies to move and our minds to think. The food we eat is the reason we can have this incredible experience of being alive.
It may surprise you to learn that eating an Ayurvedic diet means you get to enjoy your food -- perhaps more than you ever have. That’s because true enjoyment comes from eating in a way that nourishes your body and mind.
Using Ayurvedic spices for balance
Ayurvedic wisdom says that you should enjoy your food five times: planning it, preparing it, cooking it, eating it and digesting it (although we added a sixth way in our most recent Ayurvedic chef training: serving it). At each step, you have the opportunity to engage your senses to get the most out of the experience. Your food should look and smell wonderful. It should taste delicious and you should feel better for having cooked it and eaten it. A sure way to enjoy each step is to include Ayurvedic spices in every meal.
When prana is flowing without interruption, your body has everything it needs to heal itself (see the first in this series on pain relief to learn more about prana). Pain, whether mental or physical, cannot take hold in a body with an easy flow of prana. When prana is blocked, pain can become so much to bear that people often look to drugs or surgery to cope. But these methods of pain relief dull your body’s natural intelligence and further disrupt the flow of prana that is the key to healing. On the contrary, herbs and Ayurvedic treatments work with the body to address the root cause. As prana comes back into the body, the doshas regain balance and health follows.
Understanding Ayurveda is not about academics and memorizing a list of rules, it is about slowing down and being in the experience of life. One of the best (and most delicious) ways to learn Ayurveda is by taking your studies to your own kitchen.
Becoming an Ayurvedic cook requires little more than a willingness to study the effects of what you eat on your body and mind (although this guide to setting up your Ayurvedic kitchen has a few other tools to get you started). Throw away limiting dosha food lists and focus instead on exploring different foods and different ways of preparing them. Pay attention to the results with a wellness journal, and you’ll soon be able to move away from black-and-white thinking about what and how to eat and toward the innate wisdom inside you.
By Susan Barozzi
I first came to Hale Pule in the spring of 2016. Before that, I had spent many years being told by various practitioners that I was allergic to many of the foods I was eating, or that I was prone to candida overgrowth and had parasites with no apparent symptoms. I had also been plagued with low blood sugar issues and was told to eat snacks every hour or two to keep my blood sugar up. Being one of the “sensitive types” I found I was easily overwhelmed by life’s challenges and had a tendency to worry about things more than I would have liked. I decided that I was ready for a new story. I wanted to heal my relationship with food.
The practices of Ayurveda and Yoga were given to us to work hand-in-hand. Understanding how the three doshas work in your body will help you tune into the changes that result from changes in diet, how you live and the environment around you. This information is meant to guide you in your practice of Yoga, including asana, so that you can feel your best on and off the mat.
The things you do in any part of your life affect all parts of your life. This includes the choices you make about what to eat, what you do for entertainment, the company you keep -- each of these causes has an effect. So if you are trying to change the way you feel, you must look holistically at what you are doing to bring about the results you are getting.
If you want to experience lifelong health, make vata dosha your friend.
The doshas, or three vital energies, help us understand how internal and external factors influence your health and well-being. Each of us has all three doshas, just in different amounts. While any dosha can become imbalanced in us at any time, the dosha you have most of is the one that is most likely to go out of balance. When you understand your tendencies related to imbalance, you can avoid doing those things and focus instead on what makes you feel your best.
When you are feeling imbalanced overall, vata is often the reason. With the light and subtle qualities of ethers and air elements that make up vata, it is the easiest of the doshas to go out of balance. And because of the mobility of the air element, imbalanced vata will disturb the other doshas toward imbalance.
When you study the world around you from an Ayurvedic perspective, it’s easier to use your Yoga practice to create balance and harmony in your life.
For instance, whenever there is movement, such as in the transition between seasons or the transformation of food to energy, vata dosha is involved. Vata, made up of the ethers and air elements, provides the space for movement and the push of wind to take something from here to there. In the body, it allows your digestive organs to guide food from the mouth to the colon, your blood to circulate the nutrients throughout your body and your legs to walk as a result of the energy from your food.