Fall is a delight. Surrounded by warm, rich colours and crisp air it’s truly a joy to get outside and experience nature’s glow. It is a time when we feel compelled to ‘get down to business’ and put in effort to create the change we wish to see in our lives. Fall is also vata season when the wind dominates and bringing with it with it the energy of movement and change. However we can get carried away with this energy and take on too much. We may find ourselves spending excessive time in front of screens or splitting our attention between multiple activities at once, all in an effort to accomplish our goals. Excessive mental activity, coupled with the momentum of change we see in nature will tend to aggravate vata dosha and cause a state of imbalance. When we experience anxiety, sleeplessness and forgetfulness, we know that we need to take care of vata dosha.
You can find plenty of Ayurvedic recipes, Ayurvedic cookbooks and Ayurvedic chefs, but as much as you look, you’ll never find Ayurvedic cuisine. That’s because Ayurveda is more than just a way of cooking -- it is a way of looking at food and life as a whole through the lens of nature’s rhythms.
Nature is always changing. If you study what is happening outside your home, you’ll notice that not a single day is the same as another. Your body and mind are a reflection of nature, so they are always changing too. In fact, the Sanskrit word for body is sharira, which translates to “that which is always changing.”
Salt has been used worldwide for centuries. As the oldest form of seasoning, it is well known as a culinary staple. However, it may surprise you to learn that salt has also been used medicinally for thousands of years. It is a key ingredient in several classical Ayurvedic formulas, such as hingvastak, to promote digestion or clear congestion.
Despite the many benefits of this mineral, salt has been questioned and demonized by the modern medical system. But eliminating salt, or reducing it too much, can have great consequences.
In the West, it is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is also true from an Ayurvedic perspective.
Breakfast, the first meal of the day, means to “break the fast.” You have not eaten all night and your digestive organs are meant to be in a state of rest. In these early hours, agni, digestive fire, is like a pile of smoldering coals. Come out of this nighttime fast with care and you will turn these coals into steady flames.
What you eat for breakfast will affect agni all day long. Heavy foods, such as eggs, sausage, or nut butters, dampen your fire. Cold foods, such as smoothies, yogurt or cold milk, restrict your body’s digestive channels, weakening agni for the rest of the day. Dry, crunchy foods, such as toast, cereal or granola, increase vata. Vata and agni can support each other or create imbalance in the other, so the better your relationship is with one, the better it will be with the other.
The best choice for agni is a simple, cooked meal. A good breakfast for any morning is a bowl of warm porridge.
Ayurveda offers each of us the opportunity to become our own healers. To step into this role is a journey, one that requires a commitment to learning the unique functions of your mind and body.
The doshas -- vata, pitta and kapha -- are one of the foundational tools that Ayurveda offers to go within and find out why you feel, act and look the way you do. The doshas are profoundly important to understanding your body and mind, but they are often oversimplified and misunderstood.
Beyond the dosha quiz
A person’s first experience with Ayurveda is often marked by taking a dosha quiz. The results usually include lists of foods and activities to avoid for your dosha (or products to buy). But living according to a black-and-white list is opposite of what Ayurveda teaches.
When things get tough in life or asana, go within.
Yoga is about self-realization, it is a remembrance of who we really are. That higher state of being that we seek is already within us -- all we need to do to is surrender our attachments.
Balasana, or child’s pose, is an act of surrender that can bring this awakening. As you fold your belly over your thighs, you meet your original essence. With your gaze inside, you go back to the innocence and newness of childhood, to a time when your higher self was all there was.
Grain has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Many health issues have been attributed to it: obesity, inflammation, leaky gut syndrome and mental fog are just a few that are on the list. But grain has been nourishing our ancestors for centuries and remains a central part of the diets of people around the world. So why is it suddenly a problem now? If grain is not a problem, why do so many people feel so good when they eliminate it from their diets?
Ayurveda offers a refreshing perspective on these questions, one that is grounded in more than 5,000 years of experience. Far before any diet fads filled the headlines, the ancient texts espoused grain as a way to balance the doshas and calm the mind. This wisdom still applies in the modern day.
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.