Ancient Wisdom: The Beauty of Ayurveda
If you live in a “westernized” world (like me) and you search for information on health… Chances are, you are going to be overwhelmed by the extremely conflicting opinions that you encounter from a variety of legitimate sources. “Go vegan It’ll save your life!”,“Eat nothing but meat! You’ll be more fit than you’ve ever been”, “Eat 8 meals a day!”, “Don’t eat at all!” What’s even more confusing? They all claim to be correct! WTF… How is this possible?
I did an interesting experiment the other day…
Check this out- [Apple good for you]… [Apple bad for you]… Same apple. Completely conflicting information. How in the hell does this happen? It’s quite disheartening that it is so difficult to find quality information on food.
In the west we look at everything from a scientific point of view. Or, from the outside, in. Which has definitely helped us progress in previously unimaginable ways. Modern medicine has cured innumerable amounts of disease which I am very grateful for. However, when it comes to health and well-being, all we think about is the big N word, that’s right, nutrients! The discovery of nutrients is important, don’t get me wrong! It is definitely something that should be taken into account, but what about well-being? If I’m eating an apple every day, getting a stomach ache, and feeling bloated, but carry on doing it because “I need these certain vitamins today!” Doesn’t this seem skewed? Shouldn’t I be listening to my body? What about the body’s ability to absorb nutrients?
Lately, whenever I feel confused, I turn to the wisdom of the eastern world. Ancient India and China have helped me wade through the toxic wasteland that is my modern American mind. They focus on health in an entirely different way. From the inside, out. They focus on the assimilation of food, or, the body’s ability to absorb the essence of food. They look at food as medicine…
“If the diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. If the diet is correct, medicine is unnecessary” -Ancient Ayurvedic proverb.
The stomach is said to be sacred and all disease is said to start in the stomach. I mean, there are yogi’s that spend their entire lives studying their own bodies! Intuiting, interpreting, and recording the smallest fluctuations in their state of being. Don’t you think we ought to at least consider their perspective!
Fortunately, yogis and practitioners have created a system that helps explain the relationship of food on the mind, body, and soul. What is this system? Ayurveda. I’m going to to explain the basic concepts behind Ayurvedic’s philosophy on food. I hope that you find these ideas inspiring and look into them yourself! Let’s jump in, shall we?
Now, what makes the western concept of “nutrition” so darn-tootin difficult to grasp? Everybody is trying to create an all-encompassing diet that works for everybody! “Atkins diet” “low-carb diet” “High-fat diet” “Ketogenic-diet” “Mediterranean diet” The list is overwhelming! A diet that works for somebody, fails miserably for somebody else. Sometimes a diet works for a little bit, then begins to make you feel like shit. The problem is, everybody is different, and we are constantly changing!
Ayurveda addresses this problem head on with the concept of the Doshas… Check this out for an idea… The earth is made up of 5 elements right? Earth, air, water, fire, and ether. (Ether is essentially the wisdom that is present in the space between the other elements). I would say it’s safe to assume the universe is made up of these same elements also. So what makes our bodies any different? We are just a product of the earth… Or rather, an extension of the earth. So, unless you truly believe you are something entirely different than EVERYTHING around you, you are made up of these elements too. Now that we got that out of the way… what characteristics manifest themselves through these elements?
Well, there are 3 mind-body types or “doshas”, as they are called in Ayurveda. Each dosha has a set of characteristics assigned to it.
Vata dosha — Air and Ether (Space)
Very creative. Quick to learn, but also quick to forget. Skinny. Easily adapts to new situations and ideas. Uncomfortable in cold climates. Short bursts of energy. Enthusiastic. lively. Fun. Irregularity in routine. Physically underdeveloped. Highly imaginative. Variable appetite. Problems with digestion. Dry skin. Dry hair. Stressed out. Anxious. Prominent joints. Disjointed thoughts.
Pitta dosha– Fire and Water
Sharp thinker. Medium physique. Ambitious. Irritable. Strong digestion. Angry. Orderly. Focused. Oily. Materialistic. Competitive. Opinionated. Concentrated. Prone to temper tantrums. Sweaty. Assertive. Uncomfortable in hot climates. Fine and straight hair. Passionate. Great leadership abilities.
Kapha dosha — Earth and water
Easygoing. Relaxed. Forgiving. Physically strong. Slow to learn but, never forget. Sleep soundly. Strong resistance to disease. Tend to be overweight. Slow to anger. Sluggish digestion. Self-sufficient. Enjoy life and are comfortable with routine. Soft hair and skin. Much vitality. Loyal. Patient. Can be stubborn and possessive.
Each person Is a combination of these three doshas. Usually, 1 of them dominates. Sometimes 2 of them dominate over the other. The goal is to keep all 3 in balance. When your doshas become out of balance, disease sets in. Throughout your lifetime the dominating dosha can change. You can realize this and take action if you see any of the above listed characteristics coming to the forefront. Well, that’s nifty, but what do you mean by “taking” action?
There are numerous different ways to balance the doshas (It’s best to take them all into account). You can balance them through diet (which I’m going to be concentrating on), Through lifestyle, herbal supplements, yoga, meditation, and SWEET ASS ROCKS. Uhhh, what? You sound like a damn fool, dude! Well, let me explain…
The Importance of Food
If you think about it, it’s pretty strange that we don’t have a more intimate relationship with our food in the west. We will just shovel whatever is in arm’s reach into our mouths to keep us moving throughout the day. But when you stop and think… Food is literally what makes you, you. “You are what you eat”, even preschoolers are familiar with that phrase. We seem to have forgotten this somewhere along the road. If we are eating food that is genetically modified, sprayed with chemical water, grown in a field of pesticides, chopped down by some gas guzzling tractor, thrown in a plastic bag, chalked full of preservatives, and has been sitting on a shelf for a month, guess what you are going to become? That’s right. An American!
…So, what am I supposed to eat? I don’t know, that’s up to you, but here is what Ayurveda teaches.
There are no foods that should be off limits. Meaning, toss out the long held ideals that you have about “this food is good” or “this food is bad”. There is no such thing as good and bad. There is only what works for you.
Now, Ayurveda RECOMMENDS (you don’t have to do anything, keep that in mind) that meat not be eaten. Or if you do eat meat, eat meat that is further away from you on an evolutionary scale, like fish or insects (if you’re into that). There are also Ayurvedic practitioners that recommend meat consumption for certain imbalances, and it works. So, it’s important not to limit yourself mentally. Food is medicine! If you are on a spiritual path, or trying to be more environmentally friendly, then it is understandable to abstain from meat consumption.
Foods are also divided into three categories: Tamasic, Rajasic, and Satvic.
Tamasic foods, are foods that take away from your overall well being, they will make you feel slow, cloudy, and tired. Reduce your resistance to disease, and make you feel all sad and gooey on the inside (like after indulging in a bag of Oreo's and pounding back a 2 liter of Mountain Dew). Some foods that are considered tamasic are… Fast food, fried foods, frozen foods, microwaved foods, processed foods, condiments, alcohol, drugs, chemicals, caffeine (Let’s pretend we didn’t see that one), food that isn’t fresh, or is difficult to digest.
This is not to say “Never eat these foods, or you will die instantly” the idea is just to be aware of the subtle effect it has on you.
Rajasic foods are foods that should be eaten in smaller quantities, but are still overall fresh and “nutritious”. These foods are important because they make us feel stable and mentally stimulate us so… Most meat (if you eat meat), eggs, pulses, or legumes, beans, grains, potatoes, oats, rice. You know, staple foods.
Satvic food is considered to be the most beautiful. It is food that is full of life and thus makes you feel full of life. Eat enough of this, and you will feel like a super saiyan. Some foods that are considered “satvic” are, fresh ripe fruits, fresh vegetables, milk (real milk, not the sugar filled shit you buy at Walmart that is over-pasteurized, comes from a cow that has only taken 2 steps in his whole lifetime, and has been pumped full of antibiotics and steroids since it was a baby), ghee, nuts, seeds, sun dried fruits, sprouted pulses. Food that is alive!
So, now that we have the categories of food outlined… What kind of food should be eaten for each dosha type? Well, The food that should be eaten is the food that has the opposite characteristics of your predominant dosha type. Focus on eating foods that have the opposite qualities of the way that you are currently feeling. Feel light headed and spacey? Eat something heavy and warm. Feeling groggy and lethargic? How about something light, like a salad! Feeling hot and moist? How about something cool and dry, like young coconut meat! Another thing to keep in mind is, food should be as fresh as possible, grown gently, and eaten with grace and attention. How the fork am I supposed to know what foods are which dosha types!? Here is a list of foods that “pacify” each dosha type!
How do I know what doshas are predominant in me? Welp, the recommended way to figure this out would be to see an Ayurvedic practitioner. Did I do that? No. Instead I just observed myself, my lifestyle, and habits and came to the conclusion that I am mainly Vata and Pitta with very little Kapha. If you need some help there are some seemingly accurate online quizzes that could help you reach your own conclusion.
If you have a “western” mentality, like me, this “equation” helped ease me into this concept. It’s not always entirely correct, but a lot of times it is.
* Fat= Kapha, Carb= Vata, Protein= Pitta. *
(It’s weird how the world of science and the world of intuition stumble across the same kinds of basic building blocks…)
Anywho, I hope you gained something of value from this article! Please comment below with your thoughts or questions on the subject!
Originally published at steemit.com.