Many of us in this busy, pressured world, are struggling with our health. Very often it is issues with the Digestive system that heralds a cycle of poor health. In my recent journey to wellness, I have tried many things – supplements, diets and alternative treatments. Although some of these helped, it is a recent foray into Ayurveda that has really resonated with me.
So, what the heck is Ayurveda? Inspired by the ancient teachings of Indian masters, and sharing roots with yoga, this “knowledge of life” originates in spirituality yet has a basic common sense running through its teachings. In India, doctors may choose to study and practise this science instead of western medicine and sees any medicine as complementary to diet in healing.
Harmony is the main emphasis, with imbalance resulting in ill health or discomfort. A healthy body is therefore maintained by consuming the elements of earth, water, fire and air through breath, food, water, sunshine, exercise and sleep. The proper combinations of foods which carry these elements are essential. This may sound complicated, but its really easy to get the hang of.
I was fortunate to be introduced to Ayurvedic cuisine, while on a short visit to India. Although I already ate fresh, organic food, thanks to a local vegetable box delivery scheme, the taste, aroma, texture and colour of the Ayurvedic food prepared for me left a sense of satisfaction,even though the portions were not large. The subtle blends of spices resulted in a deep nourishment, easy digestion and a strong sense of wellbeing and natural healing.
Here in the UK, we equate Indian cuisine with hot and spicy curries, which I personally do not enjoy. However, nothing I ate in that time was other than subtle but richly flavoursome. Where traditionally we might reach for a chemical medication, Ayurveda recommends the right diet to prevent disease and, when the Western culture and “fast food” has led us astray, soothes with its herbal advice.
Sattvic food is that which is fresh, vegetarian and cooked appropriately and through the artful use of condiments and spices may be rich and tasty. From this perspective, the following principles advise on how we should eat:
- Food should be hot (to stimulate digestion), tasty and easy to digest
- Food should be eaten in proper amounts
- Our stomach should be empty before a meal
- Ingredients should complement each other
- We should take our time to eat and be in pleasant surroundings
- Food that suits our constitution is the only stuff that should be eaten
Good health is maintained through supporting the vital tissues, with proper nourishment, and by cleansing/ detoxifying them. This approach instils a common-sense approach to food and supplies a structure with which to guide us. By finding out your constitution, or Dosha, it is then uncomplicated to take control of your diet and reap the positive effects.
To find out your constitution, ideally one should consult an Ayurvedic consultant. However, through the joys of internet search engines, one may take a basic quiz which should at least point you in the right direction to begin with. Each constitution has its own physical, emotional and mental attributes and this categorisation should assist you in avoiding too much of the foods that cause you imbalance and encourage the consumption of those that will benefit you.
Seasonal food may be a thing of the past for many who shop in today’s global supermarkets, flourishing any ingredient of our choice at all times of the week or year. However, research is now discovering that our bodies benefit from eating food in season, not only because it’s naturally better but because it is what our systems need at that time of year to maintain health. Ayurveda concurs and adds that each constitution responds differently to each season, so requires support from those suitable, seasonal recipes to align us with the earth’s cycles.
Now if you are reading this and wondering how you will juggle family meals with differing Doshas, do not fret! Tri-Doshic recipes abound for those shared meals and some careful tweaking of certain ingredients, condiments or sides will allow others to be enjoyed together. This brief canter through a very comprehensive system to guide us to health and well-being barely scratches the surface of the wealth of information available on the subject, but I hope it has been enough to whet your appetite.
If you would like to share your experience of this way of life, please share this or get in touch.