Fundamentals of Ayurvedic nutrition

How to eat for your yoga body

In ancient Indian culture, yoga was an esoteric path reserved for those with spiritual interests in leaving society to pursue enlightenment, while Ayurveda (ayu=life, daily living; veda=knowledge) was the medical science designed to bring each and every person to their optimal health on all levels: mind, body, heart.

Eat for the Season

According to Ayurveda, each season has qualities that can be balanced through the food we eat. And if we take into account our doshas, we will have a good idea of the kinds of foods that will best nourish our unique body for each season.

Summer

The warmest months of the year are governed by Pitta, the elements of fire and earth. Too much heat in the body creates conditions such as ulcers and anger. To bring balance to our bodies, we need to increase the light and cooling qualities of the foods we eat.

Fall

These months of transition are governed by Vata, the elements of air and ether that herald change. Vata is also the element that governs the mind, and so when we are out of balance in Fall (and in Spring), we can feel confused and anxious. Eating to balance Vata will not only help our bodies feel grounded and nourished, but also help our minds feel calm and steady during this season of change. To do this, eat less raw, airy foods and more warm, grounding foods.

Winter

The coldest months of the year are governed by Kapha, the elements of water/ice and earth, which make us feel heavy and send us in search of warmth and comfort. This is the best time of the year to eat heavier foods, but to stay at your best weight while eating oils and potatoes, you can:

Spring

Another season governed by Vata, the elements of air and ether. The body, like nature, will be transitioning from Kapha’s heavy coldness into Pitta’s heat, and it is best to eat foods that support this transition. See what is locally available; Pitta and Kapha types will likely enjoy raw greens and Vata types will enjoy lightly cooked spring vegetables.

Eat Creatively

Due to evolutionary hardwiring, our bodies and minds are innately worried about famine, meaning that we want to eat as much as possible at every meal, because we evolved in times of variable food availability. But today, most of us have regular access to high quality food, so we need to remember: we can always eat again later when we are hungry.

Food for Thought

Our eating habits are often deeply ingrained and contextually driven, so in order to change our body (in both health and appearance), we first need to examine our habits. It’s important to consider why we eat: for energy, balance and nourishment, rather than for entertainment, celebration, or emotional support. So when we are making our daily food choices, we need to remember that we eat to support the body. When we need to soothe and strengthen the mind, Ayurveda recommends meditation as mental nourishment.

Tradition vs. Trend

It is interesting to note that although Ayurveda is the nutritional science that has been developing alongside yoga for the past 2500 years, there is no mention of Vegan, Dairy-free, or Gluten-free in the dietary guidelines. In fact, Ayurveda recommends dairy for all doshas, and meat is recommended for those who are very weak or over exerting themselves, though it is heavy in the digestive system and becomes quickly toxic.

East + West

The Ayurvedic perspective is thought-provoking for those of us more accustomed to Western medicine and nutritional advice/trends. For example, Ayurveda considers your personality, habitual behaviors, and reactions to stress as a part of your health. In contrast, Western medicine typically limits ‘disease’ to physiological ailments; ‘mental health’ becomes a concern only when it causes “clinically significant distress” (DSM-V). According to the Ayurvedic perspective, “health is order; disease is disorder” and through deep understanding of the body, we can heal ourselves to establish order (Dr. Vasant Lad; Ayurveda, 1984). Ayurvedic health includes active digestive force (agni), calm mind, and positive emotions.

Ayurvedic health: eating to create a balanced body, calm mind, and positive emotions

unconventional + intellectual | yogi | artist | duke alum | east village nyc | teaching: megnapaula.com and philosophy: consciousandcurious.com

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