If you’ve ever had someone tell you that their Ayurveda dosha is pitta, you probably looked at them like they’re speaking a foreign language.
Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, hasn’t gone as mainstream as meditation or asana, but it’s an incredibly useful, comprehensive guide for a healthy diet and lifestyle. Yogi’s looking to deepen their yoga practice often turn to ancient Ayurvedic rituals along their spiritual journey.
Ancient Ayurvedic texts tell us that “food is medicine when consumed properly.” In this centuries-old Indian system of medicine, each person has a digestive fire known as their “agni.” Managing your agni is what determines your ability to process and digest food. Everything from weight loss to clear skin is determined by keeping your agni in balance.
If you’re new to Ayurveda, the numerous prescriptions and guidelines can get a bit overwhelming. That’s why we’ve assembled this beginner’s guide to Ayurveda; you’ll be feeling vital and balanced in the time it takes you to say “dosha.”
A central rule of the Ayurvedic is to eat fresh, seasonal and local foods. For centuries, our bodies evolved to digest foods that grew near us in nature. As such, we’re naturally attuned to the seasons, which means we should look for fruit and veggies that are ripe and in season.
If you buy processed food like chips, health food bars or peanut butter, your body is taking in genetically modified foods containing a whole lot of toxins. These unhealthy foods throw your agni out of balance and can lead to breakouts and weight gain.
Instead, opt to go to the local farmer’s market and choose fruits and veggies that are from you region and in season. This will provide you with a diversity of nutrients as the year progresses that’s in perfect harmony with nature.
In Ayurveda, each person has a mind-body type known as a dosha. Doshas control our temperament, metabolism and general energy levels. There are three dosha types; pitta (fire), vata (air), and kapha (earth). Each person has one dosha type that is dominant and one that is secondary.
Looking for recipes and foods that balance your particular dosha are essential to an Ayurvedic diet. The three dosha types cope with the toxins in our bodies differently and have different levels of agni. Knowing and working with your dosha type is the smartest way to eat because the food will be biochemically attuned to your needs. There are quizzes to determine which dosha you are.
According to ancient ayurvedic knowledge, your agni rises and falls with the sun’s natural cycles. This means that your metabolism is the highest during the middle of the day, when the sun is highest in the sky. In order to take advantage of your body’s naturally high metabolism, it’s best to eat your largest meal in the middle of the day.
Most people typically save their heaviest meal for dinner, which is actually really bad timing for your agni. When the sun sets, your body starts to prepare itself for relaxation and sleep. If you save your heaviest meal for the later part of the day, your metabolism doesn’t have a chance to fully process your food before falling asleep.
Make lunch your biggest meal and give yourself plenty of time to fully digest your food. This new routine may even help you shed some weight in the process!
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that there are six main tastes: sweet like sugar, sour like lemons, salty like salt, pungent like ginger, bitter like leafy greens, and astringent like lentils. These six tastes are listed in the order they are digested by your body. We digest sweets first, which is why it’s a bad idea to eat dessert after dinner. Instead, save bitter or astringent foods for the end of your meal, as this will reduce your craving for sugary snacks after.
In an Ayurvedic diet, it’s important to incorporate all six tastes into every meal. You’ll feel more satisfied and banish cravings. The six tastes together also balance your agni, which will allows you to digest the food better.
Ayurveda is a complex system, but it has potential to unlock your most authentic, happy and vibrant self. You’ll be off to a great start if you begin to incorporate these four basic tenets into your lifestyle. Experiment with what works for you, and you’ll quickly come to love the energy it gives your body, mind, and spirit.
Looking to jumpstart your new diet with a detox or wellness retreat? Browse options here.
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