Embracing an Ayurvedic lifestyle
“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
Ayurveda is an ancient Hindu system comprising nutrition and medicine which was developed alongside yoga as a way to prevent disease and imbalance in the body and mind. It has become a 360-degree lifestyle for many, achieving cult status far beyond the shores of its mother land. Those who suffer from ailments which cannot be aided by modern day pharma may benefit greatly from an Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Ayurveda is based on the idea that the world is made up of five elements: Aakash (space), Jala (water), Prithvi (earth), Teja (fire) and Vayu (air). The combination of these elements and energies create three doshas that exist in the body known as Vata (air), Kapha (water and earth), and Pitta (fire). The doshas are said to be responsible for our physiological, mental, and emotional health and we all have unique combinations of each dosha: in most cases, one tends to stand out more than the others. Before establishing what an appropriate Ayurvedic diet should look like you must first identify your dosha.
Your unique proportion of Vata, Kapha, and Pitta forms your Ayurvedic makeup, a blueprint to help you achieve peak health. To correctly determine your dosha, we recommend that you speak with an Ayurvedic practitioner but there are also questionnaires to explore online. It is highly possible that your duo-doshic or tri-doshic, with the characteristics of two or all three doshas domineering in almost equal proportions. Additionally, each season matches a dosha, meaning you can follow a seasonal approach with your Ayurvedic diet.
Each season is dominated by a unique set of characteristics that either aggravate or pacify your mind, body and soul. Some people absolutely adore summer while others loathe the hotter months and relish the cold season. Regardless of your proclivity, the local climate will ultimately dictate the best route to correctly balance your wellbeing and reduce the risk of encountering any seasonally linked imbalances. Should you find yourself feeling unwell due to a change in temperature of moisture in the air, the Ayurvedic diet will help recalibrate and restore your body.
Spring is a gentle, nurturing season driven by warmth, increased moisture, and softness – spring usually feels slower than summer and autumn. The dosha that dominates spring is Kapha (in Sanskrit meaning “that which flourishes in water”), and you are highly likely to notice a shift in your cravings as spring blossoms. Warmer weather tends to mean that you are less likely to reach for stodgy, rich food synonymous with colder months. Your appetite may also decrease, and you may find yourself reaching for more fruit, fresh vegetables and salads to snack on. Your body essentially goes into detox mode and this is the perfect time to do a spring cleanse of your body, mind and spirit. Juice cleanses are a great way of recalibrating but if you prefer to nourish your body with solid foods, opt for tastes that are more bitter, sharp and astringent alongside warm but light meals that are easy to digest. Spring is also a great time to do some spiritual detoxing.
Summer brings the heat, longer days and sunshine. This season is fully aligned with the Pitta dosha which embodies fire. Even though some parts of the world are extremely humid during summer, the amassed result of intense heat is to dry things out and the summer season is therefore considered dry. Summer is also a time of growth and movement; these traits are more characteristic of the Vata dosha. During summer, it is important to maintain a healthy balance in your diet, exercise and spiritual pursuits as this is a season which can easily lead you to over-indulge. Maintaining a routine which help prevent you stoking the fire which characterises the Pitta dosha is therefore vital – this will also ensure that you are able to fully enjoy all the wonderful things this season brings. Relax your mind and body with meditations and activities such as sound baths and Qi Gong to balance the fire of the Pitta dosha while also hydrating and stabilising the Vata dosha’s expansiveness during summer.
An autumn climate ushers in Vata season: the Vata dosha is characterised by attributes such as: light, dry, rough, cold, subtle, clear (or empty) and mobile. However, depending on where in the world you find yourself during the autumn months, the expansive qualities of the Vata dosha may also be found in other seasons like summer as well as winter if the latter is driven by very drying, cold or windy elements. Vata season tends to be a lot less antagonising to the system if you focus on truly nourishing your mind, body and spirit. Embrace loving relationships, warmth, healthy oily foods and ensure that you keep a very grounding spiritual practice. Focusing on the root chakra is particularly beneficial during Vata season. Grounding, starchy foods such as root vegetables and grains are fantastic Vata foods as well as grounding soups and stews.
Winter is the season when our digestive energy is the strongest as the cold weather ignites our fire characteristics. Ayurveda recognises this season as Kapha dosha driven with strong Vata characteristics. The cold weather creates a sense of heaviness alongside increased moisture such as snow or rain. Our bodies require more fuel to stay warm and maintain optimal health; our natural reaction to winter is therefore the desire to hibernate as it is a slow, grounding time of the year. We crave a more substantial, nourishing diet during the winter months as we tend to consume larger quantities of food. An ideal winter routine will calm Kapha without increasing Vata. However, if you live in a cold and dry climate, recalibrating your focus and embracing a Vata heavy approach will be more suitable for you to get the most out of your Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Regardless of the climate and season you currently find yourself in, applying the Ayurvedic approach to your life is something that you could greatly benefit from as it moves with the elements.