Photo Credit: Mandy Yelvington (via @supyoga501)
If you haven’t yet heard the word Ayurveda, let us go ahead and introduce you…because it’s everywhere right now and we expect it to only grow more.
But Ayurveda isn’t new at all. In fact, it’s a 5,000 year old system of medicine with historical roots in India. In Ayurveda, health is considered to be the state of balanced doshas (individual body constitutions), balanced digestion, balanced tissues and proper wastes. It’s a state of bliss in the soul, senses and mind. Ayurveda is the science of life.
Sounds nice, right? Sign us up for anything that involves bliss.
To learn more about basic Ayurvedic concepts, we consulted Little Rock, Arkansas-based yoga teacher Jo Ann Camp. Jo Ann wholeheartedly believes in living a lifestyle of balance, which is why she has continued to study and advance her knowledge and teachings in yoga. She’s most recently completed an advanced yoga training, specifically in Ayurvedic holistic health and yoga therapy.
So we asked Jo Ann to share a few of the most basic principles of Ayurveda, that each of us could begin to incorporate into our lives now. Here are Jo Ann’s tips for incorporating basic Ayurvedic concepts into your own life…
1. TO SATISFY HUNGER, GIVE THE BODY WHAT IT WANTS | There are six tastes that the tongue and palette requires for satiety when we eat, and that are recommended in Ayurveda for healthy digestion:
- Sweet (an example is sweet potato)
- Sour (an example is a lime or lemon)
- Salty (an example is adding pink sea salt to your food)
- Bitter (an example is spinach)
- Pungent (an example is garlic)
- Astringent (an example is a good quality black tea)
Every meal, try to get all six of these tastes to balance the body and for digestive health, according to Ayurveda. Having all six of these tastes in a meal helps to balance and satisfy the palette on the tongue. Getting all these tastes in a meal can also help to keep a person from overeating because the body is being balanced and the palette is satisfied.
2. EAT WHAT’S IN SEASON | Eating the foods that are growing in the current season is one of the main tenets of Ayurveda. According to Ayurveda, the foods that are in season in winter are meant to be consumed for nutritional needs for that time of year, and the foods that are in season in summer, spring and fall are meant to be consumed for nutritional needs for that time of year. Eating seasonally can help with allergies, and it also ensures that you’ll get the freshest, and therefore the most nutritionally dense, produce possible. Local farmer’s markets are the best way to check out what’s in season and fresh in your area.
3. BECOME MORE SELF-AWARE | Ayurveda recommends that you be aware of what you’re putting into your body, and also that you learn to pay attention to your body’s signals after you’ve eaten. For example, a piece of cheese pizza is easy to find anywhere, anytime of day. But it’s important to make a conscious decision on whether or not to eat it by asking yourself, how this will affect my body if I do eat it? Will my body be able to digest these processed carbohydrates and processed cheese, or will it be heard on my digestion and cause me gas, bloating or other digestive symptoms? Will it make me tired? Will it make me feel heavy and weighed down? Does my skin typically break out when I eat foods like this? Because once the food is past the lips and in the body, there’s really nothing you can do except to wait and then deal with any consequences from eating the food. Too often we focus on what we want right in that moment, and we fail to stop and really consider or make a conscious choice about whether that food is going to serve us and serve our body. When you practice Ayurveda, you start to practice that conscious awareness and decision making.
4. CONSIDER MAKING LUNCH YOUR MAIN MEAL OF THE DAY | Many people like to wake up and have a huge breakfast first thing in the morning. But your body is probably not ready for a big, heavy meal first thing in the morning, and according to Ayurveda, a heavy meal for breakfast overwhelms the digestive system. It’s not fired up enough yet to handle a heavy breakfast, after being somewhat inactive during the night. Instead, choose a nourishing but easily digestible meal to break your fast. For instance, one or two boiled eggs, a small bowl of oatmeal or a small handful of almonds and half a grapefruit, would all be good options. By the time lunch comes around, your digestive system will be ready to handle a heavier meal, and Ayurveda actually says that your digestive fire is greatest at mid-day, so that’s when the largest meal is recommended to be eaten.
For lunch and dinner, the amount of food you eat should fit into the two palms of your hands, and no more. Breakfast should be enough to fit into one palm of your hand. Dinner should be a bit lighter than lunch because you don’t want the heaviness on your digestive system before you go to bed. Ideally, you will eat a smaller dinner and be finished by 7:00pm so your body has time to digest the food before sleep. This is beneficial for both your digestive health, and for restful, restorative sleep.
5. GET INTO A DAILY ROUTINE | Ayurveda strongly recommends a daily routine that looks something like this:
- Wake up and drink warm or room temperature water to hydrate and cleanse the body and to stimulate your digestion.
- Scrape your tongue to remove toxins from your mouth, and brush your teeth.
- Meditate and breathe, even just for five minutes, to center yourself and start your day in a calm state of mind. How you start your day will be how you move through your day, and it’s always better to be in a calm state rather than rushed and frazzled.
- At some point during the day, whether it’s in the morning or later in the day, move your body.
- After dinner, do some sort of calming activity like reading, taking an easy walk, taking a hot bath, stretching or gentle yoga, etc.
- Be in bed by ten, or early enough to get a full 6-8 hours of sleep. Pay attention to the amount of sleep your body does best on, and make sure you’re in bed early enough to get that amount.
- Stick to this routine as much as possible on the weekends as well for optimal health.