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Yoga Begins in the Kitchen

"As long as we are not living in harmony with nature and our constitution we cannot expect ourselves to be really healed. Ayurveda gives us the means." 

David Frawley

Eating for Health, Energy and Vitality

with the Wisdom of Ayurveda

 

The Elements

The more we reflect on the five elements the more we see and undertsand how they manifest in every aspect of our life. This consciousness brings harmony to our physical, mental and emotional bodies and enhances the way we perceive our strengths while providing solutions for our obstacles. Whether we are talking about doshas ( our individual constitutions) gunas (cycles of nature), asanas, or food we are looking at harmonizing the five elements.  

Earth

 

 

 

Earth is the solid state of matter. Earth qualities are cool, stable, heavy, dry, rough, gross, dense, dull and hard. Physically it relates to the bones, teeth and nails. Mentally it is manifested as stability, strength, rigidity and steadfastness. Earth relates to the sense of smell and problems with constipation; when we are constipated we lose our sense of smell and develop bad breath.

 

 

Water

 

 

As the manifestation of liquid matter, water represents flow. Water qualities are cool, stable, heavy, moist, smooth, gross, flowing, dull, cloudy and soft. Physically water is the protector of the body and it relates to blood, water and lymph. Mentally it is manifested as contentment, romance, love and attachments. It relates to the sense of taste (if the mouth is dry we lose our sense of taste) and to the genitals. The control of one (mouth or genitals) balances the other. 

 

Fire

 

As the manifestation of transformation, fire has the power to transform any substance. Fire qualities are hot, light, dry, rough, subtle, flowing, clear and sharp. Physically fire represents the power of digestion, the ignition of our intelligence and relates to the eyes. Mentally it is manifested as clear perception, truth, passion and anger. It relates to the sense of sight and also to our feet as sight provides direction for our feet. 

 

Air

As the manifestation of oxygen and energy, air is the gaseous form of matter and the immediate source of life. Air qualities are mobile, light, cool, dry, rough, subtle, flowing sharp and clear. Physically air is expressed as motion and is found in the joints and nerve impulses. Mentally air represents perspectives, need for movement, worry and sensitivity. It relates to the sense of touch and has the hands as the organ of action while representing the importance of giving and receiving. I.e we can’t just inhale or just exhale life…It’s the exchange that creates energy. 

 

Space

Space is the manifestation of emptiness and the place where everything happens. Air is space in motion and space is air in stillness. Space qualities are based on the absence of its opposites. For example, space is light because it is not heavy. Physically space is expressed as the space that holds the body, organs and so on. Mentally it represents possibilities, unknown, openness and faith. It relates to the sense of sound and to the organ and music of speech itself. 

Know your dosha and eat in accordance with your individual needs

 The five basic elements of earth, water, fire, air and space manifest in the body and mind as three basic principles known in Ayurveda as vata, pitta and kapha. They govern all biological, psychological and emotional patterns. If we want to experience yoga as a tool for healing, energy, positive aging and/or for emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual development, knowing and balancing our dosha is essential. 

 

Know your dosha: Our dosha determines how our health and ill health and how our strengths and weaknesses manifest. Keep in mind that the following descriptions are brief and know that there are seven doshic types which means you may relate to more than one dosha. The seven types are:  vata, pitta, kapha,  vata/pitta, vata/kapha, pitta/kapha and vata/pitta/kapha. 

 

 

Here are some basic examples of how nutrition impacts our dosha.

 

Vata ( prone to excess air/space) 

 

 

 

If you are primarily Vata (small-boned, lean, hard to put weight on - when depleted you are prone to nervousness, constipation and dryness,  and when energized you are kind-hearted, caring and supportive) your diet needs to be simple and it needs to include cooked foods and good fats. Reducing raw and dry foods and focusing on nourishing and grounding foods over light foods will bring that grounding feeling you find yourself seeking. So, in short you're better to have a vegetable stew than a salad. Sweet, sour and salty foods will pacify the dryness and nervousness that builds up in vata. 

Sweet Foods: 

Cooked grains, fruits, root vegetables, yoghurt, nuts, seeds, ghee (clarified butter) 

Sour Foods ( to complement your meals): 

Splash of lemon or lime, miso, sauerkraut, cheese

Salty Foods:

a moderate amount of high-quality Himalayan salt is grounding and cooling for Vata dosha. 

Pitta (prone to excess fire/water)

 

If you are primarily Pitta (average weight and height, can gain or lose weight easily, good muscle tone - when depleted you are prone to acid reflux, inflammation and anger and when energized you are a clear thinker, courageous and action-oriented) you don't want to skip meals and you want to favour foods a at room temperature rather than very hot. The best tastes are sweet, astringent and bitter foods. 

Sweet Foods: 

Cooked grains, fruits, root vegetables, yoghurt, nuts, seeds, ghee (clarified butter) 

Bitter Foods: 

Leafy greens such a collard, kale and dandelion greens, artichokes, eggplant, turmeric, cumin and sesame oil

Astringent Foods: 

Avocado, cabbage, potatoes, peas, most raw vegetables, wheat, rye, basil leaf, coriander, parsley, fennel

 

Kapha (prone to excess earth/water)



 

 

 

If you are primarily Kapha (big-boned, heavier set, thick hair, bright complexion - when depleted you are prone to stagnation, attachment and overeating, and when you are energized you are content, generous and calm) you benefit from avoiding oily, sweet, sour and salty foods and by increasing light and expanding foods. The best taste are astringent, pungent and bitter. 

Astringent Foods: 

Avocado, cabbage, potatoes, peas, most raw vegetables, wheat, rye, basil leaf, coriander, parsley, fennel

Bitter Foods: 

Leafy greens such a collard, kale and dandelion greens, artichokes, eggplant, turmeric, cumin and sesame oil

Pungent Foods: 

Leeks, turnip, radish, raw spinash, ginger paprika, cardamon, mustard seeds

Intuition

I know that eating according to our dosha can seem daunting.  In my experience, it's more about being in tune with my body and paying attention to how different foods make me feel.
If a remember that food is meant to be a source of nourishment and energy, I know that if I feel tired, heavy, depleted or nervous after a meal or a drink that I was not eating in accordance with my constitution. 

Want to know more about the doshas?
Click here for videos and to find a private dosha test

Know the gunas and choose sattvic foods

 

The Gunas 

As the prime factors of the elements, the gunas represent the cycles and great qualities of nature.

 

They include: 

  • Sattva which represents sustainment, harmonization clarity and light

  • Rajas, which represents energy, agitation, action and life 

  • Tamas, which represents matter, body, inertia and dullness

 

All things in nature are bound by the gunas. This includes our body, mind and emotions as well as the whole world of nature that surrounds us. Everything has a beginning, middle and end. No matter how well we take care of our body it will decay. No matter how well I eat, exercise and so forth I will need to stop and rest. 

Tamasic foods create tamas in the body - heaviness, lethargic, depleted

Depleted dead food with little to no nutrients such as fried, processed and empty calories foods as well as meat, alcohol and spoiled food are tamasic.

Rajasic foods create nervousness, acidity and inflammation

Overly spicy and fried foods and stimulants are rajasic. 

Sattvic foods heal, nourish and pranafy our body and mind

Whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits especially organic and in season, raw nuts and seeds, good fats and oils such as coconut, olive, sesame and avocado oil as well as organic butter or ghee...Legumes and spices...A good way to undertsand sattvic food is if God made it, eat it. If man made it, avoid it. Or, sattvic food is an ingredient it does not have ingredients. 

For more about the Gunas watch this video. 

 

 

 

 

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Inspired Sattvic Recipes
A work in progress, I will add recipes and tips as time and inspiration manifest.

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Good for all doshic types this excellent source of protein is a cellular rejuvenator.

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As one of my favourites this healing and nourishing, broth is a good snack
or meal when fasting. 

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The great healer, the great energizer, this chair yogi tea brings a divine aroma to  the whole house.