Ayurvedic Diet - Spiritually Minded Cuisine for Achieving Internal Balance.

What is Ayurveda? The simple answer is; a school of medicine, a diet, and lifestyle remembered from ancient Ayurvedic texts, Sanskrit writings that are among the oldest in the world and hold answers to a myriad of human ailments and conditions. It is the answers held in these ancient texts that have inspired contemporary Ayurvedic practitioners to pursue the holistic type of self-improvement that we’re all looking for in a world full of EDM yoga classes, which may be a little misguided in both purpose and style, not to mention green juices that cost more than a solid meal.

Clarity and energy, as well as space and time to center ourselves, aren't just empty promises conjured up by self-proclaimed gurus or so called life coaches who clutter up our social media news feeds. These are actually reachable states, and while they've seemed to escape my grasp in the past, maybe following this more extensive rundown of exactly what Ayurveda is, with a stronger embrace of its practices and principles will be exactly what you and I need to maintain them.

DIET

Sweet, sour, pungent, salty, astringent, and bitter are the six flavors spoken about in Ayurveda. Having all six of these flavors with each meal, and making sure to carefully balance them according to your Dosha type (more on that later) is recommended for optimum health and vitality. The Ayurvedic philosophy was conceived from the awareness that continual purification of the body from toxins is the key to holistic wellness and that specific food types based on your mind-body configuration is the main form of medicine one needs to achieve this wellness. Even in the contemporary medical world it has been proven that our gut and our brain have a correlative relationship which shows how the things we eat can affect our moods, which in turn can affect our health in all sorts of ways including; increased risk of suffering heart disease, strokes, or even Parkinson's disease. Prestigious universities such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins are at the forefront of this research and are drawing many conclusions that coincide with the findings of Ayurveda.

Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the three Dosha types spoken of in Ayurveda, which characterize the different types of mind-body configurations that we are all made up of. One of the Dosha's is typically more dominant than the other two within an individual, and they are each representative of the sort of natural born mind, body, and nature connection in each of us. Upon identification of our Dosha type and eating according to its configuration means we will be perfectly balanced; aligned for receiving, positivity, clarity, and all the good things that are said to come into our lives through the Ayurvedic practice.

Ojas is what we experience when we are balanced, and Ama is what we experience when we are not. Clear, physical signs exist for both, although there’s no test for either in western medicine. The University of Maryland’s Susan Weis-Bohlen calls Ojas the "essence of life". During Ojas, our body is detoxing 24/7, and we have energy, enthusiasm, and pink, uncoated tongues that serve as a symbol of physical wellbeing. With Ama, we experience depression, irritability, and fatigue, and may even emit an unhealthy smell because of bad metabolism.

How to Keep Our Dosha's Balanced and Oozing with Ojas:

You can find out your Dosha type by taking the following quiz.

Vata Dosha types are represented in nature by air and water. They are cold, changeable, and quick. They are inclined to approach change and the new, and their appearance can be described as thin, light, and dry. A balanced Vata Dosha will be creative, communicative, and adaptable. Out of balance, Vata can become constipated and suffer insomnia as well as anxiety.

Sweet, salty, and sour foods including citrus fruits, cinnamon, bay leaves, sage, tomatoes, alcohol, and sea salt are great for keeping the Vata balanced.

Pitta Dosha types are represented by fire and water, can be described as penetrating, direct, sometimes acidic, and courageous. When balanced, they are warm friends, natural leaders, and have strong digestion. Out of balance, Pitta people can be angry and aggressive, develop rashes, and suffer migraines.

Sweet, bitter, and astringent foods and herbs including chamomile tea, mint, fennel, proteins, and raw honey can help to keep Pitta in balance.

Kapha Dosha types are represented by earth and water, and characterized by people who are solid, have thick hair and larger features, and can be described as easy going. These people are loyal, consistent, and supportive in balance, while they are needy, dull, and inert out of it.

Pungent, bitter, and astringent foods including legumes, kale, and raw fruits help keep the balance for Kapha Dosha types.

How much we have of each of the previously mentioned six flavors during meals, along with other choices we make about scents and even botanical therapies should correspond to our Dosha type. Failing to keep this in mind can result in a loss of balance and the need for realignment evidenced by a feeling of being less than totally well.

LEARNING

If you could make decisions that would naturally cause chemicals like serotonin (the happy hormone) and oxytocin (a feel-good hormone released by the brain during experiences of joy like orgasm) to flow from your mind to body throughout the day, you’d do it wouldn’t you? Of course, you would, and the many people who have practiced Ayurveda before your time felt the same.

So how did they make a life out of it?

By getting out there to spend time in nature. Japanese forest baths, solo camping trips, and a long list of other reasons to get outside and connect with nature by simply being in it are new affirmations of what is actually ancient knowledge. We come from nature, take that from a metaphysical or metaphorical viewpoint and it still works, and returning to it benefits us. Having a walking meditation while getting in touch with nature gets those feel-good hormones flowing even more and is evidence of Ayurveda as a tool to bring us back to the natural state of things.

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The very word Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit root words, they mean life and science separately, and together they combine to give a name to an ancient knowledge that helps us to connect with our best selves. It holds answers, and while some of those answers appear to run contrary to contemporary mainstream health advice - many of the same conclusions are made about the best practices for the healthiest life, confirming that we just may be a little closer to figuring it all out than we know. And that maybe, just maybe, we're on a trip back to some place we've been, returning to knowledge as opposed charting new territory.

Read more about Ayurveda from the Chopra Center and the Ayurveda Institute.

FoodAshley C. Jonesdiets