What is Ayurveda? Enter the world of ancient wisdom
If you love doing yoga or you are curious about self-healing, then Ayurveda is perfect for you. I will explain very simply what Ayurveda is and how it can benefit you and your family members. As you read this blog, you will go deeper into a trance of knowledge, taste the rich flavour of this medicinal practice and learn all about the magical powers of spices, herbs and food. You will see nature unveil some juicy and enticing stories from its womb about what it produces for mankind. All this and more without any spells, witches, portions or political conspiracies. Ayurveda will share with you some secrets of self-care, cleansing, self-healing and living in blissful state of being. It will nurture you, nourish you and provide you salvation. It shares gems of knowledge about human health, nature and our connection to the universe. It shares fairy tale like stories of healing, energy and strength. Without Ayurveda there is no magic, or no fun in healing.
My introduction with Ayurveda:
It is said that Ayurveda is 5,000 year old ancient healing science. The word “Ayu” means “life” and “veda” means “knowledge”. Ayurveda teaches us the knowledge of life and health. 5,000 years ago the world map did not look the same as today. My country was not yet separated from India. Hence I consider Ayurveda as my own heritage as well.
Growing up in Bangladesh I learned many “home remedies” from my mother. She always had an answer for digestive discomfort or hormonal imbalances. She was not a nutritionist or an Ayurveda expert, however she knew what spices, herbs and foods to use to alleviate ailments that were due to an imbalanced body. She taught me to eat papaya to improve my digestion and regulate my menstrual cycle. She taught me how to clean and cook food in a way that will provide maximum nutrition and what spices to use for glowing skin. This is how I learned about Ayurveda at the beginning. Ayurveda offers an amazing balance between the art and the science of living.
Being aware of your body-type:
In the magical world of Ayurveda, the ancient healers related our body profile with nature. The “panch-mahabhutas” or the “5 elements” that are present in this universe are earth, water, fire, wind and space. Our body too, represents and holds these five elements and from these five elements Ayurveda finds its theory of 3 body types or dosha types for each human being. All of us have these 5 elements present inside the body, however some of us may have one element more and the other elements less. This finding of which elements within you is dominating, explains very easily what your dosha is.
The three body types are known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Vata is a subtle energy that represents movement, and movement is possible when there is space to move. Thus Vata holds the nature of wind and space elements. A well balanced Vata person has a quick mind, loves to move around, shows flexibility and creativity. It is hard for Vata types to stay in one place either physically or mentally. An imbalanced Vata person may experience fear, anxiety and nervousness. Like the air and the space, Vata people have cold, dry, light and mobile quality within themselves. If you are a Vata person than eat warm foods and spices, do warm oil massage to keep warm and combat dry skin, and avoid eating cold, raw and frozen foods
Pitta is a subtle energy the represents heat and metabolism. It showcases the very nature of fire and water. It governs the body’s digestion, absorption, metabolism and temperature. A well balanced Pitta person is blessed with good digestive system, strong appetite, intelligence and sound sleep. An imbalanced Pitta person can get easily agitated, become aggressive and lean towards hatred, jealousy and anger. Like the fire and the water, Pitta people have hot, oily, sharp, and mobile qualities in them. If you are a Pitta dominated person then avoid excessive heat, limit salt intake, avoid spicy, fried foods and reduce citrus fruits during summer.
Kapha, represents our bodily structure with bones, muscles and tendons. It also provides the glue that holds our cells together. You guessed it right – Kapha is the earth and the water energy. Kapha qualities are dense, heavy, slow, cold and soft – just like water and earth. A well balanced Kapha person is loving, caring, calm, forgiving and shares a lot with others. However, an imbalanced Kapha person is lethargic, possessive, greedy and envious. If you are dominated by the Kapha than follow a disciplined life, avoid cold and oily foods, get plenty of exercise and keep warm.
Wow! Now you have a whole new vocabulary. This is just the beginning of your learning about Ayurveda.
Medicinal power of foods
Shhh..!! Don’t discuss this with Medical Doctors who thinks food has nothing to do with healing. Write down all these secrets in a notebook and leave it for the generation to come before the pharmaceuticals companies patent the herbs and spices. Or maybe the big corporations will take away all your memories of how to prepare good meals by offering your packaged, processed, canned and bottled foods, in the name of convenience.
Understanding the power of food for healing is very simple. You just have to learn how to observe, taste and understand foods that you consume from nature. Ayurveda talks about food and diet as a healing medium. If focuses on the shape, color, taste and reaction after eating the food to understand what it can do for us. For example, when you crack open a walnut from its shell, it looks like the shape of the brain! And guess what it is packed with Omega 3 that is amazing for your brain health. Almonds and bilberries have the shape of the eyes or eyeballs and they are indeed good for your vision, and saffron strands looks like semen and is indeed good for the reproductive organs. Black, blue and purple foods are rich is minerals such as zinc, potassium etc. Spicy and pungent flavour foods improves our metabolism and bitter tasting foods purifies the blood.
Now you can start looking at your fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs differently. Bite into them, taste them and savour them in your mouth. When you have one food at a time you will appreciate nature more and understand its healing power of foods.
Only a small percentage of people are purely Vata, Pitta or Kapha. When do learn more about yourself and start being aware of your body and mind more, you will understand that each of us possesses a proportion of all three doshas. Some of us are share two dosha traits and some all three. In my own case two doshas – Kapha and Vata, combines to determined my physical appearance and personality.
Way of preparing foods
Ayurveda prefers cooked food versus raw food, especially for Kapha and Vata dosha. They often experience cold body temperature and therefore it is recommended to eat warm foods for both these dosha’s.
Previously people used to consume ripened fruits and mature vegetables. However in today’s date fruits and vegetables are picked quite early before they get enough sun light. Therefore, to include the fire element in our meals it is recommended to eat cooked foods.
Raw foods are great and are full of enzymes but they are hard to digest. When you cook the vegetables down the fibres softens down and is then easy to digest. Raw foods that were grown closer to the ground or inside the ground may also contain parasites. Therefore you must wash and clean you produce properly. Adding spices such as garlic, ginger, black pepper, and long pepper will also reduce the chances of parasite.
Adding spices and herbs
We are now on my favourite topic, spices!! I use them in everything that I consume – juices, smoothies, teas, main meals and even desserts. No meal is complete in my house without spices. In my kitchen I possibly have 45-50 different spices and dried herbs. I just love cooking with them. I also make my own spice blends such as garam masala (Staple in South Asian cuisine), curry powder (commercial spice blend mostly in Western countries), Dukkah (sesame spice blend), chat masala (Pakistani & Indian spice blend) and paanch phoron (5 spice mix – a Bengal spice blend).
Now there is something you must know. If you apply heat to these spices, they release their essential oils and all of them have medicinal values. This is why I toast my spices before I make my spice blends. Some of the major Ayurvedic spices are turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger, black pepper and coriander seeds. All of these spices are suitable for all three dosha’s. (Black pepper in excess may aggravate Pitta)
See this chart below to enter into the world of magical wonderland of spices and herbs
|Turmeric||Anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, anti-viral. Great for glowing skin and weight loss.|
|Coriander Seeds||Supports kidney and urinary tract|
|Cinnamon||Balancing blood sugar and improving circulation|
|Cardamom||Assists in liver detoxification. Eases tension and stress related digestive problems.|
|Ginger||Improves circulation, soothes throat and alleviates nausea.|
|Black Pepper||Antioxidant. Enhances bioavailability of vitamins and minerals from other foods.|
To conclude I want to say that Ayurveda teaches us to apply common sense when looking at nature and ourselves. As you learn more about Ayurveda you will know how simple and easy healthy living is. It is so simple that people in this industrial and informational era finds it hard to believe. Start with basics by introducing real, wholesome and unprocessed foods from nature. Look, taste and understand them, take a little time in cooking for you and your family.
Wait for my next blog and I will simplify how you can choose the foods when you are imbalanced and heal fast.
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