2 cupped hands
Nutrition from an Ayurvedic perspective.
Recently I was digging out my old diary that I had been using to record stuff about yoga, ayurveda, meditation etc. In this case it was about Ayurveda (Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga and is a 5000 year old holistic and natural way of health and healing). It literally means “science of life”, or “knowledge of life”, Ayur = life, veda = knowledge. Ayurveda is the path of self-healing, whereas yoga is the path of self-realization.
The science of Ayurveda, like the science of Yoga, was inspired and developed by the great masters and seers of ancient India. The origins of Ayurveda and Yoga have common roots and play a highly complimentary role in spiritual evolution and the maintenance of physical well -being and vitality. Ayurveda is, perhaps, the oldest science of life, a system of diet, healing and health maintenance that is deeply spiritual in origin.
Unlike traditional western medicine, Ayurveda is not confined to the healing of disease in a superficial treatment of symptoms. Instead, it evaluates the complete body-mindof the individual. Ayurveda sees medicine and diet as complementary rather than separate. No one can expect to retain vitality, recover from disease, or succeed in the practice of Yoga without the appropriate knowledge of the powerful effect diet has on physical health, mental clarity, and spiritual progress.
Indeed, yogis place great emphasis on diet as an integral part of the successful practice of any spiritual discipline, Ayurveda addresses not only healing but also prevention and the maintenance of the vitality so crucial in the practice of Yoga. Ancient seers described the human body and the body of the universe as composed of prana – the primal energy, the vital force which manifests in the form of earth, water, fire, wind and ether. Any imbalance of these elements in our body is experienced as illness , discomfort, or pain.
These elements are kept in harmony by a healthy body that consumes them through breath, food, water, sunshine, exercise and sleep. Yogis perceived foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, beans, herbs, and roots, as vital carriers and balancers for the energy of prana in the body . The power of these foods manifests only when they are used in proper combinations and in complete coordination with the unique conditions of each individual. This is where the profound effects of Ayurvedic foods reveal themselves.
The principles of a healthy diet:
1. Hunger: One should be quite hungry before eating a meal, hence on an empty stomach, after the last meal has been digested well, and not before.
2. Calm: Food needs to be eaten in a calm and serene atmosphere.
3. Food needs to be eaten in a good mood. If you are angry, wait with your meal, otherwise the food will not be digested well.
4. Eating should not be rushed, but not be a drawn out affair either.
5. Food should be eaten in good company with pleasant conversations, or alone in silence.
6. Food needs to be eaten while sitting down, for best digestion.
7. Food should be tasty, attractive and compatible to your palate.
8. Food needs to balance ones constitution. Preferably simple, light and nutritious food.
9. Food should not be either too hot nor too cold.
10. Food needs to be chewed very well, being mixed with saliva that contains enzymes.
11. After the meal, sit quietly for at least 5 min, to promote digestion. The “japanese” kneeling position (Vajrasana) is especially good.
12. A main meal should be eaten at least 3-4 hours before:
- going to bed
- yoga or meditation
13. Of all the principles, food taken in the proper quantity is the most important. The proper quantity is considered the amount contained in our own 2 cupped hands (without piling it…). Ayurveda also describes this as only eating until ones stomach is 1/2 full with food and 1/4 with liquid, leaving 1/4 empty for digestion and expansion.
Original Yoga texts also mention food and diet. For example, one of the most important Yoga texts, the Bhagavad Gita, states that Yoga is not for the one who eats too much, nor for the one who eats too little – and also, Yoga is not for the one who sleeps too much, nor too little. Simply put, one aspect of the Gita, is about the middle path, like Buddhism.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika mentions Mitahara “sweet food” or sattvic food, which means fresh, agreeable, pleasant tasting food, not particularly sweet from sugar. Disagreeable food means that which is either bad tasting, poisonous to the system or not agreeable to ones metabolism. Heavy food leads to a tamasic state, inducing sluggishness and sleep.
The concepts may seem obvious and basically they are just common sense, but if you think back over your last few days of eating, you are likely to find a least a few – perhaps many – examples of eating different from these. In Ayurveda, food is medicine as well as nourishment and what one eats matters vitally.
Do all these suggestions seem overwhelming? Well, they are not meant to discourage you from trying it out! I suggest that you simply try picking a few of them, or just one, and see how you feel with it.
Bom appetite and good luck!