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FOOD

Basic concepts of nutrition the holistic way

  1. Nutrition is the food you eat and how the body uses it. We eat food to live, to grow, to keep healthy and well, and to get energy for work and play.
  2. Food is made up of different nutrients needed for growth and health.
  • All nutrients needed by the body are available through food.
  • Many kinds and combinations of food can lead to a well-balanced diet.
  • No food, by itself, has all the nutrients needed for full growth and health.
  • Each nutrient has specific uses in the body.
  • Most nutrients do their best work in the body when teamed with other nutrients.
  1. All persons, throughout life, have need for the same nutrients, but in varying amounts.
  • The amounts of nutrients needed are influenced by age, sex, size, activity, and the state of health.
  • Suggestions for the kinds and amounts of food needed are made by trained scientists.
  1. The way food is handled influences the amount of nutrients in food, its safety, appearance, and taste.

Handling means everything that happens to food while it is being grown, processed, stored, and prepared for eating.

YOGIC DIET PRINCIPLES

Principle 1.

The Act of Eating — the Yogic way to Eat

 Bring simplicity into our daily habits. Part of this spiritual journey involves learning the art of balancing. And the smallest thing can tip the scale quite unexpectedly. As a sadhaka we are told to begin with the basics. Our ego does resist this by saying, “This is such simple stuff, give me the advanced teachings”, but I have come to value these basics as my understanding of the term ‘Advanced’ grew. One of my spiritual teachers, often repeats it to me, “Mastering the basics is an advanced practice” and each time he says it I feel deeply humbled.

On a daily basis, I find myself observing the things that I have always taken for granted: breathing, thinking, sleeping and eating. After I practiced yoga, pranayama and meditation for 6 months continuously, I noticed a ‘sharpness’ in my thinking. Things would become clearer more quickly than before, however what I did also notice was how sluggish my thought patterns or body movements became after I ate particular kinds of food. I also noticed that after eating particular kinds of food, I would need more time to prepare for the classes I would teach. I became more aware of the finer energies that flow within us causing the body to affect the mind and emotions and I found myself avoiding these foods completely so as to maintain the lightness and stillness that I would feel after my personal practice in the mornings.

I know that there is a lot of debate over whether people and especially those walking on the spiritual path should eat non-vegetarian food. I don’t want to sit in judgment here. But the reasons are that whenever the student sincere in their practice at Gems Of Yoga ate meat, I had begun to notice the ‘heaviness and sluggishness that they would feel after consuming meat and heavily spiced food. I immediately noticed that even when I ate a heavily spiced food or food leftover from last night there seemed to be a change in my thought pattern, hence forcing me to slowly limit my intake of them as well. Similarly for coffee. I have always enjoyed a nice cup of cappuccino, but as my practice (not just asanas but also silence and meditation) deepens I find the ‘jarring’ effect that my beloved cappuccino has on me so I’ve had to distance myself from it slowly to maintain the joy-of-fullness that I experience in my practices. I don’t wish to tell anyone that something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for them, all I’m trying to say is that just like the great yogis we should conduct experiments on ourselves to see what practice/ habit suits us and what doesn’t. The spiritual path is one that must be ‘experienced’ unless of course you would like to become a Philosopher, in which case reading multiple books may just about suffice.

I’d also like to mention here a point that gets raised when I share the above with friends. They bring up the cases of great yogis who could eat platefuls of fried food without having it affect them at all. My response to this is, “WHEN we become them we’ll talk about it. Let’s humbly accept that we are not them YET.”

Let’s begin in a small way be examining the very act of eating. It is something we take for granted, assuming that how we perform it is not important and the important thing is to maintain a taut body. What if I told you that eating the right way will not just keep you healthy but also enable you to stay thin? Try it, but before doing so let’s look at what a true master, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, founder of Bihar School of Yoga, says about the act of Eating:

 Eating Under Stress by Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Founder, Bihar School of Yoga

The emphasis in yoga regarding diet is that the student should eat as naturally as possible. A sensible and balanced nutritional program frees the individual from worry about food. Yoga not only deals with this freedom, but also with the freedom from desire of food which causes sickness. Every individual, like every animal, knows what is good food and what is not. However, it is only man who takes liberties with food that disagrees with his health, because he has the science of healing with him. When this science fails, as it happens frequently, the normal stressful situations get compounded as a result of low body efficiency or ill health.
The yogic way helps to develop the intuition for dietary diagnosis in a spontaneous manner, without becoming fanatical or fussy but choosing sensible food through the attitude of detachment.

Principle 2:

Food, the source of Prana:
In “Stress: how to handle it” in the International Yoga Guide, it is said that, “Prana is harmonized, replenished and enhanced in various ways, one of the most powerful being that of maintaining a pure and nourishing diet. On the basis of thousands of years of experience, yogis are emphatic on the point that non-vegetarian foods cause increasing tension in the body and mind. Rather, pure foods, such as fruits, milk and milk products, nuts, cereals, vegetables, and others are more harmonious to the body and mind. An occasional fast is also beneficial, or a fruit diet or a raw food diet. These have proven very helpful in relaxing the body and recharging it with fresh pranic energy.”
According to yoga, food can be either sattvic, rajasic or tamasic .

The effect of these foods on our body and mind is similar to the manifestation of the particular guna in our nature. It is well known that each of these three gunas is present in us, but in different proportions and that the nature of our personality is determined by the predominant guna. In the same way we can plan our diet, which can either be predominantly sattvic (with a lesser proportion of rajasic and tamasic food components) or predominantly rajasic (with a lesser proportion of sattvic and rajasic food components) or predominantly tamasic.
Most vegetarian food can be sattvic but the vegetarian food people eat nowadays is made non-sattvic as they are fried or prepared in a combination of rich spices. To retain the sattvic quality of vegetarian food, it needs to be prepared in simple ways: boiling, steaming, baking or eating raw (those vegetables which can be eaten raw). A simple vegetarian menu with smaller portions of rajasic and tamasic food (such as meat, fish, etc.) should bring in the benefits of a sattvic diet, which is easy to digest and completely assimilated through proper metabolic conversion.

Principle 3:

Do not kill your appetite:
A person under stress is normally rushed for time or tends to eat fast. His eating habits and timings become haphazard. As the stressful situation builds up tension within, his eating schedule gradually gets into a disarray, till it is completely thrown out of gear.
Therefore, eating under stress can create several complications, adding further to the burden of stress the body-mind complex is already bracing against. A lackadaisical attitude to eating may starve the body of essential nutrition. Killing hunger with coffee, tea, cigarettes or other substitutes is not a solution to the problem, but may actually contribute to it. Or, one may also develop a habit to overeat in the night to make up for the lack of proper food during the day, putting a heavy strain on the digestive system — Regularity in food timings is very important. Much digestive stress is caused by irregular timings and wrong timings. The optimum time for the main meal of the day is between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. After that, the digestive power wanes. In the evening, the digestive power is low as the system is tired and ready for a rest.
It is also important to eat the same quantity of food regularly, because the stomach gets used to secreting a certain amount of enzymes at a particular time. If the right items in the right quantity are provided at the right timing, then the digestive process goes on well, as nature intended it to be. It does not become stressed, overworked or breakdown.

Principle 4:

How we eat is as important as what we eat:
Most of the eating habits we were told to develop as children, contribute to good health. Eating slowly, masticating the food well and obeying the stomach rather than the eye or the taste buds, are as valid when we are grown up as when we were young. Moderation in diet makes sense in the yogic way, which says: fill the stomach half full with food, one quarter full with water, and leave a quarter of the stomach empty for all the gases that are produced during digestion.

Principle 5:               

To drink water, or not to drink?

There are different ideas about drinking water with food. Some advice to drink water after finishing eating, not in between. Others are of the opinion that it is best not to drink water for one hour before or one hour after meals. The reason being, that drinking water with or immediately after food, ‘dilutes’ the digestive juices. Therefore, a given quantity of food that is mixed with water, would need a larger amount of digestive juices for digestion than if it were unmixed or undiluted with water. Once you make a habit of drinking water one hour before or after eating, you find that the heavy-in-the-stomach feeling after eating totally disappears. With it, the after-food lethargy also disappears.

Principle 6:

Developing a healthy respect for food
In the ashram, food is looked upon as prasad. So, whether there is enough to eat or less, whether it Is tasty or not, food is eaten with the same bhavana (feeling) as a prasad from the guru. In our homes, we can develop a healthy respect for food if, once in a while, we pause and think; “The rice I’m eating, how has it reached my plate? How many different paths did it have to travel, how many hands did it have to pass, before reaching me to satisfy my hunger? That dal, or vegetable or those shiny red apples, how many man-hours were required to grow them and make them available to me. Such introspection or line of thought helps to develop a healthy, balanced attitude towards food.

Principle 7:

Try visualization
While eating, try to follow the ‘processes’ the food undergoes till it reaches the stomach. When you are chewing, visualize how the taste buds convey the different tastes, via the taste ducts, to the brain. How, even before the food is served, your nose has already conveyed the aroma of the food, and how your mouth begins to salivate at the mere hint of the aroma. Visualize the chewing process, the mixing of the chewed food with your saliva, the smooth movement down the throat after your tongue expertly pushes parts of the mouthful inside. With a little knowledge of physiology you can make a wonderful ‘odyssey’ down the stomach. It is only when we take such diverse perspectives in life that we are able to be aware of the richness of life around us. We become aware that eating is not mere polishing off of the plate, or that cooking mere adding salt and spices. We also realize that stress is partly due to our own inability to look at the world through a broader perspective.

Our Digestive System

The human digestive system is a series of organs that converts food into essential nutrients that are absorbed into the body. The digestive organs also move waste material out of the body.

The enzymes in saliva help break down foods, and the lubrication function of saliva makes it easier for food to be swallowed.

The stomach’s gastric juice, which is primarily a mix of hydrochloric acid and pepsin, starts breaking down proteins and killing potentially harmful bacteria.

The liver has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis and production of bile for digestion.

The function of the large intestine, which is about five feet long (1.5 meters), is primarily the storage and fermentation of indigestible matter.

 Dietary Suggestions

Principle 8:

Most people who have any sensitivity know which diet is best for them. The body tells us in so many different ways. For example if the breath smells bad, then the food is not digesting properly and is acting like a poison. Our appetite also tells us what we need to eat and when we start eating, the taste buds of the tongue tells us whether the food is good or not. The trouble is too often we just don’t listen.

Principle 9:

Better Alternatives

The following chart will enable you to avoid foods that are either detrimental to digestion or are processed in such a way as to lose their prana and nutritional value. The alternatives given are far better for the health.

Principle 10:

Foods To Avoid:

Denatured foods: white flour, white bread, cakes and buns, polished white rice. White sugar,sweets, jam, sweet syrups, fruit in syrups, light tracle, heavily sugared drinks and glucose drinks. Fats and Oils of Animal origin,saturated acid fats.Heat treated, canned foods, processed food with artificial sweetners, flavourings and chemical preservatives ( always read the small type on labels, so buy a magnifying glass )

Principle 11:

Food To Use:

Whole wheat, barley, rye or cornflour bread, whole or partialy polished rice. Honey, brown sugar, molasses, black treacle, fresh fruit. Vegetable oils and clarified butter. Fresh Foods, naturally processed foods like dried fruits or lentils and organically grown products.

HEALTH HINTS FOR FAMILY

Here are a few basic guidelines to help you and your family to good health.

  1. Buy fresh foods and store at cool temperature. Fruits and vegetables in season are cheap and also best suited to the needs of the body.
  2. Rinse all the dirt and chemical sprays off the surface of fruits and vegetables. There is no need to scrub away the skin or peel the skins as they have a great deal of nutrients and also add roughage to the diet.
  3. Steaming or bakig is better than frying or boiling. Fry vegetables in a little vegetable oil and then add some water and steam it till soft. This gives them a good flavor and makes them easy to digest.
  4. If you eat meat do not fry it. Remove all fat before cooking in order to reduce the amount of saturated fatty acids, this is better for the heart and the blood vessels. Boil, bake or broil meat.
  5. Avoid large amount of fat, oil or ghee.
  6. Use salt sparingly, more in summer and less in winter. Try to season your food with herbs, lemon juice or natural soya sauce.
  7. Do not overcook.
  8. Prepare food just before serving in order to increase prana.
  9. Make meals attractive and tasty to stimulate the appetite and digestive enzymes.
  10. Keep meals simple. Remember all the different foods you put on your plate will mix in your stomach.
  11. Take meals at regular intervals.
  12. Do not eat in between meals.
  13. Bathe before meals or not until half an hour after meals, as bathing diverts the blood from the stomach and intestine to the skin.
  14. When eating always take small mouthfuls. Chew each mouthful carefully and chew fried foods a little longer.
  15. Eliminate problems from your mind during the meal. Do not eat food when you are tense or hungry. Calmness is conductive to good digestion.
  16. Take food with an attitude that is health giving, the gift of god or nature.
  17. Only take as much as you need, never overburden the digestive system.
  • The body needs a little food and little fasting if it is to grow in a balanced way; just as a plant will die if it is watered too much, and does not get enough sun.

YOGIC AND AYURVEDIC DIETS

BASIS FOR AYURVEDA PHILOSOPHY

Balanced Tridosha means a Healthy Person

Every person (and thing) contains all three doshas. However, the proportion varies according to the individual and usually one or two doshas predominate. Within each person the doshas are continually interacting with one another and with the doshas in all of nature. This explains why people can have much in common but also have an endless variety of individual differences in the way they behave and respond to their environment. Ayurveda recognizes that different foods, tastes, colors, and sounds affect the doshas in different ways. For example very hot and pungent spices aggravate pitta; but cold, light foods such as salads calm it down. This ability to affect the doshas is the underlying basis for Ayurvedic practices and therapies.

A balance among the tridosha is necessary for health. Together, the tridosha governs all metabolic activities. When their actions in our mind-body constitution are balanced, we experience psychological and physical wellness. When they are somewhat unbalanced, we may feel uneasy. When they are more obviously unbalanced – when one or more of the three dosha influences are excessive or deficient-discernible symptoms of sickness can be observed and experienced.

Regardless of the percentages of vata, pitta, or kapha influences, your basic constitution represents your psychological and physical nature. When balance is maintained, health is at optimum.

Concept of Prakruti and Vikruti

According to Ayurveda, your basic constitution is determined at the time of conception. This constitution is called Prakruti. The term Prakruti is a Sanskrit word that means, “nature,” “creativity,” or “the first creation.” One of the very important concept of Ayurveda is that one’s basic constitution is fixed throughout his lifetime. The combination of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha that was present in the individual at the time of conception is maintained throughout his lifetime. This is your base point. Notice that different persons can have different combination of Vata, Pitta and kapha as their basic constitution or Prakruti. This is how Ayurveda can explain the subtle differences between individuals and explains why everyone is unique and that two persons can react very differently when exposed to the same environment or stimuli. Your Prakruti is unique to you just as your fingerprint and DNA. Thus, in order to understand a person, it is necessary to determine his or her Prakruti.

Ideally, your constitution remain fixed throughout your life. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Every person is subjected to the constant interaction with his or her environment which will affect the person’s constitution at any time. The body will try to maintain a dynamic equilibrium or balance with the environment. Your current condition is called your vikruti. Although it reflects your ability to adjust to life’s influences and is always changing, it should match your prakruti, or inborn constitution, as closely as possible. If the current proportion of your doshas differs significantly from your constitutional proportion, it indicates imbalances, which in turn can lead to illness. Farther your Vikruti is from your Prakruti, more ill you are. Ayurveda teaches that your Vikruti can be changed by means of diet and meditation so as to approach your Prakruti or the state where you have perfect health.

The concept of Prakruti and Vikruti can be illustrated by reference to our body temperature. When healthy, we maintain an average body temperature of about 98 degrees. Although, different persons can have different base temperatures, it does not change much so long as the person is healthy. When we go outside on a winter day, our body temperature may go down slightly; but will pick right back up to the normal if we are healthy. Similarly, jogging on a hot day can temporarily raise our body temperature. When we are sick, or catch a cold, our body temperature will go up. This indicates that we are sick or outside our normal base condition. We may take medicine to bring the body temperature back to the normal range. In analogy to Ayurveda, our present temperature may be considered as Vikruti and the difference between the Prakruti (our normal temperature) and Vikruti (our present temperature) can determine whether any medical intervention is required. Just like an allopathic doctor will take your temperature and blood pressure routinely as the first step in diagnosing your condition, Ayurvedic practitioners will determine your Prakruti and Vikruti as the first step in diagnosing your condition.

Hence prior to embarking on a journey to perfect health and longevity, it is important that you understand your Prakruti and Vikruti and determine how far separated these are. Armed with this knowledge, we can map a treatment strategy. This is the basic premise of Ayurveda.

Digestion – The Cornerstone of Health

According to Ayurveda, digestion is the cornerstone of health. Good digestion nourishes the body. Eating the proper foods will make a big difference in your wellbeing. There are two aspects to the food and nutrition in Ayurveda. One is the physical food you eat, digest, and assimilate. In this process, the organs of your digestive system has a big role. The second aspect of it is what you consume through your mind-body. What you see, hear, taste, smell, feel, and think are all important for your wellbeing and impact your health considerably. For example, stress plays a key role in the health. Ayurveda had recognized the importance of the environment in the total health. Remember, everything in your environment is composed of doshas that interact with your own doshas. You are affected by everything else which goes on in this universe as you are part and parcel of this cosmos. Thus we have the “big picture” or “holistic outlook” in Ayurveda.

Agni: Your Digestive Fire

Agni in Sanskrit means fire. In Ayurveda, Agni is the digestive and metabolic “fire” produced by the doshas that grabs the essence of nourishment from food, feelings, and thoughts and transforms it into a form your body can use. Agni helps various tissues of the body produce secretions, metabolic reactions, and other processes needed to create energy and maintain and repair the body. Agni is also part of the immune system since its heat destroys harmful organisms and toxins. The activity of agni varies throughout the day and maintaining the strength and natural ebb and flow of your digestive fires is needed for good digestion, good immune function, and resistance to disease. Agni is needed to form ojas.

Ojas: The Substance That Maintains Life

Ojas is the by-product of a healthy, efficient, contented physiology. It is the “juice” that remains after food has been properly digested and assimilated. When you are producing ojas, it means all your organs have integrated vitality and you are receiving the nourishment your mind and body need. Your whole being hums with good vibrations because you are producing and feeling bliss, not pain. However, when your agni isn’t working properly, you don’t produce ojas. Instead food, thoughts, and feelings turn into ama.

Ojas is the subtle glue that cements the body, mind and spirit together, integrating them into a functioning individual.

Ama – Toxins

Ama originates from improperly digested toxic particles that clog the channels in your body. Some of these channels are physical and include the intestines, lymphatic system, arteries and veins, capillaries, and genitourinary tract. Others are nonphysical channels called nadis (river or stream) through which your energy flows. Ama toxicity accumulates wherever there is a weakness in the body, and this will result in disease. Ayurveda offers ways you can cleanse the body of ama such as Panchakarma. However, it’s best to prevent it from forming in the first place. The symptoms such as coating on the tongue or feeling tired all the time are signs of ama.

Malas: Waste Products

Malas are the waste products of your body and include urine, feces, mucus, and sweat. Eliminating waste is crucial to good health, but dosha imbalances stifle the flow of the malas, creating a toxic internal environment. If you are not eliminating malas, it means you are accumulating ama somewhere in your system and you may have to undergo Ayurvedic cleansing to get rid of these toxins from your body.

Prana: The Life Force

Another key concept in Ayurveda is the life force that enters the body at birth, travels through all the parts of the body until it leaves at the moment of death. This life force is called prana. Prana strings body, mind, and spirit together like beads on a strand. Prana is the force necessary to keep the living beings alive.

Prana gets its nutrition through:

* The lungs that absorbs the essence found in the air.
* The colon that absorbs the prana found in well digested food.

Thus the lungs and the large intestine are closely connected in Ayurveda. They both supply Prana. For example, a few minutes of slow, deep breathing can reduce the hunger. Ayurveda is concerned with nourishing both the body as well as the mind.

CONCEPT OF THE SIX TASTES

To westerners, a balanced diet requires the understanding of the different food groups, nutrient values of the food and an understanding of the daily requirements of the food items to get a balanced diet. If a person consistently eats an unbalanced diet, his health will suffer from the deficiency of the nutrients to be obtained from the food or from the excess of the nutrients he is taking. (For example, a diet which is high in saturated fat and red meat is known to cause hardening and blockage of the arteries ultimately resulting in heart disease.) In the absence of such sophisticated knowledge as we know on the nutrition content or requirements and due to the fact that most of the people who lived at the time Ayurveda was written may not be able to understand a complicated nutritional requirement, the creators of Ayurveda have developed a very simple dietary program. This is called the six tastes. According to this system, all the important nutrients that we need for life, such as fats, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, etc. are contained in a meal that consist of all six tastes.

The six tastes are sweetsoursaltybitterpungent, and astringent. The food items that belong to each of these tastes is given in the table.

Any meal that contains food items from all these six tastes will be a balanced meal. It has all the nutrients for the proper functioning of the body and will balance all the doshas. This is a very simple system and easy to practice and follow.

Effects of The First  Tastes: Sweet

Taste: Sweet (Earth + Water)
Property Cooling
Source/Example Fruits with natural sugar such as peaches, sweet plums, grapes, melons, and oranges; vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets; milk, butter, and whole grains such as rice and wheat bread; herbs and spices such as basil, licorice root, red cloves, peppermint, slippery Elm and fennel. Ayurveda recommends that you avoid highly processed sweets such as candy bars and sugar, which also contain additives, food coloring, and preservatives.
Effect on Tridosha Decreases Vata Decreases Pitta Increases Kapha
Actions Sweet is the taste of pleasure. It makes us feel comforted and contented. It is one of the most important healing tools for debilitating weakness in Ayurveda. Nourishing and strengthening and promotes growth of all tissues, so is good for growing children, the elderly, and the weak or injured. Increases ojas and prolongs life. Good for hair, skin and complexion, and for healing broken bones. Adds Wholesomeness to the Body. Increases Rasa, water and ojas. Relieves thirst: Creates a burning sensation, Nourishes & soothes the body.
Disorders In excess, sweet taste promotes Kapha imbalances and disorders such as heaviness, laziness, and dullness, colds, obesity, excessive sleeping, loss of appetite, cough, diabetes, & abnormal growth of muscles.

Effects of The Second Taste: Sour

Taste: Sour (Earth + Fire)
Property Heating
Source/Example Yogurt, vinegar, Cheese, sour cream, Green Grapes, Lemon (and other Citrus fruits), Hibiscus, Rose Hips, Tamarind, Pickles, Miso (fermented soybean paste) and in herbs such as Caraway, Coriander, and Cloves.
Effect on Tridosha Decreases Vata Increases Pitta Increases Kapha
Actions Creates a feeling of adventurousness. Adds deliciousness to food. Stimulates Appetite & Sharpens the mind. Strengthens the sense organs. Causes secretions & salivation. Is Light, Hot & Unctuous. Good for the heart, digestion and assimilation. Helps dispel gas.
Disorders Increases thirst, Sensitivity of teeth, Closure of eyes, Liquefaction of kapha, Toxicosis of blood, Edema, Ulceration, Heartburn & Acidity. You become weak and giddy. It also may cause itching and irritation, thirst, and blood toxicity.

Effect of Third Taste: Salty

Taste: Salty (saline) (Water + Fire)
Property Heating
Source/Example Table salt, Sea Salt, Rock Salt, Kelp, sea weeds.
Effect on Tridosha Decreases Vata Increases Pitta Increases Kapha
Actions A basic unit of electricity, salt helps retain moisture in vata. Helps digestion. Acts as an Anti-spasmodic & Laxative. Promotes Salivation, Nullifies the Effect of All Other Tastes. Retains Water. Heavy. Unctuous, Hot.
Disorders Excess salt can aggravate skin conditions, weaken the system, cause wrinkling of the skin and graying and failing out of hair. It promotes inflammatory skin diseases, gout, and other Pitta disorders. Disturbs Blood, Causes fainting & heating of the body. Causes peptic ulcer, rash, pimples & hypertension.

Effect of Fourth Taste: Pungent

Taste: Pungent (Fire + Air)
Property Heating
Source/Example Onion, Radish, Chili, Ginger, Garlic, Asafoetida, Cayenne Pepper, black pepper, mustard.
Effect on Tridosha Increases Vata Increases Pitta Decreases Kapha
Actions Stimulates appetite and improves digestion. Like salt and sour, pungent improves the taste of food. Gives mental clarity. Helps cure Kapha disorders such as obesity, sluggish digestion, excess water in the body. Improves circulation. Is germicidal, stops itching, facilitates sweating and elimination of ama (toxic accumulations). Keeps the mouth clean. Purifies the blood, cures skin disease, helps to eliminate blood clots, cleanses the body. Light, Hot, Unctuous.
Disorders Too much pungent taste can cause weakness, feeling of weariness, impurities, burning sensations in the body. Increases Heat, sweating, can cause a peptic ulcer, dizziness & unconsciousness.

Effect of Fifth Taste: Bitter

Taste: Bitter (Air + Ether)
Property Cooling
Source/Example Dandelion Root, Holy Thistle, Yellow Dock, Rhubarb, bitter melon, greens such as Romaine lettuce, spinach, and chard, Fresh Turmeric Root, Fenugreek, Gentian Root.
Effect on Tridosha Increases Vata Decreases Pitta Decreases Kapha
Actions Considered to be one of the most healing tastes for many kind of imbalances in the mind-body. Bitter foods and herbs are drying and cooling and create lightness. Promotes other tastes. Acts as an Antitoxic & Germicidal. Is an antidote for Fainting, Itching & Burning Sensations in the body. Relieves thirst. Good for reducing fevers. Promotes digestion. Cleansing to the blood and helps remove ama in system.
Disorders Too much bitterness can cause dehydration. It can also Increase roughness, emaciation, dryness. Reduces bone marrow & semen. Can cause dizziness & Eventual unconsciousness.


Effect of Sixth  Taste: Astringent

Taste: Astringent (Air+ Earth)
Property Cooling
Source/Example Unripe Banana, Cranberries, Pomegranate, Myrrh, Goldenseal, Turmeric, Okra, Beans, Mace, Parsley, Saffron, Basil, and Alum.
Effect on Tridosha Increases Vata Decreases Pitta Decreases Kapha
Actions Astringent foods and herbs squeeze out water. Drying and firming, astringent taste stops diarrhea, reduces sweating, and slows or stops bleeding. (Causes constriction of blood vessels, Coagulation of blood.) Anti-inflammatory. Promotes healing. Has a sedative action, but is constipative, Is Dry, Rough, Cold.
Disorders Excess astringent is weakening and causes premature aging. Its drying effect causes constipation and retention of gas. Promotes dry mouth. Promotes Vata disorders such as paralysis and spasms. Obstruction of speech. Too much astringent taste can adversely affect the heart.

 

How To Use the Information on The Six Tastes To Improve Health

Dr. James Brooks, author of “Ayurvedic Secrets to Longevity and Total Health” suggested that Ayurvedic principles of six tastes can be used to analyze what is wrong with the Western diet and why we get into so many problems. Dr. Brooks notes that the average fast food diet includes only three tastes, sweet, salty and sour. (The average fast food of a hamburger, French fries, coke and ketchup have only these three tastes. The meat, bread, and coke are sweet; the fries are salty; the vinegar in the ketchup is sour.) They are all Vata pacifying. Vata imbalance is very common in the western society due to the fast pace of life and the emotional problems such as insecurity, anxiety and emptiness, so common in our lifestyle. These tastes are attractive to most westerners because being vata pacifying, they tend to help with these problems. This is why the fast food is so appealing.

The problem is that the fast food is not a healthy diet. It has generally too much fat. It is difficult to digest. It does not contain all the ingredients the body needs because it is short of three tastes. Such a diet tend to imbalance Kapha, characterized by lethargy, overweight, depression, mental dullness, and greediness.

Dr. Brooks also suggests that nutritional imbalance can lead to addictive behavior of all kinds. The mind/body system feels dissatisfied and is craving for something. The person does not know what is missing. This, left untreated, can result in addiction (not necessarily just in food). Addiction may be in tobacco, alcohol, drugs, sex, excitement, shopping, etc. The answer to this is to eat a balanced diet incorporating all the six tastes. This tend to balance our tridoshas and we feel mentally and physically satisfied.

How The Six Tastes Affect The Doshas
Dosha Tastes That Increases Dosha Tastes That Decreases Dosha
Vata
Pungent
Bitter
Astringent
Sweet
Sour
Salty
Pitta
Pungent
Sour
Salty
Sweet
Bitter
Astringent
Kapha
Sweet
Sour
Salty
Pungent
Bitter
Astringent
The table above, summarizing how the six tastes affect the doshas, is very useful in coming up with proper diet in case of imbalances in our doshas or vikruti. For example, a woman who is a few days away from her monthly period, will feel bloated from fluid retention. This is also accompanied by mood change and depression (we call this PMS). Ayurvedically speaking, these all mean that the Kapha is out of whack, an excess of Kapha in the system prior to menstruation period.

Looking at the table above we can see that in order to reduce Kapha, we need to eat Pungent (onions, radishes, garlic, ginger, cumin etc.), Bitter (green leafy vegetables such as spinach, bitter greens , turmeric) and astringent foods (such as lentils, broccoli, cabbage etc.). Most of the people tend to eat sweet foods (candy bar) or salty food (such as potato chips, salted nuts etc.). This obviously will make things worse.

Similarly, for a person who feels very angry or irritated (signs of Pitta imbalance), foods that are sweet, bitter or astringent will be helpful. Herbs can also be used instead of food.

 

Six Steps to Get Back To Good Health (Balanced Doshas)

Step 1: Determine Your Vikruti

Using the diagnostic tests given, determine your Vikruti. As mentioned in the discussion of your mind body constitution, Vikruti is an Ayurvedic concept that defines where you are now. If you are ill, your Vikruti will defer from your Prakruti, which defines your base mind body constitution. This imbalance need to be known, before an effective treatment strategy can be developed. Read the sections, Signs of Aggravated Dosha or Dosha Imbalance for vata, pitta and kapha doshas. This will tell you which of your Dosha is aggravated and need balance. Another way to do this is by taking the diagnostic test. When answering the questions, concentrate on how you feel in the past week or so, or when you were not feeling good. How was your action. For example, normally you are calm and do not get excited easily. But you have noticed that in the last week or so, you get upset very easily or you get very argumentative. Answer the diagnostic test that you get excited or angry easily. Note down your vata, pitta and kapha score and mark it as your Vikruti. You will need this for step 3. We suggest that you do this Vikruti test once every 3 months like changing the oil in your car. This will foretell any signs of impending diseases and you can take proactive corrective actions by catching any imbalance in a timely manner.

Step 2: Determine your Prakruti

Prakruti defines your natural state and your potential. This is your base behavior. We have provided a diagnostic test to determine your Prakruti. In answering the questions, please answer based on how you normally feel (rather than your condition at this moment which may be different because of some dosha imbalance or illness. It may not be a bad idea to take this test three times over a period of a week and average out the score to get your Prakruti. Ayurvedic practitioners have other diagnostic tools to determine your imbalance such as Pulse diagnosis. Prakruti defines both your physical and emotional (or mental) state. Many persons have difficulty defining their mental status. If you want you can ask a friend or someone who knows you well to help in answering the questions. Write down your score as Prakruti score. If you have used our diagnostic test, it tells you what your predominant dosha is. Look up the characteristics of your dosha (Read the appropriate sections Vata or Pitta or Kapha) and see how closely it describes you.

Step 3: Determine the Imbalance

Compare scores from steps 1(Vikruti) and 2(Prakruti) and determine the major imbalances. This is a complex process and very often requires a skilled ayurvedic practitioner to determine a course of treatment.

First look at your Vikruti score. Compare your highest dosha with the next highest dosha. If these are more than 10 points apart, there may be a serious imbalance. (Note that we are only talking about your Vikruti. An imbalance of 10 points or more is quite common in Prakruti as this will give your dominant dosha.)

To confuse the matter a little, very often what you see may not what it is. Doshas can disguise themselves. One dosha may affect another one throwing it out of balance. In most of the cases, Ayurvedic practitioners start with the vata dosha although that may not be the most imbalanced. This is because, vata controls most of the nervous system and mind and affect other doshas especially when you are under stress.

After checking vata, check your pitta imbalance. Pitta is responsible for the digestion. If your digestive fire is low, it can manifest itself with other problems. This can, in turn, put both vata and kapha out of balance.

Step 4: Stabilize your Doshas

Depending on which dosha needs to be balanced, use the diet recommendation for balancing the particular dosha.

Vata or Pitta or Kapha

It is recommended that you balance your vata first, followed by pitta so fine-tune your system. If your dosha imbalance is severe, you may want to undergo a cleansing operation such as Panchakarma. You may also want to consider yoga, meditation or aromatherapy.

Step 5: Monitor your progress

Follow the dosha balancing practices recommended until the symptoms subside. Repeat the Vikruti test every 3 months to confirm the progress you are making.

Step 6: Maintain Balance

When your doshas are in balance, follow proper daily lifestyle recommendations given by Ayurveda. If old or symptoms appear, repeat the steps 1 to 5.

VATA  PITTA  KAPHA

Signs of Vata Dosha Imbalance:

There are a number of tell tale signs of dosha imbalance. Some persons will get very angry. Some get depressed, etc. Here is a summary of the signs of vata imbalance:

* Worried
* Tired, yet can’t relax, Fatigue, poor stamina
* Nervous, Can’t concentrate
* Anxious, fearful
* Agitated mind
* Impatient, Antsy or hyperactive
* Spaced out
* Self-defeating
* Shy, insecure, Restless
* Cannot make decisions
* Weight loss, under weight
* Insomnia; wake up at night and can’t go back to sleep
* Generalized aches, sharp pains, Arthritis, stiff and painful joints
* Agitated movement
* Very sensitive to cold
* Nail biting
* Rough, flaky skin, Chapped lips
* Fainting spells
* Heart palpitations
* Constipation, Intestinal bloating, gas, Belching, hiccups
* Dry, sore throat, Dry eyes

In summary, if you are suffering from anxiety, worry, a tendency to overexertion, insomnia, chronic tiredness, mental and emotional depression, physical tension and other symptoms of stress, a weakened immune system, headaches, underweight, constipation, skin dryness, mental confusion, emotional conflict, inability to make decisions, impulsiveness, fast and disconnected speech, fantasy, illusions, and sensations of being lighthearted and removed from thoughts, feelings, or circumstances, then there is a very good sign that your vata is aggravated.

 

Indications of balanced vata influences are mental alertness and abundance of creative energy, good elimination of waste matters from the body, sound sleep, a strong immune system, enthusiasm, emotional balance, and orderly functioning of the body’s systems.

 

FOODS TO BALANCE VATA TYPE

A Food Plan to Balance Vata Dosha

These guidelines can be used for vata mind-body constitutions, to maintain dosha balance, and to restore balance if necessary, regardless of the basic constitution. Vata influences the movement of thoughts, feelings, prana flows, nerve impulses, and fluids in the body.

Favor:

* Warm food, moderately heavy textures, added butter and fat.
* Salt, sour, and sweet tastes; Soothing and satisfying foods.
* All soothing foods are good for settling disturbed Vata. Use foods such as: warm milk, cream, butter, warm soups, stews, hot cereals, fresh baked bread. Since vata is a cold dry dosha, warm, nourishing foods such as these are good for stabilizing vata. On the other hand cold foods such as cold salads, iced drinks, raw vegetables and greens are not very good for persons with vata imbalance.
* Breakfast is highly recommended. Use hot cereals such as cream of rice or wheat or any other breakfast that is warm, milky, and sweet.
* Take a hot or herbal tea with snacks in the late afternoon. Avoid drinks with high caffeine as vata gets disturbed by it.
* Use spicy foods such as spicy Mexican or Indian foods that are cooked in oil.
* Use warm moist foods such as cooked grains and cereals, bowl of hot oatmeal or cup of steaming vegetable soup.
* Warm milk is good. You can add a little sugar or honey to it if you prefer. Avoid eating candies as it disturbs vata.
* Prefer salted nuts that are heavy and oily as opposed to dry salty snacks.
* All sweet fruits are Ok for vata. Avoid unripe fruits as they are astringent
* Take warm or hot water instead of ice water and drinks.
* Summary: Breakfast is usually desirable. Hot foods and sweet and sour tastes. Reduce dry foods and bitter tastes. Warm or hot water and drinks. Raw nuts and nut butters. Spices: cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger, cloves in moderation.

Food Classified By Group

Vegetables | Fruits | Grains | Dairy | Meat | Beans | Oils | Sweeteners | Nuts and Seeds | Herbs and Spices

Vegetables
Favor Reduce or Avoid
cooked vegetables
asparagus
beets
carrots
cucumber
garlic
green beans
onions, cooked
onions, cooked
sweet potato
radishes
turnips
leafy greens in moderation
broccoli
Brussels sprouts
cabbage
cauliflower
celery
eggplant
leafy green vegetables
mushrooms
peas
peppers
potatoes
sprouts
tomatoes
zucchiniNote: The above vegetables are OK if cooked with oil except cabbage and sproutsAvoid raw vegetables, in general

 

Fruits
Favor Reduce or Avoid
sweet fruits
apricots
avocados
bananas
berries
cherries
coconut
fresh figs
grapefruit
lemons
grapes
mangos
sweet melons
sour oranges
papaya
pineapple
peaches
plums
sour fruits
Stewed fruits
Sweet, well-ripened fruit in general
apples
cranberries
pears
pomegranatesThe above fruits are OK cookedAvoid dried fruits, in general and unripe fruit (especially bananas)

 

Grains
Favor Reduce or Avoid
oats(as cooked oatmeal cereal, not dry)
cooked rice
wheat
barley
buckwheat
corn
dry oats
millet
rye

 

Dairy
Favor Reduce or Avoid
All Dairy is acceptable

 

Meat
Favor Reduce or Avoid
chicken
seafood, in general
turkey
All in small quantity
Avoid red meat

 

Beans
Favor Reduce or Avoid
chickpeas
mung beans
pink lentils
tofu (small amounts)
All, except as noted.

 

Oils
Favor Reduce or Avoid
All oils are acceptable
Sesame oil and olive oil are especially good.

 

Sweeteners
Favor Reduce or Avoid
All sweeteners are acceptable

 

Nuts and Seeds
Favor Reduce or Avoid
All are acceptable in small amounts. Almonds are best.

 

Herbs and Spices
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Almost all, in moderation, with emphasis on sweet and/or heating herbs and spices, such as:
allspice
anise
asafoetida
basil
bay leaf
black pepper (use sparingly)
caraway
cardamom
cilantro (green coriander)
cinnamon
clove
cumin
fennel
ginger
juniper berries
licorice root
mace
marjoram
mustard
nutmeg
oregano
sage
tarragon
thyme
Avoid using spices in large quantities. Minimize or avoid all bitter and astringent herbs and spices such as:
coriander seed
fenugreek
parsley
saffron
turmeric

If your basic constitution is mixed (vata-pitta or vata-kapha), include portions for the second influential dosha.

Vata dosha is aggravated and increased during autumn and early winter. During these seasons all mind-body types can include some of the above foods and decrease others.

Mental and emotional peace and constructive lifestyle routines are important to restoring and maintaining balance.

A Food Plan to Balance Pitta Dosha

These guidelines can be used for pitta mind-body constitutions, to maintain dosha balance and to restore balance if necessary regardless of the basic constitution. Pitta influences digestion and metabolism, body temperature, and biological transformations.

Favor

* Cool or warm but not steaming hot foods
* Bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes
* As far as practical use less butter and added fat. Consume food with moderately heavy textures.
* Since Pittas have strong efficient digestion, they can generally eat just about everything. Most Pittas get into trouble by continued use of too much salt, overuse of sour and spicy food and overeating.
* Take cool, refreshing food in summer. Reduce the consumption of salt, oil, and spices, all of which are “heating” to the body. Salads are good, so is milk and ice cream.
* Avoid pickles, yogurt, sour cream, and cheese. Avoid vinegar in salad dressing; use lemon juice instead. Alcoholic and fermented foods should be avoided. Their sour Rasa aggravates Pitta. Coffee is also pitta aggravating due to the acid in coffee. Herb tea is good. Prefer mint, licorice root or other pitta pacifying tea.
* Breakfast: Cold cereals, cinnamon toast, and apple tea is a good breakfast for Pitta. Avoid coffee, orange juice and doughnuts – they aggravate pitta.
* The vegetarian foods are the best for pitta. Consuming red meat tend to heat the body from the fat. Consume abundant amounts of milk, grains and vegetables.
* Avoid oily, hot, salty, and heavy foods such as fried food. Instead consume starchy foods such as vegetables, grains and beans. Avoid the tendency to overeat under stress.
* Avoid processed and fast foods as they tend to be heavy on salt and sour tastes. Japanese and Chinese food are good choices. Avoid highly spicy food such as is found in Mexican restaurants.
* To bring down aggravated Pitta, take two teaspoons of ghee (clarified butter) in a glass of warm milk. (Avoid taking the ghee if you have problem with high cholesterol).

Summary

Avoid egg yolks, nuts, hot spices, honey, and hot drinks. Cool foods and drinks are better. Add sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. Reduce use of sour tastes. Spices: black pepper, coriander, and cardamom.

Food Classified By Group

Vegetables | Fruits | Grains | Dairy | Meat | Beans | Oils | Sweeteners | Nuts and Seeds | Herbs and Spices

Vegetables
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Sweet and bitter vegetables:
Asparagus
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery
Cucumber
Green beans
Green (sweet) peppers
Leafy green vegetables
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Okra
Parsley
Peas
Potatoes
Sprouts
Squash
Sweet potatoes
Zucchini
Beets
Carrots
Eggplant
Garlic
Hot peppers
Onions
Radishes
Spinach
Tomatoes

 

Fruits
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Sweet Fruits:
Apples
Avocados
Cherries
Coconut
Figs
Dark grapes
Mangoes
Melons
Oranges
Pears
Pineapples
Plums
Prunes
RaisinsNote: Fruits should be sweet and ripe.
Apricots
Bananas
Berries
Cherries (sour)
Cranberries
Grapefruit
Papayas
Peaches
PersimmonsAvoid fruits that come to market sour or unripe. Also avoid fruits such as green grapes, oranges, pineapple and plum unless they are sweet and ripe.

 

Grains
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Barley
Oats
Wheat
White rice (prefer basmati rice)
Brown rice
Corn
Millet
Rye

 

Dairy
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Butter
Egg whites
Ghee (clarified butter )- unless you are watching cholesterol
Ice cream
Milk
Buttermilk
Cheese
Egg yolks
Sour cream
Yogurt

 

Meat
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Chicken
Shrimp
Turkey
(All in small amounts)
Red meat and sea food in general

 

Beans
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Chickpeas
Mung beans
Tofu and other soybean products
Lentils

 

Oils
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Coconut
Olive
Soy
Sunflower
Almond
Corn
Safflower
Sesame

 

Nuts and Seeds
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Coconut
Pumpkin seeds
Sunflower seeds
All, except as noted

 

Sweeteners
Favor Reduce or Avoid
All are acceptable except honey and molasses Honey and
Molasses

 

Herbs and Spices
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Spices are generally avoided as too heating. In small amounts, the following sweet and astringent spices are OK

Cardamom
Cilantro(green coriander)
Cinnamon
Coriander seed
Dill
Fennel
Mint
Saffron
Turmeric

Plus small amounts of cumin and black pepper

All pungent herbs and spices, except as noted. Take only the minimal amounts of the following:

Barbecue sauce
Catsup
Mustard
Pickles
Salt
Sour salad dressings
Spicy condiments
Vinegar

If your basic constitution is mixed (pitta-vata or pitta-kapha), to maintain balance, include smaller portions for the second dosha.

Pitta dosha is aggravated and increased during summer. During hot, dry seasons, all mind-body types can choose some of the above foods and decrease others.

Mental and emotional peace and constructive lifestyle routines are important to restoring and maintaining balance.

A Food Plan to Balance Kapha Dosha

These guidelines can be used for kapha mind-body constitutions, to maintain dosha balance, and to restore balance if necessary, regardless of the basic constitution. Kapha influences the heavy, moist aspects of the body.

What kind of Food to Eat to Balance Kapha

* Warm, light food
* Dry food, cooked without much water, minimum of butter, oil and sugar
* Stimulating foods with pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes
* Kaphas need to watch the consumption of too much sweet foods or fatty foods. Keep an eye on the salt consumption also, which tend to result in fluid retention in Kaphas.
* Light meals are to be favored such as light breakfast and dinner.
* Avoid deep fried foods. Eat lightly cooked foods or raw fruits and vegetables. Eat spicy, bitter and astringent foods. Watch out for eating too much food, a typical kapha tendency.
* Select hot food over cold food whenever feasible. Dry cooking methods (baking, broiling, grilling, sautéing) are preferable for kaphas over moist cooking such as steaming, boiling or poaching.
* As an appetizer eat bitter or pungent foods instead of salty or sour. Foods such as romaine lettuce, endive, or tonic water are good to stimulate your appetite.
* Take ginger tea or a pinch or ginger to stimulate appetite. Other preferred spices are cumin, fenugreek, sesame seed and turmeric.
* Any food that is spicy is good for kaphas such as very hot Mexican or Indian food, especially in winter.
* Foods that are good for kapha breakfast are hot spiced cider, buckwheat pancakes with apple butter, corn muffins, and bitter cocoa made with skim milk and a touch of honey. Avoid cold cereals, cold juice or milk, and sugary pastries. Bacon and sausage aggravates kapha due to their salt and oil. For kapha types, breakfast is optional. (You may skip it if you like).
* To pep you up in the morning, take honey, hot water, lemon juice and ginger. Try hot ginger tea. Try skipping a meal or two and take a spoonful of honey in hot water to keep you going.
* Kaphas have a sweet tooth. So, cutting down on sugar is difficult for many of them. Cutting sugar is recommended. Take honey instead. Avoid taking more than a spoonful of honey a day.
* Don’t overindulge on dairy foods. Butter, ice cream, and cheese are among the worst foods you can take as it aggravates the kapha. Take warm low fat milk. Avoid hamburgers and milk shakes.
* Eat raw fruits, vegetables and salads.
* Watch out the restaurant foods, especially oily, salty, sweet or deep fried foods – these are all kapha aggravating. Eat salad with minimum salad dressing. Take a glass of hot water instead of ice water. Eat salad instead of soup especially in hot weather.

Summary

Breakfast is usually not necessary. Avoid sugar, fats, dairy products, and salt. Ghee and oils only in small amounts. Choose light, dry foods. The main meal should be at the middle of the day, and only a light, dry meal in the evening. Avoid cold foods and drinks. Reduce use of sweet, sour, and salty tastes. Pungent, astringent, and bitter tastes are all right. All spices.

 

Vegetables
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Pungent and bitter foods such as:
asparagus
beets
broccoli
Brussels sprouts
cabbage
carrots
cauliflower
celery
eggplant
garlic
leafy green vegetables
lettuce
mushrooms
okra
onions
peas
peppers
potatoes
radishes
spinach
sprouts
Sweet and juicy vegetables, such as:
cucumbers
sweet potatoes
tomatoes
zucchini

 

Fruits
Favor Reduce or Avoid
apples
apricots
berries
cherries
cranberries
figs
mangoes
peaches
pears
prunes
pomegranatesDried fruits in general are good for kapha. (apricots,figs, prunes, raisins)
avocados
bananas
coconut
dates
fresh figs
grapefruit
grapes
melons
oranges
papayas
pineapples
plumsAvoid sweet, sour, or veryjuicy fruits, in general.

 

Grains
Favor Reduce or Avoid
barley
buckwheat
corn
millet
oats, dry
rye
basmati rice
oats
rice
wheat, except in small amountsAvoid hot cereals and steamed grains, in general, as they are too moist and heavy for kapha.

 

Dairy
Favor Reduce or Avoid
warm skim milk
small amounts of whole milk and eggs (not fried of cooked with butter)
All, except as noted

 

Meat
Favor Reduce or Avoid
chicken
shrimp
turkey
(All in small amounts)
red meat
seafood in general

 

Beans
Favor Reduce or Avoid
All legumes are acceptable except kidney beans and tofu kidney beans
tofu

 

Oils
Favor Reduce or Avoid
almond
corn
safflower
sunflower
(All in small quantities)
All, except as noted.

 

Sweeteners
Favor Reduce or Avoid
Raw, unheated honey All, except honey

 

Nuts and Seeds
Favor Reduce or Avoid
sunflower seeds
pumpkin seeds
All, except sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds

 

Herbs and Spices
Favor Reduce or Avoid
All are good. Ginger is especially good for improving digestion Salt

If your basic constitution is mixed (kapha-pitta or kapha-vata), include smaller portions for the second dosha.

Kapha dosha is aggravated and increased in the spring of the year. During this season, eat less and choose more dry, fibrous foods. During wet, cold seasons, all mind-body types can choose some of the above foods and decrease others.

According to the school of thought of acupuncture, the following periods of maximal functioning of the body organs occur as follows:

Lungs    3am -5 am

Large intestine: 5am -7 am

Stomach: 7am -9 am

Spleen: 9am -11 am

Heart: 11am -1 pm

Small Intestine: 1pm -3 pm

Bladder: 3pm – 5 pm

Kidneys: 5pm-7 pm

Heating Components: 7pm-9pm

Metabolic Processes: 9pm -11 pm

Gall bladder: 11pm-1am

Liver: 1pm -3 pm

This list represents the times when Prana is maximal in the organs. The opposite time represents the lowest pranic content. We can see from these times that there are certain times when digestion will be easiest. The stomach is most receptive to food in the morning and least receptive in the evening. Thus the morning meals should be taken between 7am – 11am for the best digestion. In this way food will reach the small intestine at the best time for absorption of digested food, from 1pm-3pm. The morning meal should therefore be largest as it fuels us with energy for the busy day.

The evening meal should be light and taken before the sunset. As the low point of stomach prana is around 8 pm , large meals taken at this time cannot be digested. Atleast four hours must passs between two meals and sleep so that the little digestive fire can start off the digestive process. It is healthier to eat the main meal before midday as food is not required while sleeping.

By eating at the correct time we flow with the natural energies of the body. If we take food when the pranic energy is high, digestion is carried out with maximum efficiency. By eating at the wrong time we swim against the nature and pave the way for disease.

Loss Of Prana

After a heavy meal we feel lethargic and sluggish. Overloading the stomach results in loss of energy rather than gain. Blood is redirected from the brain to other organs to aid digestion leaving rest of the body with less nutrients and oxygen. Blood is required to carry the absorbed products from the intestines to feed the cells of the body but if it is concenterated too long over there the other cells of the body suffer.

A light meal of grains or vegetables usually remain in the stomach for about 2 hours while a fatty meal stays in the stomach for 6 hours or more and its passage through the rest of the digestive tract may take 24 – 36 hours. All this time the body keeps working to digest the food even though it is past the peak time of digestion.

Eating the wrong sort of food leads to secretion of one type of digestive juice which creates imbalance in the full digestive tract. For example excess sugar results in excess mucous which creates imbalance of the digestive tract by slowing down and weakening of the fire and the body becomes dull, lethargic tamasic and prone to disease. Hot, spicy oily food leads to excessive bile that leads to indigestion.

Depression, fear and worry lower the level of one’s prana. These mental states reflect into the physical body and disturb the digestive process. Constant worry and anxiety produce gas and excessive acid secretion which leads to ulcers. An anxious person or omebody burdened with a heavy load cannot enjoy their meal and this loss of satisfaction also lowers prana.

Increasing Prana

A simple vegetarian diet is sufficient for body’s physical needs and keeps the pranic level high. Eating with hands also increase prana. When we handle food we infuse it with energy. Also taking meals in a relaxed happy atmosphere increases prana. Preparation of the food is also important. When one purchases and cooks with awareness prana is transmitted int preparation. Regular practice of yoga techniques helps to generate prana. The shatkarma tones al digestive and intestine organs.

Meditation harmonizes the body with the mind.Stomach is havan or sacrificial fire and food as an offering.

Fasting

It is a natural process which all of us do at night while we sleep. Fasting is not starvation. Fasting takes place as long as the body can sustain itself on the body reserves. Fasting allows the overtaxed system a break to clean the build-up of waste material expelled via the bowels, kidneys and skin bringing about a marked purification of the blood. This gives a feeling of lightness and freshness.

Fasting and Disease

Eating requires a lot of metabolic energy so fasting is good to speed up the catabolic processes which helps to eliminate toxins. If we allow the disease to finish its natural course it will be finishes and the body will be purified. Toxins are thrown through urine and skin and eating food allows the poisons to be reabsorbed back into the system.

Fasting is important for people on high meat diet. Fasting is a science to be practised under the expert guidance. Faasting is not a cure all.  The nature of complaint, thee age of the sufferer play an important part to determine if fasting would give benefit.  Iff an organ is structurally defective, fasting is a simple effective cure.

In fasting you can practise antar mauna. The effect of fasting can be felt in many ways:

Breathing is freer.

There is a greater ease of movement.

The tired feeling disappears.

Fullness and discomfort in the abdomen are soon replaced by lightness.

Blood pressure is lowered.

How to Fast

Preparation for fast is important. Don’t make an abdrupt transition from your usual diet unless you are sik. In this case eliminate all solid food and drink plenty of fluids to flush the kidneys. If you can then abstain from meat and heavy food then switch to light fruit diet. After this you can commence the fast. There are a few suggestions that will make the fasting easier.

  1. Fast during the warm months.
  2. Make sure your family and friends understand the basics of fasting and your goal. Fasting is difficult without the relatives trying to force food down your throat.
  3. How long to fast depends on whether you are fasing to remove a disease or do a cleanse. Body gives an indication. One week of fasting in one month is sufficient for a cleanse. Without guidance 3 days is sufficient.
  4. In pure fast only water is taken. . Longer than 2 days fast means add lemon to water and take it thrice daily.
  5. In one day fast the weakness is psychological. Maintain daily activities and do not rest to keep circulation active.
  6. Hunger and appetite is different. Hunger is the natural call of the body for the food in order to maintain itself while appetite is hunger of mind. In prolonged fast hunger sensation disappears eventhough the stomach contraction continue. Drinking water helps to relieve hunger but never drink iced water. Use bhujangani mudra to reduce hunger.
  7. Do laghoo shankh prakshalan, don’t use laxatives if there is no bowl movement.
  8. Bathe once or twice a day.
  9. Keep yourself mentally occupied and do not think of food.
  10. Fasting is not advised for loosing weight.
  11. Fasting should never be advertised and look on it as a spiritual practice.
  12. Moderation in fasting is essential. Never fast if cravings of body and mind become excessive and don’t fast if you do not feel like.

Breaking The Fast

  1. Breaking fast depends on the duration of fast. First food taken should be liquid – fresh fruit juice or milk. Orange juice diluted taken every 2 hours is a good way to breakfast. The first solid food should be soft like vegetable broth or melon.

The following diets are suggested after a liquid diet.

  1. Apple, peaches , dates taken in small quantity every 2-3 hours
  2. Milk diet every 2-3 hours
  3. Gruel diet: oatmeal or barley boiled with a pint of water with sugar or salt.

After breaking fast remember to:

Drink plenty of water.

Your stomach will shrink so do not overeat.

Do not overexercise first few days.

Partial Fast

This can be done by having:

  1. 6-8 oranges a day, one at a time evry few hours
  2. One grapefruit evry 3-4 hours
  3. A quarter of a pint of fresh fruit juice every 3 hours upto 6 times per day.
  4. One cup of vegetable broth every 4-6 hours.

Should children Fast

Their instinct will tell them. If your child is sick and misses a meal the real hunger will soon appear. Substitute dinner sweets with raw fruit.

Fasting Sadhna

While fasting, yogic practices should be directed towards helping to eliminate toxins of the body. The following techniques are particularly useful:

  • Hatha Yoga Shatakriya: Laghoo ShankhPrakshalan, Kunjal, Neti, Basti
  • Asana: Pawanmuktasana, vajrasana, shavasana
  • Pranayama: Bhramari, Nadi Shodhana, Ujjayi
  • Meditation: Yoga Nidra, Antar Mauna

If you are fasting for illness seek competent advice on sadhana combined with karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga for faster, deeper and more ong term results.

Am I hungry?

Hunger implies emptiness and the desire to find fullness, not only on the physical level but on the emotional, mental and spiritual levels as well. Hunger commences when we are only a few hours out of the womb. We experience separation from our source, our mother, and hunger for her food and her comforting presence. Hunger originates in the search for fulfilment, happiness and completion, but in the outside world it takes many forms. Some seek to satisfy it through food, other through work, sports or leisure. Whatever external activity is performed, it has at its base the deep hunger for reunion with the higher self, for the return to our true nature, peace and bliss. It is a hunger for the permanent cessation of all hunger.

Physical Hunger

Hunger is a sign of good health and its absence a symptom of disease, particularly of the gastrointestinal tract. Hunger signals the brain that food is required. It has 3 parts:

  1. Appetite: It refers to food preference which arises from the experience of previous pleasures: a wishing, longing or yearning for something especially desirable. We are hungry for those things we like and their very thought, sight, smell or taste elicits copious secretions of saliva and gastric juice, whereas just the opposite occurs for those things we do not like. When the sense of smell is destroyed, the appetite is reduced or lost. Genetic factors also appear to play a part, for example lions do not eat bananas and monkeys do not eat meat. Appetite determines what we eat. It is linked to swadhisthana chakra, the pleasure center.
  2. Hunger pangs: determine when and how much we eat. They are commonly described as disagreeable aches or gnawing sensation in the upper central abdomen. They are believed by some t be caused by contractions of the empty stomach although this has yet not been proved. The point at which hunger is satisfied by taking food into the body depends to a large extent on social customs and appetite. This aspect of hunger is related to manipura chakra and the digestive fire.
  3. Hunger Drive: is said to be a deeper phenomenon than hunger pangs, and may be instinctive. Some authorities say that it results from cellular consciousness seeking to replenish a diminishing nutritional supply. It appears to be linked with energy expenditure, the body demanding food for survival , perhaps at subconscious or unconscious level. It still exists even when the nervous connections from the stomach to the brain are cut and contractions of the stomach associated with hunger pang cease. It is also present when the stomach is cut out. This deep hunger drive is associated with mooladhara chakra, the center for self preservation.

These 3 factors work concurrently, creating a deep urge to eat, to take in nourishment, to survive. This signals the brain and stimulates the stomach to contract, causing the feeling of gnawing emptiness called hunger. This feeling is strongest on an empty stomach and disappears with the ingestion of food. It is temporariy stopped by sham chewing or swallowing, smoking and drinking alcohol, and also by tightening the belt. Strong emotions also quickly abolish it. Appetite determines what we eat to tone down the hunger but this is affected by other factors. For example sexual suppression leads many people to overeat sweet foods.

Awareness helps to separate physical hunger from mental hunger. Awareness is the key to habitual overindulgence to control obesity.

Mental Hunger

When you desire something and think about it for some time, it becomes a mental hunger or a craving. Uch hunger is more than just the need for food, it is the desire to fill in the vaccum which we have created in our lives. Craving is an unconscious mechanism to compensate for deep insecurity to satisfy the desire for sensual pleasure or to compensate for lack of power or unrequited love.

When we crave we approach the world from a sense of self –centeredness. We are aware of the things in the world purely from our own subjective point of view. It is obvious that this approach is totally unrealistic and if we take it to its logical conclusion, it can only end in suffering through the frustration of our desires. Tension is thus produced and the body becomes unbalanced, diseased, weak and prone to indigestion.

The obvious antidote to this form of suffering is to try to attain a more selfless, objective view. Yoga and a meditative attitude of awareness will help to accomplish this. Instead of seeing everything with an attitude of grasping and taking, we learn to give and find that only in this way can we truly gain. Then our hunger is satisfied and we turn inwards in our search for fulfilment, rather than outwards.

The Yogic Approach

When hunger is tainted with desire, it is called a klesha. The five kleshas are the root of all suffering and pain. In patanjali’s yoga sutras (2.3), it states: Ignorance, I feeling ( ego), liking ( desire), disliking ( aversion) and fear of death are the pains.”

The objects of pleasure cause the mind to run after them. When we overindulge in pleasure we suffer disease. This is a universal law that binds us to the lower levels of consciousness. For example, if we overeat we suffer from indigestion. Pleasure and pain originates in Ignorance ( avidya), and they are the prime motivating forces in human beings, existing at the roots of our being.

Most people eat as soon as they feel the slightest hunger in an effort to avoid pain. A yogi, however has developed the willpower to feel hunger without having to satisfy it immediately. He awaits and allows the digestive fire to increase and when he is really hungry he eats.  The yogi is aware of hunger pangs but like all sensations he see their temporary nature and never allows them to control him. He sees hunger as a helthy form of suffering, far better than the suffering which results from overindulgence, and with this mental attitude he can actually enjoy his experience of hunger.

The yogi eats neither out of bedroom nor as a compulsive and repetitive habit. He eats to live and does not live to eat. At a certain level of yogic achievement hunger ceases completely and even food is not required to maintain the body. This occurs when the individual consciousness has merged with the supreme. It is fulfilment of hunger at the spiritual level.

Balance Your Hunger With Yogaif

  1. For decreasing hunger:

Bhujangani Mudra I which the air is taken into stomach until it is completely full and then the air is belched out. This reduces the feeling of emptiness within by stimulating the satiety center in the brain.  Use it anytime you feel this way. Other useful techniques include:

Asana: Vajra,sana ( before meals), Shavasana with breath awareness, Shashankasana.

Pranayama: Nadi Shodhana, Brahamri, Sheetkari

Meditation:  Antar Mauna

2. For Increasing Hunger:

Hatha Yoga Shatakriya Shankh Prakshalan, Kunjal, Neti, Agnisar, Nauli

Asana: Pawanmuktasana part 2, surya namaskar, pascimottanasana, bhujangasana, shalabhasana, dhanurasana, ardha matsyendrasana, sarvangasana.

Pranayama: Bhastrika, Ujjayi

Mudra: Tadagi Mudra

Karma Yoga is one of the best way to increase the digestive fire, especially if it takes the form of hard physical work. Bhakti Yoga also increases the hunger, especially for spiritual things. Jnana Yoga reduces physical hunger by reducing the passions of the mind and yet increases spiritual hunger.

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Sunita Bhalla
Gems of Yoga
Whatsapp: 050 166 0914
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