Since each body is unique, everyone has their own balance.
Ayurveda defines nature as embodying five elements -- space, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements also exist in the human body.
Derived from these five elements in the body are doshas, or our true natural energies on both our body and mind. They consist of parts of the five elements: Vata (space & air), Pitta (fire & water), and Kapha (earth & water).
Everyone is born with his and her own combination of these doshas -- this is where one's true balance originates.
Generally, the doshas can be characterized like this:
- A person who has a mostly vata constitution is quick in both their movements and thoughts, airy like a gust of breeze. They are usually thin and embody light coloring.
- Someone with a pitta constitution will show a fiery personality, they may even have red hair. They can be soft and clear like water, but also piercing and intelligent like fire.
- Kapha types are solid and calm, grounded like the Earth. They are usually very nurturing and forgiving.
What's my dosha?
Okay, so now you know what your dosha is. How does that affect what you choose to eat? Our doshas are in constant flux -- anything do we, say, think, eat, and even the seasons affect them. If our doshas are out of balance, we start not to feel well. If they are really out of balance, we can become ill. Changing what you eat to balance your dosha can have an outstanding effect on your health.
Food plans to keep your dosha in balance
One example of a food imbalance is when a pitta individual eats spicy food in the summertime, and suffers from heartburn. Or someone with a vata constitution may find that she has very dry skin in the winter, especially when eating dry foods like raw vegetables.
Alongside our balancing foods, ayurveda has some other guidelines for how we should eat:
- Eat according to the seasons. This means eat both what is in season and what makes sense for the season. In the winter, a hot soup seasoned with ghee is more favorable than a salad.
- Include the six tastes in each meal: salty, bitter, pungent, sweet, astringent, sour. This will help with digestion and make you feel more satisfied by what you eat. It also helps to balance out our meals.
- Eat an abundance of sattvic/nourishing foods: fresh fruit, vegetables, freshly made grains, fresh and local milk, yogurt, and ghee, honey, seeds, and nuts.
- Minimize the amount of tamasic/not nourishing foods: leftovers, stale food, deep fried food, margarine, microwaved foods, white sugar and flour, and large amounts of alcohol
- Use spices in your cooking to aid your health
- Sit down to eat an an uncluttered, quiet space
- Give thanks for your food
- Eat when you are hungry, and only at meal times. Avoid the temptation to snack between meals.
- Eat until you are comfortably full -- no more
- Practice proper food combining at each meal. Certain combinations of food cause unhealthy by-products in the process of digestion Handy Food Combining Table.
Eat Taste Heal- A cookbook with thorough information on the principles of ayurveda
Kripalu Center of Ayurveda - One day I hope to study ayurveda here. A great resource for information and practicioners.
Textbook of Ayurveda by Vasant Lad