Welsh Witterings: A touch of Ayurveda
This week I had the great honour of meeting Dr. Nayana an Ayurvedic doctor from India and even got the chance to prepare some Ayurvedic meals with her. Ayurveda is an holistic (whole body) approach to health and was developed thousands of years ago in India. Based on the belief that health and wellbeing depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit Ayurveda looks to create balance, with a focus on promoting good health, rather than fighting disease.
In accordance with the teachings of Ayurveda, anything that affects your physical, spiritual, or emotional well-being can cause you to be out of balance with the universe. I had been suffering from a terrible cold that I just couldn’t shift so in accordance with Ayurveda I must be completely out of balance, but then I did have an emotional upset when the long awaited birth of my Shetland foal turned into the birth of a stillborn; this was immediately before the onset of the cold. I was certainly very upset and emotional and not only did my asthma become problematic, but I got severe cold symptoms, so although I had never thought of it this way what Dr. Nayana explained about disruptions leading imbalance made perfect sense. Some things that can cause a disruption include: injuries, climate change, seasonal changes, shock and trauma, age and emotions.
Spending time with Dr. Nayana was fascinating and I only wish we could have spent more time together, but as you can imagine she was a busy lady and there were many people eager to meet her. I did spend a little time in the kitchen with her though and it was a real insight. Imagine what it feels like to be able to prevent a cold with a little bit of carefully-crafted food or to treat a headache without anything other than dinner, well this is what I began to discover for in Ayurvedic cooking, food is a medicine. Traditionally the nutritional value and health aspects of certain foods has always been recognised in India , however in the West the concept of eating more or less of certain food stuffs in accordance with your own individual constitution is a relatively new one, instead we tend to take a one size fits all approach and consider only the values of food not in relation to individual systems.
According to Ayurveda every person is made of a combination of five basic elements found in the universe: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. I must admit that this reminded me slightly of the Medieval philosophy of the four elements of which I have always had a fascination.
The five elements in Ayurveda combine in the human body to form three life forces termed doshas. There is no exact translation of the Sanskrit word, dosha into English, but it roughly translates as a ‘force’ or ‘fault’. These bodily energies affect all areas of physical and mental life and an imbalance will cause a disorder in the body or mind. The three dosha types are :
Vata dosha (space and air), this is the lightest and is portrayed as the colour blue
Pitta dosha (fire and water), this is the medium and is portrayed by red
Kapha dosha (water and earth), this is the heaviest and is portrayed by yellow
Whilst everyone inherits a unique mix of the three doshas, one dosha is always more dominant, for example someone with a dominant Vata energy such as myself tends to be slim, restless and creative, but a little over sensitive.
Dressing for your body shape is now a common term in Western media, but eating for your body type is one that is yet to catch up or be fully understood. The food we eat directly affects our doshic state and so it is important to identify what dosha type you are.
Dosha Type Characteristics:
A tendency to anxiety
A love of travel
Prefer warm, humid climates
Dislike of cold weather and high winds
Eat moderately warm food and avoid cold or frozen food.
Warm milk is a beneficial drink
Choose sweet, acid and salty foods.
Avoid hot and spicy food
Reduce your intake of nuts and seeds.
Medium, muscular build
Prefer cold climates
A tendency for loud speech
A love of luxury
Passionate and dominating
An interest in sports and politics
Eat cooling foods.
Eat a high proportion of raw foods for example salads, raw fruit and vegetables
Avoid pickles and acidic drinks
Prefer warm, dry climates
A love of peace and quiet
A love of good food
A dislike of cold or damp weather conditions
Thrifty with money
Eat hot and spicy foods
Avoid cold or raw food
Avoid fatty foods
Avoid fried foods
Control sugar cravings
Avoid alcohol consumption.
Of course there is a lot more to Ayurveda than I have covered here, but it is a fascinating subject and one that I hope to learn more about in the not so distant future and I’ll certainly be looking at adopting some Ayurveda wisdom when it comes to optimising my diet and well-being.