YOGA AND AYURVEDA
In ancient India Yoga & Ayurveda formed a complete system of overall health & well-being. From an Ayurvedic perspective, people have different constitutions that influence the choice of treatments, including dietary approaches, herbs, various purification techniques, and such yogic practices as asana, pranayama, bandhas, mudras and meditation. The complete understanding of yoga methodology for healing requires & essential knowledge of Ayurveda and as a powerful form of complementary medicine, Ayurveda also offers tools that can complement yoga.
According to Ayurveda, each person has a particular constitution or prakriti, a balance of three doshas, that needs to be considered when planning a treatment according to the following table:
THE THREE AYURVEDIC CONSTITUTIONS OR DOSHAS
The literal translation of dosha is “ that which becomes unbalanced.” People who are creative, in constant motion, and perhaps a bit impulsive are from an Ayurvedic perspective showing signs of vata, or air. Pittas are fiery types, prone to passion and anger and the drive to succeed. The final dosha is kapha, signifying earth and water. Kaphas tend to be strong, slow to move, and sometimes a bit lazy, though once they get going, can be very hard workers. Ayurveda sees each person as being a blend of all three.
Different diseases are thought to reflect certain doshas. Degenerative arthritis, for example, is considered related to vata and adult diabetes to kapha. Thedoshas, Ayurveda teaches, are also influenced by the climate, the reason of the year, and your age.
The Ayurvedic constitution emphasizes on a specific yoga practice for a complete and holistic health & well-being. The yogic approach for someone of vata dosha is to ground them. Using asana such as standing poses, they would be taught to sink their feet into the ground, to always balance lifting the body with downward movement. Squatting and seating poses such as forward bends and twists are also said to be beneficial for calming vata. Practices like meditation, pranayama, &very active asana practices, in which you flow quickly from pose to pose, however, can exacerbate vata tendencies, and are riskier to people who aren’t yet grounded.
Fiery pittas benefit from a calming and restorative yoga practice, though they may be more attracted to very vigorous and challenging types of yoga. If such a practice is not balanced with a heavy dose of relaxation, the person’s fire may burn hotter: anger might flare, or their heart burn could get worse. If they are physically capable, kaphas benefit from just the kind of vigorous practices that many pittas and vatas gravitate toward. Preferably kaphas tend to choose a gentler practice that, while pleasant, may not challenge them in some ways they need.
Yogic dietary advice tends to be heavily influenced by Ayurveda, in which diet is a centerpiece of the therapeutic strategy. From an Ayurvedic perspective, the right foods for each constitutional type can be grouped by taste. Pittas should choose mostly foods with bitter, astringent & sweet tastes. Vatas should favor foods that are sweet, salty & sour. Ideally, kaphas should eat foods that are spicy, bitter, or astringent. Bitter foods include broccoli rabe and most leafy greens. Sour or acidic tastes include lemons, limes, yogurt, and kefir. Examples of astringent foods are asparagus , artichokes, sprouts, potatoes, and pomegranate. In Ayurveda, sweet refers to naturally sweetfoods such as fruit, not refined sugars, which are frowned upon in excess. As with yoga practices, what people are drawn to may not be what’s best for them.
Pittas often like spicy foods, which increase their fire. Ayurveda recommends that vatas eat warm foods that are smooth in texture to calm their restless minds, but they often prefer corn chips, salads, and granola. Kaphas often love sweet and rich desserts, but these can exacerbate their tendency toward weight gain . Yoga points out that you don’t need to avoid less-favored foods entirely, but simply recognize that an excess could put you out of balance.
Although Ayurveda divides people by constitutional tendencies, it recognizes that everyone has characteristics of all three, and figuring out what’s best for you is a matter of trial and error combined with careful observation. As you gain enough sensitivity to judge the effects different foods have on you, you will come to your own conclusions about which foods are best. You may also notice that overtime or at different times of the year, your optimal diet may change.
THE YOGIC APPROACH TO DIET
Although people sometimes don’t realize it, proper diet is an integral part of yoga. Food is your sustenance, the source of the thousands of ingredients your body needs to keep you alive and healthy, but it can also be the source of substances that may be harming you. Diet can play a huge role both in causing and perpetuating disease, as well as in helping to remedy the situation if you are already sick. Using your diet as a tool for health and healing is very consistent with the philosophy of yoga. From a yogic perspective, food is meant to contribute to balance and a clear, state of mind.
From a yogic and Ayurvedic perspective, fresh food is best, because food loses prana, or life energy, when it is canned or processed (even when it is just refrigerated and reheated). Fresh food is rich in vitamin & its taste bitter.
Most processed food has large amounts of salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats added to it, while much of the fiber and many of the vitamins and healthy phytochemicals (plant chemicals) have been lost in manufacturing and storage.
In the modern world, it may be difficult to avoid eating canned, processed, or reheated food, but the principle holds: eat fresh food whenever possible, the fresher the better. Produce grown near where you live can be delivered faster, and is therefore preferable. Best of all( if you can’t grow your own) is to buy at a farmers’ market and actually meet the people who planted and nurtured the crops, or raised the animals. But also keep in mind that vegetables and fruits frozen immediately after harvest have higher vitamin content than fresh food that sits around for days.
While your focus should be on eating a diet that is high in vitamins and other natural antioxidants, there is strong evidence for the safety and effectiveness of taking a multivitamin every day (though men and postmenopausal women should avoid multivitamins that contain iron unless their iron levels are low). Some people(especially postmenopausal women) also need to take supplemental calcium to keep their bones strong, and growing evidence suggests that many people could benefit from supplemental vitamin D as well.
You may have heard the saying “You are what you eat.” From a yogic perspective, however, you are not just what you eat but how you eat. Yoga encourages you to be aware of every bite you put in your mouth, noticing its taste, texture, and temperature. Yogis suggest you think about where your food came from and feel gratitude toward those who grew it and prepared it( including yourself if you were the chef ). To facilitate awareness and better digestion, yoga says, eat slowly in a nondistracted fashion. It is best not to read or watch television while you chew, but instead to attend to the meal in front of you. Fill your belly only to three-quarters, sit down for your meal, and don’t eat on the run. The more you can make eating a form of meditation, the healthier it is likely to be. This is not always possible, but the more you can do it, the better. Such awareness tends to prevent overeating and can make a big difference in your weight.