If you are a Fitness Nutrition Coach or Lifestyle Weight Management Specialist, you are already able to work with clients on their food intake. But what if the client isn’t coming through that part of your assessment with flying colors?
What if they are bored with food or eating healthy. What if your intuition tells you that your client will be receptive to Ayurveda and thus benefit from incorporating its principles into their holistic lifestyle? Maybe they have outwardly stated that they are ready for a change.
Ayurveda could also be seen as a way to enhance or augment physical holism, perhaps more so than having our client eat organics. This because Ayurveda is a complete way of restoring the body’s balance.
Ayurveda, translated as the “science of life,” is an option. This is a fascinating system of medicine that utilizes various therapies including diet, yoga, and herbal preparations to restore harmony and balance within the body. But one does not simply proclaim themselves an Ayurveda practitioner until they have been formally trained in a professional manner. If this is not something you are interested in, it does not mean that your client can not benefit from learning some Ayurveda principles.
The principles of Ayurveda are based on the concept of tridosha, or the system of three doshas. The three doshas, known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, are dynamic forces with distinct characteristics that shape all things in the universe. Each person is born with a unique constitution, called Prakriti, which is composed of varying amounts of influence from each of the three doshas.
In the Ayurvedic view, an imbalance between the doshas produces a condition called Vikriti, a Sanskrit word that means “deviated from nature.” According to Ayurvedic principles, each individual’s diet should be suited to his or her Prakriti.
During times of Vikriti, or imbalance, the diet can be used to either decrease or increase the three doshas until balance is restored. The dosha balancing effect of a food is determined by its taste, either salty, sour, sweet, bitter, astringent, or pungent and its other qualities, either heavy, oily, cold, hot, light, or dry.
Ayurveda is one of the most ancient systems of medicine in the world, with its roots reaching back to the 9th century BC. Hindu legend holds that Lord Brahma, the god of creation, upon recognizing the intense suffering of human civilization, taught various spiritual leaders ways to ease this suffering.
For thousands of years, these teachings were transmitted orally but were eventually recorded during the Vedic period of ancient India as Sanskrit poetry and compiled into the classic books known as the Four Vedas.
One of these texts, named the Rik Veda, contains verses on the nature of health and disease and discusses the concept of the three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). Another text, called the Atharva Veda, lists the eight divisions of Ayurveda: Internal Medicine, Surgery of Head and Neck, Ophthalmology and Otorhinolaryngology, Surgery, Toxicology, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Gerontology or Science of Rejuvenation, and the Science of Fertility.
Later writers, including Sushruta and Charaka, took passages from the Vedic Scriptures and compiled them into separate medical textbooks, called Samhitas. The Sushruta Samhita, one of the most widely accepted Ayurvedic texts, outlines surgical techniques. The Charaka Samhita is a major text on internal medicine. Due to its long history and its influence on the development of Chinese, Arabic, Greek, and Roman medical thought, Ayurveda is often referred to as the “mother of medicine.”
Ayurveda is the primary system of medicine in India and is practiced by many people in the countries surrounding India. Ayurvedic principles, including Ayurvedic diet recommendations, are gaining popularity throughout the Western world as many people seek health care options that are more holistic and wellness-oriented.
In humans, the doshas control all mental, emotional, and physical functions and responses, and also determine the state of the soul. They produce natural urges and individual preferences in food. They govern the maintenance and destruction of bodily tissue and the elimination of waste products.
As mentioned, each person is born with a unique Prakriti (Sanskrit for “essential nature”), constitution or personal blueprint composed of varying amounts of influence from each of the three doshas. Each person’s Prakriti describes the unique harmony or balance between the doshas that is necessary for that person to experience perfect health.
Also part of the Ayurvedic view, Vikriti results from overexpression of one or two doshas (usually the dominant dosha) and diminished expression of the other dosha. This imbalance can be caused by eating the wrong foods, chronic mental stress, physical overexertion, negative emotions, or poor sleeping habits, and will eventually lead to the development of a disease, obesity and/or mental disorders. As a result, to prevent disease, each individual must maintain the doshas in, or restore them to, their proper balance.
Only a small percentage of people are purely Vata, Pitta, or Kapha. Each of us possesses a proportion of all three doshas. In many cases, two doshas combine to determine our dominant physiological and personality traits.
Vata, translated as “wind”, has the elements of ether and air, and controls all movement in the body, including the flow of blood to and from the heart, the expansion and contraction of lungs that makes breathing possible, and the contractions that push food through the digestive tract.
The person with a Vata Prakriti is typical of slight, thin build, and demonstrates great enthusiasm, imagination, and vivaciousness. Vata types grasp new concepts quickly but forget things easily. They have bursts of mental and physical energy, love the excitement and constant change, and display dramatic mood swings. Vatas tend to have irregular eating and sleeping patterns.
When out of balance, Vata types experience dry or rough skin, constipation, tension headaches, cold hands and feet, anxiety and worry, fatigue, poor and irregular appetite, insomnia, arthritis, and difficulty maintaining their ideal body weight. The Vata constitution is characterized by swift change, and, as a result, it goes out of balance more easily than the other doshas.
Pitta, related to fire, controls metabolism and digestion and regulates appetite. Pitta types are often of medium build and medium strength and typically have blond, red, or light brown hair with freckled or ruddy skin. The basic theme of the pitta constitution is intensity.
Pitta types are ambitious, self-disciplined, enterprising, articulate, intelligent, and outspoken. When in balance, they are warm and loving; out of balance, they can be demanding, sarcastic, critical, argumentative, or jealous. Unlike Vata types, Pittas experience intense hunger and cannot skip meals.
When out of balance, Pitta types experience rashes, inflammatory skin diseases, heartburn, peptic ulcers, visual problems, irritability, premature graying or baldness, and tend towards compulsive behavior (e.g. alcoholism, eating disorders, etc.).
Kapha, derives from water and earth, and controls the structures of the body, giving strength and physical form to cells and tissues. Kapha types are of solid, powerful build and display great physical strength and endurance. A primary characteristic of the Kapha Prakriti is contentment.
Kaphas are relaxed, affectionate, serene, slow to anger, forgiving, happy with the status quo, and respectful of the feelings of others. They tend to require lots of sleep, have slow digestion, and moderate hunger, though they find comfort in eating.
Kaphas typically enjoy good health but tend to become obese more often than Vata or Pitta types. When out of balance, Kapha types may experience colds and flu, allergies, sinus congestion, depression, lethargy, asthma, and joint problems.
In Ayurveda, diet is one of the key ways to maintain and restore dosha balance. According to Ayurvedic principles, each individual’s diet should be suited to his or her Prakriti. And, during times of Vikriti, or imbalance, the diet can be used to either decrease or increase the three doshas until balance is restored. The dosha balancing effect is determined by its taste and qualities.
In Ayurvedic nutrition, there are six different tastes and six major qualities. The tastes and qualities with attributes similar to those of a dosha increase that dosha, while tastes and qualities dissimilar to the characteristics of a dosha decrease that dosha.
The Six Tastes
- Bitter: The bitter taste is found in spinach, romaine lettuce, endive, chicory, chard, kale, and tonic water. The bitter taste decreases both Kapha and pitta but increases Vata.
- Pungent: The pungent taste is found in chili peppers, cayenne, ginger, and other hot-tasting spices. The pungent taste decreases Kapha but increases Pitta and Vata.
- Astringent: The astringent taste is found in beans, lentils, cabbage, apples, and pears. The astringent taste decreases Kapha and pitta but increases Vata.
- Salty: The salty taste is found in any food to which salt has been added. The salty taste increases Kapha and pitta but decreases Vata.
- Sour: The sour taste is found in lemons, limes, vinegar, yogurt, cheese, and plums. The sour taste increases Kapha and pitta but decreases Vata.
- Sweet: The sweet taste is found in table sugar, honey, rice, pasta, milk, cream, butter, wheat, and bread. The sweet taste increases Kapha but decreases Pitta and Vata.
The Six Major Food Qualities
- Heavy: Heavy foods include bread, pasta, cheese, and yogurt. The heavy quality decreases Vata and pitta but increases Kapha.
- Light: Light foods include millet, buckwheat, rye, barley, corn, spinach, lettuce, pears, and apples. The light quality decreases Kapha but increases Vata and Pitta
- Oily: Oily foods include dairy products, meat, fatty foods, and cooking oils. The oily quality decreases Vata and pitta but increases Kapha.
- Dry: Dry foods include beans, potatoes, barley, and corn. The dry quality decreases Kapha but increases Vata and pitta.
- Hot: The hot quality describes hot beverages and warm, cooked foods. The hot quality decreases Vata and Kapha but increases pitta.
- Cold: The cold quality describes cold beverages and raw foods. The cold quality decreases pitta but increases Kapha and Vata
By selecting foods appropriate for your Prakriti, you can maintain or restore your proper dosha balance. Here are a few dietary and lifestyle suggestions for balancing the different doshes.
To Balance Vata
Because the Vata constitution is characterized by swift change and is easily thrown out of balance, Vata types benefit from sticking to a daily routine with consistent meal times and a regular sleeping pattern. Vatas should eat plenty of heavy, hearty foods, such as stews, bread, and warm desserts, and should drink lots of warm fluids (e.g., herbal tea). On the other hand, raw fruits and vegetables and cold beverages should comprise only a small part of a Vata-balancing diet.
To Balance Pitta
When out of balance, Pitta types tend to work excessively. As a result, it is important for Pittas to avoid overscheduling and to balance work and other commitments with sufficient recreation and leisure. Pittas should avoid skipping meals, and should avoid overeating at meals. Pitta types are well-suited to a vegetarian diet and benefit tremendously from the consumption of fruits, raw vegetables, and cold beverages. Pittas may also eat starchy vegetables, grains, and beans, but should eliminate spicy and overcooked foods.
To Balance Kapha
Because Kapha types tend to gain weight easily and have difficulty shedding unwanted pounds, regular exercise is crucial for weight management. In addition, Kapha types should eat only when hungry and should consider doing a 24-hour liquid fast as often as one time per week.
Kapha types should avoid ice cream, butter, milk, rich and sugary desserts, meat, and fried foods. Instead, Kaphas should consume large amounts of raw vegetables, fruits, and beans, and may improve their digestion by drinking hot ginger tea.
Regardless of your dominant dosha, Ayurvedic nutrition principles encourage the consumption of fresh, unprocessed foods. Ayurvedic principles also govern the timing of meals. In the Ayurvedic view, one of the doshas is dominant at all times during the day; these are theories known as The Master Cycles of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
In the first cycle, Kapha predominates from 6 am to 10 am, Pitta predominates from 10 am to 2 pm, and Vata predominates from 2 pm to 6 pm. In the second cycle, Kapha predominates from 6 pm to 10 pm, Pitta predominates from 10 pm to 2 am, and Vata predominates from 2 am to 6 am.
Because the Pitta dosha is responsible for digestion and metabolism, the ideal time for a large meal is during the period from 10 am to 2 pm when Pitta is dominant. As a result, all people, regardless of their dominant dosha, should take their largest meal sometime around 12 noon.
How You Can Help
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