Ayurveda is an ancient, holistic science of health, well-being and inner balance of body, mind and spirit—also known as the “sister science of yoga.” Ayurveda is a vast and remarkable knowledge base that offers us incredible wisdom to not only be free from disease, but to experience optimal health, vitality and longevity.
One of the primary principles that Ayurveda teaches us is that diet is considered one of the most important medicines to bring an individual into optimal health and balance.
So here are 5 simple eating habits including what, where, when, why and how to eat for greater health, balance, and vitality— body, mind and spirit!
WHAT TO EAT?
Ayurveda teaches us that every individual is composed of a unique combination of the 5 elements: fire, water, earth, air and space, in varying proportions. This individual elemental constitution is also called one’s Prakruti— and is as unique as your fingerprints or DNA.
This is why— “One man’s food is another man’s poison.”
Ideally, one would eat certain foods that encourage bringing the inner elements into balance, and avoid certain foods that will aggravate one’s constitution and take their inner elements further out of balance.
In the teachings of Ayurveda, not only is what you eat important for bringing the body, mind and spirit into harmony and health, but also where, when, why and how you eat.
WHERE TO EAT?
The most ideal environments to eat in are those that are quiet, peaceful, clean atmospheres where you feel relaxed and at ease.
Here’s why: The process of digestion is regulated by a portion of the nervous system called the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS,) which governs the involuntary functions of the body, such as heart beat, secretions/hormone production, and digestion.
The ANS is divided into two parts: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS,) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS.) The SNS is related to our stress states— directing the bodies energy reserves to “flight or fight” responses in the body. While the role of the PNS is “rest and digest,” bringing our body back into a state of balance, or homeostasis after period of stress.
Now, have you ever experienced indigestion, bloating, gas or a feeling of heaviness after eating a meal on the go, while working or in stressful, busy environments? It’s because your body’s energy reserves were being directed elsewhere in the body— not to the digestive system and process!
So, eat in environments where you feel relaxed, calm, and peaceful to increase your ability to digest, assimilate and absorb the nutrients from what you eat!
WHEN TO EAT?
Ayurveda teaches us to follow both the body’s and nature’s rhythmic cycles, which are accustomed to our digestive secretion patterns, to determine the most ideal times to eat.
As a foundational rule, eat when you are hungry— when hungry, the body’s digestive fire, or Agni, is very active, and digestive power is high.
Additionally, Ayurveda teaches us to eat our largest and most dense meal midday, at around 12 o’clock. We are very attuned to the cycles of nature, and both the sun and the moon— like the sun, our digestive fire is biologically programmed to be strongest midday. We can also benefit from eating our lighter meals for breakfast and dinner when Agni isn’t as strong, and avoid eating after sundown or a few hours before bed.
Secret Ayurveda Tip: Eat when your right nostril is predominantly open, and drink when your left nostril is primarily open. This is a special teaching of Swara Yoga—a vast science that deals primarily with how the breathing rhythms are capable of affecting all other biological rhythms.
In our subtle energy body, when the left nostril is primarily open, the Ida Nadi (the current of the moon,) is most dominant. This has a cooling effect in the body, and has its counterpart in the SNS— “flight or fight” stress responses.
And when the right nostril is more dominate, the Pingala Nadi, (the solar channel,) is most active. This has a heating effect in the body and has its counterpart in the PNS – “rest and digest” homeostatic states.
Ideally, solid foods are taken when Pingala is more active, when the right nostril is open; this aids in digestion. Ps. It’s usually most dominant in midday— the best time to take the major meal of the day. And ideally, liquids are taken when Ida is more predominant, when the left nostril is open.
Know why we eat– to nourish and fuel our precious bodies, to sustain our physical health, to facilitate the healing and repair of our bodily tissues to remain free of pain and disease, to satisfy our hunger and to power our continued existence. Enjoy your food, but avoid emotional eating, snacking out of boredom, or obligatory social consumption of food to be “polite.”
HOW TO EAT?
- Express gratitude, pray or chant mantra before eating. Infuse your food with positive energy!
- Include all 6 tastes in your meal— sweet, salty, astringent, sour, pungent, and bitter to feel truly satisfied.
- Sit down when you eat, and sit with a straight spine. Ps. If you can face east/north when you eat even better.
- Eat with love & awareness.
- Chew with your mouth closed to preserve your Agni.
- Eat at a moderate pace— not to slow or to fast.
- Eat until satisfied, not full.
- Be present when you eat. Minimize distractions. If possible, eat in silence. Make eating a mindful meditation while engaging all the senses— sight, smell, taste, sound and touch.
- Avoid drinking too much with meals, especially cold drinks which dilute and distinguish our digestion fire.
- Enjoy a gentle walk after meals to help stimulate digestion.
Try these 5 simple Ayurvedic eating habits to help you choose what, where, when, why and how you eat to experience optimal health, vitality, balance and longevity— body, mind and spirit!