Ayurveda, Ayur meaning “life” and Veda “knowledge”, is a 5000-year-old medical system created by the Rishis, or wise men of ancient India. Ayurveda isn’t just about mixing herbs, it gives detailed instructions on how to treat the body, improve the mind, and find balance in our changing environment.
Shaping your lifestyle to find harmony is the key, and ayurvedic doctors help patients to do just that. They explain how to control activities that affect our energy level – including diet, exercise, work environment, the way we think and what we feel. They believe that humans, like their environment, exhibit specific characteristics of nature’s elements, air, space, fire, water and earth. They are able to determine which combination of these elements each person is, based on three doshas or “types”.
The Three Doshas
- Vatta – Air and Space
- Pitta – Fire and Water
- Kapha – Water and Earth
Once your dosha is diagnosed, you can begin to alter your diet, activities, and environment to keep yourself balanced and harmonious with diet, work stress, relationships, and the changing seasons.
Diet as Disease Management
I have read many ayurvedic texts on health and diet. They basically tell us what we all know to be true from modern medical research. Limit saturated fats, and high-sugar foods. Avoid processed and fast foods. Eat lots of fresh veggies, fruits and whole grains, and drink plenty of water and decaffeinated teas. Chew slowly, savor your meals, and be thoughtful when choosing what goes on your plate. Eating the proper diet is the best way to keep disease away. If you are feeling unbalanced, ayurvedic doctors will even tell you which fresh foods to avoid based on your doshas, food that might aggravate your type and upset your digestion.
To take advantage of this knowledge, I teamed up with Rodale to produce a cookbook that get’s you slim and sexy in 4 weeks, without the stress: The Yoga Body Diet is a four-week plan that follows the principles of Ayurveda and yoga so that you can develop a slimmer you.
I created and developed 75 exclusive recipes for the book, including shopping lists, sample menus, super foods, and eating guidelines specific for each dosha – designed to bring back harmony into imbalanced lifestyles.
Everyone knows exercise is important, but according to Ayurveda the type of exercise you do is just as important as getting a workout. Ayurvedic doctors advise to engage in exercise that is right for your dosha. For example, people who are pitta dosha tend to be competitive and should avoid competitive sports which may result in injury. Those who are kaphas, have a tendency to gain weight easily, and should invest in a cardio routine that helps with energy flow and weight loss. It might sound complex, but being aware of how your mind and body work can help you create the optimal exercise routine.
Daily Activities and Your Environment
Your day-to-day activities have a huge effect on your body and general well-being. Choosing an environment that suits your disposition is key to having a productive work life and a comfortable home life. Sometimes, changing careers or redecorating your home can greatly improve the quality of life. For some people, just having a quiet corner of the house, where they can regroup, is the perfect way to rebalance after a hectic work week. There are many ways to change your work and home environment. Make it fun by experimenting and reorganizing your space.
Peace of Mind
“Thinking about it makes me sick!” I’ve often heard people say. It is true that negative or stressful thoughts can bring many undesirable health issues from rashes to high blood pressure. Healthy thinking and dealing with emotions is a crucial part of physical health. Ayurvedic experts also believe that part of your emotional well-being comes from eating right. Western medical professionals are now finding out that a varity of foods can affect our mood in ways we never realized before. Apart from eating right, engaging in activities that relax the mind instead of agitate it can be the key to stress release and finding balance. Taking a calming walk, reading a book, or meditating can combat the negative effects of a hectic western lifestyle filled with loud TV ads, violent video games, and beeping blackberries and computers.
- Read more about Ayurveda and how to even improve your metabolism in the Book of Ayurveda by Judith Morrison.
- Learn more about healthy Ayurvedic diet for women from Ayurveda for Women: A Guide to Vitality and Health by Dr. Robert Svoboda.
Did you know that the tea many celebrities drink to detox and stay fit is easy to make at home? The idea of a “master cleanse”, as Hollywood has come to call it, may seem like some new-age fad, but it’s actually been around for hundreds of years. While I don’t recommend fasting, drinking this tea can certainly curb cravings. When I make mine at home, I substitute agave for the maple syrup. When you feel the onset of a snack attack, it’s always a good idea to reach for a drink, such as soothing tea. Not only will the agni tea help to hydrate and satiate you, but it will also help to keep your waistline in check.
Traditional Agni Tea
1 quart water
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped ginger root
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Juice of ½ lime or lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons sweetener, such as agave, maple syrup or honey
Bring water, pepper, ginger and salt to a boil. Boil for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Add the lemon or lime juice and the sweetener. Do not boil the juice or sweetener.