You probably have heard of Ayurveda but may not understand its origins or what it is. Specifically, you may be interested in its fundamentals and are curious about Ayurvedic Nutrition. Ayurveda’s approach to nutrition is entirely unique, and different from anything else that’s popular in the world today.
Ayurveda literally means the “science of life,” but it’s a very different kind of science than what most people are used to.
Ayurveda is a traditional science, based on facts obtained through direct observation of the human body, mind, and spirit.
If you are acutely aware and conscious, then the properties and effects of various foods can be felt, and directly observed.
The Origins of Ayurveda
To understand Ayurveda it is important to know its history. Ayurveda originated in the Himalayan region of ancient India, when rishis and seers sat in meditation and communion with gods, asking for the wisdom to help humanity avoid suffering and disease.
Since then, these ancient truths have been systematized and collected into what is now the discipline of Ayurveda.
In India today it takes 6 years to become an Ayurvedic doctor. It is an official form of healthcare there, and in many ways, it is practiced like Western medicine, where people rely on prescriptions of herbal remedies.
People in the west view Ayurveda a little differently. People want to actually practice Ayurveda to adjust their diet and lifestyle and live in accordance with nature.
To me, this is the most beautiful dimension of Ayurveda. Through the knowledge of herbs, spices, foods, recipes, and beautiful self-care practices, an individual can discover for themselves harmony, balance, and optimal health.
Ayurvedic nutrition is an accessible and empowering approach to wellness that anyone can benefit from. The question is only how far you want to go.
The Art of Balancing Qualities
The science of Ayurveda starts with the premise that the universe is intelligent, ordered, and perfect.
To practice Ayurveda is to seek alignment with nature’s intelligence through diet and lifestyle choices that are as close to nature, and as unadulterated as possible.
Theoretically, succeeding at perfect alignment with nature would confer optimal health to the individual.
To find alignment, Ayurveda does not track macronutrients or even micronutrients. Such labels did not exist 5,000 years ago when the science of Ayurveda originated.
Rather, Ayurveda cares about the qualities of things, about how these qualities manifest in the mind, body, and spirit.
There are 20 basic qualities in nature that have been identified, and they exist as a set of 10 pairs of opposites.
20 Basic Qualities of Nature (10 pairs of opposites)
Opposites are very important in Ayurveda because they are tools for restoring balance to extremes.
For example, is the person experiencing too much heat and inflammation? Then add cold quality.
Cilantro, cucumber, and neem are cold. You could eat more of them.
Letting go of being a workaholic, cool temperatures, and regular routine are cooling lifestyle choices. Do more of these.
Another example is too much heavy quality, leading to weight gain and congestion? The remedy for this is light quality.
Kale, spinach, asparagus, and peppermint are light. Exercise, spontaneity, sweating, and organizing the home are activities that promote light quality.
And so, diseases, signs, and symptoms are understood in terms of qualities, and specific foods and lifestyle choices all have qualities that can be used therapeutically to restore balance.
To sum up Ayurvedic nutrition then, it is really about The Art of Balancing Qualities.
Ayurveda offers a complete and systematic body of knowledge to identify the source of your problems and fix them.
The knowledge of Ayurveda can assist you with every step of your healing journey. Together with the support of a guide to Ayurveda like a trained practitioner or teacher, you and Ayurveda will form a kind of partnership.
To benefit from this ancient wisdom, you will need to put in a measure of your own effort in terms of cooking and self-care, but I can assure you that you will be richly rewarded for your efforts.
Ayurveda will take you on a journey that will bring you closer to the divine within, and give you a source of truth that nobody can take from you.
There are 4 steps to find your balance, and keep it for life.
1. Know Yourself
Step 1 is to get to know yourself by learning your individual Ayurvedic body type, which is known as your dosha, and identifying the imbalanced qualities and factors at the root of your ill health.
You can complete an online dosha quiz to get started or get a consultation with a certified Ayurvedic practitioner to learn about your dosha and explore your health concerns in-depth.
2. Make Your Plan
Step 2 is to make a plan of action to address your imbalances and restore your health by drawing from Ayurveda’s body of knowledge and therapeutic approaches.
To make your plan, you can research online, get the help of a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, join a course, or study Ayurveda formally.
3. Cultivate Awareness
In Step 3, you are in a phase of cultivating self-awareness and learning how to heal yourself.
You will experiment with the various recommendations, and gather personalized knowledge about what does (and does not), work for you.
This is all about implementing your plan. Each step of the way you are observing the result by asking yourself the question, how did that make me feel?
Your answers are your realized wisdom and self-knowledge. The more you practice, the more your awareness grows.
4. Find Your Flow
The first 3 steps form your foundation. Now in Step 4, it’s time to expand on it by learning how to adjust your diet and lifestyle habits to maintain your balance when things change.
The universe exists in a constant state of dynamic change, and your body and mind are no different.
Your mood, sleep, the weather, the seasons, and your time of life are always influencing you, so what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow.
Learning to skillfully adjust when things change allows you to stay in your flow and cultivate self-mastery.
How Much Time Does Ayurvedic Nutrition Take?
Getting to step 4, where you find your flow and cultivate self-mastery, doesn’t happen overnight. That wouldn’t be any fun!
Improving your health fundamentally and holistically will take some time and effort. Think about how long it took you to get to your state of poor health. Do you think you can change that overnight?
Ayurveda sees that disease occurs in stages. There is a progression of disease that starts with poor digestion, then moves into the blood, the tissues, and then spreads and becomes degenerate or chronic.
When the problem is still in the digestive tract, it can be healed faster. With each stage of progression, it takes longer.
So while you are very likely to experience immediate relief within days or weeks, some conditions may take months or years to resolve.
Thus, if you are the kind of person who needs a quick and easy fix for your health concerns—so that you can get on with doing exactly what you are already doing—then Ayurveda probably isn’t for you.
However, if you are a person who is ready to take control of your health, to examine your diet and lifestyle, and take positive action, then Ayurveda is totally for you, and it can be the best decision you ever made in your life.
There are many simple ways to start incorporating supportive Ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle practices into your life.
Here are a just few ideas to get you started:
- Complete the dosha quiz, download your results, and follow the specific practices to balance your dosha.
- Keep a journal of the foods that make you feel good, and which do not. Notice how you feel while eating, as well as hours, and days after. Do more of what left you feeling light and energized.
- Start a folder (digital or printed) of recipes that made you feel awesome and that you enjoyed making, so you can make them again.
- Prioritize eating fresh food. Buy the most vibrant produce you can find at the grocery store. Bonus points for shopping farmer’s markets or buying local.
- Make cooking a priority! This simple choice is foundational.
- Enjoy a cup of herbal tea to calm your nerves and hydrate your gastrointestinal tract before you start cooking.
- If you’re hungry before the food is ready, eat a piece of fruit. It will give you energy for 30 minutes and digest fully.
- Drink warm water throughout the day. It stimulates digestion and circulation. The best free medicine on the planet!
Now that you’ve gotten started, where do you want to take this?
If you resonate with any of the following points then I would love to talk with you!
- The idea of learning more about Ayurveda excites you
- You have gut health concerns, and you would like to explore how an Ayurvedic diet could improve your health
- It’s time and you are ready to have a little “me time,” and up your self-care game
I have a few spots open on my calendar each week just for people like you.
Andrea Hayley-Sankaran is the founder of Good Gut Ayurveda, a certified Ayurvedic Digestive Health Coach, and creator of Happy Eater, a 6-week program that helps purpose-driven entrepreneurs and professionals take control of their health, and unlock their energy, freedom, and FLOW.
Andrea is a vegetarian chef of 25 years who’s known as the “joyful chef” because of her infectious love for cooking. Students rave about their cooking class experiences as they experience her signature mindful approach to cooking and eating. They especially appreciate learning how to cook vegetarian food that tastes so amazing they don’t miss the meat.
Through her programs, coaching, writing, and speaking, Andrea empowers her community to find balance and attain health and healing through individualized diet and lifestyle habits informed by the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda.