Ayurveda is often cited as a beauty secret of our favorite yogis, doctors, and nutritionists. And while it's a way of living that's been around for thousands of years, the wellness crowd has adopted some of these ancient techniques to cope with modern ailments like stress, anxiety, indigestion, and wonky skin.
A brief background on ayurveda.
Ayurveda is a system of natural medicine that originated in India over 5,000 years ago. It encompasses not only science but also philosophy, whereby the whole of life’s journey is considered sacred. Ayurveda draws on a system of scientific and practical knowledge, which is rooted in the ancient belief systems about the constitution of the human body and its close relationship with the environment it exists in.
Within the practice of ayurveda, all matter is believed to be made up of five elements: prithvi (earth), agni (fire), jal (water), vayu (air), and aakash (ether). They manifest in the human body as three basic principles: vata (ether and air), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water). These three principles—vata, pitta, kapha—govern all the biological, psychological, and physiopathological functions of body and mind. Disease and bodily discomfort are believed to be created from an imbalance in these principles.
The importance of daily rituals.
There are a few diet and lifestyle recommendations in ayurveda that apply broadly. Daily ritual is considered very important to individual health and is a key pillar of ayurvedic living. Waking early is encouraged. Additional lifestyle additions to create balance in the elements are drinking warm water in the morning, cleaning the tongue, and oil massages before the morning shower. Understanding your dosha and body can give you vital clues about which specific ayurvedic practices—like how early to wake, what foods to eat, and what time to exercise.
Diet also plays a very important role in ayurveda, and in an interesting departure from a lot of contemporary thinking or fad diets, ayurveda doesn’t believe there are any universally villainous foods. Depending upon your dosha, some foods can be balancing or aggravating; vata types do very well with avocado, but kapha types are best suited to avoid it, for example. Here is a handy guide on ayurvedic eating by your dosha type.
Eager to integrate some of these 5,000-year-old pearls of wisdom into your life? Start with this easy one-day cleanse...perfect for every dosha!
Here's your one-day ayurvedic cleanse.
- The night before, try one of the following ayurvedic laxatives (mildest to strongest): a cup of hot milk with 2 teaspoons of ghee, 1 teaspoon of triphala powder with warm water, or 2 teaspoons of castor oil with a cup of warm water (castor oil being the strongest; pregnant women should avoid the last two).
- Wake before 7:00 a.m. and start your day with a warm cup of lemon water. Eat breakfast before 8:00 a.m., ideally consisting of fruit. Because fruit is digested quickly, it's best consumed on an empty stomach. It starts digesting—and fermenting—on top of food you've already eaten and is best consumed first thing in the morning. If eating cantaloupes (melons in general), do not mix these with other fruit. Also, be sure to avoid dairy with any fruit.
- Try a cup of ginger tea around 10:00 a.m.
- Eat lunch at noon. Before eating, consume a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger with a pinch of salt or cumin. Try plain basmati rice with yogurt or ghee, or a light grain such as tapioca or millet. After eating, drink a cup of warm water with lemon juice and a pinch of baking soda added.
- You can have another cup of fruit midafternoon (before 4:00 p.m.) with a cup of ginger tea.
- Eat dinner before 6:00 p.m. If you have the time to cook, try this ancient ayurvedic recipe for kitchari. Cook equal parts basmati rice and split lentils until they are soft (20 to 30 minutes of boiling, typically). In a large pan, add 2 teaspoons of ghee with about ½ to 1 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander powder, turmeric, and, optionally, mustard and asafetida (if available). Season with salt according to taste. Eat on its own or with a cup of nonfat yogurt (with cumin powder mixed in).
- Do not eat after dinner.
- At bedtime, consume a cup of chamomile tea.
Keep in mind that ayurveda is a lifestyle and a journey. It requires moderation and patience. If often takes a very individual approach to find the right combination of things, and we would encourage you to understand your individual constitution more fully as you explore this practice to find solutions even more customized and powerful, that make you look and feel your best.