Ayurveda: The Yoga of Nutrition
Healthy eating plays an important role in your mental and physical health and can enhance your yoga practice. The Ayurvedic diet not only helps you find the best food choices for your energy type but also makes mealtime a calmer, more fulfilling experience.
What is the Ayurvedic Diet?
The Ayurvedic diet combines food recommendations along with tips for healthy eating practices to help you maintain your health and weight and increase mindfulness when eating.
Everyone has a mixture of three energy types called doshas. These doshas, known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, influence your health and metabolism. You may have one primary dosha or discover that two doshas are equally dominant. Determining your dosha type can help you decide which types of foods are best for you.
What Are My Doshas?
Each dosha has unique characteristics that reflect the elements of fire, water, air, space, and earth. These elements affect body type, personality, digestion, and metabolism. Do one or more of these doshas describe you?
- Kapha. Kaphas are influenced by the earth and water elements and are solidly built and muscular. They're the dosha type that's most likely to become overweight. If you're a Kapha, you're probably calm, organized, affectionate and physically strong.
- Pitta. Fire and water are the dominant elements if you're a Pitta. Unlike Kaphas who tend to carry a few extra pounds, Pittas have a medium build and weight. Pittas can be intense and competitive but enjoy teaching and leading others.
- Vata. Space and air are the primary influences of the Vata dosha. People who are Vata tend to be thin, partly due to their abundant energy. They thrive on new experiences and are flexible and imaginative.
What Types of Foods Are Best for My Dosha?
Balance is an important aspect of the Ayurvedic diet, as imbalances can affect both your physical and mental health. Kappas can become stubborn and lose motivation if they're unbalanced, while Pittas may experience heartburn and become irritable. Vatas react to imbalances by developing anxiety and insomnia.
Below are a few foods you should incorporate into your diet based on your dosha:
- Kapha. Kaphas can eat nearly any type of vegetable but should limit cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes. Chicken, turkey and lean fish are good protein options.
- Pitta. Pittas should limit onions, tomatoes, eggplant, and spicy hot peppers but will thrive when consuming leafy greens, cucumber, green peppers, asparagus, broccoli, and potatoes. Good protein choices include shrimp, fish, and poultry. Pittas should only eat red meat and most types of seafood in moderation.
- Vata. Add cucumbers, green beans, onions, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and carrots to your shopping list if you're a Vata. But limit leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, white potatoes, and peas. Chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs are staples of the Vata diet, but red meat and lamb should only be occasional treats.
No matter what your dosha, choose organic, locally grown produce, meat, poultry, and seafood if possible.
Do I Need to Change My Eating Habits?
The Ayurvedic diet also recommends a few modifications to the way you eat, including:
- Limiting Distractions. Eating should be a mindful experience. It's hard to focus completely on your meal and the way the food nourishes your body if you're working or watching TV.
- Controlling Speed. Gulping food isn't good for your digestive system, but eating very slowly isn't a good idea either, particularly if your food becomes cold.
- Including Six Tastes. The Ayurvedic diet includes sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent foods at every meal. Be sure to add a variety of textures and temperatures when you prepare meals.
- Recognizing When to Eat. Mindful eating will help you focus fully on bodily sensations, including the way your stomach feels when it's full. Stop eating when you feel full, even if there is still food on your plate. It's also important to wait at least three hours between meals to ensure that your last meal has been completely digested.
Practicing yoga regularly and following the Ayurvedic diet offers amazing benefits for your health. You'll not only notice improved flexibility but may have more energy, increased focus, better digestion, and less stress. Contact us if you're ready to make yoga part of your life.
Yoga Journal: Eat Like a Yogi: A Yoga Diet Based in Ayurvedic Principles, 6/1/17
VeryWellFit: What is the Ayurvedic Diet?
U.S. News & World Report: 6 Ayurvedic Diet Tips for Beginners, 9/17/18