Food as Medicine (Yoga & Ayurveda perspective)
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
"Let your food be the Medicine". You have heard this phrase so often, right? And to different people a different image of food comes to the mind in the form of healing food. Some people may think of food cooked by their Granny in the village with veggies from her garden, others might think of food in a Michelin star restaurant, some others might think about raw diet consisting of fresh fruits and others might think of fresh juices, or no food at all, some might have tried ayurvedic food or keto meal, maybe paleo, etc...So, nowadays, with so many trends, it can be quiet confusing which is the real healthy diet.
The aim of this article is to bring some clarity to those in search and share my personal experiences within my research.
Well, whatever your idea & experience of a healthy diet may be, that's fine, but what is certainly obvious is the post-effect after eating every meal. We live in the age when we have to make clear choices, because processed unnatural food is widely available and it seems to be the norm. Whenever you feel bloated, heavy, sleepy, lethargic, dizzy, over-heated, negative emotions or experience any discomfort during digestion or elimination, assimilation process, all those are the clear signs from your own body that your food choice has not been beneficial for Your Well-Being. Therefore, you must develop sensitivity & observation to your dietary habits & cravings. You could take it as a process of unlearning & relearning or deprogramming.
Unfortunately somehow modern education, urban lifestyle, modern man's mind are in disconnection with Life & Nature. Ancient Sciences of Yoga & Ayurveda are in total connection with Life & Nature, they talk about inner & outer Harmony which today is just a concept but rarely an experience. Even these disciplines of Yoga & Ayurveda are ancient, they do contain plenty of wisdom as they both consider a human more than merely a physical body & they do mention some invisible Higher Intelligence which is the Essence of everything. Both disciplines go hand in hand, Ayurveda is the Science of Life, Yoga is the Science of Connection, Oneness & Expansion. Both disciplines can help modern man restore it's lost balance in a practical way through experience. All advices given are deep yet simple, natural & eternally valid & they have no expiration date. But modern man's intellect questions why would ancient knowledge be considered when modern science is technologically advanced in comparison with apparently outdated ancient stuff. The basic difference lies in the harmonious states of consciousness of those people who manifested those ancient teachings. In order to manifest pure teachings One has to have a pure Mind, refined intellect, high sensitivity to One's True Nature to understand Oneself & creation, Life. Modern Man has lost such ability & his state of consciousness is very gross & mind is much more sophisticated, filled with tons of theoretical knowledge, temptations, material desires, ambitions.
The first step into Well-Being according to Yoga & Ayurveda is cleansing & detoxification process or purification. In Yoga this process is called Shaucha (first Niyama - personal discipline) - cleanliness on all levels & there are many techniques which seek to restore physical & mental purity. In some Yogic texts there are up to 46 cleansing actions, but according to Hatha Yoga Pradipika six are main and they are named as Shatkarma (six cleansing actions) which purify the physical body at the level of all vital systems: digestive, circulatory, respiratory & nervous & each & every vital organ as nose, lungs, eyes, etc are given same importance. Purity at the level of systems & organs functioning affects the three "dosha" or one's individual elements combination: Pitta (Fire+Water), Vata (Air+Ether), Kapha (Earth+Water) as any imbalance in them causes disease. These shatkarma techniques can be learned from an experienced teacher, and can be practiced on regular basis. Jala neti (nasal cleansing with salty water) is one of the most known & simple of these techniques can be practiced several times per week or even daily, than detoxing breathing - kapalabhati, energy abdominal massage - nauli, stomach cleansing - kunjal kriya, anal rectus cleansing (enema) - basti, intestine cleansing - shankhaprakshalana. Than postures (asana) practice purifies the body, pranayama purifies energy body, pratyahara relaxes the senses (hearing, sight, touch, taste, smell), dharana (concentration) purifies the mind, bhakti yoga practices - purify the heart, karma yoga purifies the Ego, Jnana yoga purifies the Intellect, etc
In Ayurveda, food itself can be purifying by adding certain spices, by favouring certain ingredients & avoiding others which increase & decrease particular elements, by favouring or avoiding certain ingredient combinations, by adjusting the diet to One's individual constitution, location & seasons. Ayurveda also suggests an effective purification process called Panchakarma (5 cleansing actions) which aims at balancing all individual elements. There is an extensive knowledge of herbs for detoxification, rejuvenation, healing & Wellbeing in Ayurveda to such extent which no other disciplines can provide.
Yogic & ayurvedic purification methods are different but aim at restoring inner balance, they are not exclusive but combinable. It is recommended to do Panchakarma once or twice a year at change of seasons, techniques as tongue cleansing can be done daily, there are generic herbs which can be taken daily or from time to time for specific reasons. The basic most effective detoxifying ayurvedic herb is very well known today - Triphala. Yogic shatkarma as kapalabhati, trataka & Jaja neti can be done daily or regularly when required; others as stomach & intestine cleansing can be done once in a month. But there are no rules, everyone has to discover own way as it all depends on so many individual factors: lifestyle, habits, availability of time, toxicity level, overall health, commitment level, needs, age, etc
Personally, i do daily tongue cleansing, several times per week nasal cleansing, several times a year stomach & intestine cleansing & ideally 16 days of Panchakarma treatment once a year. Several times a year, i go on a "Kichadi mono-diet" cleanse - the simple meal made from rice, soaked split mung beans with some veggies & spices. I use different ayurvedic & asian, western herbs & spices on daily basis as Triphala, Guduchi, Brahmi, Gotu Kola, Neem, spices: cardamom, fresh & dry ginger, fresh & dry turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, clove, garlic, cumin, coriander, fennel, star anise, kaffir lime, lemongrass, rosella, tamarind, dried shredded coconut, curry leaves, basil, dill, etc. Constantly practicing self-observation of diet & it's effects on my systems, adjusting the meals to the location, season & needs. Practicing at least 5 times per week asana, pranayama, daily mantra & meditation helps me to keep my body & mind balanced.
My personal experience of "Let your food be your medicine" contain universal principles. Find them here below:
eating at regular times.
Detox regularly through different methods. My favourite one is going on a kichari monodiet. You can find a free 60min tutorial on how to cook it by yourself at home (https://bit.ly/kicharicleanse, password: 2U.!Ka9*)
Practice Yoga & Meditation regularly. Please follow my FB page where there are free classes available for different levels. My FB page click here
Practice nauli & agnisara Kriya regularly to keep your gut healthy. Click here to see the video
Optimum meal timings: breakfast before 9am, lunch between 11am - 2pm, dinner before 7pm.
adjusting number of meals to intensity of routine (f.e.: skipping breakfast in low intensity routine, etc)
eating only when hungry.
eating less cooked during hot season, more cooked during cold season, eating more dry during wet season, eating more hydrating during dry season.
using Ayurvedic herbs & spices suitable to One's individual constitution & season.
avoid processed, preserved, unnatural, chemical, canned, synthetic, artificial, frozen foods.
avoid non-matching ingredient combinations.
avoid cold temperature drinks at all times, but use only room or warm temperature liquids. Favour cooling energetics herbal drinks during hot season, favour warming energetics herbal drinks during cold season.
favour foods suitable to your type of digestive fire. avoid foods which decrease your digestive fire.
avoid snacking between meals.
favour high nutrition foods: fruits, vegetables, sprouts, berries, grains, cold press unrefined oils, fermented drinks, sun dried fruits, soaked nuts, raw, mildly cooked, sautéed, boiled, steamed, barbecued, etc instead of low vibration foods: processed, frozen, deep fried, over cooked, microwave heated, fried on refined oil, chemical additives.
favour simplicity & naturality in foods rather than trend or fancy.