Yoga and Ayurveda are separate branches in the Vedic knowledge, but are closely related and have many overlapping principles.
The word “Ayurveda” is made up of two Sanskrit words – “Ayuh” and “Veda”. “Ayuh” means life or longevity, and “Veda” means sacred knowledge or science.
I first came in touch with Ayurveda around two years ago. At that time, with the challenges of being a new mother, I was suffering from the effects of a poor lifestyle and diet. I was at my heaviest weight and biggest size in my life. In addition, I was constantly feeling tired and short-tempered.
Desperate to slim down, I began to try out various fad diets such a “low carb”, “keto” and “paleo”. However, none of them were sustainable and I ended up in an unhealthy cycle of restricting my diet, followed by eating everything I could see in sight. In addition, when I was following these fad diets, I constantly felt bloated even though I was eating mostly whole foods. I was constantly bloated and the poor digestion negatively affected my mood as well.
I continued to be in this “yo-yo” diet until I chanced upon an article on eating the Ayurvedic way. The article described the concept of eating for your “dosha”, in order to aid your digestion and to feel balanced internally. I was intrigued by this new concept and decided to find out more.
“Dosha”, which is a foundational concept of Ayurveda, refers to the energetic forces of nature. There are three types of “dosha” – vata, pitta and kapha – and each dosha influences our bodily functions in a specific manner, and is made up of predominantly two elements.
- Vata: Air and ether (space)
- Pitta: Fire and water
- Kapha: Water and earth
All three doshas can be found in everyone, but in different proportions. I inferred that I was predominantly of a vata dosha, as I have a small frame and my skin tends to be dry. I am also anxious and quick tempered.
I finally understood why I was constantly feeling bloated and sluggish even though I was eating somewhat healthily. My diet consisted of a lot of cold food (eg. salads and cold fruits), was heavy on animal protein and limited in carbohydrates. All these were considered cold, dry and light foods, which aggravates the vata dosha. In addition, I was also eating a lot of leftover food due to the lack of time to cook. Ayurveda considers leftover food to be devoid of prana and are hard to digest.
A diet to keep vata in balance (i.e. a vata pacifying diet) should consist of foods with the following qualities:
In addition, the vata diet favours foods that taste sweet, sour and salty, whereas pungent, bitter and astringent foods should be minimized.
A sample day of eating on a vata-pacifying diet, adapted to suit the food choices available in Singapore, may look something like the following:
Breakfast: Oatmeal cooked with milk and warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg / Kaya and butter toast with soft boiled eggs
Lunch: Chicken congee / Mung dal with chapati
Dinner: Yong tau foo soup with beehoon / Chicken stew
Once I started replacing the cold salads with warm and fresh meals, as well as drinking warm water throughout the day, my digestion worked way better (too much information, but I started having bowel movements almost on a daily basis instead of once every three or more days). I also started using ghee (clarified butter) in cooking, and even in my morning dose of matcha tea. I found that ghee has a lubricating effect on my digestive system, and I like the buttery taste and texture it lends to the dishes (especially eggs).
As I read up more about Ayurveda, I discovered that diet is not the only way to keep your dosha in balance. Daily lifestyle habits and routines are, too, crucial in balancing the dosha.
I learnt that having a routine makes vatas feel grounded. As such, I started to incorporate some routines into my daily life, some of which I still practise up until today.
- I try to maintain consistency in my waking and sleeping time, as well as meal times. I try not to eat after 7pm and to sleep by 10pm. Initially I was really strict with this and bailed out on many intimate family meals or outings. Overtime, I have learnt that it is even more important to relax and just go with the flow of life, and to trust myself to be able to get back on track.
- Get ample rest, physically and mentally! I started to reduce the intensity of my workouts, opting out from my daily circuit training when I feel my anxiety kicking in.
- Having a basic morning routine, starting with tongue scrapping and oil pulling to help my body eliminate toxins.
- Have a simple wind-down routine at night. I try to minimize screen time an hour before bed and do some light stretching to prompt my body that its time for bed.
Understanding my dosha through Ayurveda has helped me tremendously in coping with my digestion and stress in life. I’m positive that coupled with my more regular yoga practices these days, I am on my road to achieving a calmer disposition.
What is your dosha?