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Food • Health • Spirituality

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V P K: AYURVEDA FOR BEGINNERS IN THREE WORDS

You can transform your health by learning just three fundamental principles of Ayurveda, the medical and wellness system of India that’s been around for more than 5,000 years. This is what I did for myself (with some professional support). Ayurveda is a vast and complex science, and I do write about these principles in some depth in my upcoming book, Sacred & Delicious, but I’d like to share the three most basic concepts right here so you’ll have a better understanding of the recipes on my Sacred & Delicious blog. I’ll start at the beginning.

Ayurveda: The World’s First Energy Medicine

Einstein and a generation of physicists have confirmed what was recognized by rishis, or “seers,” in ancient times: that the entire universe is nothing but energy and space. These seers, to whom Ayurveda was revealed, found only three types of energy in the human body, and these they gave the names vata, pitta and kapha. These energies correspond to the elements in the universe—the more concrete and recognizable manifestations of these organizing principles. Vata refers to air and space that is found in the body; pitta to fire and water; and kapha to earth and water.

Think about it. Doesn’t it make sense that the human body is composed of the same elements that are found in all of nature? The earth element corresponds to the mass of bones and muscles that serve as the body’s framework. The water element is the bodily fluids. Air fills our lungs (and sometimes our bellies) and supplies our cells with life-giving oxygen. Fire can be understood as the body’s internal heating system, which includes enzymes that transform our food into energy. And just as there is space in the universe, there are hollow spaces throughout the body.

These energetic principles are referred to as doshas. (OK, I admit, there’s a fourth Sanskrit word and many others that you will read in Ayurvedic websites and books, but learning three can be enough.) Each of us has a unique combination of doshas, though we all have each doshavata, pitta and kapha—to a larger or lesser degree. When the doshas are in balance we’re healthy. When the doshas or elements become unbalanced, it can lead to discomfort or disease.

Skilled Ayurvedic practitioners can sense an imbalance from checking your pulse. You can learn to recognize these imbalances in yourself by paying attention when you feel anything less than healthy, grounded and emotionally steady.

Signs of Vata Imbalance

Vata is the principle of mobility throughout the body/mind, from the breath to the heartbeat to the movement of thoughts in your mind to the flow of digestion. When vata is in balance, you will feel energetic, joyful and creative. You tend to be thin, flexible, alert and on the move. As you age, vata naturally increases and needs to be managed because it begins to cause problems. When vata is out of balance, you may experience a number of symptoms including

• cold extremities and poor circulation
• dry skin
• constipation, bloating, burping and hiccups
• joint and muscular pain, low back pain and sciatica
• hypothyroidism
• headaches at the back of the head
• high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat
• insomnia, difficulty falling asleep or many dreams
• chronic fatigue and adrenal exhaustion
• agitation, anxiety and depression
• forgetfulness
• hearing loss, tinnitus and weakened eyesight

Signs of Pitta Imbalance

Pitta is the principle of heat. It manages digestion and the absorption of food and ideas. When pitta is in balance it generates ambition, courage, vitality and the motivation to achieve goals. If you have a predominantly pitta constitution that’s in balance, you will have a strong intellect and often good organizational skills as well as a strong appetite and excellent digestion. However, when pitta is out of balance, you experience symptoms like these:

• acne, rashes, eczema and other skin disorders
• inflammation and itching
• premature baldness
• heartburn and acid reflux
• hot flashes or discomfort in hot weather
• headaches at the temples and temporal area
• difficulty staying asleep, awaken 3 or 4 a.m.
• anger and irritability

Signs of Kapha Imbalance

All the body’s cells, tissues, bones and organs are comprised of earth and water that make up the kapha dosha.If you have predominant kapha that is balanced, you will tend to be physically strong.  You will have great physical endurance and a strong immune function. Although you may have a slow metabolism, your digestion will be strong. You will be a person who is calm, steadfast, loyal, loving and compassionate. When watery kapha gets out of balance, however, you are likely to experience symptoms that include

• weak kidney function
• water retention and swelling
• susceptibility to colds, sinus problems, chest congestion and ear infections
• growths such as fibroids and cysts
• excessive sleep and sluggishness upon waking
• general lethargy
• weight gain
• excessive attachment to people and feelings

Here’s the good news: Food can have a positive (or negative) impact on the doshas. You can eat foods to help you maintain excellent health, and you can learn ways to support your healing process when you have health problems.

Sacred & Delicious Makes It Easy for You

It’s a lot to learn, I know, but there’s more good news—you don’t really have to! I’ve written every recipe in a way that helps you sustain balanced health or supports your quest to bring your body/mind into greater harmony. All you have to do is cook and enjoy the food!

And, if you have some health issues and want to explore how Ayurveda can help you, here’s a suggestion. Notice if you have any of the symptoms I’ve described in the descriptions of vata, pitta and kapha. If you do, look for the recommendations I’ve listed at the end of the recipe under V, P or K. These recommendations show you what to do to enhance the effects of that particular recipe. For instance, if you have a vata problem, I may suggest next to V: “Double garlic or ginger.” I say that because I’ve learned that the warmth of garlic and ginger balance the cold nature of vata.

If you have questions, shoot me an email at lisajoy@sacredanddelicious.com. If it’s a quick question, I’ll send you a brief answer. If you have a complicated issue to discuss, we can schedule a paid consultation or I can refer you to an Ayurvedic practitioner for herbal as well as dietary support.

Blessings for your good health!

Lisa J. Mitchell

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One Response

  1. Linda M says:

    I love dal and look forward to giving this yummy one a try…love all all the veggies!

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