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A simple guide to begin Ayurveda practices

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One cannot practice yoga without practicing Ayurveda; and vice versa.

Yet, how familiar are you or your yoga teacher with Ayurveda?

When I began attending yoga classes and furthering studies in my early 20’s, I was astonished at how unfamiliar my own yoga teachers were with Ayurveda. Now, I didn’t know much of anything about Ayurveda then, but I had lived a non-pharmacology lifestyle - naively I assumed yoga teachers were doing the same. 

While my teachers knew a lot about yoga philosophy, postures, breathing, chanting, and meditation - they were new to the education of earth medicine and how daily routine (or lifestyle) influences wellness.

At the time I was disappointed. I felt alone. I thought I was gathering with people who were awake. Knew what I knew. Lived similar paths to mine.

“Ayurveda and yoga are concurrent and inherent. They are sister disciplines that bring health and happiness, helping one to achieve the four pillars of life: dharma (duty), artha (wealth), kama (desire), and moksha (enlightenment).”
~ Dr. Vasant Lad in Margo Shapiro Bachman’s “Yoga Mama Yoga Baby” page xiii

They were learning for the first time how difficult it is to avoid a medical doctor’s office and pharmaceuticals in our modern world. (The effort it takes to truly live well and balanced in our society.)

This lack of knowledge shed a bright light or rang alarm sirens that the perceived wisdom of someone who may be wiser in years or has more gray hairs does not infer they have practiced longer or understand what it takes to prioritize earth medicine and lifestyle routine as a form of health care.

Thankfully, my teachers acknowledged and tried to implement Ayurvedic practices into our teacher training and their personal lives.

(I’m sharing my personal experience about coming into the yoga world with Ayurveda to shed light that many yoga teachers today are just beginning to prioritize, invest in, and be open to Ayurvedic practices.)

Ayurveda is the system of medicine where surgery originated.

All medicine stems from either Ayurveda (pronounced ah-yer-vey-duh) and/or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). 

Fun facts and learning the history of Ayurveda are important to explore in understanding the value to this form of medicine; but this article is dedicated on how to apply Ayurveda to your life now.

Start Ayurveda practices today.

My #1 recommendation is to visit an Ayurvedic Physician or Practitioner near you. Receive personalized attention from a skilled provider who does this for a living. Ayurveda can be implemented in self-diagnoses in a generalized way. (For example, preparing the immune system for autumn and winter begins in mid-August.) However, getting to the root of constitutional health will be much faster with a provider than treading water alone in the depths of this medicine.

You  may find small changes create big impacts on your health. This is where lifestyle can play a major role in overall wellbeing.

What is Ayurveda?

In short, it is a way of life. The practice gives us knowledge of how to live life to maintain health of a healthy person and cure the diseased.

Every person has their own constitution to their body and mind. What may be medicine for one person; may in turn be poison to another. 

Learning your own constitutional makeup - or what benefits you to be well - will help make informed decisions to lead a life of greater ease.

Foundational aspects to Ayurveda

Below, are aspects which identify in noticing balance versus imbalance in one's physical or mental state. You can see with all these focuses and variations within - providers can get detailed feedback on one’s personal health story and how they are in the current moment.

Five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space

Three doshas: vatta, pitta, and kapha

Seven tissues (dhatus): plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow, and reproductive fluid

Three wastes: feces, urine, and sweat

Three gunas (mental doshas / energy effort): rajas, tamas, and sattva

Six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy, and astringent

20 attributes: heavy/light, slow/fast, hot/cold, oily/dry, smooth/rough, solid/liquid, soft/hard, stable/moving, small(fine)/big(bulky), and sticky/slimy

20 basic attributes (energy qualities) in more detail

Heavy (guru) - foods: cheese, meat, beans; growth, sleep, nourishment, stability, dullness, slow digestion, stubborn

Light (laghu) - foods: rice, popcorn, caffeine, sprouts; alert, attentive, spaciness, insecurity, fear, anxiety, frail

Oily (snigdha) - foods: cheese, coconut, avocado, olive oil; relaxation, smoothness, lubrication, vigor, compassion, love, nourish, manipulation

Dry (ruksa) - foods: millet, rye, dry cereal; dehydration, constipation, constriction, spasm, pain, rough skin, fear, nervousness, isolation, separation, rejection, independence

Stable/Static (sthira) - foods: ghee; support, healing, faith, sitting quietly, obstruction.

Mobile (cala) - foods: alcohol, sprouts, popcorn; motion, shakiness, restlessness, thoughts, feelings, emotions, insecurity, jogging, jumping, physical activity, instability.

Smooth (slasna) - foods: jelly, cheese, oils, avocado, ghee; lubricates, flexible, caring, discrimination.

Rough (khara) - foods: coarse and rough textured bread, raw vegetables, many beans; dryness, absorption, constipation, cracking, rigidity, carelessness.

Large/Gross (sthula) - foods: meat, cheese; obstruction, obesity, excessiveness.

Subtle (suksma) - foods: turmeric, herbs, herbs, alcohol, aspirin, drugs; emotional, spacey, penetrates subtle tissues.

Cold (sita) - foods: ice cream, chilled milk; unconsciousness, stagnant, fear, insensitivity, mucus, slows digestion, reduces immunity, congestion

Hot (usna) - foods: pepper, tobacco; digestive fire, improves circulation, digestion, cleansing, irritable, anger, ulcers, critical mind, inflammation

Dull/Slow (manda) - foods: meat, yogurt, rich & fatty foods; sluggish, relaxation, calm, quiet, silence, thoughtful

Sharp/Fast (tiksna) - foods: onion, garlic, spicy; improves learning, concentration, understanding, appreciation, ulcers, think too much, penetrates, loudness, keen intellect

Soft (mrdu) - foods: cheese; delicacy, tenderness, love, care, mucous 

Hard (kathina) - foods: tacos, chips; tumor, strength, rigidity, selfishness, callousness, insensitivity callouses.

Dense (sandra) - foods: sour cream, meat, cottage cheese, cheese; compact, stable, solid, strength, firmness of healthy muscle, highly concentrated.

Liquid (drava) - foods: juice, water; diluted, salivation, compassion, cohesiveness, water retention, flexibility.

Cloudy (picchila) - foods: tapioca, rice, aloe juices, dairy; cohesiveness, attachment, lack of perception, confusion.

Clear (visada) - foods: water; isolation diversion, purification, too much cleansing, pacification.

General food recommendations for all beings (ages 1+)

Seasonal food intake recommended qualities:

Spring - dry, hot, bitter, spicy, astringent 

Summer - cooling, soothing, sweet, bitter, astringent

Fall - warm, sweet, sour, salty, oily

Winter - sweet, spicy, sour, salty, bitter

Incompatible food combinations:

Do Not Eat With
beans fruit, cheese, eggs, fish, milk, yogurt
eggs fruit, melons, beans, cheese, fish, kitchari, milk, meat, yogurt
fruit any other fruit, milk (exception: milk & dates)
grains fruit, tapioca
honey when boiled, baked/cooked, mixed with equal amounts of ghee
lemon cucumbers, milk, tomatoes, yogurt
hot drinks mango, cheese, fish, meat, starch, yogurt
melon eat alone
milk banana, cherries, melons, sour fruits, bread with yeast, fish, kitchari, meat, yogurt
nightshades (potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes) melons, cucumbers, dairy
radishes ​bananas, raisins, milk
tapioca fruit, especially bananas and mangos, beans, raisins, jaggary
yogurt fruit, cheese, eggs, fish, hot drinks, meat, milk, nightshades

If reading the above chart caused agitation or contempt - please know you are not alone. Learning Ayurvedic principles while unlearning the hazards of the standard American diet will take time.

See if you can apply one or two concepts to begin today. (Do not focus on more. More will come in time.)

Notice over the next few days, weeks, and month(s) if you see improved mood, digestion, or something else. 

Like I mentioned earlier, small shifts can create big impacts in wellness. 

You are welcome to schedule an appointment with me to support your Ayurvedic journey.


Resources and inspiration

Dr. Beena Vesikar

Banayan Botanicals

Wasatch Ayurveda & Yoga