How to eat to build prana (life-force) with a deeper understand of dosha (true-nature)
Food really is medicine and it's so beautifully complex and so subtly minute in it's proportions. I have an under-active thyroid and when I think of how a tiny little tablet affects everything from my mood to digestion to skin to concentration and more, it's no wonder ancient healers turned to spices, herbs, essential oils, and food as primary vehicles through which we could heal.
Let's review quickly the difference between Prakruti and Vikruti
Prakruti: original constitutional type that you were born with and remains the same throughout your life. While we all have a mix of all three doshas, most of us usually have one or two doshas that dominate.
Vikruti: a snap shot of your current state of health, typically reflecting a temporary dosha imbalance or disease state and changes with circumstances and lifestyle choices.
If you have found the process of determining your dosha difficult, remember that physically, you could have one more present dosha and another mentally. Many have a Pitta body and Kapha mind. It's not encouraging separation but rather understanding more deeply the various aspects of ourselves. Note: you may want to take the dosha questionnaire after a few months of implementing lifestyle changes to more accurately read your natural dosha.
There are 6 tastes
Sweet—The taste of energy. Examples: grains, dairy, breads, pasta, starchy vegies, fruits, nuts, oils, sugar, honey, animal products.
Sour—The taste of acid. Examples: citrus fruits, sour fruits, tomatoes, yogurt, cheese, pickles, vinegar, alcohol
Salty—The taste of the ocean. Examples: salt, seafood, sauces, meat
Pungent—The taste of digestive fire. Examples: hot peppers, ginger, salsa, radishes, mustard, cloves, thyme, basil
Bitter—the taste of concentrated nutritional information. Examples: green and yellow vegies, green leaf vegies, turmeric, aloe vera
Astringent—the taste of concentrated nutrition. Examples: beans, legumes, lentils, pomegranates, cranberries, tea, dark greens.
We can tap into the health benefits within our food to help balance our doshas. One theory to remember is that “like increases and like”. Opposites will help to decrease any imbalance, so when attempting to balance your dosha, choose foods that promote the opposite state.
For example, if you are Kapha imbalanced with symptoms like lethargy in your body and mind accompanied by a lack of motivation or inspiration, you’ll want to choose foods that are bitter, pungent and astringent in taste as they increase metabolism, naturally cleanse digestion, and assist in reducing body mass.
If you are Vata imbalanced with symptoms like headaches, stress, or anxiety, you will want to eat foods that are sweet, sour and salty because they are heavy and grounding.
If you are Pitta imbalanced with symptoms of anger or skin-breakouts, you will want to avoid pitta inducing foods (spicy/pungent, salty and sour) and instead choose pitta pacifying foods, mainly sweet, bitter, and astringent to help cool the system. Being a pitta, I'm drawn to salty and spicy foods when I'm stressed, in particular, but feel MUCH better when I choose cooling options like cucumber, melons, and papaya for sweetness and a home-made cumin-cardamom-fennel (CCF) tea to cool pitta and support digestion.
Although we want to focus our diet on foods that help to balance our dosha, we still want to include all six tastes in as many meals as possible to heal through the senses.
Shades of the Rainbow
The color of foods is reflective of different health-enhancing constituents called phyto-nutrients. Selecting foods with a variety of colors, ensures that we’re receiving the full spectrum of nutrition that our food can provide.
Many of us in the western world rely on ready-made comfort foods and out of habit, our repertoire can deteriorate to a few foods per day instead of the wide variety of food choices available to us.
Here is a list of the different shades of foods we should consider when designing meals:
Red: beets, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, red chard, radishes.
Orange: carrots, oranges, tangerines, cantaloupe, orange peppers.
Yellow: bananas, millet, peaches, lemons, corn.
Green: leafy greens, broccoli, peas, zucchini, lettuce, asparagus.
Blue: blueberries, blue corn, blue potatoes.
Purple: plums, eggplant, grapes, purple cabbage.
FLUNC foods don't make the grade and are significantly nutritionally compromised and deficient. FLUNC stands for ...
Frozen (beyond one month)
Leftovers (beyond a few days)
Unnatural (packaged, processed, genetically altered)
Nuked (microwaves alter molecular structures of food)
Canned (many cans have a lining that leeches BPA or microplastics into food)
The opposite of FLUNC is prana-ified foods: fresh, local, organic, free range, unprocessed, food close to their original form.
Each time you consume food this week, take a moment to hover your hands over your plate and begin the digestive process by merging with the energy of your food. May it nourish you with love so that you can serve the world with love.
Agni is the sanskrit term used to define our digestive flame. It represents the transformative quality of our physical make up and is responsible for digesting food in the small intestine.
Strong agni, strong digestion, allows us to consume a variety of foods and expel toxins efficiently. Just like a healthy sized bonfire can burn a damp piece of wood, healthy agni can metabolize the occasional poor food choice because it’s intensity is strong enough to process toxins effectively.
Alternatively, just like a dying bonfire can’t consume the best piece of fire wood, if one’s agni is weak, the fire will be too small to metabolize even the healthiest of food choices and create ama as a result.
Without a strong digestive flame, or agni, our bodies remain bereft of adequate nutrients, no matter how well we eat. This is why a healthy, strong agni is one of the foundational principles for optimal well-being according to the Ayurvedic model.
From agni, depending on its strength and quality, either ama or ojas is produced.
Ama is metabolic waste. Every cell in our body is a living entity and so it undergoes the usual processes of assimilating nutrients and eliminating waste. So every one of our 100 trillion cells is expelling waste into our system to be released in one way or another.
There are 4 vehicles for elimination: urine, feces, sweat, and breath.
If we don’t drink water, we don’t pee out toxins.
If we don’t metabolize food well, we don’t poop.
If we don’t move our bodies, we don’t poor or sweat and may not breathe deeply.
When our body’s channels are clogged with ama for too long, we fall victim to disease, or die before our time. Symptoms of ama acculumation:
Coated, whitish tongue particularly in the morning
Pain and fatigue
The concept of ama presents a great argument for drinking pure, clean water, stoking our digestive flame with proper dosha specific foods and for doing regular yoga!
Ojas is a subtle vital fluid that possesses properties of both matter and consciousness. It provides us with energy, brightness, strength and immunity. Brahmacharya, the yogic discipline of moderation, is advised to preserve ojas.
How we lose ojas:
Unhealthy lifestyle habits
Erratic schedule and poor sleep
Over-exertion mentally, physically, or in our relationships
Ejaculation and breast feeding
Signs of healthy ojas:
Feel rested upon waking
Healthy glow to skin
Pink and clear tongue & healthy gums
Lightness in the body
Clear mind able to concentrate
Strong digestion, no bloating
Pleasant smell to the body
Strong immunity, rarely ill
By working with the natural rhythms of our bodily functions, we can maintain strong ojas and minimize ama.
Agni honoring and supportive suggestions:
Eat 3 meals a day with your largest meal between 10-2pm when agni is at it’s highest
Eat in a quiet, peaceful and positive environment perhaps with others
Eat until you are at a 7-8 our of 10 of fullness (stomach half full of food, a quarter full of liquid and a quarter left for digestive space)
Include all 6 tastes and shades of foods
Minimize FLUNC foods
Stop food consumption 2-3 hours before bed and consider if intermittent fasting (12-16 hrs) is right for you
Drink 2L of clean water daily with the tiniest pinch of sea salt and citrus essential oils
Surround yourself with positive, loving people
Create life/work balance that suits your dosha eg Pitta's = leadership, Vata = creative, Kapha = nurturing
Connect to the universal source of love through prayer or meditation or other spiritual practice you prefer
The more we love, the more we cultivate ojas. What a beautiful gift!
Until next time, my friends, please take time to breathe today.