Before I delve into this blog I’ll use the wise words of Dr. Vassant Lad, my respected and much loved Ayurvedic doctor: "First, and most important, be relaxed when you follow an Ayurvedic eating plan. Remember to give yourself a break when you’re away on vacation, listen to your body and eat what you love in moderation. An occasional week or two of consuming foods, which delight you, is actually a good thing. You will never feel deprived. If something makes you tense and unhappy, your parasympathetic nervous system will rebel and your body will respond negatively."
He said "There are no bad foods: the idea is determining the types of food suited to one’s dosha. Rigidity is counterproductive and your body is wiser than your brain when you train it to listen."
In his clinic in Albuquerque, NM, in front of a large class of allopathic physicians from across the world, he gave a lecture, with me as a volunteer demonstration dummy. Short of the story, I arrived for a week of Pancha Karma retreat at his clinic the night before. I won’t elaborate much in this article but it’s a remarkable week filled with 4 hours consisting of two licensed holistic massage therapists working on your body, hands and feet and head, with warm oil, which often contains missing herbal elements for your body type. Breakfast lunch and dinner are the same vegan stew, made of red lentil base, cooked with a large array of all organic vegetables in season. They were gracious enough to cook everything in my Kosher Cookware and have me supervise all preparations. It’s called Kitchari and is delicious and filling. This is NOT the regular practice and is done only for the short time of the retreat for purification. Meditation, yoga, and other holistic treatments are available, and every evening the participants can attend the lecture given to the doctors. An early night is followed by the best, most restful sleep in the comfort of your cosy room. There we were, a small group of 8 women accepted for the retreat, with each given two face-to-face sessions with the famous doctor Lad. (He is Deepak Chopra’s personal doctor and teacher amongst other things). I was the only one of the 8 women who decided to switch from personal meetings with the master. It seemed logical after having been told that in front of the student group I’d get over an hour, and has far more educationally beneficial focus, than in 15-20 minutes, the duration of the typical private sessions. Since I have no secret or embarrassing ailments nor was required to disrobe, the group session was my choice. It was also reassuring to have present many well-known doctors, specialists and surgeons (strangely, many from Israel’s top hospitals, as I found out later). I learned that for years back, Western medicine showed itself lacking: Doctors were prescribing drugs that eased symptoms but didn’t cure the disease and had inherent side effects. Surgery at times only made things worse, and there were hordes of patients who were chronically unwell. Some of the best doctors got frustrated with what they could offer their patients and decided to further their studies by adding an ancient yet different aspect to their menu of treatments. They often experienced success, glowing health w/o side effects: thus the few hundred luminaries gathered in the clinic in Albuquerque.
Normally before they pronounce one’s dosha, your horoscope is read and interpreted, your appearance observed, the interview however brief, uncovers the issues in your life, examine the tongue and it’s coating, take your pulse and embark on an interview, which tells personality traits indicating even more signals.
Ayurvedic medicine, a 5000 year old medical philosophy and practice, is predicated on the idea that we all fall into different types of energy. The philosophy determines that all humans fit into one of three main doshas, or in western terms, physical-emotional groups. Ideally we’d have a balanced combination of all three, with one unwavering dosha, our dominant one since birth.
Vata, Pita and Kapha are the main groups. Most people are a combination of 2 or 3 of the above and the purpose is to determine the balance or lack of it in the body. The imbalance can make us sick and the aim is to bring us all closer to perfect balance.
Eating the right foods for our body type, consuming herbal mixtures and special oils to massage with, can bring perfect balance to an out-of-balance patient. Serious skin ailments, digestive and emotional issues are cured naturally, by living our life accordingly.
The principle is that every human is born with a unique combination of doshas, and that this is the responsible factor to our physical, mental and emotional differences. By identifying and maintaining each individual’s Prakruti, Ayurveda can help each individual create their own ideal health.
In Nepal, India and much of the East, Ayurveda is considered serious medicine, with years of practice and a medical degree.
The three doshas:
1. Vata (air and space)
Vatas are likely to be thin, spacey, with active, anxious minds. They speak and move fast, their joints likely to crack. This dosha influences the movement of thoughts, emotions, energy flows fluids and nerve impulses in the body. Vata governs the activities of the nervous system, elimination, is cold, light, dry skinned and always changing. They are always on the go, with energetic bodies.
They have light, thin frames, are adaptable to the extreme, and their energy comes in bursts, only to experience sudden bouts of fatigue. They are quick to anger but also to forgive, are talkative, lively conversationalists, have endlessly creative and active minds, are flexible and when in balance, are lively, enthusiastic and take initiative.
When imbalanced, they tend to lose weight, suffer from constipation and restlessness, aches and pains, weakness, arthritis and insomnia. When they are overwhelmed they ask ‘What did I do wrong’?
How to balance Vata?
a. Avoid dry, cold climates.
b. Exercise daily, keeping a consistent routine of movement that’s gentle and regular.
c. Eat warm and nourishing foods with moderately heavy texture. Butter and fat are good for stabilizing Vata. Salty, sour and sweet tastes, in soothing an satisfying foods, like warm milk, cream, butter, warm soups stews hot cereals, warm freshly baked bread, nuts and nut butters. All sweet fruit and herbal tea with honey with snacks in the late afternoon. Hot drinks and hot water are best for Vata. The spices that work best, are cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger. Avoid bitter spices or at least minimize them. Fenugreek, parsley and thyme are too astringent. Turmeric Clove, saffron and garlic are OK in moderation.
d. Avoid cold food such as iced drinks, salads raw vegetables uncooked greens and mainly too much caffeine and candies, since they disturb Vata. Anything astringent, like unripe fruit should be avoided.
e. To restore balance or maintain it, eat COOKED asparagus, beets, carrots, green beans, onions, sweet potatoes and turnips.
In moderation eat cooked broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, leafy green vegetables, mushroom peas, potatoes sprouts tomatoes and zucchini. Avoid raw vegetables!
Best fruit: Bananas, apricots, avocadoes, cherries, berries, coconut, mango papaya, pineapple, sweet melons, peaches plums and stewed fruits. All must be sweet and well ripened.
In moderation you may eat pomegranates, pears and cranberries.
Best grains: Cooked hot oatmeal, (no dry cereal), and cooked rice.
In moderation, grains: wheat, corn millet oat and buckwheat. In moderation
Dairy: all Dairy is good.
Best meat: chicken, seafood and in moderation, turkey, a little red meat.
Best beans: Mung beans, chickpeas, pink lentils and small amounts of tofu, In moderation: kidney beans, black beans etc.
Best fats: sesame oil. Olive oil, purified butter (Ghee).
All natural sweeteners are acceptable. No artificial sweeteners.
Nuts and seeds are all great, especially almonds.