Bounce Back from Life Challenges with Ayurveda!
By Danah Mor
The past months have been challenging for us all. We have sacrificed many usual freedoms to protect each other's health and save lives. Defending against Covid-19 and other stress-filled challenges can affect body and mind in ways you probably did not expect. Being locked down at home day after day can create lethargy and inertia, unemployment increases cases of depression and hopelessness; taking care of others is physically and emotionally draining. The good news is that with the wisdom of Ayurveda, we can create ways to support ourselves and bounce back.
Ayurveda originated in the Himalayas where its healing secrets were recorded in scriptures from 10,000–500 BC. Ayurveda is scientific and built upon a basic understanding of nature and life. The healing concepts are simple and applicable to anyone. Ayurveda works alongside conventional western medicine and used in thousands of hospitals and clinics in India and worldwide.
At the foundation of Ayurveda is the belief that every cell in the universe is composed of five elements, air, fire, water, earth, and ether. These elements surround us and are also within us; we consist of them. For example, muscle tissue is predominantly earth and water, while stomach acids are mostly considered by Ayurveda to be fire. Those same five elements are in the foods we eat, and by eating particular compositions of foods, we increase specific elements in the body. Spicy food, which is predominately fire, increases the fire within the body, for example.
Ayurveda emphasizes the concept of balance, through which changes occur naturally. Health and illness often reflect balance and imbalance, leading to comfort and discomfort, happiness, and misery respectively. Balancing dietary habits leads effortlessly to subtle and positive changes in your health and life. Ayurveda also emphasizes the prevention of pain, disease and imbalance, and the body's natural ability to heal itself.
The five elements inside the body are the represented as three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vata is space and air, Pitta is fire, and Kapha is water and earth. While we consist of all the five elements, we are dominant in one of the doshas. Ayurveda represents the whole self—mental, emotional, and physical. In other words, doshas are a gateway to understanding ourselves and others.
During times of challenge like the pandemic, the external stresses interfere with normal habits. Confinement indoors causes a lack of physical exercise. Stress makes many of us reach for comfort foods that tend to be heavier, and we may feel more lethargic and sleep more or be anxious and fearful and not be able to sleep at all. That can lead to feeling tired during the day and reaching for comfort foods again…. it can become a vicious cycle. These behaviors are related to the elements of earth and water. The best way to bounce back from life challenges, from the mental and physical effects of having too much water and earth in the body, is to adopt a Kapha pacifying routine. This regime stimulates body and mind in healthy ways, creating balance. From drying up excess water retention and mucus that may have built up in your tissues to making space for lighter elements that bring new energy into your life, a kapha balancing routine allows you to counteract adverse effects of lockdown.
When Kapha is balance: Reliable, responsible, calm, affectionate, caring, loving, peacekeeper and even-tempered.
When Kapha is out of balance: Resistant, possessive, emotional, holds on to emotions, needy, lethargic, sleeping too much, depressed, lack of enthusiasm, apathetic, feeling dull and sluggish, congestion, overweight, slow digestion, oily skin, sinus congestion, nasal allergies, asthma, obesity, skin growths.
Organs to Nourish: Lungs, stomach, body fat, and lymphatic system.
Foods to eat more of:
Bitter, astringent/light, pungent (cayenne pepper), dry, warm foods: mostly plant-based such as flavorful steamed veggies, broth soups, quinoa, millet and buckwheat, sprouts and seeds (chia, sesame, and sunflower seeds).
Light grains, light proteins, abundant vegetables, drying and heating foods, heating, and pungent spices with thermogenic properties.
• All freshly cooked vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, help to stimulate and cleanse mucus and excess Kapha.
• Hot herbal teas.
• Add warming spices to food and tea, like cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne pepper.
• Sprouted beans, quinoa, spinach, dandelion, salads, cayenne, pepper, ginger.
Work on mental aspects to increase self-acceptance, body-image affirmations, cardiovascular exercises, love the body you have.
Foods to avoid and eat less:
Sweet, sour, salty/heavy, cold, oily: such as fried/oily foods/drinks, ice cream, dairy, fatty foods, heavy and fatty proteins, gluten-based grains, red meats, starchy vegetables, animal protein, cold iced drinks, wheat and couscous, sweet fruits like bananas and mangos or heavy nuts like brazil nuts and macadamia nuts.
Anise, asafetida, cayenne (uncooked), cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, chamomile, caraway, cardamom, coriander, dill, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, horseradish, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, peppermint, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, sage, spearmint, thyme, turmeric
Kapha balancing activities/daily routine:
• Stimulating movement like brisk walking in the morning to increase circulation, mood, and immunity
• Self-massage with warm raw sesame oil
• Neti – irrigating your nasal passage with warm saltwater (always followed by nasya).
• Nasya – dip a q-tip in warm sesame oil, swirl it inside nostrils, inhale deeply
• Yoga postures that stimulate and energize like sun salutations and cat pose
• Eat only when hungry. Allow the body time for digestion.
Signs of excess Kapha:
Cold, cough, allergies, congestion, flu, fatigue, depression, weight gain
Adopting these tips will help your body naturally find its balance and become stronger, healthier, and able to deal with life's challenges.
Ayurveda invites an understanding of our bodies so we can make good food and lifestyle choices. By practicing Ayurveda, you discover your unique constitution and body type. We cannot be grouped by gender for calorie intake, blood group, or age because we are all different, and our bodies are continually changing their internal environments. What may be beneficial for you on a sunny day, maybe harmful in the winter. The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda helps to understand the elements at work in the body so that you can create balance, improve, and sustain good health through challenging times.
Danah Mor is certified practitioner in Integrative Nutrition and has a degree in ancient Indian medicine. For more go to www.danahmor.com