Ayurveda

posted on: Monday, 24 February 2014

Ayurveda looks to food to balance the health of the body and of the mind


Over the last few weeks I started to see Ayurveda mentioned everywhere. Two of my favourite bloggers wrote posts about it: Helen from The Little Sage used it to balance her diet and Sarah Wilson talked about using it to calm her anxiety and auto-immune issues. So when I drove past a new Ayurveda practice opening in Brisbane's West End the other day, I took it as a sign I should look into it myself.

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian mind-body-spirit wellbeing practice that is based on the premise of three 'doshas': Vata, Pitta and Kapha. In Ayurveda, everyone has a combination of all of the doshas, but usually a more dominant one which is an indicator of specific body-mind characteristics. If your doshas are balanced you are in good health, but if they get out of balance can manifest as a range of problems. For example, Vata people out of balance can have strong anxiety, Pitta people can veer into anger, and Kapha people can easily put on weight. 

I meet up with Dr Pradeep Neupane, the young doctor from Nepal who owns Vibrant Ayurveda in West End who asks why I'm visiting: do I have digestion problems, problems with sleep, ageing? We then discuss what I eat during a regular day. When I say I sometimes have celery and peanut butter as a snack he is flummoxed! This is not that weird I assure him. 'I have seen over a thousand people and I have never heard this mentioned!' he says. And then, 'You should never eat this!' Sometimes I have yoghurt with fruit, I pipe up. He looks at me again. Wrong!

Next up he listens to the pulse in my wrist. This is followed by an abdominal examination around my internal organs. 'You're a Kapha-Vata,' he determines. Oh damn, am I doomed never to be lean? 'No,' he says. 'But, you always need to be very careful with what you eat... forever.' Hmmm.

Having answered questions for the last half hour I need to ask some of my own. I'm curious to know how quickly he could tell which dosha combination I was. 'As soon as you walked in the door,' he said. 'I just did the tests to confirm it.'  How exactly does listening to my pulse confirm this? 'Your pulse is very slow, it sounds like a duck waddling, it steps slowly from side to side, but it gets there! I am a Pitta and that pulse sounds like a frog jumping,' he says with exaggerated finger movements to indicate the spike in energy. 'And Vata sounds like a snake slithering. Like air.' And what about the examination of my abdomen? 'I can feel the pulsation of the different organs. Your intestine is inflamed and your liver a little inflamed which means your Kapha and your Vata are out of balance. Your stomach is fine which means that your Pitta is fine.' 

So, on to solutions which are all different depending on what dosha-type you are. Exercise is a must for my body-type Kapha, as well as eating spicy food to stimulate the metabolism, and eating warm food to aid digestion. One of the key tenets of Ayurveda eating is that raw and cooked food shouldn't be eaten together because they digest at different rates. Another key point is that you shouldn't eat food combinations that 'fight' eachother in the gut. For example, fruit which is high in fructose should always be eaten by itself. Can I ever eat chocolate? He looks at me like I'm crazy. 'No! Okay, maybe a little at a party, not very often.' Should I cut out milk, I only drink it with coffee...? 'I don't think you should drink THE COFFEE. It has so many toxins.' 

At Vibrant Ayurveda there's a shop there with all manner of herbs and potions. I bought wonder-spice turmeric and ghee for cooking and, randomly, a tongue cleaner (good oral health is always paramount right?) but you don't have to buy anything. And while I was given a whole lot of information, the main Ayurvedic ideas I'm going to test out for now are having all warm or all cold foods together and doing mental exercises to tame my Vata-mind before bed. On the whole not too tricky or crazy. 

*You can check out your dosha-type online here.

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