I just spent a long weekend at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. I was happy to spend time with my good friend, Jen, practice some half-moon poses and sweat it out in the sauna; but most of all, as per usual, I was excited to check out the food. Luckily, the dining hall at Kripalu did not disappoint.
Kripalu's menu is based on Ayurvedic principles. Ayurveda is the "science of life", with an emphasis on diet & lifestyle. The purpose is to eradicate sickness and achieve optimal health by balancing the three Doshas; Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Each Dosha possess certain characteristics and qualities.
Vata qualities are dry, cold, light, mobile, clear, rough, subtle. The body type of Vata is slender with little muscle tone. They tend to feel cold and have very dry skin. Insomnia, indigestion and bloating are all common ailments of Vata. In order to warm the body, their diet should avoid raw fruits & vegetables, carbonated beverages and dry/crunchy foods. Instead, they should eat warm, cooked foods including cereal, soup and roasted vegetables.
Pitta qualities are slightly oily, hot, intense, light, fluid, free flowing, foul smelling. Pitta body types are toned with a medium build. Often, very emotional, Pitta-types should focus on a diet that soothes and calms. Spices, alcohol, coffee and acidic foods should be avoided, while there should be an increase of sweet fruits and vegetables with a high water content, for their cooling properties.
Kapha qualities are oily, cold, heavy, stable, viscid, smooth, soft. Kapha body types are large with broad-shoulders. Though they have good physical stamina, they are more likely to become obese compared to the other Dosha types. Kapha-types tend to have poor circulation and digestion. If you're a Kapha, you should reduce overall fat, salt and sugar intake, while focusing on a high fiber diet.
Though, each person tends to encompass more qualities of one Dosha than the others, the goal is to achieve harmony within the three. This will allow us to live within the rhythms of nature. The main goal is to preserve your Agni, otherwise known as digestive power.
Some of the "rules" seem like common sense, yet the Western-belief nutrition system doesn't always promote them. Though I have a strong science-based nutrition background, I have always found holistic views of nutrition fascinating and believe they should be incorporated into our diet plans and lives.
Diet Tips For All Doshas:
Wake With Water
In the morning, before coffee or breakfast, drink a glass of room-temperature water. A few years ago, an acupuncturist told me this, and I've continued with this ritual ever since. I always encourage this with all of my clients and patients. It should be noted that cold water will work in opposition with digestion, so make sure water is relatively warm. This will promote digestion, regularity and obviously, adequate hydration.
Everyone is always rushing from one place to another. Meals are often eaten quickly, just to get them over with. It is important to try to break this habit and take a few breaths before eating each meal. Chew each bite thoroughly, while focusing on the smell, flavor and texture. Eating should be an act, not a rush job. This is especially a challenge if you go many hours without eating, as you feel "starving", which is why we should remember to have snacks between meals in order to avoid the feeling where food needs to be shoveled in at record speed.
Eat Only When Hungry
This is such a basic idea, yet so difficult for many, myself included. We eat for many reasons, including emotions and lack thereof. It is important for us to be aware of what hunger feels like and what anxiety or sadness feels like. Once we distinguish the two, we can feed only what is necessary and treat the sentiments accordingly.
Before you eat a meal, observe how you're feeling. If you notice you feel uncomfortable, eat to counteract whatever you are experiencing. For example, if you feel a dryness, have food that is moist. If you're feeling cold, have soup, or something warm. If you're feeling lightness or ungrounded, try to have a meal with a heavy quality.
For the most part, try to have a schedule around your eating by having meals at the same time each day. Nature is all about cycles and your digestive system should be, too!
Lunch & The Sun
Lunch should be your largest meal of the day. The heat of the sun is strongest mid day, and so is your digestive power. Don't be afraid to dig in! I find that many people try to "save their calories for later" and end up splurging on dinner. In actuality, you should do the opposite.
Certain spices, including ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric & black pepper, all aid in digestion. Try to add these to your cooking, especially if you experience bloating or cramping after meals.
I often like to end my meals with tea, as many promote a balance in the digestive system, including sausalito spice, ginger and peppermint.
As always, Happy Eating! Feel free to contact me to talk Doshas, diet and digestion.