A guest blog by dietetic intern Isabelle Carren-Le Sauter
Working with Anastasia, I have been recently introduced to the Ayurvedic tradition and its personalized recommendations for maintaining health and happiness. As a soon-to-be dietitian, the nutritional recommendations were most interesting to me, and right from the beginning I realized how intuitive they are. Of the three doshas, or personality-types, the kapha dosha tends to be very solidly built, calm, stable and strong. However, when someone who is primarily kapha is out of balance, they tend to oversleep, become congested, and feel unmotivated. I instantly connected: This is me. When I feel this way, I seek comfort food; I crave pastries and Mac and cheese, heavy foods in large portions. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with these foods, the Ayurvedic tradition would argue that eating heavy food will only allow a kapha to sink deeper into their kapha-ness, while eating opposing foods such as lightly sautéed leafy greens over a bed of whole grains, or going for an energizing walk will bring you out of what I think of as the “kapha funk.” Intuitive, right?
In addition to describing personality types, the three doshas also have primary seasons. We have just entered Pitta season, which ranges from mid-June to mid-October. When out of balance, pittas tend to be fiery, prone to sarcasm, irritability and easy overheating: all things which can be exacerbated by the sticky, hot weather at this time of year. Even people without much pitta in their constitution can begin to feel irritable and easily frustrated when the weather turns hot. But an in balance, pitta is focused, energetic, organized and creative, and to return to these wonderful qualities, here are a few simple tips:
- Stay Fresh: Seek out ripe fruit for a light, delicious, and refreshing snack that will quench your hunger and your thirst without weighing you down. Watermelon, mango, grapes and apples are all great choices. Water-laden vegetables such as cucumber, carrots, zucchini, and leafy greens are also recommended. Sautee, blanch, or steam them briefly, and add cooling herbs and spices like mint, fennel, dill and coriander.
- Avoid heavy foods and flavors: A hearty butternut squash curry may sound extremely appealing after a long day out in the snow, but a steaming hot stew on an 85 degree day may just get your blood boiling. Try to avoid heavy, greasy foods, as well as sour, spicy or salty foods such as citrus, unripe fruit, sour cream, cayenne, chiles, and pickles or other condiments.
- Don’t Shock the System: While an ice-cold beverage may seem like just the thing to cool you down, the Ayurvedic tradition cautions against this because instead of calming the digestive fire, it may just snuff it out. Plenty of hydration with room temperature or slightly cool water is a much better way to go.
- Take It Outdoors: Daily exercise strengthens the mind, improves mood, and restores the body’s natural flow, and doing it outside is a way to be in nature and appreciate the beauty of summer. To avoid flaring up that Pitta fire, try cooling exercises like early morning or nighttime walks, yoga in the park or on the beach, and swimming.
- Routine: Ayurveda really promotes the importance of doing certain things daily, like eating breakfast and rubbing your skin as a form of awakening massage each morning. They also promote arising with the sun each morning, which may seem like a struggle, but allowing yourself time in the morning to stop an enjoy that cool summer breeze on your way to work, or to do 15 minutes of yoga before you leave can really create a beautiful start to your day. Give it a try for a few days – once you get used to it, you may never go back.
The most important thing to remember is that the Ayurvedic tradition is meant to help and heal, not cause stress. If you find you are feeling weighed down or especially irritable with the heat, feel free to give these tips a try, but only if it is helpful for you. Everyone is different, and you know yourself better than anyone, so trust yourself.
Krishan, S. (2003). Essential Ayurveda: What It Is & What It Can Do for You. Novato, CA: New World Library.
(2007). A Food Plan to Balance Pitta Dosha. Retrieved from: http://www.holistic-online.com/ayurveda/ayv-Pitta-food-plan.htm