Alex's Ayurveda & Life Blog

Grassroots Ayurveda in the 21st Century


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What is Ama? What foods cause Ama?

“Ama” means partially or undigested food. Ama can cause toxic residue to build up in the gut. This residue harms the gut and can infiltrate and harm the body and its organs, contributing to many different chronic disease conditions.

Any food that is poorly digested creates a little bit of Ama. Ama builds up over months and years. Each individual person has a unique ability to digest certain foods as well as a propensity to poorly digest others. So while there are foods that typically cause Ama in all people, there is a separate list that depends on your unique body type as well as other factors like your inherited digestive enzymes (Agni) and cultural adaptations (Satmya).

Here are some of the foods and eating habit  that are typically cause Ama:

  • Eating too much or too often (going beyond our capaicty)
  • Foods consumed when you are emotionally disturbed
  • Eating while walking
  • Eating foods too quickly
  • Highly refined and processed foods
  • Most industrial foods
  • Very sweet foods (desserts etc)
  • Very fatty or heavy foods
  • Animal based foods, especially beef and pork
  • Foods containing man made chemicals (preservatives, colouring agents, pesticides etc)
  • Burned or overly cooked foods
  • A long term diet based on 100% raw foods

Much can be done to remove Ama from the gut and the body. However, miracles are few and far between. Don’t think that Ayurveda will save you from a life time of neglectful dietary habits. Even if Ayurveda can in theory reverse much of the damage that might have been done, it cannot do so without considerable investment of personal will power, time and money (if you intend to go down the clinical detox programs known as Pancha Karma).

Better than waiting until you are ill is to prevent Ama from every accumulating beyond a tolerable minimum. This can be best achieved by minimizing the above dietary and lifestyle factors, as well as incorporating routine manageable fasting and other simple practices that support the optimal function of your digestive fire (Agni) and promote the body to undergo regular but gentle phases of detox.

What Dosha What Job


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The Best Job For Your Doshas

How to know what job or vocation best suits your ayurvedic profile?

Knowing the dosha or doshas that dominate in your psychological constitution, your mental prakriti, can help you understand what kind of work you are best suited to. It can also help you adjust your attitude and approach towards work, as well as how to preempt for the risks of occupational hazards.

Most popular books about ayurveda present a useful, but somewhat facile approach to this subject, prescribing such-and-such a career for such-and-such a dosha.

  • Being a musician or an artist (a ‘creative’ occupation) is often cited as being best suited to vata types, who exemplify the airy, wandering, unpredictable nature of wind, which is the essence of creativity.
  • Fiery pitta types are said to be best suited to jobs like law or science, where a perseverance and hunger for knowledge are essential.
  • Kapha types, sure and steady, are supposed to do best in management or caring positions where a long-term vision and patience are needed.

These generalizations are useful but limited. My experience is that to make use of ayurveda in the context of career guidance, we really need to understand the nature of our doshic makeup and how this translates to our behavioral tendencies, emotional character, intellectual capacity and our basic motivational drives. Assessing our aptitude to a particular job depends on our investigation of these and other dimensions that contribute to our unique makeup.

What motivates you?

Perhaps the most useful question to ask is “what motivation lies behind my actions?”

Your dominant dosha will ‘drive you’ according to its qualities a.k.a ‘gunas’. These qualities will motivate you according to their nature. The qualities of your dominant dosha or doshas will express themselves, whether you like it or not, with relative ease: these gunas come naturally to you. Let’s take a look at this:

Vata dosha is like the wind: highly mobile, dynamic, changing direction often, highly adaptable, gusty (all-or-nothing), turbulent, quick, light, superficial, pervasive, unsteady, dispersive. It is contained by the sky: vast, non-resistant, empty, spacious.

  • Vata dominant minds are ever curious and creative, fundamentally motivated by the need for change and stimulation.
  • Vata helps use to create novelty from nothingness, when ideas come from no where, vata is the cause. Vata helps us to connect seemingly unrelated dots on a page to form new interesting patterns.

Pitta dosha is like fire: hot, intense, penetrating, radiant, bright, mobile, spreading out movement, expansive, light. It is contained or tempered by water, which adds some liquidity and stability to fire’s intensity and lightness.

  • Pitta dominant minds are fundamentally motivated by the need to have a goal, a challenge, something to get their teeth into, to digest, to understand and assimilate deeply.
  • Pitta helps us to take many elements together and make sense or order from them. Pitta is quick to assemble meaning and order out of complex multi-variant situations.
  • Pitta can be fast, but unlike vata, there is more intensity, purpose and steadiness behind each endeavor.

Kapha dosha is like phlegm: gelatinous and sticky. It is also like wet clay: heavy, immobile, dense, solid, smooth and moist, cool.

  • Kapha dominant minds are fundamentally motivated by the need to create security and stability, comfort and cohesion.
  • Kapha is interested in building wealth and well-being for the future, so long-term projects are often carried through to their termination thanks to the kapha in us.

What do you love about your work?

Now let’s apply some of these ideas to understanding why certain people love the work they do. The idea is that if your work allows you to express yourself according to your innate doshic makeup, you will be in your element, or at least, your work will flow relatively naturally to you.

Vata types love their work if it affords them plenty of change, renewal, variety, novelty, stimulation, freedom to move and think relatively freely. If their work permits a healthy amount of unstructured experimentation and exploration, they will love and thrive in this context.

Pitta types need their work to be going somewhere; it needs to be goal oriented, clearly structured. There can be a preference for moderate to high levels of pressure and intensity. Exploration and experimentation are fine, but will be more calculated and focused than for vata.

Kapha types do best at jobs that allow them to express their need to establish security, comfort and stability for themselves and their community. The motivation can be to earn a good steady living, or to nurture others, or to provide a good reliable service. They prefer low stress work environments and like the comfort of routine. Slow and steady rule so if experimentation or exploration are required, it will be conducted with the most careful attention to detail, and take time to be completed and reach maturity.

My main point in this article is to break apart the notion that all nurses are kapha motivated, or all teachers pitta motivated, or all fashion designer vata motivated. This just simply doesn’t correlate with what we see in society, where in reality, you get all types of people doing all sorts of jobs.

The key to understanding your doshic involvement in your vocation, be it professional or domestic is to ask yourself what is your approach to the activity, what comes easy to you, what do you most love about what you do.

The Rolling DoshasHere are some examples:

Nursing: vata loves the variety of people and encounters, the variety of different procedures, the opportunity to change hospitals on a frequent basis. Pitta loves the challenge of being efficient, articulate and educational in their approach to caring. Kapha loves the human contact, the selfless role of caring and comforting patients.

Teaching: vata loves the opportunity to find new metaphors and teaching methods to convey the same basic material each year. Pitta feeds of the challenge of controlling a group of students, finding ways to better explain things or organize the teaching to help students get the best grades possible. Kapha enjoys stability of the educational institution, as well as the sense of community and solidarity among staff and motivated parents.

Chef: vata loves the opportunity to innovate, trying out new things, creating something from nothing on a whim. Pitta gets a kick from the challenge of creating something very meticulous in very little time, and knowing they will be praised for their mastery. Kapha likes the fact that they are feeding people, it’s a good steady job, plus they just love to be surrounded by food because it is comforting in nature.

These short examples should whet your appetite for more thorough investigations. In reality, our suitability to a particular kind of work situation depends on many factors, not just our mental prakriti. However, if our daily occupation fills us with joy and satisfaction, chances are we have found something that corresponds to our unique nature, which is largely due to our doshic blueprint.

It is probably clear from the above examples that your job title says little about your attitude towards work, your motivations. So try to find out your motivations and ask “does this match my ayurvedic mental type?”

Three Skill Sets

What is interesting is that most vocations require all three doshas, all three life principles. If you do a good job, chances are you are mixing all three skill sets together:

  • Vata, the principle of movement provides: coordination, communication, inspiration, conception, curiosity, excitement, innovation, exploration, trying-new-things-out.
  • Pitta, the principle of transformation provides: insight, understanding, calculation, implementation, logistics, drive, courage, determination, passion, desire to succeed and be recognized for it.
  • Kapha, the principle of cohesion provides: stability, support, patience, perseverance, commitment, follow-through, caution, foresight, stopping-power.

We all have access to these different skill sets, and we can all cultivate them with awareness, choice, training and will-power. That said, if we are vata-pitta natured, we will find it easier to cultivate the vata-pitta skills, and less so the kapha ones. Same applies for the other single or mixed types.

A balancing act

As well as finding the work that best suits you, that ‘goes with the grain’ so to speak, you should also pay attention to keeping balance, avoiding the common pitfalls inherent in your particular area of expertise.

Here’s an example: when you love your work because it is changeable, unstructured, liberated, dare I say it ‘unorganized’, this fits the skill set of a vata type, who is happy as a sand boy in this scenario. Push this to the extreme however and your vata will become so active that it will begin to deter from your overall physical and mental harmony. To much of a good thing… You know where i am going with this!

If you over-embrace your work and go at it totally according to your unique style, with little self-awareness and self-respect, you will eventually either blow out (vata), burn out (pitta) or sink (kapha).

Life is an inherent juxtaposition of opposites. We all need a little bit of this and a little bit more of that and so on. So in an attempt to define a ‘perfect work scenario’ for the doshas, keep in mind the need to maintain balance.

If your mojo rocks to the tune of vata, you will tend to overexploit your innate airy and spacey traits while undervalue pitta’s fiery intensity and kapha’s earthy stability. As you mature into life, you will see how a little sacrifice, a little remedial compensation, can go a long way.

For example, as a vata-pitta type I like to have several projects on the go (vata) and to attempt to do them all quite intensely (pitta). I get carried away, burn the midnight oil, then begin to suffer from tiredness etc. At this point, I have a choice: drink coffee and push on, or reign in and take a break. I also have the choice as to whether to allow my daily ‘hygiene’ to follow my innate haphazard pattern of vata, or to try cultivate at least a modicum of regularity and routine (a kapha trait).

What turns you on at work?

Fancy sharing? Why not complete the survey below.

Choose the answer that most fits your reasons for liking your work or vocation…

© copyright 2013 Alex Duncan


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Ayurvedic Insights into Smartphone Culture & Kids

Smartphone KidsOur kids want smartphones, social media & free-for-all internet use – should we let them have it?

I was recently staying with friends while travelling to the UK. We both have pre-teenagers who are asking if they can have a mobile phone, even a smart phone. “All my friends have got one, I feel left out!” you know how it goes.

We parents decided to have ourselves a mini-conference over several cups of tea. It was very rewarding, so I thought I would try to share our conclusions in this short article. I have added some of my own ayurvedic insights.

The question we were trying to address was: “What are the main risks or negative effects of smartphone use, social media, and internet habits among young people these days? Here is a summary of our discussion’s main conclusions.

Inner-Peace & Existential Disconnect

Smartphone culture is inviting us into the world of constant micro-distractions. We are engaging in stimulation-rich multimedia, in byte-sized doses. If we enable all the ‘push’ and ‘alert’ features, we become accustomed to the constant state of anticipation and excitement, ever-ready for the next nugget of news/chat/likes. Our attention is being diced up into smaller and smaller segments. We are drawn away from our present environment, the present moment, into a virtual world of increasingly trivial, superficial content.

My biggest concern is that this technology delivers a very facile and addictive replacement to the highly underrated realm of being ‘present’, a space where introspection, contemplation, idling and simple plain old ‘being’ can thrive. Being present cultivates awareness, which according to ayurveda, is the most important pre-requisite for spiritual, mental and physical health.

Smartphone use, if allowed to develop to its full potential, is a sure-fast way to reduce our chances of experiencing prolonged moments of uninterrupted, focussed awareness of the fullness of being that is inherent when we are in a low-stimulation environment. Self-awareness and self-reflection are near impossible when we are engaged in the clicks, flicks and swipes of the smartphone interface.

Modern society is already abundant with myriad distractions for our sense-gratification/activity hungry minds: TV, radio, portable music players. We are doing so many things, so much more quickly, especially via the computer interfaces that are filling our homes and workplaces.

With the addition of smartphones and the like, we run the risk of living more and more in our heads, and in an increasingly superficial, schizoid kind of way. We are loosing the habit of being content with little, content with stillness of body, senses and mind. We are becoming increasingly discontent with the empty-fullness of the present moment and the relatively slow-and-steady experience of our natural environment: our body sensations, our breath; the wind, sun and rain; running water; clouds in the sky. I predict that alone, this aspect of modern life will render us en-mass to a state of escalating existential disconnection, individually and collectively. The consequences for the individual and society will be devastating; not like a potent poison but like slow rot.

Creative Potential

Creativity is constant. So long as we are active in some capacity, mentally or physically, we are creating. We are all innately creative, compelled by instinct to respond in action to the multiple forms of stimulus we receive via our senses. We cannot avoid being creative. Some people argue that modern technology, including IT, is opening doors in this respect. I agree. However, as the smartphone culture expands its reach into our behavioural habits, it may be at risk of diluting the potency of our creative mind’s ability for truly inspired, high quality creation, the kind that is born from sustained, focussed mental effort.

The best creative enterprises, in my opinion, come when our method is roughly aligned with the innate creative cycle of nature at large. According to ayurveda, all creations unfold in a logic order comprising five distinct yet interrelated phases reflecting the five fundamental states of matter in the universe:

1. Akasha / Space / Conception: Before an idea is born, before a thought comes, before a direction is taken, a space must be created. The slate is wiped clean, we meditate on the present moment, we empty our minds. Think conception.

2. Vayu / Movement / Experimentation: Within this space, from seemingly nowhere, a movement appears, a ripple on the calm surface of the lake. Thanks to the infinitely all-accepting, expansive nature of Akasha, Vayu can begin to move freely, exploring all manner of possibilities. Think experimentation.

3. Agni / Transformation / Implementation: From the pregnant all-pervading fullness of Akasha, then the free-style movements of Vayu, ideas begin to flow, to collide, to merge. Light and heat is produced which enables ideas to be understood, intelligence emerges, and a clear project with direction, purpose and intelligent control is established. Think implementation.

4. Jala / Cohesion / Fruition: With the project now clearly illuminated and a way presented to construct something, work begins. Jala affords fluidity and cohesion to the creative process, allowing the building blocks to be placed one on top of the other until the project begins to bear fruit.

5. Prithivi / Solidity / Termination: All creative endeavours must come to an end. Prithivi represents the idea of a fixed goal with concrete structure and form. As the project progresses, the solidity of Prithivi enables Jala to densify and come to a stable coherent end point. Job well done!

My concern with smartphone culture and its byproducts is that it is creating a distracted creatively compromised mind-ability for its users. Only the strong willed and self-conscious among us are managing to reap the rewards whilst keeping the beast under control.

Smartphones with smart apps may provide us with access to wonderful means of artistic expression, but how can we be expected to cultivate a sufficiently large creativity-space for phase one of the process if we are constantly being interrupted by tweets, likes, alerts and so on? Add to this our increasing impulsion to respond instantly to the most trivial or non-urgent micro-communications of our 100’s of so called ‘friends’.

Unless we turn of the phone, and unplug from the net, how are we going to create a vast enough space within which to experiment and create genuine works of greatness, instead of fast-cooked-up rehashes of other peoples’ ideas? Surely there is a time and place for intense, super-efficient collaboration. But I feel it must be balanced with thoughtful, contemplative and spacious exploration and maturity.

Problem Solving

The smartphone culture is making us less reliant on basic skills including imagination and problem solving. We are becoming increasingly dependent on the apps and their instant answers. From basic navigation skills, knowledge about weights and measure, and so on: how much of our common sense skills can we afford to loose to our ‘second brains’?

With so many answers at the ready, are we not at risk of never really forming our own conclusions about things? Are we even questioning the truth of what we are receiving via all these mini context-de-robed news articles?

Could this progression from self-reliance to device-dependancy actually feed a longterm scenario where we are actually disempowering rather than empowering ourselves with this technology?

As a parent, I have wrestled to defend my home-space from the shiny eye-gloating allure of all these gadgets as they have inevitably found there way into our lives. TV and internet use are rationed, in a relaxed and informative way. My children are left to their own devices to explore need for change and stimulation. We provide them with limited resources, encourage them to roam outside, and to create things from nothing. They have learned to become ingenious, taking scraps of paper, cardboard, old clothes, and making fun out of them. How will these ‘nature’ children compare to those who have always had a nintendo-console-come-smartphone culture?

My prediction is that the younger we become habitual users of smartphone technology, the weaker we will become in terms of our mental strength, especially our sense of inner intellect, the choice-maker­ (called ‘Buddhi’ in ayurveda and yogic science). Without Buddhi we become: automatic, conditioned, mass-media-led, pawns in the machine. Ring any bells?

Smartphone KidsSocial Behaviour

It’s the weekend, I’m out with my family for a walk. We end up in a local tea shop. Opposite me, a family of four: the kids are both plugged into their smartphones or gameboys, heads down. Dad is texting someone at work, and mum is gazing across into space. No one is talking. No one is connecting. Is this a problem?

My experience in the home, with netbooks computers and two daughters discovering free online bird games, YouTube, etc., is that their mood might deteriorate, especially if they are interrupted from their immersed state. Frustration, possessiveness, irritability, mental fatigue, over-sensitivity; these are a few of the emotions I have witnessed.

Perhaps worse is the introversion and isolation that can ensue when someone becomes engrossed in their net-world, a world that is so utterly separate from the real one around them. There are obviously many dimensions to this topic.

Dependency & Addiction

We felt that there is a tendency to become addicted to the emotional reward of self-importance gained from people ‘liking’ us, contacting us etc. Does one become partially dependent on this vapid form of self-importance and the pleasure response it creates? If the smartphone is allowed to perform to its maximum potential, woe can be in an almost perpetual high, primed, distracted, anticipating our next nudge or poke. As the habit sets in, we now have a new lifestyle factor that is causing us to feel wired, mentally restless and fatigued.

And what happens when the network is unavailable, and you can’t consult your facebook page? The result is instantaneous boredom, a sign that we are mental overstimulated, exhausted even, and totally unused to simple time spent outside the virtual so-called-connected world.

It is already happening, talk of facebook rehab clinics or retreats are in the popular press.

Mental & Emotional Stability

Ayurveda predicts that overuse of smartphones or similar small portable computers would lead to an aggravation of vata dosha, particularly prana vayu, the aspect of vata that governs the senses and the mind.

Here is a list of different symptoms prana vayu aggravation:

  • Anxiousness
  • Brash behaviour
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Distracted mind
  • Emotionally disturbed
  • Emotionally withdrawn
  • Fearful
  • Feeling of isolation
  • Feeling of lonesomeness even when in a crowd
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Hyperactive body mind and senses
  • Hypersensitive emotionally
  • Indecisiveness
  • Insecurity
  • Irrational behaviour
  • Loss of confidence
  • Loss of enthusiasm
  • Mental agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Poor concentration (difficulty to focus mind)
  • Poor memory
  • Racing mind
  • Scattered mind
  • Self-destructive
  • Sense of helplessness
  • Sense of missing love
  • Thoughtless behaviour

Prana vayu controls all the faculties of vata. Once deranged, it can cause other imbalances of vata. For readers who are no familiar with ayurvedic thought, vata when aggravated causes disorders that represent increased qualities of dryness, lightness and coldness.

Electromagnetic Pollution

Another side effect of using smartphones etc. for increasing amounts of time is that we are experiencing increasing amounts of electromagnetic radiation. Should we be concerned about children using these devices? More on this in another blog article.

Conclusion

All of the above applies equally well to adults as it does to kids. But kids are more vulnerable, and habits made in our youth often form the basis for all that we build upon thereafter.

Well, I am exhausted just thinking about it. No doubt this article could be elaborated. I would love you comments and contributions. Please note that I have deliberately not listed the potential pros of our kids having their own smartphone. Since this ‘think tank’ had the unanimous sentiment that these devices are bad news, we just sought to explore our hunches in more detail.

Great video rap song about technology missuse

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Ayurvedic Relief For Receding Or Fragile Gums

Gandusha (mouth gargling)

Gandusha (gargling of the mouth) should be done frequently, using cold water, this removes Kapha, thirst, dirt and cleanses the interior of the mouth. Gargling with comfortable warm water removes Kapha, loss of taste, dirt, diseases of the teeth and bestows lightness of the mouth. It is not advisable to persons suffering from poison, fainting, alcoholism, consumption, bleeding disease, inflammation of the eyes, loss of (depletion) of wasted and who are dry. (Excerpt from Bhāvaprakāśa ch.5)

Many ailments of the mouth, teeth and head can be avoided by regular gargling. In addition to plain water gargling, there is a particularly good daily habit that benefits all people, especially Vata types, called Gandusha Snehana (oily mouthwash or oil pulling). It helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and keep the mouth and jaw clean and nourished. It can even treat mouth ulcers and the like. Here is the procedure:

- Put into your mouth: 10 ml pure un-toasted sesame oil along with about 50 ml of warm water and a ¼ tsp of pure honey.
– Hold in mixture with your mouth closed. Do not swallow!
– Swish the mixture around from time to time.
– Spit out the mixture after 5-10 minutes, or as soon as you start to notice increased saliva secretions, or a secretion starting to come out of the back of your nasal cavity into the throat.
– Rinse out your mouth with a little warm water.

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How much food should I eat according to Ayurveda?

According to Charaka Samhita, one of the oldest medical texts known to man, one of the most important factors in human nutrition is the quantity of food we eat at any one meal. This may be stating the obvious, yet my impression, albeit anecdotal, is that many folk lack a sense of self-understanding when it comes to hunger, which combined with socio-behavioral conditioning, results in a failure to consume ‘correct’ amounts of food. As I write this article, I am struck by the multi-factorial nature of this problem. Let’s look at what Charaka has to say on the subject.

One should eat in proper quantity. The quantity of food to be taken, again, depends upon the power of digestion. [Charaka Samhita - Volume 1 - Chapter 5 - Quantitative Dietetics - Sutra 3]

Charaka is saying that to know how much food to eat, we need to understand our digestive capacity, which according to ayurveda depends on your prakriti (body type), age, sex, activity levels, etc. Knowing your unique digestive capacity requires, above all, that you ‘listen to your body’ and learn how to interpret what it tells you.

The first thing to get to grips with is to learn to tell the difference between hunger and appetite. Both are required for optimal nutrition. Sadly, many people eat without really tuning in and asking “am I really hungry” and “am I feeling desire for eating food”. Normally, when we are balanced in body and mind, we experience both the physical and emotional sides of hunger.

Ayurveda invites us to experiment with this dual aspect of hunger and especially, if we are not experiencing physical hunger, to delay eating until we do. Though real life can be complicated, most of the time (excluding moderate to severe illnesses), it is best to fast from food until you feel genuine hunger before you next eat. By doing this, we create a baseline upon which to build our experience of hunger and satiation upon.

More importantly, by only eating with the pre-requisite of hunger, we ensure that the body is actually ready and primed for digestion. Basically, if you are not hungry, you are probably still processing the last meal you ate. Assuming your body is reasonably healthy, and assuming you are not overly distracted by whatever is going on in terms of sensory stimulation (receptivity) and activities such as talking, exercising etc, you will notice when you get hungry and attend to that urge.

Depending on your prakriti and your overall activity levels, the frequency at which an adult will get hungry will vary from 1-4 times a day. More that 4 times a day indicates that you are either eating insufficient quantities of foods at meal times, or, you are not eating enough nourishing foods. A second reason can be that you actually have an imbalanced metabolism, either caused by high vata or high pitta.

Most of the time, I find that prakriti produces the following hunger patterns in healthy moderately active adults who eat a moderate diet based on mainly whole foods:

Vata and vata-pitta types – 4 times a day
Pitta types – 3 times a day
Pitta-kapha types – 2-3 times a day
Vara-kapha types 2 times a day
Kapha types – 1-2 times a day

These are of course subject to individual variation.

The amount of food which, without disturbing the equili­brium (of dhatus and doshas of the body), gets digested as well as metabolised in proper time, is to be regarded as the proper quantity. [Sutra 4]

Here, Charaka is suggesting that if you eat a meal where the quantity is appropriate for your digestive capacity, you will experience smooth running digestion and metabolism, then get hungry again at the appropriate time for your unique body type and current levels of activity. My experience is that when my activity is regular, and my eating habits are stable, the more my hunger pattern becomes reliable and predictable. Daily variations aside, I believe that someone who can practically tell the time from their own level of hunger is someone who is showing signs of health, at least in terms of basic digestive harmony.

Many factors influence whether or not our doshas maintain composure while we digest a meal: quality of food, nature of food, emotional state while eating food, and the act of eating itself. But probably the most important factor is the quantity of food consumed, especially if we overeat. So if you often experience indigestion, look first at how much you are eat, and how often. Ask “am I hungry when i eat?” Find out if you are overeating. Normally, if you overeat, you will feel heaviness and perhaps sleepiness after meals. You may also get a feeling of chilliness after eating, reaching for another layer of clothing as your body is not able to allocate sufficient resources to both fuel digestion and periphery circulation.

It is not so, that the proper quantity of food does not depend upon the nature of food articles. If the food article is heavy, only three fourth or half of the stomach capacity is to be filled up. Even in the case of light food articles excessive intake is not conducive to the maintenance of the power of digestion and metabolism. [ 7 ]

Ayurveda, based largely on subjective self-observation, and the observation of others, finds that foods can be usefully categorised in terms of their heaviness. Heavy foods (guru) take longer to digest and more easily create a sensation of heaviness compared to lighter (laghu) foods which digestion more quickly. The following list gives a rough idea of relative heaviness of foods in increasing order from lightest to heaviest:

Fruit
Vegetables
Grains
Nuts & Seeds
Pulses
Dairy
Eggs
Fish
Light meat
Red meat

Clearly, a meat based meal is heavier than a plant based meal. So some adjustment has to be made to accommodate for the relative heaviness of the meal you are eating and the quantity you eat. Again, the onus is on you to listen, to be tuning in while you eat, so that you don’t go past the point of satiation. The notion that we ought not go past half to three-quarters stomach capacity is a good starting point. I find that providing I sit still, don’t talk too much, and chew my food thoroughly, my first burp tends to reliably indicate that I have eaten sufficient quantity. However, if that was a plate of steamed vegetables, I would expect to get hungry sooner than if I had eaten a plate of chicken curry, rice, and flat-bread.

A side note worth mentioning is that if the nature of food you eat is not adapted to your prakriti, you will not find a balanced hunger pattern. For example, if you are a pitta type (hot, oily type) and you eat too many sour, salty, pungent, or oily foods, you will be feeding fire too much fuel and it will cause you to feel overly hungry. Knowing what tastes and other qualities of foods best suit your body type is a separate subject, and most often treated in general public books on ayurveda.

Taken in appropriate quantity, food certainly helps the individual in bringing about strength, complexion, happiness and longevity without disturbing the equilibrium of dhatus and doshas of the body. [ 8 ]

Charaka is methodical. After laying down the notions on how to gauge the right quantity in terms of meal by meal experience, he goes on to include the long term signs of correct quantity. Take a look at how your body weight is doing, the quality of your skin, your overall energy levels and physical stamina. If you are overeating or under-eating, the result will be apparent: you will lack vitality and most likely be either over or under weight.

It is all well and good laying this groundwork, but how does it help in practice. This is where ayurveda comes in handy, as a way of life, we are encouraged to get to know ourselves on a deeper more intimate level and learn to listen to our innate wisdom, our bodies generally know what is best for us, providing we supply them with a natural context of space, time, whole-foods and nature.

Unfortunately, society is not always moving in a conducive direction when it comes to health and well-being. Hear is a recent Sunday Times news article about portion sizes in the UK:

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Ayurveda calls us towards our origins, highlights the ways in which modern life may or may not be so conducive to health and happiness, shows us ways of compensating for these challenges. First, notice! Start to watch yourself and you behavior with regards to food and eating. You can read a lot of stuff in a book, but unless you actually stop and observe your self, most of the dietary advice will not have a deep enough effect to help you in the long run.

A very simple tool you can try out is before during and after a meal, take a few moments to tune in to your stomach. Place your hands on you tummy. Close your eyes. Feel. Watch how you feel in your stomach. Identify how you feel: hungry, not-hungry, empty, sharp, dull, heavy, light, hot, cool, gnawing, blocked, etc. Do this at each main meal time and see how quickly you learn about your digestive capacity, your digestion, and the quantity of food that suits you best.

Alex Duncan

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Bodaka Kapha

I am reading a book called “Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccuping, and Beyond” by Robert R. Provine. Interesting that a substance called nerve growth factor (NGF) which is required for the development and survival of neurons, is found in highest concentration in the salivary glands. According to ayurveda, The subdosha of kapha that produces saliva is called ‘bodaka’ which means ‘provider of knowledge’. Need I say more!

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Physiological Effects of Sleep According to Ayurveda

Ayurveda places huge importance on getting enough sleep on a daily basis. My free e-booklet gives a good overview of the classical ayurvedic view of sleep. One of the less appreciated functions of sleep is the cleansing effect is has on the body’s tissues. According to ayurveda, vyana vayu (the aspect of vata responsible for circulation of all kinds) becomes more active in helping to collect wastes from our tissues and vital organs. This happens particularly between 2 and 6 am.

The following recent BBC news article reveals some recent research showing that the brain actually shrinks during sleep, and that the intracellular space increases. They have even discovered that the brain has its own special lymphatic system called the glymphatic system. While the theory is yet to be tested, speculation suggests that the brain uses sleep to help flush out wastes that accumulate during the day while it is busy in computation mode. Here is the link to the article:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24567412

Here is my free e-booklet about sleep:

Knowledge of Sleep (Nidana Vijnana) by Alex Duncan v1

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