The Ayurvedic system focuses on 3 pillars of life — diet, sleep and the correct use of energy — and says your dosha type helps determine the best path to follow.
I KNEW I WAS a combination of pitta/kapha, two of the three doshas — body and energy types — in the Ayurvedic system of nutrition and wellness. I think I took an online test.
But I never knew what the doshas meant.
Ayurveda is an Indian philosophy and health system, and I wanted to know more. I met up with fellow yoga teacher Jodi Boone, an Ayurvedic practitioner who has studied in India.
Boone greeted me with a cup of tea. She started the assessment by walking me through the basics of the Ayurvedic system, pointing out the three pillars of life.
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The first pillar is diet; the kitchen is the pharmacy, she says. The second pillar is sleep, and the third pillar is the right use of energy, spending your time on things you love and find meaningful.
It’s a holistic system that looks at the body and mind as one, she says. Diseases come from imbalance, and we also experience imbalance daily, such as feeling tired, rundown or stressed.
The three doshas — kapha, pitta and vata — guide you on how food can help you regulate.
• A vata type tends toward dry, rough skin; is often physically thin, light and airy; and has more difficulty focusing.
• A pitta is proportionate in height and weight; tends to run warm; and is often highly intelligent, organized and goal-oriented, though possibly impatient.
• Lastly, a kapha type tends toward a stocky build and thicker skin, and puts on weight more easily. Kaphas move through the world at a slower pace, speaking and acting more steadily; they tend to be homebodies, Boone says.
All three doshas are represented in us, with one or two dominating. To confirm my doshas, Boone asked me about my digestion, how I worry, my sleep habits and whether I am more often warm or cold. She also checked my temperature, pulse, nails and tongue. She confirmed what I thought: pitta dominant, with kapha runner-up.
Each season also has a related dosha, and she says you can eat to the season. People often feel sluggish or tired in spring, which is tied to kapha, Boone says. I had been feeling tired and stuffy from a lingering cold; excess mucus is common in the spring. She recommended I experiment with a kapha diet for a week.
My goal was to eat warm, dry food, focusing on bitter, astringent and pungent flavors with lots of spices, and cutting back on oil, including heavy, oily fish and nuts. She handed me a list to get me started.
Some elements of the list already were intuitive — eating almost no dairy, and cooking vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Other elements were challenging — I seldom eat beans, but they are good for absorbing moisture for kapha, she says. I was thrilled raw honey was on the list. Kaphas also can have coffee. Hallelujah.
Additionally, the Ayurvedic system recommends cooked foods, cutting processed foods, and warm beverages — cold water douses your digestive fire. Drinking warm beverages was easy at home, but more difficult when I was out. I follow some of the other recommended practices, like daily meditation and movement. I attempted to add others, like chewing each bite 32 times. I cut back on salads, and slowed down my meals, with moderate success.
I chose spiced chickpeas and cauliflower one day, drank peppermint tea with honey every night and skipped oily avocado. I struggled on other days to eat appropriately, especially when I was on the go.
But even with partial adherence, my sinuses cleared up on the days I stayed in the sweet spot of the list. I had more energy without sleeping more. I credit my nightly peppermint tea.
What I liked most was having a system that gave me structure on how to eat. If I am having digestive distress, I eat pitta. If I am congested or tired, I eat kapha. If things feel good, enjoy your life, Boone says.
That’s a nutritional system I can work with.