By Emma Hanson, English Literature MA
The Croft // In the third webinar of Transcendental Meditation Society’s ‘360 Degree Wellbeing’ webinar series, Penny Barnett talked about the Indian healing system of Ayurveda and the importance of a balanced diet.
Penny has worked as a nutritional therapist for 15 years, and follows the Indian healing system of Ayurveda to inform her recommendations.
Ayurveda, the science of life
Ayurveda, meaning ‘the science of life’, is an ancient healing system based on traditional medicine that dates back thousands of years. It focuses on eating or restricting certain foods based on your body type, or dosha.
The three body types have different qualities associated with them, and you can easily find your own body type by finding a ‘Dosha Quiz’ online.
Vata = dry, light, cold, rough
Pitta = oily, hot, sharp, mobility
Kapha = heavy, slow, oily, dense
The Ayurvedic diet aims to balance out the qualities attributed to each body type. For each body type, certain attributes are more prominent than others, and our wellbeing can be affected when these attributes become imbalanced. For example, if you are predominantly kapha, you may be slow, especially in the morning.
A full English breakfast would increase your disruptive attributes, but having a warm ginger tea stimulates your system and digestive fire in the morning. In-depth information regarding the foods which are best for balancing out each body type can easily be found online.
Principles of healthy eating
Having a balanced and healthy diet is one thing, but if you feel stressed while eating you won’t receive the full benefits of your food. Stress can cause indigestion, heartburn and tiredness which over time can cause inflammation and disease. Ayurveda includes principles for how to enjoy your food, as a calm disposition allows full absorption of its benefits.
1. Chew your food thoroughly – the digestive process starts in the mouth.
2. Eat in a settled environment and quiet atmosphere, with a settled mind. Your company and environment should be pleasant. Aim to not work, scroll on your phone, or watch TV during meals.
3. Always sit down to eat, and at roughly the same time each day – this is especially important for Pitta and Vata types.
4. Don’t eat too quickly nor too slowly (about 20 minutes is ideal) and without interruption.
5. Eat to about three quarters of your stomach capacity at your biggest meal; this equals the amount of your two cupped hands full.
6. Do not eat or drink an excessive amount of cold drinks or cold food – this will put out your digestive fire.
7. If you want to drink anything with your meals, it is best to sip a little warm water. Also, avoid drinking large quantities of liquids right before, or within the first two hours after a meal.
8. To meet the minimum requirements for water, drink six to eight glasses each day (at room temperature or warm). You may need to increase this during hot or dry weather when exercising or during times of high stress. If the colour of your urine is dark yellow, drink more water, if colourless, drink less. Do not drink excessive amounts (keep below three to four litres per day).
9. It is best not to heat or cook with honey; heat destroys it and makes it toxic.
10. It is best not to eat when the mind is dominated by strong emotions such as anger, worry or sorrow. Wait until it has become more settled since the digestive system does not work properly under stress.
11. Sleeping straight after meals causes sluggishness and increases body weight. However, it is good to rest for about 10 minutes after meals and, if possible, to go for a 10 to 15-minute walk after that.
12. Never eat just before going to bed. To avoid developing sleeping disorders, there should be at least three hours between eating and sleeping. If your bedtime is 10pm, eat no later than 6pm.
We’ve all had a rushed ready meal before a lecture, and it’s not always possible to sit down and quietly enjoy a meal during deadline season, but even incorporating a few of these principles into your mealtimes can help you maximise the benefits of your food and improve your overall wellbeing.
Featured image: Epigram / Robin Ireland