Ayurveda – Initial Explorations
A few weeks back I met with an Ayurvedic health counselor and it started me on a bit on an exploration of Ayurveda which inspired some thoughts.
One of the reasons I went was because I was interested in its take on my weather sensitivity. I’ve always been extraordinarily in tune with the weather and its changes and moods. When I was younger it was simply an uprush of energy as storms came in and general mood connections to the weather patterns. As I grew older it morphed into more elaborate and annoying trends. Difficulty sleeping during big weather shifts, lightheaded feelings during increasing temperatures, etc. And, in general, things that in an early time would have earned me an honored place as the weather shaman.
Just to share a classic example that happened recently. I was having lunch with a friend on a sunny spring day. There was no rain in the forecast, yet I told her it was going to rain soon. She laughed and said I crazy. Then while the sun was still out it started raining for about 10 minutes lightly before stopping again. (I decided to not perform my “I’m Right and You’re Wrong Dance” then….)
Now what was interesting to me was the recommended treatment was not herbs but adjusting my diet according to my constitution which is Vata-Pitta. I’m not going to go into the details here of doshas because there are plenty of resources on line about it but you can think about it as wind and fire. I was told that both my Vata was very unbalanced and my Pitta was as well, but we’d start on working on balancing the Vata. And I was given a list of foods to favor and foods to avoid and told to experiment for a month.
In my first couple of weeks, I’ve actually noticed some interesting changes. My dreams kicked into overdrive, my sleep changed for the better and most interestingly I was surprised by two rainstorms. I haven’t been surprised by a rainstorm EVER. I’m not saying everything is perfect given that I’m only a couple of weeks into this and merely by favoring certain vegetables, grains, etc. over other ones I’m noticing such a change is completely fascinating and something that should be and obvious extension from my herbalism studies but somehow seems to be ignored.
When diet is wrong medicine is of no use.
When diet is correct medicine is of no need.
In herbalism, we often talk about energetics of people and energetics of medicinal plants. (Is it cooling, heating, etc.) But rarely diet and when I’ve seen dietary discussion it is often around the axis of Paleos, Raw food and/or Vegetarian/Vegans. But not in terms of the energetics of food plants – which is interesting because given the relative quantities of food plants we ingest weekly versus any amount of medicinal tinctures, teas, etc. – thus the effects of their energetics would be profound.
On one level it is a tribute to medicinal plants that they can have such a powerful effect despite that. On another level I believe we do a disservice to people in ignoring diet and the energetics of food plants in terms of how they affect health.
I’m not necessarily implying a strict adoption of the systems of Ayurveda, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, in looking at foods. And even within those systems (just as in Western Herbalism assessments of medicinal plants) there are different schools and interpretations of how things get categorized energetically. But it is worth thinking about more and exploring how to include thinking about food, diet and attitudes about food as well.
Food for thought so to speak…
References of Note:
- Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution by Robert Svoboda. Which made for an excellent overview and I particularly liked how it looks at emotional, physical, psychological and energetics of you and food and how they work together. What it lacks is how to truly put it into practice but it is really not intended for that purpose but more of a philosophic overview and it does that well enough.
- Ayurveda: A Life of Balance by Maya Tiwari. A more substantial examination of the theory, foods and includes recipes. Much of her discussions of food, preparation of food and how to maintain your kitchen and your life for harmonious health are incredibly beautiful and inspirational. And overall, most of it is highly unlikely to be incorporated into most people’s daily lives – certainly not mine. But it can be a nice touchstone to remind you when your inner compass has gone askew because of the pulls of normal Western living. One of the things I really liked about the book was how the charts looking at the energetics of food according to your were broken down into the categories of Major (most helpful), Minor (less helpful but still helpful) and Regressive. Which I think works better than the chart I was initially given saying merely favor or avoid – a little too binary for me.
- The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar. Briefer theory section than the other two because it is primarily a cookbook (in case the title didn’t clue you in.) I found the charts and symbol system less useful and less intuitive than Tiwari’s book but still a good resource as well.
I’ll certainly be reading, studying and learning more over time…