Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga and learning Ayurveda can be the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle in terms of promoting good health. Ayurveda means knowledge of life and the ancient texts of Ayurveda can give incredible insight into our relationship with the World around us.
Ayurveda is a qualitative practice rather than quantitative and when discussing the subject of diet it teaches about the qualities of the food, rather than counting calories or amounts of vitamins and minerals. Ayurveda notifies us that each of the qualities has a specific action upon the body. By putting all six tastes on every plate, we naturally get a full range of nutrients and promote important activities within the body such as enzyme production, detoxification, healing and restoring spent energy.
First let us look at these six categories of taste/food.
- Sweet taste
- Sour taste
- Salty taste
- Pungent/Hot taste
- Bitter taste
- Astringent taste
Each of the above categories of taste/food has an effect upon the body. What are these effects and which foods fall into the categories above?
- The Sweet (Madhura) taste is found in many foods. In fact, foods in general are sweet and this is why they nourish us. But some foods are more sweet/nourishing than others. The nourishing foods build energy and ground the body, providing a counter to the stresses and strains of daily life. These are grains, oils, sweet fruits and root vegetables. Add these foods to every meal.
- The Sour (Amla) taste is found in vinegar dressings, chutneys, yogurts, sour fruits and fermented foods. The sour taste promotes healthy digestion. Have a little sour food with every meal.
- The Salty (Lavana) taste is found in sea foods, salt water fish, seaweeds and naturally salty foods. The salty taste is heating and aids elimination and helps calm the nerves. Having a littlenaturally salty foods within your diet is helpful. Salt does not need to be added to foods and salt is generally over consumed. So take heed not to over use, especially if you have high blood pressure.
- The Pungent/Hot (Katu) taste is found in onions, garlic and spices. The pungent taste clears sinuses, dispels gas and increases digestive capacity. Add a little spice to each meal.
- The Bitter (Tikta) taste is found in green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach etc. Adding the bitter foods to each meal will help detoxify the body naturally and remove excess weight.
- The Astringent (Kashaya) taste is found in beans and legumes. The most easily digestible way to eat beans is mung dhal. Fabulous recipes can be found on the web. Make sure you soak the beans well (with a little asafoetida or seaweed) to remove the wind producing qualities of the beans. Then rinse well before cooking. The astringent taste is wound healing and encourages good body tone. Have a little dhal with each meal too.
The Serenity Prayer always reminds me of the link between Yoga and Ayurveda. ‘God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (Yoga), the courage to change the things I can (Ayurveda) and the wisdom to know the difference’. Once you know when you can use yoga and when you can implement Ayurveda you have two of the sharpest tools in the box to keep the body and mind strong, healthy and happy.