How you eat is every bit as important as what you eat. Ayurveda states “you are what you digest” versus the common phrase most of us are familiar with, “you are what you eat”. When we prepare and eat our meals with satisfaction in mind and according to healthy digestive practices we begin to see the results of our intention: purity in the mind and body.
What is Sattvic?
Sattva is the energy of satisfaction, illumination, clarity, and harmony. The essential energy of the mind is sattva, a clear space of truth, contentment, and stability. Two other energies known as rajas, that which increases movement in the mind, and tamas, that which slows it down, act on this space of clarity.
Fortunately, sattva can be preserved simply by eating fresh and organic foods and by engaging in activities that promote harmony like yoga, meditation, and time in nature. Rajas increases with an excess of spicy, sour foods and activities that cause movement in the body or mind. Tamas increases with the intake of old and processed foods and activities that dull the mind like too much TV or alcohol.
Ahara rasa, also known as the nutritive liquid resulting from food being broken down in the digestive tract, is the building block of a balanced body. Digestion that is not functioning properly, or is slow and weak, causes 90% of all diseases.
The following practices can increase digestive power and a feeling of satisfaction after meals:
Slow down. When was the last time you asked yourself how you were feeling before you sat down and ate a meal? As mealtime approaches, take a moment to check in with your body. Are you feeling hot, cold, or dry in your mouth, nose, or skin? Any particular emotions coming through such as irritation, sadness, or anxiety? Simply taking note without any judgement encourages discernment, leading to better meal choices and an easier time of implementing the practices that follow.
Sit down. Are you someone who is always eating on the go? Sitting down and eating is just as important for the digestive system as it is for the mind. The organs relax and prepare to do their jobs when you sit. Take three deep breaths, focus on the activity at hand and give thanks for the food before beginning.
Quiet down. Eating and digesting suggests an ongoing downward movement of energy. When we talk and laugh during meals, it interrupts this flow of energy. Eating quietly will ensure that chewing, swallowing, and digesting operate smoothly down the line. Avoid meetings, phone calls, electronics, or reading during mealtimes.
Make lunch your biggest meal. As mentioned earlier, when you eat proves just as important as what you eat. Because your digestion peaks between 11am and 1pm, filling your plate with enough healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates to hold your energy for the day is crucial. Not eating enough can lead to relying on stimulants and adrenaline to get you through until dinner, which increases rajas, or restlessness, in the mind. Having a lighter meal at night will promote easy digestion and natural melatonin production. If you eat a large, heavy meal at night, this delays melatonin production making it harder to fall asleep and can lead to congestion, indigestion, and weight gain.
Eat only when hungry. The habit of eating to feed an overactive mind is very common. Begin by pausing before a snack to tune in to your stomach-is there real hunger? If you were to wait 10 minutes to eat, would the compulsion subside? More commonly, this craving to eat and snack comes at night when the mind is still hyperactive from your day. Comfort foods and sweets provide a heavy quality which makes sense why the body and mind would crave them more in the evening to induce rest and stability, however, this is a good time to choose more rejuvenative activities and perhaps begin your nighttime routine to replenish energy without taxing your gut.
Have consistent meal times. Your whole system, mind, and body, responds well to routine. Consistent meal times train the digestive juices when to show up prepared to work and at the appropriate times. The mind is then able to relax into the routine, free of wondering when and what the next meal will be. Regular mealtimes build trust between mind and body, showing the body that attention is being directed toward proper nourishment. If you’re a pet owner, you know how fussy animals can get when their meal times are held off. This can happen to us too on a more subtle level.
Eat light, or not at all, when angry or anxious. The ancient Vedic texts state that there are two prevalent emotions that are not ideal for digestion: worry and anger. When the mind is preoccupied with such turbulence, nothing will digest well. It is best to take warm liquids and wait until things calm down to eat.
Drink warm or room temperature water. Consuming ice cold water dampens the digestive fire (agni). Agni’s job is to process everything you take in, such as food, beverages, and sensory input. Hot water increases the digestive fire, resulting in a better breakdown and assimilation of everything we consume. Strong, supported agni will prevent food from being stored as fat, toxins, or fermented gaseousness in the gut.
Consuming ice water is similar to tossing water on a campfire: Damp smoke is released and the fire dies down. The smoke can be an analogy for poorly digested and assimilated food. With the fire dampened, what we consume can become toxins that clog up our mind and body channels and make us feel subpar.
Eat seasonal and local. Increase prana (energy, life force) by enjoying fresh foods that have had minimal processing and that haven’t traveled very far. Seasonal foods offer the qualities necessary to balance the current environment.
Ayurveda’s foundational prescription in addressing any imbalance is, “Like increases like and opposites balance.” This is fairly intuitive. For example, if you’re cold, put on a sweater and drink a mug of warm ginger tea. If it’s warm outside, eat cooling and hydrating foods like watermelon and cucumber.
This may feel like a lot of rules or suggestions but start small and choose just one or two at a time to try. Stick with it for about 3-4 weeks and then add another. When your body aligns with not only the foods you eat but when, how, and where you eat them, you will enjoy a belly free of gas, bloating, acidity, or inflammation and a mind full of contentment and clarity.
For more information on Ayurveda or questions on the above information, contact Coulee Health to schedule your Ayurvedic consultation with Kaitlin.
Ref. from: Everyday Ayurveda Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind By: @Kate O’Donnell
Ref. from: Kripalu.org
Kaitlin Gelbmann LMT, E-RYT 200, AWC