In ayurveda, our natural or first form of medicine is the food we eat. It is the foundation of our wellbeing. However, says David Frawley, ‘A yogic diet has a different purpose to an ayurvedic diet and the two should not simply be equated. Ayurveda seeks to bring health and balance to the physical body; yoga aims at helping us transcend body consciousness.’ Most of us need to focus on our bodily health first, before taking it to the next level. While ayurveda does not recommend raw-food diets (except for short detoxes) as they are harder to digest, traditional yogic disciplines do favour a light menu of raw foods and fasting. However, you need a strong digestive fire to attempt a raw diet. For a general practitioner of yoga, a balance of cooked and raw foods, or a tridoshic diet (one that balances all three doshas), is recommended.
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Lentil dhal and rice, or the traditional kundalini yoga staple of kitchadi (mung beans and rice) is the ultimate ayurvedic balancing meal. For this recipe you’ll have to wait for my next article on Conscious Eating. For the advanced yogi, ‘Raw foods are rich in prana, and cleanse not only the physical body but the subtle body combined with asana and pranayama, mantra and meditation,’ says Frawley. It is naturally a good idea to detox if you are seriously entering a yogic routine. Your diet should support your practice, giving you bountiful energy, not leaving you depleted Warm milk is a key ingredient in both yogic and Ayurvedic menus. Boiled with a little ginger, cardamom and cinnamon, it improves longevity and boosts the immune system. Try a small shot of milk with one tablespoon of sesame oil and a dab of honey. It is an good way to get oils into our bodies, feeding flexibility and giving a sustainable energy boost.
Dr Sapna Rajesh. an ayurvedic practitioner in Kerala, says; ‘In conjunction with ayurveda. meditation gives you your divine shine’.’ When it comes to meditation, again it is our approach rather than the technique that is important. Vata types tend to need to practise yoga before they can sit cross-legged and empty their often overwrought and anxious minds. Similarly kaphas need to be awakened through their practice so they don’t fall asleep! Pitta types have good focus for meditation and can channel their mental energy in a positive way. For them, the goal is to release their inner anger and constant drive which will naturally hamper them in meditation. Vatas can get spaced out quickly with meditation. Try this grounding meditation from the kundalini tradition as taught by Yogi Bhajan. Kneel with both arms raised above the head, palms together and fingers crossed with the index finger pointing upwards – this is Sat Kriya posture. Chant “Sat Nam’ which means ‘I am Truth” three times. Each time pull the navel back towards the spine with the ‘Sat’ and release it on the ‘Nam’.
After three repetitions, move the hands quickly to heart level and chant ‘Wahe Guru’. Repeat this for just two minutes. Another meditation which can help reassure anxious vatas is the “mother principle’ meditation. Gururattan Kaur says in her book Sex and Spirituality, “The principle of the mother is primal power, coziness, care and protection.” This meditation gives you courage. Sit in easy pose with fists at heart level – left palm down, right palm up. Extend the mercury (little) finger of the left hand and hook onto the right thumb, pulling slightly. Focus at brow point and chant “Aima” for 11 minutes. Pittas need to look inside themselves to reveal their truth. Simply meditating while chanting silently “Sat Nam’ will reawaken the soul. Also, try the ecstasy meditation from Yogi Bhajan. Sit in easy pose with hands in Gyan Mudra (thumb to index finger) with straight elbows. Focus at the crown and chant “Wahe Guru’. Gururattan Kaur says it is ‘like the merging of a raindrop into a vast, calm beautiful lake. You can know the extent of living in yourself.’ Kaphas often need mantra and breathwork to keep them inspired and awake during meditation. Breath of fire stimulates heat and the ability to transform food into energy. It works on the nervous system and can boost self-esteem. According to ayurvedic author Vasant Lad, performed for just five minutes it is the equivalent of running two miles! Straighten the spine and rapidly breathe in and out through the nose with emphasis on the exhale. As you exhale, pump your navel back towards the spine, as you inhale, let the belly release.
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