By Ava Wentzel, LMT, Ayurvedic Yoga Educator
It’s November and we are nearing the many feast days of the cold months! So, let’s get right into it.
Food is a sensitive topic for most of us because we all ultimately want to “do it right.” It’s very easy to fall into a spiral and become overwhelmed with emotions like shame, guilt, and regret due to our relationship or engagement with food. So, let’s take a moment to consider Ayurveda’s general perspective on food.
EXIT: Counting calories.
ENTER: Prioritizing quality.
It may very well be uncomfortable to imagine ignoring the calories in something we consume, but ancient Ayurvedic wisdom teaches us that the only true concerns we need have when it comes to what we eat are:
1. Is my body sensitive to or intolerant of this food?
2. Will this food balance me?
3. Is there Prana in this food?
What we want to do is assess the quality of our food. We want to know where our food is coming from, how it was cultivated, how much energy it will give us, and how it will impact our body and mind.
If we are eating foods that our body is telling us we can’t handle (and it will tell us, we just need to practice listening and learning its messages) what we are essentially doing is throwing our homeostasis off. When we force our body systems into overdrive just so it can try to break down, process, and assimilate a food we are intolerant of, we might notice anything from acne to IBS. Whatever the messages your body gives you, however loud or quiet, remain attentive to them — these are indicators of how you can show up for your body in a more supportive way in the future, by avoiding or lessening your consumption of these foods.
EATING TO MAINTAIN BALANCE
In Ayurveda, everything we do either brings us closer to or pulls us away from our true nature; We use the Gunas or “qualities” to determine which impact our food will have on our body. The Twenty Gunas (which are ten pairs of opposite qualities) are: heavy/light, sharp/dull, hot/cold, oily/dry, slimy/rough, dense/liquid, soft/hard, mobile/stable, gross*/subtle, cloudy/clear. *The word “gross,” in this context, refers to something immediately obvious and visible without difficulty, large in size.
For example, if we are congested we are probably experiencing qualities like heavy, dull, and cold. So what we need are foods that introduce the light, sharp, and hot qualities.
Some Heavy/Dull/Cold Foods — cheeses, wheat, dairy, cashews, yogurt, milk, ice cream, meats, avocados, dates, sweet potatoes, eggs, cucumbers, okra, potatoes.
Some Light/Sharp/Hot Foods — Onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, chilis, lettuce, turnips, lemons, kiwis, ginger, cloves, cayenne, mustard greens.
Like increases like & opposites balance.
Drinking an iced latte in the middle of winter when you have a cold will only increase the qualities that perpetuate congestion and sluggishness. Alternatively, drinking a hot tea of ginger, lemon, and honey will counteract the qualities already present in your body.
You might be familiar with the quote from Michael Pollan, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This quote illustrates an approach to food that is incredibly Ayurvedic, but specifically the last part, “mostly plants,” is what deserves our attention when talking about Prana.
Prana is life-force. It is the energy of our food, obtained from the Sun (our one true celestial power source). Suffice it to say, if we want to experience a life full of energy and potency, we need to consume Prana. The way I ensure that I’m consuming Prana is by asking myself if what I am about to eat was grown/cultivated in nature under the Sun? As the Sun is our great sustainer, our eternal flame, our OG AA Battery, we want to fuel our bodies with foods that have inherited as much of its power as possible. This will enable us to show up for our lives fully and enthusiastically.
Canned and frozen foods have some Prana, but much has been lost in the process of canning/freezing. Most processed and packaged foods do not have Prana. Leftovers have less Prana than food that is freshly cooked. The less time it takes for food to get from the field to your plate, the more Prana you will end up eating.
Consider this . . .
How does your body react to foods you are intolerant of?
When you notice that you are feeling unbalanced, do you choose foods that make you feel better or worse?
Does the food you eat make you feel energized and nourished from within?
Life is for the living, and we should absolutely enjoy the tasty pleasures that bring us joy. Ayurvedic wisdom shows us the way, but it doesn’t demand we live a life of rigidity. It merely suggests moderation and awareness.
I am very much looking forward to plates and plates (and plates) of stuffing, pumpkin pie, Malley’s chocolate-covered pretzels, green bean casserole, chocolate chip cookies, cheese platters, coffee for dessert, and much much more. And I will be eating many holiday meal leftovers! Try and stop me!
The beautiful thing is, Ayurveda would never.
Let us remain present, mindful, and affectionately understanding.
And let us FEAST!
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
(Om, Peace, Peace, Peace)
For more Ayurvedic insights, follow me on Instagram @Avaleben