Rejuvenate Your Body and Soul
BY Advocate Contributors
December 31 2010 2:00 PM ET
Avoid Cooking in Oil
In our culture it is popular to fry, sauté, or roast foods in oil. Why wouldn’t it be? Many people find food cooked in oil to be very tasty. However, cooking food in oil heats the food to a point that destroys its nutritional value and builds up carcinogens that have been found in the Western world to cause cancer and add to obesity. Ayurvedic science shares this view and attributes many of the imbalances that have developed in the West to the abundance of foods cooked in oil.
However, this is not to say that we shouldn’t consume oil. Quite the contrary. Oil is an important part of keeping the body well lubricated for proper digestion and elimination. Instead of cooking foods in oil, though, it is good to cook with water (steam) and then add the oil after the food is cooked. There are many beneficial oils, but a few more potent ones are: sesame oil (for Vata), coconut oil (for Pitta), and mustard oil (for Kapha). Olive, flaxseed, and sunflower are also good oils.
Drink Hot Water
Another staple of modern life is to drink icy cold beverages throughout the day. The body, as we all know, maintains a temperature of nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The digestive fire must exist at a comparable level of heat to be able to function well. When we consume these icy beverages, be it water or another item like soda or beer, the digestive fire not only must perform its normal duties, it must also assimilate the beverage into the body’s overall temperature. This weakens the fire, which means that food is not completely digested. With this weaker fire, we experience gastrointestinal issues like indigestion, constipation, acidity, and headaches.
The best way to avoid diluting the digestive fire is to favor hot or room temperature water as the primary beverage of choice over soft drinks, alcohol, or ice water. Even people with an abundance of heat in the body because of a Pitta imbalance would benefit from favoring hot water over cold, as the extra work involved in consuming the cold beverages exacerbates the issues related to excessive heat.
Avoid Drinking Too Much During Meals
We often like to wash our food down with a nice beverage. Consuming too much liquid while eating, however, puts out the digestive fire, much as water puts out a fire in the outside world and hampers it from burning as efficiently as it should. This leads to problems in a similar way that drinking cold beverages does. If you are inclined to drink beverages while eating, favor hot water or ginger tea over other choices as much as possible. During the meal, sip on your water and drink only enough to help digestion. If you feel full or bloated, however, you have drunk too much. Excess Vata energy will require more water, Pitta a little less, and Kapha very little.
Regulate Your Sleep
Ayurveda assigns doshic energy qualities not only to our bodies and minds, but also to certain times of the day. Each time of day is thought to be of a quality of either Pitta, Kapha, or Vata. Between about 2 and 6 in the morning tends to be Vata, between 6 and 10 a.m. is Kapha, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is Pitta. The cycle then repeats, with 2 p.m. beginning the next Vata cycle, and so on.
Why is this significant? If we wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. during the Vata cycle, we are ensuring the greatest chance for activity and motion for the rest of the day. The evening Kapha cycle lasts from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., so it is suggested that we go to bed by 10 p.m. when the more relaxing and calming Kapha energy is most prominent and will aid in sleep. If we regulate our sleep to wake up and go to sleep at consistent times and also to use these doshic guidelines, then we create a greater opportunity for balance and peace in our bodies and minds.
Avoid Heating the Head
Whenever we go into saunas and other environments of extremely high temperature, we’re creating a lot of heat in the head. Given that our bodies exist at a certain temperature, applying such large amounts of heat to the head creates an excess of Pitta energy and thus adds anger and fear to the mind. It is best to avoid such extreme forms of heat like saunas, hot sunshine, and exercises like Bikram yoga so as to ensure balance, calm, and peace as we go through the day. As noted above in our discussion of violence, any extreme environmental condition challenges our bodies to maintain equilibrium and causes disharmony. Extreme heat also challenges our bodies to maintain the proper amount of digestive fire.
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