Ayurvedic Practices to Aid Digestion
Ayurveda is the ancient healing system that was founded in India thousands of years ago. It focuses on the balance between mind, body, and spirit as a way to keep you healthy, and when those three things are out of balance we become ill. So, how can keeping your mind, body, and spirit in balance aid your digestion?
The Ayurvedic teaching is very specific about how and when food and drinks should be consumed. While this system may not be realistic for some people, you can reap the benefits of incorporating a few of these simple practices into your day-to-day routine.
Basics of Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, there are five elements that dictate our inner and outer environments: wind, fire, space, water, and earth. These five elements are represented by three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, which dictate the way we behave and think.
People who are predominantly Vata tend to be very energetic and lively. Those who are mostly Pitta tend to be intelligent and intense. Kaphas are typically very stable and easy-going. Everyone has aspects of all three doshas in their system but usually have one or two which are dominant. When the dominant and inferior doshas are out of balance, we get sick. You can take this quick quiz to find out what your dosha combination is.
When treating someone, the first thing an Ayurvedic doctor will typically look at is their diet. The food a person eats has a great effect on their health, some foods can completely throw the doshas out of balance, causing illnesses. A large part of taking a look at a person’s diet is their digestion, if digestion is not working properly they will not be getting the most nutrition out of the food they eat.
Incorporating Ayurveda into your Routine for Healthy Digestion
There are many small behaviors you can add to your diet to help your digestive system work better and when you’re digesting properly, you feel better!
Eat sitting down, in a relaxed environment with no screens
With all of the things going on in our lives this can be a hard one to commit to, but it is very important according to Ayurveda. When you take the time to sit down and enjoy your meals, without distractions, you are able to tune into how much you are eating and enjoy your meal using all of your senses. This will ensure that you are not eating too much, as often happens if you eat in front of the computer or television.
Drink warm lemon water first thing in the morning
According to Ayurveda, drinking warm water with lemon first thing in the morning is a great way to jump-start your digestive system for the day. Before you eat or drink anything else, have a glass of warm water with a few slices of fresh lemon in it. This will set the tone for your digestive system for the rest of the day as it also helps to loosen the toxins that can get stuck in your digestive tract.
Avoid cold foods and drinks
Ayurveda believes that inside of each of us we have what is called agni, which is our digestive fire. Our agni is what helps us digest the foods we eat, if it is too high we will digest too quickly and if it is too low it will take us a long time to digest. If we drink cold beverages while eating, they essentially extinguish our digestive fire causing us not to digest properly. If we are eating cold foods, it will take too long for our agni to warm them up and in turn, take too long for our body to digest. Throughout the day, and especially during meals, it is best to drink lukewarm water and eat foods that are not ice-cold from the refrigerator.
Lunch should be the largest meal of the day
In Ayurveda, there is a belief that our agni (digestive fire) is at its strongest at the same time as the sun is at the highest point in the sky (from 12-2). Based on this, we should be eating our largest meal for lunch, when our bodies will have the easiest time digesting it. The later in the day you eat, the harder it is for your body to digest. You especially want to avoid eating right before bed (or after 8 pm), which is when your digestive fire all but shuts down for the night.
Eat only when hungry
It’s hard to avoid the three o’clock snack cravings, but most of the time those are just caused by boredom or even dehydration. In order for your body to digest properly, it is best for you to eat on an empty stomach (when your digestive enzymes are strongest.) You want your previous meal to be completely digested before you eat again, so it is best to space your meals 3-4 hours apart.
Incorporating even just one of these practices or ideas into your day-to-day routine will help you have a healthier, more regular digestive system. Ayurveda is a system that has been followed for over 5,000 years and has stayed relevant to how our bodies work for just as long. Adding some simple, new principles will help you live a smarter, happier life.
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"Ayurveda - The Science of Life." Chopra Center. The Chopra Center, n.d. Web.
"Digestion: Ayurvedic Self Care." VPK by Maharishi Ayurveda. Maharishi Ayurveda Products International, n.d. Web.