Yoga is for everyone!
We are in the height of the Vata season (see my previous post on the seasons and how they affect our metabolism). Ayurveda has great advice on how to stay balanced during this challenging time, even if your primary dosha is not Vata, because everyone has some Vata in their constitution, and this time of the year it often gets out of balance.
What are the signs that your Vata is aggravated? You may experience dry skin, constipation, gas, crackly and painful joints, stiffness or hyper-mobility, or both simultaneously in different parts of the body. On the mental level Vata aggravation brings with it anxiety, scattered mind, insomnia, irregular levels of energy (sudden spells of fatigue inter-spaced by manic activity), cold hands and feet. People whose dominant dosha is Vata would experience these symptoms more, sometimes to the degree that you become the embodiment of Vata out of balance.
Through diet and lifestyle changes we can bring greater balance to our lives. Keeping to a schedule, going to bed on time, regular nourishing meals and routine, less exposure to overstimulating TV or reading, slow-paced Yoga that doesn't drain or dissipate your energy but instead leaves you grounded. I have created a separate post on that - Yoga for Vata Dosha.
In this post I would like to discuss diet. Even though I am not a dietitian, let me put the disclaimer out right off the bat, I have studied enough of Ayurveda to know that diet has a profound effect on our well-being, our physical and metal state. It all begins in the gut with our microbiome, and I am glad to see that modern science is finally catching up to what the ancient Ayurvedic practitioners have discovered ages ago: people are different, and the same food would be digested differently by people of different constitutions. They called the microbiome in our gut "humours", but the concept is the same - you are not alone. You have "others", trillions of them, living inside you and eating the same stuff you are eating. What you eat nourishes some of them, and so you in a way foster a certain environment in your gut through natural selection - they called that the Vikriti, or your current state of balance/imbalance.
But we are also born with a certain genetic make-up that we inherit from our parents, primarily the mother, and the genes of your microbiome outnumbers you by more than a 100 times. That is called the Prakriti in Ayurveda - the traits and characteristics that assert themselves regardless of what you eat. That is why, claims Ayurveda, the same food is digested very differently by different people - the bacteria/humours in your gut. And recent research seems to support this assertion.
With this view in mind, and by listening to our body's response to the food that we eat, through self-study, we can move towards a more balanced state, where the food we eat and the activities we engage in are actually nourishing us, instead of depleting. I will write separate posts for Kapha and Pitta doshas when their season rolls around, so for now - what works best for a Vata?
If you remember from my previous post, Vata is dry, light, and cold, and since "like" increases "like", every time you eat something that has these properties, you are only making it worse. The funny thing is that the microbiome in your gut craves exactly that which sustains it, so if you are in a state of imbalance, you will crave things like potato chips, popcorn (light), lettuce and carrots (cold and crunchy), as well as crackers, dry fruit, or corn flakes (dry). In order to dig your way out of this rut, Vatas need to plan ahead (I know, it's hard, but so worth it!) and cook a warm, nourishing, heavy meal, like soup. Always pressed for time, because Vatas don't manage time well due to their absent-mindedness and lack of self-organization, it can be a challenge in and of itself just to slow down enough to cook something. But there is a reward in a big pot of soup - it lasts a few days and only gets better with time! So by spending a bit of time now, you will save yourself time and possible digestive upsets later.
Here is a classic recipe:Pan-fry in some virgin olive oil or ghee onion, leeks, carrots, celery, one small potato finely diced. When softened, add grated celery root or beats(or both), Swiss chard, spinach, or some other leafy green or shredded cabbage. Let soften in the pan. You can add a ladelful of broth if it begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile bring a pot of water to boil. If I have a chicken carcass from the night before, I make chicken broth by boiling the carcass. Take the carcass, if using, out, and dissolve one package of condensed cream of anything soup (organic, sold at Whole Foods and other stores, such as cream of chicken soup or cream of mushroom). Then add the pan-fried vegetables. Optional: throw in some barley or small whole-wheat pasta into the soup. Boil gently for 15-20 minutes. Turn the heat off and throw in some herbs, such as parsley or dill. Let stand 10 minutes before eating. This soup can be made with different ingredients, like mushrooms, green beans, squash, whatever you have. Makes many bowls of soup to reheat for lunch. Serve with a tablespoon or two of raw, unprocessed oil such as hemp, flax or coconut.
OIL plays a big role in Vata-pacification. Applying to your skin, consuming good quality and many different kinds of oil has been my salvation for years now. And no, it doesn't make you fat.
I am including a few links for further self-study. Keep your feet on the ground!