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Eating. This is something that all living organisms must do in order to survive. We don’t give it much consideration because it appears as automatic as breathing, sleeping, or walking. However, as one delves more into the health issues of the twenty-first century, one discovers that many people suffer from digestive problems such as hyperacidity, indigestion, constipation, sluggish digestion, and/or gastroesophageal reflux condition, to name a few. The majority of us are probably missing something called food sadhana. Sadhana is Sanskrit for spiritual practice or the act of sanctifying something. Food sadhana takes us back into the present moment while making and eating meals. To support optimal health and joy, we must rediscover the art of eating. Fortunately, Ayurveda provides what are known as Guidelines for Healthy Eating, which provide a road map for us all to properly consume and digest meals. Below are 15 Healthy Eating Guidelines that we recommend gradually incorporating into your everyday practice. Choose only one or two rules to attempt each week, and after those are second nature, add one or two more.
EAT FOOD MADE BY LOVING HANDS IN A LOVING MANNER.
Food sadhana happens when food is cooked with loving hands. Food sadhana is the practice of bringing sacred energy into the kitchen. When food is cooked with love and mindfulness, it contains prana, or positive life force energy. The end result is a sattvic (harmonious) dinner that can be savored.
PRAY FOR GRACE BEFORE MEALS
You do not have to be religious to follow this rule. Simply sit and take three deep belly breaths before consuming any food, praising the food for its presence and ability to nourish your body.
FOOD SHOULD BE EATEN IN THE APPROPRIATE PLACE
The setting in which one eats has an impact on digestion. As a result, Ayurveda recommends that the surroundings be calm, tranquil, and pleasant, devoid of emotional tension and/or strain, for proper, healthy digestion.
So, for all pitta types, this means that all political arguments should take place AWAY FROM THE DINNER TABLE!
FOOD SHOULD BE EATEN WITHOUT INTERFERENCE.
Being preoccupied while eating diminishes the holiness of the meal itself. Food is a gift that replenishes our prana, or life force energy. We must eat with regard for the plants and minerals that comprise our meals. Try eating at a table or outside in nature. Begin with one meal per day, then two meals per day, and finally all meals per day. Take modest steps and you will succeed!
FOOD SHOULD BE EATEN WITH THE RIGHT MINDSET.
The mind should be at ease. If you are furious, overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed, meditate before your meal to bring your mind back into equilibrium.
THE FOOD SHOULD BE WARM.
Warm foods digest more easily than cold ones, and they also assist ignite our agnis, or digestive fire. An exception to this rule is if it is pitta season (summer) and agni is high, in which case cold foods can be ingested to cool and detoxify the body.
FOOD THAT IS OILY OR MOIST SHOULD BE EATEN
According to the ancient Ayurvedic scripture Charaka Samhita:
“One should take unctuous food; unctuous food is delicious; after intake, it provokes the subdued power of digestion; it gets digested quickly; it helps in the downward movement of vata; it increases plumpness of the body, strengthens the sense faculties, promotes strength & brightens complexion”
AVOID ICED DRINKS.
Ayurveda advises against drinking cold beverages, especially before meals. Ice water weakens the digestive fire, or agni, which is required for optimal digestion. As a rule, I don’t drink ice water in the fall, winter, or spring, but in the summer, if I’m camping, working, or playing in the hot heat, I’ll add 1 or 2 ice cubes in my water. When you begin to refrain from drinking ice water, you will be surprised to discover that drinking ice water again will be an unpleasant shock to your system, and you will wonder why it is customary to serve ice water at restaurants.
LIQUIDS SHOULD BE TAKEN IN SMALL AMOUNTS WITH MEALS.
Large amounts of drinks should be avoided during meals because they, too, diminish the digestive fire. Ayurveda suggests drinking roughly a half cup of room temperature water, with changes according on how dry (think bread) or moist (think soup) the meal is. Ayurveda, believe it or not, permits a small amount of wine to be consumed during a meal.
FOOD SHOULD NOT CONTAIN CONTRARY POTENCIES.
pairing hot and cold foods, for example, is forbidden in Ayurveda, as does pairing fresh fruit with other dishes. Fruit, according to Ayurveda, should be had separately from meals, as a snack. The logic behind this is because certain combinations will be tough to digest and will cause ama or toxins to build up within the body.
FOOD SHOULD BE EATEN WITH CERTAINTY.
You should constantly feel good about yourself and the foods you eat and put into your body. According to Ayurveda, self-confidence influences the internal energies of the body and aids in digestion. A lack of self-confidence can actually excite the neurological system, causing anxiety and overload, which can have a direct impact on the digestive system. When digestion or agni is not functioning properly, ama or poisonous build-up might occur. Thus, feeling good about yourself and the food you put into your body will help you digest effectively and feel your best.
EAT FOOD WITH EVEN CONSISTENCY
It is simple to chew your meal a few times and then send it down into the stomach; but, chewing your food to an even consistency can aid in nutrient absorption and make digestion easier for the stomach.
EAT TILL YOU’RE 75% FULL.
According to Ayurveda, the best way to live longer is to eat less. Our society has a tendency to eat mindlessly, without chewing our food to an exact consistency, which leads to overeating, an increase in kapha dosha, feeling uncomfortable, and being overfull. There should be no heavy, bloated, or sleepy feeling after eating. Instead, if we only eat until we’re 75% full, we’ll feel satisfied, light, and awake. We assure optimal digestion and longevity this way.
REMEMBER TO REST AFTER MEALS.
Ayurveda encourages resting and digesting for one hour after eating. If time allows, one could go for a quiet walk or read a book. Of course, an hour after each meal is not always possible, but even a short amount of time is preferable to none at all. If you are pressed for time, take at least three deep belly breaths before rising from the table to signal the conclusion of your food sadhana.
ALLOW 3 HOURS FOR FOOD TO DIGEST BETWEEN MEALS.
A meal takes 3 hours to digest entirely in the human body; consequently, waiting 3 hours before the next meal is recommended to keep agni (digestion) robust and the doshas in balance. Scan the body and check in if one grows hungry soon after the previous meal. Water should be drunk instead of delving into another meal if the body is desiring hydration. Furthermore, the desire to eat again too soon can stem from an emotional drive rather than actual hunger.
The Ayurvedic Guidelines for Healthy Eating are not intended to be strict. Instead, they are intended to reconnect us all to the purity and joy of eating. Food sadhana is something that is easily forgotten in this age of television, smartphones, tablets, and constant distraction; nonetheless, it can be the key to gaining consciousness and experiencing correct digestion. Please leave a comment below to let us know which meal rules you agree with the most and to keep us updated on your food sadhana journey.
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