Author: Hannah Bezeredi
Holistic Wellness Coach and Ayurvedic Chef
What if there was a way to finally demystify how to eat for your body type. No more guessing or crash diets that leave you feeling dissatisfied with yourself.
The sages of India knew a thing or two about eating for optimal health and balance. So let’s rewind some 5000 years ago, long before the Keto diet or Veganism were on the scene. The rishis, or seers of the time, acquired divine knowledge from intense periods of meditation that were supreme truths about how life and the body really work. This wisdom was passed down in Hindu scriptures (hymns), which became known as the vedas. It’s because of these divine revelations and work that we have come to understand the spiritual foundations of meditation, yoga, and the nature of life itself.
It’s also from these teachings that we were given a system of healing known as Ayurveda, which teaches us to harmonize the mind, body, and spirit with the rhythms of the natural world. Ayurveda is referred to as a science for living because the wisdom is universal and has stood the test of time for its eternal truths. It’s not a trend or fad, rather it speaks to what is enduring and ubiquitous about life. This is the wisdom of Ayurveda and to live by its teachings is a roadmap to a happy and fulfilling life. It’s also a guide to eating for your unique body type, or bio-individuality.
Ayurveda is a vast science, but its foundation begins with understanding the 5 elements in nature: air, water, fire, earth, and ether (space).These 5 elements come together to form the building blocks of life and each has a unique expression of qualities. To understand these elements is the doorway to learning about functions in the body, actions, and even individual personalities. Most importantly, it’s the path to understanding what you need to thrive as a unique individual. This system of thinking is completely opposite to the one-size fits all diet approach that we have today. It requires us to think beyond what’s trending and really understand ourselves on a deeper level.
On the surface it sounds a little far fetched to think that all this information could be obtained from natures elements, but this knowledge is quite profound and expansive. For example, take the quality of air, which represents motion (kinetic energy) in life. Air is light, cool, mobile, dry, rough, clear, hard, and flowing. Every person needs the element of air to move through the world, to circulate blood, and to breathe. The other four elements are comprised of their own unique qualities that can be found in the body and expressed in nature.
Fire can be found in the heat of the digestive process, water in the liquids of the body, space in the intestines, and earth in the physical structure of the bones for example. The elements can also be concentrated in different ways, which is where we get the concept of doshas and constitution in Ayurveda. You may have heard the words being tossed around in your favourite yoga magazine, but have been wondering what it all means. So to understand doshas it is first important to understand what they are not. Doshas are not fixed nor are they singular. Every individual contains each dosha in their constitution. No person is all vata or kapha, and they do not represent identities.They are energies and qualities in nature that give rise to functions. Ideally we want to have a balance of all three doshas because as you will learn, each has a different function and role in the body that is equally important. This also has a tremendous bearing on how we should approach diet and lifestyle.
This brings us to one very important concept in Ayurveda about understanding how to balance doshas. The concept of balancing doshas begins with understanding opposites. One very important teaching in Ayurveda is that like attracts like and the opposite brings balance. So a vata type person for example would need the opposite qualities that they have predominantly in their nature. Since they are prone to being dry and light, the opposite qualities they need are warm and heavy. This very important concept relates to the qualities of the types of foods we should be eating for our unique constitutions and bio-individuality.
Every food that we eat has a quality in nature too. The 6 tastes or qualities in Ayurveda are salty, bitter, sweet, sour, pungent, and astringent. Most grains for example are heavy and sweet, while lemons are sour and pomegranates are astringent. Each of these types of food will have a different effect on an individual depending on their constitution. From anAyurvedic perspective a diet over emphasizing a large amount of oils would be a disaster for a kapha person as an example. This would aggravate their constitution that needs lighter qualities. A pitta person would be typically more sensitive to salty and pungent (spicy foods) that generate a lot of heat.A diet with lot of sour and fermented foods would not be ideal for a pitta type.
You can see how this bioindividual approach has a huge bearing on the types of foods that bring us balance and those that take us towards imbalance. This doesn’t have to be overwhelming though. In fact, just understanding your dosha is a simple first step you can take to eating for individuality. Finally, it’s important to note that learning to eat for your unique body type is a divine lesson in understanding the nature and rhythms of life. It’s not about seeking perfection, but rather about seeking harmony with nature and yourself.
When you begin to recognize the inherent qualities in all things you gain peace and clarity. Suddenly it’s okay if your friend had great results on a diet and you didn’t, because that diet just wasn’t suited for your body type. Eating seasonally makes sense because you know that the winter is cold, light and dry, and you need warm, heavy, and moist foods to balance those qualities.You suddenly see that you are a part of nature and nature is you. That is the wisdom of Ayurveda and eating for your bio-individuality!