Time-honored techniques to thaw winter’s chill Winter brings the festive sparkle of the holidays; fresh, snowy vistas; exhilarating outdoor sports … and, for many people, lethargy, dry skin, and runny noses. How can we keep up our spirits—and our health—when it’s so easy to let Old Man Winter bring us down? Ayurveda, the holistic-health system […]
Ayurveda originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and is the oldest continuously practiced health-care system in the world. Drawn from an understanding of nature’s rhythms and laws, Ayurveda is built around the five elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth.
It is understood in Ayurveda that humans, as natural beings, are governed by the same rules and laws as all other natural beings. If we choose to ignore these laws, then imbalances will begin to appear. These imbalances are the precursor to disharmony and disease in the mind and body. This system of medicine understands our deepest connections with the whole universe and the influences of the energies that make up this universe. We are considered a microcosm of the macrocosm.
Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a morning person, there’s still much to love about those first few moments after you roll out of bed: In their stillness you can get ready to step into the day by organizing your thoughts, assessing your needs, and—when it comes to breakfast—nourishing your whole self.
As we’re all unique individuals and our bodies call for different things, there isn’t a formula for a breakfast that suits everyone. Instead, starting the day off right means understanding your body and digestion, and choosing what works for you. This tuning in is at the heart of what we teach at Kripalu, which can help point the way toward a breakfast that’s balanced with you in mind:
1. Heed your hunger. Not everyone can eat like a lumberjack first thing in the morning, so prepare the right-size meal for your body type. From the Ayurvedic perspective, for instance, those with more delicate constitutions (vata types) should have a warming but light meal, like simple hot cereal, while hardier folks who wake up hungry (pitta types) can handle things like eggs, nuts and seeds, and fruit.
2. Fresh is best. We all know the best breakfast comes from our own kitchens—so look for whole foods (grains, fruits, and vegetables) that you can easily prepare for yourself each morning to optimize their freshness. Meat, eggs, and dairy may also have their place on the breakfast table, but only if they arrive fresh from a trusted local source.
3. Stay on schedule. Get into the habit of having your breakfast at a regular time. The body tends to get attuned to things, and if you eat at 6:00 am one day and 10:00 am the next, that can throw off your digestive rhythms. (But you don’t need to eat the same thing every day. In fact, Ayurveda encourages eating seasonally, which ensures an ever-changing lineup of fruits and vegetables.)
4. Savor every bite. Ayurveda teaches that being in tune with your meal—from selecting and preparing it to quietly sitting with it and appreciating it—feeds far more than just your body. Breakfast is an ideal time to explore this practice, and discover that the more you create consciousness around what you’re putting into your body, the stronger and healthier your whole body-mind-spirit complex becomes.
Lorraine Cannatta, guest blogger
My decision to study Ayurveda evolved out of a family trauma. My son, Jacob, and his wife and daughter were visiting me and my husband, Peter, in the summer of 2005 when Jacob became severely ill. He was hospitalized and put on life support. The doctors were unable to determine a diagnosis, which made treatment difficult. For several days, we were unsure whether he would speak again, or even awaken. One or more family members were with him around the clock.
After 11 days in the critical-care unit, Jacob came home and began his recovery with us. Today, we are blessed to have him well. Though we were never able to get definitive evidence, we believe inhaling mold while renovating his newly purchased home caused what is called a “whiteout” of the lungs—when the alveoli constrict so tightly there’s no longer any space for air to pass.
Yoga and Ayurveda are two “sister” practices that originated in India thousands of years ago. Now, a lot of us are familiar with yoga, and have experienced firsthand—through postures, breathwork, and self-inquiry—its profound benefits. Yet many of us are not as familiar with Ayurveda. We might have heard about it in conjunction with yoga, but are not quite sure how, exactly. In her R&R retreat workshop Yoga and Ayurveda, Senior Kripalu Yoga teacher Jurian Hughes points out that yoga means union in Sanskrit, and a definition of Ayurveda is the wisdom of life. Explored together, these complementary practices can offer us transformative tools that foster greater health and vitality. And as Jurian also explains, integrating Ayurvedic principles into your yoga practice can create a deeper, richer experience on the mat that you can take with you off the mat as well.
“Ayurveda isn’t a one-size-fits-all philosophy,” Jurian says. “We’re constantly in flux throughout the day: our energy level and our mood, for example, are different first thing in the morning than they are at noon.” Ayurveda, then, is a personalized, intuitive health philosophy. According to Ayurvedic principles, each of us has a unique constitution governed by our physical and emotional makeup, as well as our lifestyle—the foods we eat, what time we go to sleep. These constitutions are called doshas, and they are linked to the elements. The doshas are vata (air and ether), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water).