Ayurveda for Health, Balance, and Digestion

Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences, with roots in ancient India and rich applications in modern life. Ayurveda, the “science of life,” emphasizes diet and lifestyle choices to maintain health and bring balance to the body and mind, while living in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Optimize your digestion with these Ayurveda-inspired tips:

  • Drink a glass of room-temperature or warm water first thing in the morning.
  • Choose your food each day by identifying what you think will be most balancing for you that day—if you’re feeling cold, choose a hot option; if you’re feeling sluggish, choose something light. 
  • Eat at a moderate pace, in a calm environment. Chew well—aim for 32 chews per bite. Avoid eating on the run. 
  • Choose fresh, local, seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid iced beverages and cold foods, which slow down digestion and cool the natural heat of digestive enzymes. Sip a small amount of warm water throughout your meal.
  • After eating, take a few minutes to relax or to take a short walk. Ideally, lie on your left side for five to 10 minutes after big meals, followed by a 15-minute walk.
  • Make lunch the main meal of your day, and dinner your lightest. Just like the heat of the sun, the digestive fire is strongest in the middle of the day.
  • Focus on eating rather than watching TV, reading, scrolling on your smartphone, or other distractions.
  • Listen for the first burp after eating. This will signal that you are done eating and that your stomach is full.
  • Allow a few hours between each meal, and at least two hours after dinner before going to bed.

Ayurveda and the Six Tastes

Ayurveda recognizes six tastes—sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent—that are needed for optimal digestion, metabolism, and assimilation. Most foods are sweet, sour, or salty—flavors considered building, grounding, and nourishing. Most spices are pungent, bitter, or astringent—flavors considered cleansing as well as supportive for digesting heavier foods.

Experiment with using spices to enhance flavor:

  • Sprinkle a warming mix of cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom on sweet dishes like breakfast cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, and desserts, or in black tea. Cardamom aids in the absorption of nutrients, cinnamon increases digestive strength without overheating, and ginger helps prevent gas.
  • Sprinkle a mix of cumin, coriander, and turmeric on savory dishes such as cooked vegetables, salads, grains, soups, eggs, and animal proteins. These three spices are anti-inflammatory and support healthy digestion.
  • Have a cup of tea. Sausalito Spice, ginger tea, and peppermint tea are all balancing for the digestive system.

According to Ayurveda, strong digestive health is all about skillfully choosing appropriate foods for each meal. Being aware of what’s happening inside can guide you in making balanced choices in food practices and bolstering immunity.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail editor@kripalu.org.

Erin Casperson, Lead Kripalu Faculty and Director of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, is passionate about sharing how the ancient practices of Ayurveda can be applied to modern-day living.

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