After prenatal yoga teacher training a few weekends ago, I was inspired to reacquaint myself with Ayurveda (India’s traditional healing system). As a person who associates my primary dosha as pitta (fire), I reviewed the list of foods and spices that I am supposed to avoid according to ayurvedic principles. I quickly remembered why I didn’t pay much attention to Ayurveda when we covered it in graduate school–as a pitta I am to avoid or limit many foods that I love–like garlic, onions, and spices to name a few. Messing with a pitta’s cherished food is not a fun or an easy matter. In fact, it might be dangerous. If you are part-pitta, you know what I’m talking about. With this one fact in mind, it’s no wonder I decided against adopting this healing system into my way of life. And yet, here I am blogging about it and thinking about my views and practices around food. Maybe it’s a sign I need to revisit Ayurveda.
For today, I did not come here to discuss the particular foods as they relate to my body type and Ayurveda, but I came more so with the intent to speak about food sadhanas. To keep it simple, a sadhana (sod-a-na) is a special practice. This practice is typically a wholesome/spiritual activity that is connected to nature, and it is a pattern that is based on the memory of the universe. It is an action that can lead to those “a-ha” moments that some of us seek out and some of us avoid. According to Maya Tiwari, sadhana awakens our cognitive memory and replenishes the lost art of beauty, grace, and accommodation. Through sadhana we can better connect to the earth and to our own internal and external environment.
The simple act of cooking and eating can inspire and rejuvenate our body’s cognitive memory. Food sadhanas are so important to “waking up” and connecting to nature and others, because food takes us through the complete cycle of life and elicits universal memories. From seed to waste to seed, this central practice helps our whole life come into balance. Special food practices help us reacquaint with nature and with our own nature. And yet, today, confusion about food is the norm. People consult with dieticians and nutritionists to navigate their relationship with food. And who can blame us? With the way most food is produced, there is no wonder why we have “experts” who exist to help us with it all. However, if we look at it from a very basic perspective–from the perspective of a food sadhana or food practice, we all can agree that we know more answers to our questions about food than we realize. And we also know that many of us are guilty of not engaging fully or honestly in our food practices.
Some food for thought today surrounds some basic and timeless concepts that connect the individual to the greater community/world through simple food practices. We often think about what we eat as being important to our health but not about the practice of how we eat.
Practice #1 Expressing Gratitude
When it’s time to sit down for a meal or food, how often are you grateful? How often do you think about the farmer or person who made this food available to you? And how often do you send a thank you note either mentally or physically to that person? By being thankful and grateful while we eat, we have a peace of mind, which leads to a more peaceful digestion. How do you practice gratitude as it relates to your food practices? Do you offer to clean up after a meal? Or do you inhale the meal and move on to the next thing? Unsure about who to thank when you eat your food? Think about that for a minute. Investigate.
Practice #2 Emotional Eating–How do you feel?
A sweet meal can turn sour really easily if you are feeling in a dumpy mood. Never eat when you are upset. It is an insult to your body, the food, and the food-maker. How often do you eat when you are upset? Unfortunately, this practice is a habit many of us know too well or maybe even do without realizing. What would it look like if you did not eat when you were feeling down? How would your relationship with food change and how would your body change if you were not eating to fill a void?
Practice #3 Savoring the Flavor
Part of eating is for sustenance, but it’s also for enjoyment. Are you actually tasting what you are eating? Or are you checking your email? Or thinking about what you have to do or what you should have done? Are you chewing your food? Are you being present with your food and surroundings? Research has shown the importance of chewing food and being present. We all very well know that when we take our time eating, we usually feel better afterwards.
Practice #4 Eating in Community
How often do you eat with your loved ones? Sharing is such a gift, and to share a meal with someone is a very healthy and necessary food practice. Through shared meals we cultivate friendships and make connections that are greater than ourselves to those around us which is important to our well-being. When we do not fulfill the human need to bond with others, we tend to try to bonding or attaching ourselves to other things, like the food itself, drugs, or possessions. When was the last time you shared a meal with someone? Were you fully present?
Main source: Ayurveda a Life of Balance by Maya Tiwari