monica's blog

Importance of Protein - Ayurveda and Western Perspectives

Over the decades, Western Nutrition has become increasingly influenced by powerful agribusinesses. Meat, dairy, and grain lobbyists have become formidable forces that have shaped food guidelines and government policies.

Even more sinister perhaps, are drug companies that work hand-in-hand with meat, egg, and dairy farms. Together, these industries have done a phenomenal job of marketing the importance of their products in the diet of every American. Therefore, the Western diet places a heavy emphasis on protein, especially in the form of animal products—fish, dairy, eggs, and meat (marketed as the only complete sources of protein) as well as carbohydrates from breads and grains. Vegetables and fruits are given secondary importance. Furthermore, the Western diet is one that is “one-size-fits-all”. There is little to no attention paid to an individual’s unique physical characteristics, state of mind, age or gender.

Any variation of the Western diet that touts a novel approach to nutrition usually ends up in retrospect, as being labeled a crazy fad diet of yesteryear. Such diets push their own agendas, present skewed arguments and interpretations of science, and hawk their own dietary supplements, videos, and recipe books. At first, such diets are phenomenally successful. They create miraculous results for the small segment of society that can afford to buy into their philosophy and purchase their products. But this fame is short-lived as these diets’ serious scientific flaws are discovered--causing their failure, and rapid downfall. They quickly fade into obsolescence as they are deserted by even the most loyal devotees.

The final indignity dealt to these once-elite diets can be seen when their literature remains unclaimed at the bottom of the bin marked “FREE” at any neighborhood garage sale.

Ayurvedic Nutrition, on the other hand, is highly individualized. It takes into account the fact that each person has a specific prakruti, vikruti, personality, and distinct level of spiritual awareness. In addition to these factors, age, regionality, and season also function as modifiers of the Ayurvedic diet.

The tenets of Western diet have been pushed deeply into the collective psyche of the American people, starting with the introduction of the Food Pyramid at a young age. The modern twist of the pyramid, “My Plate” is hardly different in its dogmatic approach. Therefore, it is very difficult to convince the average Western diet that massive protein intake and animal products are not necessary for good health. However, as Ayurvedic Practitioners, we must take this challenge upon ourselves to change these ways of thinking by becoming tireless in our repetition of the eternal truths behind Ayurvedic principles and Vedic philosophy.

By Aparna Dandekar, D.O.
AWP BLOCK 2

Ayurvedic Diet Principles Differ from Western Nutrition

In terms of differences, Western nutrition is focused on the mechanical composition of food and classifying those components. The emphasis is the amount of energy needed from a mechanical standpoint to combust food and is applied as a standard to how much energy the body will derive from food. The componentization of food starts at the macro to micro level and includes the derivation of very subtle components and their application toward disease and health. The effect of food is considered to be uniform for each individual regardless of additives and preparation.

Ayurveda, by contrast, is focused on the composition of foods from the cosmological and the effect of that food on all levels of the body including the various digestive affects, inner state, and physical manifestations. The componentization of food is derived from the taste of the food and its effects on the body instead of externalization in a lab. The environment, individual impact, and preparation is of vital importance to the effect of the food itself.

Since the emphasis of these two perspectives is so different, there can be challenges when presenting Ayurvedic Nutrition to Westerners who know nothing but Western nutrition. One of the challenges is the simple acceptance of the model itself. Telling Vata-types to eat a heavier grounding foods that may be very sattvic, grounding, and Vata-reducing is hard to accept when the Western nutrition mindset typically says that fats are not great for health. This requires a delicate, but intentional presentation of Ayurveda concepts in a way that educates, but doesn’t overwhelm. One can’t argue with results.

Another challenge that arises is the patience and motivation necessary to follow a food based Ayurveda Nutrition path than the almost prescription model of nutrition in the West. This is an extension of the magic potion mentality prevalent in Western thought that one can take a pill, not make any lifestyle evaluation or changes, and still achieve health.

By contrast, the Ayurveda nutrition model can be seen as more difficult because it asks that not only you examine what you eat and evaluate its impact, but that you must look at its preparation and the environment in which it is consumed. One of the keys to attending to this is to start slowly with the suggested changes so as to not overwhelm and let the results build and motivate (and create trust) as you continue to add additional changes.

Rishi Forrester
Ayurveda and Holistic Herbs Practitioner
(AWP Block 2 Student)

Ayurvedic Nutrition and Diet - Student Blog

Western nutrition and Ayurvedic nutrition have definite differences about how people nourish themselves. Western nutrition concerns itself with the amount of calories, amount of macronutrients, carbs, proteins and fats, and micronutrients, vitamin and mineral content, and an ingredient list. Of course, western people are obsessed with being thin, so of course, calories is the first thing listed on western food labels.

Calories do not exist in Ayurvedic nutrition. Another Western nutrition concept is the food pyramid. Mrs. Obama recently reorganized the traditional food pyramid with Choose My Plate, a visual learning tool to incorporate what foods to eat in what proportion. In Ayurvedic nutrition, the amount of food needed for each meal is one anjali, prayer pose hands, opened to form a little bowl or cup, definitely unique to the individual.

An interesting side note on Western food labels is that the ingredient list is last and often in the smallest print possible on. In western nutrition, 45-65% of calories should be carbohydrates, 10-35% of calories should be proteins, and fats should be a small portion. For me, this is a very big bunch of math that I have to figure out on a calculator and would take away from the enjoyment of the food. In Ayurvedic nutrition, a “basic rule is simple, to give the body all six rasas each day so that it can respond to feed completely.” (www.wecare2.com,”Ayurvedic Nutrition”, Deepak Chopra, M.D.) Dr. Bhatia has said in a lecture,” In Ayurveda, we are what we digest.” Conversely, in Western nutrition, the saying is,” You are what you eat.”

In Ayurvedic nutrition, the goal of food is to achieve balance in the dosha, dhatu, agni and mala. To quote from our lecture, ”Food is the medicine and the healer. Food connects you with the divine.” Deepak Chopra M.D. says,” For the most part, western nutrition comes out of the laboratory. Ayurvedic nutrition comes directly from nature.” Paraphrasing Dr. Chopra, ‘food talks to your doshas,’it is correct to say that food has an energetic influence on the person consuming it. The preparation, intention and mood with which food is prepared and eaten also infuse food with subtle qualities. Ayurvedic nutrition acknowledges Prana, and promotes one to mindfully, with full attention, eat fresh food with Prana - organic, local grown, without genetic modification, herbicides or pesticides is best.

Ayurveda considers eating as a ritual, nourishing body, mind and soul. For that matter, life and living is a ritual in Ayurveda. Fresh food that is well prepared and eaten in a calm environment equals OJAS. Ghee, honey, dates, figs, and mung beans are foods that have ojas. Ojas is the juice of life, it is the elixir of immunity and results in perfect digestion and elimination, while also influencing the physical, mental and emotional life of a person.

High ojas can allow us to have a better life experience in every realm. In Ayurvedic nutrition, we use the six rasas, tastes, for the balance of agni, doshas, and dhatus. Rasas are panchamahabhutic and affect the doshas in our bodies when we eat. Every rasa has a virya, a potency, either Shita, cooling, or Ushna, heating. Rasas also have a post digestive effect, Vipaka, which comes after the Pitta stage of digestion, beginning in the small intestine, the Vata stage of digestion.

There are three Vipakas: Sweet, Madhura Vipaka, coming from sweet and salty rasas, Sour, Amla Vipaka, coming from sour tastes, and Pungent, Katu Vipaka, coming from bitter, pungent and astringent rasas. The Vipakas are how the dhatus experience digested rasa.

There is also a post digestive action or what the rasa does to the dhatus, called Prabhava. The Prabhava can be changed according to the preparation; sauté, steam, or fresh, the addition of spices and herbs, and types of oil, and water used while cooking. If a person is sama, balanced, all six rasa in balance will help the body maintain its equilibrium. If a person is imbalanced, the rasas can be eaten in a way to bring the body back to balance and allow ojas to increase bringing immunity and healing to the tissues. Ayurvedic nutrition can maintain balance and bring balance to every person's dosha, dhatu, agni and mala in a way unique to that person's composition.

Western nutrition has complex mathematical formulations focused on calories, proteins, carbohydrates, micronutrients and fats to make sure we get correct portions for health and wellness, without actually taking into account that our body responds, or reacts, to the food and how the tissues can change according to the properties of the foods.

It seems to me that most Westerners eat for the goal, for many, that is to just be thin. There may be a thin looking woman, ideal in the west, who is pale with brittle hair and nails, who may rely on using make up and hair products for the look of sara rasa, sara mamsa, and sara asthi. Ayurvedic nutrition teaches us how to eat in a more substantial way: what is the food doing, how is our body going to respond to the food, how can we eat for the tissues to have a positive response, to be nourished, to bring happiness. When we are sama, balanced, in all ways, then happiness comes, the body is happy, the mind is happy, the soul is peaceful, happy to be in that body, in that mind, to dwell in that place. Sama brings Sattva. Sattva brings sama.

Challenges:

A challenge in teaching clients that only know of Western nutrition will be teaching them and having them trust that with good food combinations, we can attain our recommended daily allowance of protein without eating meat.

Another personal challenge for me may be in giving a client too much information too soon, thus, overwhelming them with information. I want to share everything! A good thing for me will be to first talk about balancing the one person, the foods to eat and how to cook them, then, after a time, find out what protocols are working for them. When the person achieves better balance, share with them the six rasas, how each meal can have all rasas, and what each rasa does. If I give too much information, it may overwhelm the client like the Western math formula overwhelms me. Sometimes I get overwhelmed in the class and have to go back later and study notes and books and online. A client may not do that. They want “Ayurveda Easy,” until they are ready for more. That is what I would like to give so that they can begin a journey to a healthy, happy, balanced life. I’m on this journey and would like to share it successfully with others.

Danae Delaney - AWP Block 2 Student
Massage Therapist, Colon Hydrotherapist

Ayurvedic and Western Nutrition

As I meditate on the many differences between Western Nutrition and Ayurvedic nutrition, I am overwhelmed at the numbers. The difference that is impacting me the most right now is the difference in living and lifeless food. In western nutrition the focus on calories and nutrients relies on over processed over packaged “food” that contains no familiarity to the food this product used to be. If you go to the grocery stores you can see “whole grain” cereals or breads.

Where is the whole grain after it has been genetically modified, harvested months or years in advance, bleached, processed, enriched, colored, molded and made into “low calorie”? The same can be said of fruits and legumes canned, of homogenized, pasteurized milks and juices, dessert yogurt! The list obviously goes on and on. Parents are routinely feeding their children breakfast cereals and chicken fingers. The point is the food is dead. Western nutrition may have ways of adding nutrients back into a box of chocolate cereal for your kids, but at the end of the day it is still empty calories, where is the Rasa? The nourishment? How can we expect to receive satiation from lifeless food?

Leah Jones
Student
SDCOA 500 HR Course

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Meditation Techniques

Meditation is an essential tool for bringing a person’s mind back into balance and should be incorporated into everyone’s health regimen. There are varying types of meditation available depending on a person’s prakruti and depending on if a person’s mind is in a state of rajas, tamas, or sattva. For example, a kapha mind should be kept busy. Conversely, a vata mind should be quieted and kept still. A pitta mind should be calmed. So an appropriate meditation technique should be chosen based on a person’s manasa prakruti and what state it is in.

Vata energy and rajas are similar because both have the qualities of irregularity and movement. Any mediation that aids in stillness will benefit vata minds and minds in the rajas state. Pranayama is an excellent exercise to balance vatas minds and rajasika states. A pranayama practice should be built up gradually, adding a round of breathing each day for about one month. Like any meditation practice, it is ideal to practice daily. Astanga yoga helps to focus the mind and is also beneficial for a vata mind or a mind in rajas. Any mediation practice that helps to ground the airy vata mind will be beneficial, sitting meditations are encouraged.

Kapha minds tend to have the opposite problem from vata minds. Kapha minds are slow and need a kick start. Meditation practices for kapha minds should keep the mind engaged. Guided visualization, contemplative questions, tai chi, or walking meditation would be a great meditative tool for kaphas, or minds that are in a tamasika state. All four methods focus the mind while tai chi, chi kung and walking meditation engage the body while keeping the mind focused.

Pitta minds often need to be calmed. Pranayama is excellent for calming a mind. Alternate nostril breathing and shitali pranayama (breathing through a curled tongue) are cooling and can calm a heated or agitated pitta mind.

A mind that is in the sattva state is a balanced mind. A daily meditation, a diet suited to your prakruti, a healthy lifestyle, balanced elimination and senses will keep a mind in balance.

Many meditations are good for balancing all states of mind and can be adapted to suit the manasa prakruti of a specific individual (for example, walking vs. sitting meditations). Mantra meditation is also an excellent example on how different mantras can bring different doshas back into balance. There are mantras that are good for pacifying pitta, and mantras that increase a person’s purity and goodness (sattva). In summary, there are various meditation techniques and adaptations to suit each individual person and their current state of mind. The best way to keep a mind in balance is to practice meditation daily and have a healthy lifestyle.

by Laurel Hricik,
Student: San Diego College of Ayurveda

Meditation Suggestions from an Ayurvedic Perspective

Meditation for your Mind
Dr. Nandini Daljit

Vata Meditation Recommendations:

The Vata mind would benefit from Transcendental meditation with 20 minute sessions that concentrate on the mindful/silent repetition of a mantra - allowing thoughts to be acknowledged and the mind to release thoughts freeing up space by focusing on the mantra thus enhancing relaxation and increased silencing. TM would be particularly beneficial for a vata mind in Sattva and Rajas.

A spiritual meditation would also be beneficial for the vata mind as it is a quiet and communicative type of meditation with God or the universe (or the higher being of choice) which is aligned with the vata strengths of reflection and communication.

As well, this time of meditation also allows the vata mind to dialogue about a personal issues or concern as a silent witness. A spiritual meditation would offer much peace and enlightenment to a vata mind in Sattva

Yoga as meditation is also a very positivie for the vata mind as it combines physical movement with mental focus allowing prana to move to flow and move througout the body and nourish the mind. In this regard, tai chi and dance could also serve as a meditative vata practice as well as the playing of music.

For visualization, Vata people would benefit from warm images and colors. Mantras such as RAM and HRIM AND SHRIM are warm and calming for vata. Yoga would benefit a vata mind in Tamas by increasing prana to combat dullness.

Pitta Meditation Recommendations:

For visualization, the pitta mind would benefit from cool images and colors. Transcendental meditation would be very beneficial for a pitta mind in order to keep the fire in pitta in check. TM would be very beneficial for a pitta mind that is Sattvic.

Movement meditation would be very appropriate for the pitta dosha type who may find sitting still more agitating than relaxing. In movement meditation the individual can focus on the movement of their breath or engage in a gentle swaying or circular movement.

This gentle movement would be very beneficial for a pitta mind in Tamas by disrupting inertia.

Pitta pacifying mantras are SHAM, SHRIM and OM. These mantras should be repeated silently. If highly agitated - pittas may even find the repetition of their mantra relaxing when they are engaged in more active physical activity. Ensuring their safety, a mindful repetition of the mantra during stationary cycling, rowing, and stairclimbing. This may be very helpful if a pitta mind is highly Rajasic.

Kapha Meditation Recommendations:

The kapha mind would benefit from meditation that includes loud chanting where the vibration of the mantra can flow through the body and mind. Beyond vocal mantra repitition Kaphas would also benefit from Kirtan meditation.

Kirtan is the chanting of mantras and hymns and in that way not only has a vocal connection to the meditation
but a spiritual connection when hymns are chosen. This vocalization is highly recommended for a kapha mind in Tamas.

Transcendental meditation, with its mantra focused meditation would serve the kapha mind in sattva very well by providing kapha with a focused time for re-energizing of the mind which would also be appropriate for a kapha mind in Rajas or Sattva.

Kapha pacifying mantras are OM, HUM and AIM. Visualization of nature based colors and images of earth, sky and sun would benefit the Kapha mind that flourishes in warmth.

Doshas and the Three Gunas in Ayurvedic Psychological Principles

By Lisa Bailer, Student: San Diego College of Ayurveda
(Ayurveda Wellness Practitioner Program)

An overview of the three gunas in Ayurvedic Psychological Principles

1. First Guna - Sattva Guna (Mode of Purity) is good, nourishing, harmonious, this is the ultimate goal of our mind. When moving out of sattva mode you can exhibit fear, anxiety and restlessness and worry- similar to vata imbalance.

2. Second Guna - Rajas (Mode of Passion or activity) is active , creative, initiates change. In the negative it is angry, aggressive, jealous, hatred.

3. Third Guna - Tamas (Mode of lethargy) is slow going, lethargic, passive. In the negative it can be destruction, selfish, attachment.

In a sense pitta dosha can be equated to Rajaguna and Kapha can be like tamagun, especially when out of balance. Pitta Imbalance may lead to emotions like anger, jealousy, being competitive and aggressive while kapha in an imbalanced state may get sentimental, greedy and attached so that is turns to destruction of whatever it is attached to.

Since vata governs all, it can display any of the above qualities of the gunas.
To balance a rajastic mind Pitta types should use mantra meditation, left nostril breathing and visualize cool and calming things. Daily affirmations of forgiveness and acceptance with compassion can decrease rajastic mind. Asanas with moon salutations and yoga nidra are calming and cooling.

Kapha types need to let go and move away from tamasic mind and move to rajistic mind so walking meditation to keep them moving and increased pranayama to stimulate opening and space in the mind. Affirmations on detachment and independence. Bhakti yoga which focuses on love and usually involves groups to keep them motivated may help.

Vata types need to calm their minds so doing mantra or visual meditation will help keep their minds focused. Asanas with slow sun salutations, Affirmations of peace, security and supported by t he universe are to help alleviate their tendency toward worry and doubt.

Meditation for Vata, Pitta and Kapha in Ayurveda

Juliana Adhikari

Student: Ayurveda Wellness Practitioner Program, San Diego College of Ayurveda

Meditation helps decrease stress, promote focus as well as help individuals be more conscious and aware of their mind and itʼs behavior.

When determining what meditation is best for an individual a practitioner should consider

i The individuals dominant dosha - Vata, Pitta and Kapha
ii The 3 gunas (Sattva, Tamas, Rajas), and,
iii Consider the theory of similar and dissimilar to help bring the mind back in balance.

A vata mind is dominated by the air quality and is all about movement so they tend to get mentally ungrounded, scattered, anxious or spacey when out of balance.

They should practice meditations that help keep them grounded, enhance stability, and help them release stress and stay focused. All meditations
help vata in some beneficial way but some in particular like TM, Zen, and Yoga Nidra are more calming and can help ease a vata mind.

Trees and mountains are solid, rooted, earthy, grounded so meditating in nature and near or around them
can have a grounding effect on vatas in tamas.

Sitting in peaceful contemplation near water can be good for both vata and pitta minds in tamas.

Water is very soothing to all the senses so sitting in deep contemplation with their feet in the water, taking in the peaceful sounds of the surroundings, the smells, and the energetics of the flowing water can instantly sooth and ease any disturbed mind.

Rajasic vatas tends to be hyperactive and nervous so a sitting meditation will not be a good choice for them.

They should instead do a walking meditation on a
beach or take a peaceful hike in a woodsy area.

When in tamas their focus should be on feeling grounded on the earth with each step they take.

Consciously sensing and feeling the ground beneath them.

If possible they should walk slowly and also pay attention to all the sounds, smells, and sights of their surroundings.

Walking meditation is also great for lazy kaphas in tamas to get them up and moving.

Since kaphas can be heavy and lethargic they can benefit more by doing stimulating pranayama techniques before any meditation.

Because of their lazy and unmotivated tendency, kaphas will do better when encouraged in group meditation or when participating in kirtana.

Mantra mediation can help an emotional kappa in rajas.

Practicing loving kindness and doing a meditation that opens their heart chakra is great for promoting sattva in Kapha individuals.

Pitta individuals would benefit greatly from meditation that stimulates and promotes peace of mind.

Japa and mantra meditation is great to mentally stimulate and sharpen the mind.

Soothing meditations in nature or by water as
mentioned above help cool and ease a pitta in tamas.

Pitta should also do pranayama techniques - while practicing meditation to help promote sensory control for a mind in rajas.

Manovaha Srotas and the Manasa in Ayurveda

By Tara Levelle
Ayurveda Health Educator Intern
San Diego College of Ayurveda

Here in the West, we consider the mind to reside in the brain, in the head. We also consider the brain’s functions to control the mind and the intellect. All seems to be one. However, this is not so in Ayurveda. The mind is said to reside in the heart, which makes sense. The heart is the center of feelings, emotions, love, and intellect.

Mind and emotions are connected, as is the intellect, but all are separate. The mind has functions of thinking, willing, and feeling. It is the intellect, the buddhi, which discerns, ascertains, and creates memory. And ‘the glue’ that holds them together is the ever-present ego.

The ego also connects the vibhu, the universal mind with the anu, the individual mind. In addition, the mind has three qualities, or gunas, that are present in a multitude of combinations. Sattva is clear, calm, and harmonious. Rajas deal with activity and movement.

Tamas creates dullness, inertia, and lethargy. All are beneficial to the mind when in a balanced state.

Manovaha srotas are the channels of consciousness that flow through the mind. Srotas are important in Ayurveda because they make up a system of channels that allow for the body to function optimally.

Mantras bring a change in perception. A nice, brisk walk in the evening with her baby in the stroller gets both Noel and child into fresh air, getting Noel up and moving. A diet of warm, grounding foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes cooked with ghee, and warm soups might help bring her vata back into balance and clear out her tamasika mind-state.

Ayurveda says that our mind stores the impressions we experience. By experiencing love, compassion, calmness, and security Noel’s baby will grow up knowing she is safe and protected. Letting go of her fears, Noel can shift her mind-state into becoming more satttvic. A healthy mental state for Noel means more focused attention on her child. Clearing manovaha srotas and bringing vata back into balance will ensure a harmonious relationship between mother and child.

What does Ayurveda teach us?

By Shyam Madas

Ayurveda teaches us that there are five dimensions of our being. These five dimensions are physical, spiritual, energetic, mental and intellectual . Just as a river flows into a sea, and clouds from the sea feed the river, each dimension of self effects the other. In this context all disease can be defined as systemic imbalance.

Ayurveda recognizes that health and self do not begin and end within the confines of what we would consider “an individual”. Our relationship with nature and the world around us is a constant exchange. Just as the five levels of humans are interwoven, so are we interwoven into the community of life. It is because of this understanding Ayurveda will take into consideration the quality of a persons relationship with nature as a part of the qualitative assessment of a persons health.

Ayurveda recognizes that our health is connected to the health of everyone and everything around us. It teaches us of three types of disease and suffering. Those which are directly related to the body and mind of self, those which are caused by other living beings and those which are outside of the first two, such as a rock falling on your head. All three of these are thought by most Ayurveda practitioners to be driven by personal karma.

Putting aside the more esoteric ideas of the deeds of past lives, we can easily see karma at work in our lives every day. Karma is action. Every action has a reaction. If we do not follow healthy lifestyles , we are likely to get get sick. Simple action and reaction. This same understanding of action and reaction can also be applied to actions related to other beings, not just actions performed upon yourself by yourself.

The Buddha said “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” When anger arises , and we then cling to it, or act upon it, one could say that this is a negative karma. If we are the type of person to cling to anger, we will always be burning with this rage and will soon develop any number of pita related diseases. If we tend to act upon our anger the action will create a pattern in our psyche , resulting in our becoming angry more and more often. This too would create imbalance , ultimately manifesting itself as disease.

When we look at the karma of anger through Ayurveda's holistic perspective, we can see other ways our health can be effected by our anger other than just it's immediate effect on our body. An example could be a employer yelling at an employee. Any number of external negative consequences could arise for the employer, but let us just assume that the employee's reaction was to be saddened by this experience and no longer as happy when he/she is at work. Modern studies have proven that through olfactory influences, and visual empathy one human can effect the autonomic, endocrine and immune function of another simply by sharing the same room. This imbalance would then become a systemic element within the office which would ultimately effect the employers health along with everyone else in the office.

This Ayurvedic perspective of karma shows us that every thought , word and deed has a reaction that will impact on our own health, and ultimately the health of the biological community as a whole.

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