If there’s one thing that many of us are talking about right now ….apart from Covid 19, it’s the effects of lockdown life on our bodies. The struggle is real when it comes to maintaining healthy eating and body weight. Honestly, the last thing that I want to think about is the word ‘diet’ which can be stress-inducing enough on its own. If you’re anything like me you’ll love this piece on how to incorporate Ayurvedic principles into your daily life to help with creating a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
Ayurveda ‘the science of life’ is an ancient system of natural healing. It is the sister science of Yoga and comes from India, although research shows the Vedas may actually have originated in Africa. In Ayurveda, we and everything around us is divided into different ‘doshas’. These are types of energy, Pitta – fire, Vata – air and Kapha earth.
Excess weight is seen as a kapha imbalance, so regardless of your usual doshic profile if you are over your ideal weight you need to look at it as excess kapha energy and focus on correcting this imbalance.
Kapha is the dosha of earth and water, when it is in balance you’ll feel grounded, calm and nurtured but out of balance kapha usually means feeling heavy, sluggish and tending towards depression. Try these tips to rebalance and release excess weight.
1. Ignite Your Agni
In Ayurveda digestion is the foundation of health. The term Agni means your digestive fire. To ignite your Agni to start your day with a cup of warm water with ginger and lemon. Cold liquids and foods are a no no in Ayurveda as they put out your digestive fire.
Bring some gentle spice into your meals like turmeric, ginger and even a bit of cayenne if you can tolerate it. Heavy, starchy foods aggravate kapha so go for easy to digest protein and lighter veggies. Keep breakfast very light on carbs and focus on protein to fuel you for the day. Your agni is at it’s strongest at lunchtime, so have you heaviest meal then. Dinner should be something very light, simple and very easy to digest like a veggie stew. The usual Western dinner of meat and starchy carbohydrates is not Ayurvedic, keep it very light.
To go further bring in prebiotic and probiotic food to start recolonising your gut with cultures that will help you digest food as well as strengthening your immune system.
In Ayurveda when you eat is as important as what you eat.
Intermittent fasting has become really popular recently because Western science is backing up it’s benefits but Ayurveda has been teaching a dinacharya for years. This means a daily routine and in addition to lots of self care rituals and detoxifying practices it actually involves gentle fasting on a daily basis.
In Ayurveda you aim to finish eating by 7pm and not eat again until at least 7am. This is a gentle 12 hour fast and if you have a Kapha imbalance once or twice a week you could even skip either breakfast or dinner altogether, giving yourself a longer fast of 16-18 hours. This allows your body to go into a state of autophagy and reap the health and weight loss benefits of fasting in a gentle way. More extreme or more regular fasts can be damaging for women as they can disrupt female hormones so the Ayurvedic approach of eating within 12 hours is a great long term approach to eating, with the option of a longer fast a couple of times each week.
Move either before or after meals to stimulate your digestion and rev up your metabolism.
Getting outside first thing in the morning for a walk is great to shake off excess Kapha energy and is also generally recommended for all dosha types because getting natural light in the mornings aligns your circadian rhythm with nature. This has a knock on effect on your sleep helping you to go to bed earlier, ideally before 10pm when you’ll get a second wind.
Sleep is vital because it’s when your body gets to do all it’s important healing work and the early hours are the most important as that’s when you’ll get the deepest sleep. Having said that there is nothing worse than knowing you should be sleeping when you can’t. If you’re trying to get to bed early but can’t drop off don’t stress, meditate instead. Learn some meditative breathing exercises and treat your time in bed as a meditation. Meditation gives your body much of the same benefits as sleep anyway, and once the pressure is off you might find you drop off easier so it’s win win.
Weight gain often accompanies a hormonal imbalance, so alongside any kind of weight loss programme, ensuring your hormones are in balance is a good idea.
Regular cleanses like the seasonal Ayurvedic kitchari cleanse is great for excreting excess hormones and supporting your liver which is your primary detox organ. Female hormones tend to change from around 35 years whilst male hormones start changing as early as 30 years. As you get older you may want to look into natural bioidentical hormone therapy to address this. In the first instance though there are some amazing compounds in nature that will correct imbalances. Reishi mushroom and ashwaganda are two great adaptogens that work to correct whatever the imbalance happens to be.
The Ayurvedic approach to weight loss focuses on bringing your body into balance through self care. Do try these tips if you’re struggling with excess weight. Always check with your doctor first before starting any new supplements or natural medicine.
By Emma-Louise Follows HMC Medical Herbalist
Emma-Louise Follows HMC is a Medical Herbalist and founder of Eat Live, a wellness business focused on plant based Ayurvedic nutrition and gut health. You can find out more about the Eat Live Three Day Cleanse here and discover your dosha here: