Ayurveda, often referred to as yoga’s sister science, is a natural system of medicine that originated in India more than 3,000 years ago. The term Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur, meaning life, and veda, meaning science or knowledge.
At the core of Ayurveda is the belief that each person has a unique energetic makeup, elemental balance, and composition, and that one’s lifestyle should be tailored to their individual needs. Just as yoga outlines specific practices for self-realization, Ayurveda informs the ways in which we can nurture the body so that it may be a sustainable vehicle for the Soul.
The word Ayurveda means “knowledge of life.” Philosophically, it is closely associated with Samkhya, one of the classical schools in Indian thought. The concepts of universal interconnectedness, unique body constitution, and elemental makeup are central to Ayurvedic medicine.
Ayurveda’s philosophical underpinning provides a fascinating insight into the differences between various personality types and temperaments. It also suggests why a practice, food, or remedy could greatly benefit one person and throw another completely off balance. The wisdom of Ayurveda suggests that we first discover our constitution and innate personality, and adjust our lifestyle and practices accordingly.
This has implications for Kundalini Yoga practice because once we understand our makeup, we can select kriyas and meditations that create, rather than disrupt, our internal balance.
Samkhya teaches that all of manifest existence contains a balance of three qualities, known as the gunas: tamas, rajas, and sattva. Tamas is the energy of inertia, rajas are the energy of movement, activity, and vitality, and sattva is the energy of creative potential, essence, or light.
Each guna plays its own role in sustaining life on earth. When the three gunas are in complete balance, the energy of the universe remains without manifestation. When the equilibrium of the gunas is disturbed, the world comes into form. As manifest beings, we exist because of the dynamic interplay of these qualities themselves.
Yoga and Ayurveda work to quiet the mind and attain the goal of pure, undifferentiated consciousness. Managing the energies of the body is part of the yoga system of enlightenment, and this is Ayurveda.
The word sattva comes from sat, meaning truth. Sattvic food is pure, clean, and wholesome. As foods themselves carry prana, sattvic foods bring with them clean energy and leave us feeling calm, alert, and refreshed. Sattvic foods are the easiest to digest.
Kundalini Yoga is a householder’s path, designed for people that wish to maintain a meditative mind but who also live and work in the world. And because Kundalini Yoga is a physically demanding practice, rajasic foods such as onions, garlic, and ginger, are also recommended.
Almost all yoga discourages heavy or tamasic foods, which include most animal products, alcohol, and mind-altering drugs.
Often, as we deepen our meditation practice, we become more conscious of the food we consume. Practitioners that fall asleep or nod off during practice may consider cutting out the heavier, tamasic foods. Those with an over-active mind might consider restricting their intake of fiery, rajasic foods.
While needs vary person to person and day to day, sattvic foods generally help to quiet the mind, maintain alertness, and strengthen the subtle body.
Sattvic foods are light, easy to digest, mildly cooling, refreshing, and not disturbing to the mind. To live and love to the fullest, focus on fresh fruit, light milk products, high quality vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and healthy oils. For more information on yogic diet, see here.
Rice: Rice is a staple sattvic food. It is easily digestible and it increases ojas, which moisturizes the tissues. Basmati rice in particular is used in Ayurveda as a cleansing and healing food.
Honey: Honey is another sattvic staple. Honey is innately rejuvenating with its sweet taste, and is considered predigested, which allows it to nourish the body with ease. Honey is often the vehicle for rejuvenating Ayurvedic medicines. When it is mixed into herbal tea, it increases the bioavailability of the herbs.
Oatmeal: Honey is also great with oatmeal, which is one of the most mentally relaxing and anxiety stabilizing foods we can eat. The oats nourish the nerves and control the air element, which qualify it as a medicinal food. Top it with ghee and warming cinnamon, and you’ll be ready to stand up to your day!
Asparagus, broccoli, milk, dates, and mango are also among the rejuvenating foods.