About Ayurveda: “Knowledge of Life”

This is an excerpt from my authentic Indian cookbook, Turmeric & Spice: Indian Cuisine for the Mind, Body, and Spirit.

Ayurveda, considered an ancient medical science, originated in India 5,000 years ago. Ayur means “longevity” or “life,” and veda refers to knowledge steeped in the ancient scriptures. It is a living science that changes from day to day and person to person. With today’s focus on holistic health care, the philosophy of Ayurveda has gained tremendous popularity in the West as an alternative healing technique because of its holistic approach.

I was fortunate to have been raised with Ayurveda as a way of life. At the time, I took for granted the rich tradition I had received. Once I moved to the United States, I studied intensely and became aware of the significance of this way of life. I am thrilled to share the wisdom of Ayurveda through my cookbook, spice blends, and philosophy.

Ayurveda seeks optimal health by fully “digesting” experiences to balance life. This includes digesting all our life experiences, whether they be food, emotions, careers, or relationships. Remember “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”? Too much is excessive, too little is not enough, but the balance between the two is just right. Ayurveda will help you achieve the balance that is just right for you.

The philosophical principles of Ayurveda state that all aspects of the universe, including living beings, are composed of a unique combination of five elements—earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Different combinations of these five elements make up three doshas, or tridosha:
• VATA (ether and air elements) governs the movement of all voluntary and involuntary body functions, such as the nervous system, heartbeat, breathing, energy, and creativity.
• PITTA (fire and water) is responsible for metabolism, enzymes, hormones, digestion, pigmentation, body temperature, hunger, thirst, and courage.
• KAPHA (water and earth) helps with cohesion and lubrication of joints, the strength of the body, and patience.    

Your unique biological blueprint or matrix (prakriti) is made up of these elements at the time of your conception. When all elements in your matrix are in balance, you have optimal health, mental clarity, and vitality. When your elements are imbalanced (vikruti), you are in dis-ease, and disease can set in.

At its core, Ayurveda strives to maintain balance within the body according to your unique dosha, which is a combination of the five elements within you, with one or two elements being dominant. Your dosha forms both the physical structure and the function of your body, as well as your mental constitution, which is at the foundation of your choices and urges. In summary, your dosha governs all the biological, psychological, and physio-pathological functions of your body, mind, and constitution.

By understanding your dosha, you gain awareness of what food and lifestyle work for your body type, tendencies, and cravings, helping you make better choices for digesting your emotions and food. This book will guide you in choosing optimal menus for your dosha, preferences, and enjoyment. More than half of the recipes are tridoshic. To discover your dosha, take the Ayurvedic Dosha Quiz on Banyan Botanicals’ website.

One emphasis in Ayurveda is on the digestive metabolic fire, agni. Agni is our ability to metabolize the food we eat to provide proper nutrition and cellular intelligence to
our bodies so that they function optimally. When this digestive metabolic fire is impaired, the toxins produced by undigested food create havoc in our bodies, causing clogging and
symptoms of poor health. We may feel sluggish and heavy, or have aching joints and muscles, brain fog, fatigue, headaches, allergies, gas, arthritis, diseases, or poor elimination. If we ignore our internal warning bells and whistles, then the imbalance in the body’s cellular intelligence will allow dis-ease to set in. This is the time to press the reset button and do a detox by following my Ayurveda Menu in Chapter 6 of my cookbook, Turmeric & Spice.

Nature is constantly and silently offering us choices of lifestyle and foods. The question is, are we listening and observing the precious wisdom that is given? We humans are so obsessed in becoming, wanting, grasping, and achieving that we have forgotten to live in the moment. Your body can heal itself given the right lifestyle choices, and your food choices are particularly important in this process. The ancient Ayurvedic principles of balance are blended in these menus with exquisite colors, flavors, and aromas that excite the mind, satisfy the spirit, and nourish and heal the body.