Ayurveda & Yoga: Introduction & Tips

This article discusses Ayurveda and Yoga. I start by explaining both systems and the way they view the world, and then I give some tips on how to implement both systems in daily life.

Ayurveda

 

A 19c. roundel of Brahma depicts him with 4 heads and holding the Vedas (wikipedia.org)

Ayurveda came down to earth with Lord Brahma. It is first mentioned in the Rig Veda (the earliest Veda 1500-1100 BC) in the form of Agni (one of the most important aspects in Ayurveda).  Lord Brahma taught it to Prajapati, who in turn taught it to Ashwini Kumaras (the twin doctors of the Devas). It continued to be passed down until Lord Dhanvantari emerged with it in the churning of the ocean of milk. It finally reached humanity through Charaka and Sushruta, who wrote two very important treatises: the Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita respectively. Ashtanga Hridayam, written by Vagbhat came next. Together, the three texts are known as Brihat Trayi (the three grands).

 

Ayurveda looks at the world as composed of five elements: Space, Air, Water, Fire, and Earth. Everything in the universe is made of these five elements. There are three pairs of these elements which compose the doshas. Dosha is a force which can go out of balance.

There are three doshas, Tridosha: Vata (Space+Air), Pitta (Fire+Water), Kapha (Water+Earth). Vata governs movement in the body, Pitta, transformation and Kapha, stability and strength. These three doshas are always working simultaneously in order to make our body fit and free of disease.

Read also: Understanding the Ayurvedic Principles of Panchamahabhuta and Tridosha

In Ayurveda, we look at ‘taste’ as composed of the elements as well. Shat-Rasa, the six tastes are: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. Each of the tastes affects  the doshas.

According to Ayurveda, we look to keep the doshas in balance in order to achieve good health.

Yoga

Yoga came to the world through Lord Shiva, Adi Yogi, the first Yogi. The legend says that when Lord Shiva taught it to his consort Parvati, the snake (Vasuki) around His neck heard it, and from him emerged Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Matsyendranath learnt it while Lord Shiva was teaching it, and so is considered to be the one who brought Hatha Yoga into the world.

There are few books and treatises on Yoga – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras being one of the most important. Shiva Samhita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita are more concerned with asanas and pranayama and how to perform them correctly.

As per the Yogic tradition, Yogis are doing all these practices in order to have control over the body, breath, and reach the ultimate goal of Self-Realisation.

Yoga sees the world with the same eyes as Ayurveda, as they both arose from the Samkhya philosophy of creation.  This is why they are called sister sciences. The difference between them is that Ayurveda is more inclined towards the body and its health, while Yoga deals more with realisation of the Self.

Using Ayurveda and Yoga in daily life for better health

  • Wake up before sunrise, and go to sleep by 10 PM.
  • Eat at specific times every day. That way Agni will be balanced.
  • Do not suppress the natural urges of the body, like flatus, belching etc.
  • Practice asana and pranayama in the morning after evacuation.
  • Do not drink anything an hour after food, and an hour before food.
  • Eat food which is compatible with you. Experiment with food and observe your digestion to know what is beneficial for you and what is not.
  • Avoid ice cold drinks and food. Occasionally it’s OK, however, do not make it a routine.
  • Eat hot fresh food. Avoid eating stale and overcooked food.
  • Drink when you are thirsty. Don’t just drink water because you think it is needed. The body will send you signs when it needs water.

Just by following most of these tips, one can experience digestion improving, and overall health reaching the optimum state.

See also: Yogic Technique to Beat the Cold and Pollution (Jal Neti)

 

Meatless in Korea: Vegan Survival Guide

Koreans love their rice, a necessary staple at every meal, but they also love their BBQ. It’s no secret that meat, dairy, and seafood are widely consumed in Korea. In fact, many Koreans are unfortunately under the illusion that meat, dairy, and seafood are integral parts of a healthy diet.

From my observations, a contributing factor to this disillusion is collectivism vs. individualism. An integral part of Korean culture is living community-oriented lives where sameness is encouraged and differences are concealed, for fear of being shamed. Given their collective approach, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many are ignorant when it comes to meatless diets and the reasons why people choose to go meatless. However I must note that they do understand those who abstain for religious reasons.

Prior to moving here, I researched online and became educated on the challenges I’d face if I pursued a vegan lifestyle.  It seemed likely that it would require extreme effort to be vegan while sustaining my health. As a result, I made a conscious decision to eat a mostly vegetarian diet with a little seafood on occasion, so in other words, pescatarian. Although I’m in rural Korea, I have found a way to make it work and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Don’t get me wrong, there are many instances when I’m frustrated with the situation, but if you adopt a diet similar to mine, then it’s feasible. And even a vegan diet is doable.

Here are some pearls of wisdom that will help you along the way and things you should remain aware of:

1. They really don’t get it.

Many Koreans truly don’t understand the concept. And I’m really not trying to be rude or crass, it’s just the reality. Eating meatless isn’t a diet their culture entirely supports. Not to mention, children aren’t typically exposed to empathy or compassion towards livestock. In their eyes, raising animals for food consumption is just the way of life. You will come across some who understand what a “vegetarian” is, but even so, it’s not widely accepted because of collectivism. They will be polite, but don’t be surprised if your reasons are questioned. On a rare occasion, you may even feel judgmental vibes emanating from an individual who asks. Generally speaking though, Koreans are more so interested in your reasons.

One thing that is particularly alarming is their lack of acknowledgement when it comes to the connection between the meat industry and climate change. Koreans are extremely passionate about the environment and take drastic measures to participate in the global awareness surrounding global warming, hence the hypocrisy is a bit ironic.

2. School lunches are vegetarian friendly.

This is purely based on my experiences working at two schools. Lunches contain meat on most days, but it is generally easy to eat around. Luckily for us herbivores, Korea has this amazing thing called 반찬 (banchan) or, in other words, side dishes. Most of the side dishes are vegetable based, so on days where meat is the focal dish, you can load up on extra banchan. Sometimes they’ll even make a vegetarian version of meat dishes.

Related: are veggies living-wiser?

3. Beware of any hidden ingredients.

Korea is infamous for including ingredients in dishes that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find in there. For example, I bought a vegetable croquette one time and when I opened it up at home, can you guess what I discovered? Meat. It may not be characteristic of you to ask a lot of questions, but don’t be afraid to inquire when you’re purchasing something that you’re going to be ingesting. There’s no harm in asking, especially if it’s due to dietary restrictions.

4. Examine everything (even after questioning).

There have been a number of instances when I’ve ordered something, questioned the cashier, and somehow still ended up with meat in my dish.

There was a time when I ordered a curry dish, asked if it contained any meat, was told no, and it turns out there was ground beef in the sauce. Luckily I caught them in time and instead was served meatless sauce they had set aside. In the end, the dish contained bits of beef here and there, but I still ate it anyways – just took some extra time to meticulously pick around the meat.

Korea is notorious for these mishaps, so for those of you who are strict vegans, I highly recommend that you double, triple, and quadruple check everything before taking a bite.

5 . Tofu is readily available.

So don’t worry! You’ll find tofu in many soups and side dishes. Grocery stores are always fully stocked in that department. Although you may be sick of it towards the end of your stay, know that endless tofu scrambles are always an option. You’ve got to get your protein somehow!

6. Even at BBQ restaurants, you can order bibimbap (비빔밥).

Every single BBQ place I’ve been to has had bibimbap on their menu. It’s a really nice option because BBQ is an extremely popular group activity, so everyone can join in regardless of their lifestyle choices.

7 . If you’re exclusively vegan, living in rural Korea will be a challenge.

Kimchi

Firstly, kimchi is everywhere and as delicious as it is, it contains fish sauce. Secondly, seafood is commonly found in school lunches and if you’re already excluding meat, then your options are pretty scarce. Thirdly, eating out will pose several challenges because of everything I’ve discussed thus far. Even bibimbap includes kimchi in the mix (more often than not).

In order to make it work, you’d probably have to supplement school lunches with food from home or better yet, pack your own lunch altogether. And when eating out, you should identify a couple dishes you know you can eat, no problem, and stick to those.

8. The 5 survival words you should know.

  • i] Let’s start with the obvious. Vegetable = 야채 (yachae)
  • ii] The next obvious, is meat. Meat = 고기 (gogi)
  • iii] When asking if a dish has a certain ingredient, for example meat, you would use the word 있어요 (isseoyo). Bibimbap sometimes contains meat, so you would say “bibimbap, gogi isseoyo?” Which quite literally means, is there meat in the bibimbap? If the person’s response is “isseoyo,” that means there is meat in the bibimbap.
  • iv] However, if the response is 없어요 (upsseoyo), this means the bibimbap does not have meat. You’re safe to go, most likely.
  • v] Most importantly, without = 빼고 (bbaego). So if the response is isseoyo, then you would say “bibimbap, gogi bbaego juseyo” or in English words, I want the bibimbap without meat please.

9. Practice self-compassion, always.

You may be the strictest vegan in the world, but you’re going to have to make some sacrifices here and there and be okay with compromising at times. You may think you’re doing a fantastic job at avoiding certain things, but chances are you’ve accidentally and unknowingly inhaled some byproduct or trace of meat somewhere along the way. And it’s just something you have to swallow, literally and figuratively, and be okay with.

You can only do the best that you can do. If that means being okay with the lunch ladies using the meat ladle for your vegetable version of the dish or being gracious if you find a piece of meat in your meal or whatever it may be for you, then great. The more you can surrender and simultaneously love yourself despite the slip ups, the better off you’ll be.

Know that you’re already doing the world and animals a great service and enormous deed by dedicating your life to eliminating meat consumption, so if it becomes too difficult and you need to include seafood or some other food group or byproduct to maintain a balanced diet while you’re in Korea, then that’s okay. Be content with minimizing.

No matter what anyone says, you are healing the world and making a difference by choosing this lifestyle. Given your limited control over outside influences, work with what you can. Take pride in your choices and be good to yourself. Most of all, practice self-compassion every single day.

you might also like: A Sanctuary of Peace Atop a Bangkok Hill

A version of this article was originally published on EPIK e-Press.

Baba Ramdev’s Tips for Beating the Heat

With the summer season upon us, it is only natural to go looking for natural ways to beat the heat. Famous yoga and Ayurveda guru and founder of the popular Ayurvedic food brand Patanjali Ayurved, Baba Ramdev offers some wisdom for keeping your cool while boosting your health.

Follow these tips on food, drink and pranayama for a more pleasant summer, naturally.

Food

What to favour

What to avoid

Note: While ripe mango produces heat, raw mango in cooked form however (as used for making aam panna, a popular drink), is cooling.

Drink

What to favour

Avoid alcohol during the summer as it is extremely dehydrating.

Pranayama

The ancient yogic techniques of pranayama or breath control, enable one to control the flow of life energy (prana) in the body.

The Chandrabhedi, Sheetali and Sheetkari pranayams are especially beneficial in cooling the body. Read more about these here.

Source:  YouTube video of Baba Ramdev’s explanations

Read also: Yoga and Pranayama to Keep You Cool Through Summer

4 Bad Food Habits You Probably Didn’t Know You Had

Dare to challenge your long-cherished food conventions? Then hit play below.

Note: (1) Source for tip about water consumption: Sadhguru blog
(2) Additional reading about sweet consumption: Eat Sweet First to Manage Weight – Banyan Botanicals
(3) Re tip about salads, raw food is best eaten around mid-day when the digestive fire (agni) is considered to be at its highest.

Understanding the Ayurvedic principles of Panchamahabhuta and Tridosha

Panchamahabhuta: the five basic elements of nature

Ayurveda describes five basic elements “Panchamahabhuta” of Air “Vayu”, Water “Jal” , Fire “Agni”, Earth “Bhumi”, and Space/Ether “Aakash”. The Panchamahabhuta mix together in multiple ways and proportions to create unique and distinct forms of matter.

In the human body, the correspondence of the presence of Panchamahabhuta is as follows:

  • Space represents the voids within the body such as mouth, nostrils, abdomen
  • Air denotes the movement of the muscular and nervous system
  • Fire controls the functioning of enzymes  and corresponds to intelligence, functioning of digestive system and metabolism
  • Water is in all bodily fluids such as plasma, saliva, digestive juices
  • Earth manifests itself in the solid structure of the body  such as bones, teeth, flesh, and hair etc.

The Panchamahabhuta therefore serve as the foundation of all diagnosis & treatment modalities in Ayurveda and has served as a most valuable theory for physicians to detect and treat illness of the body and mind successfully.

Ayurvedic Principles - Tridosha

Tridosha – Ayurvedic principles that define the physical state

The Panchamahabhuta work together in different ways to create physical energies, termed as “dosha” in individuals. These three govern creation, maintenance and destruction of bodily tissues (“dhatus”) as well as the assimilation and elimination functions.

  • Earth + Water Kapha corresponding to structure and all of the oily factors of  our body such as, fat tissue, lubricating fluids like synovial fluid in joints,  the mucous secretions in the digestive system and respiratory system. Qualities – heaviness, slow movement, oiliness, liquidity, thickness and density.
  • Air + Fire Pitta corresponding to digestion, bio transformation of the digested food, and the factors responsible for our metabolism. The seats of Pitta are in the digestive system, skin, eyes, brain, lymph, liver, spleen and blood. Presence of Pitta is evident through our body temperature. Qualities – hotness, sharpness, lightness, liquidity, sourness, oiliness and fast spreading nature.
  • Air + Space Vata corresponding to movements of our body and inside our body. These include movements of the muscles, movement of food through our digestive tract and movement of the blood through the blood vessels. Qualities – dryness, roughness, coldness, mobility, clarity and astringent taste.

Prakruti and dosha

Each person is born with a unique combination of these doshas which decides their temperament or body type and is termed as “prakruti”. Understanding of each person’s prakruti for deciding their personal diet and exercise pattern, supplements and medicinal herbs, cleansing and rebuilding therapies that is right for them are among the chief methods that Ayurveda employs for the maintenance and restoration of health.

Physical features of an individual can also be utilized to understand the prakruti of the person, as shown below:

This article has been contributed to LWP by www.medhyaherbals.in where it was first published.

Read also:

Are Veggies Living-Wiser?