All about Ayurveda
Ryan Summerlin January 28, 2013
Dr. John Douillard describes living in harmony as “swimming downstream with the current.” He said it’s about going with the grain of the natural cycle, and feeling just as energized at the end of the day as you did at the start.
“Ayurveda is really about sorting the truth of your life out,” said Douillard, founder of LifeSpa in Boulder. “It’s not just about the physical, but your full means to an end. It’s about less density, stress and strain on your physical body, so that you have more clarity.”
The ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda is the “science of life,” according to Douillard. Veda, meaning Earth, and Ayu, for life-representing a system of healing and health that uses natural remedies to provide us with balance and wellness.
Julia Clarke is a local Ayurvedic wellness consultant and director of yoga at the Vail Athletic Club. Clarke said Ayurveda is actually a lot like quantum physics, in that it believes that at the base of all existence there is an underlying field of intelligence.
“Both fields recognize that the underlying intelligence organizes itself into five elements: Earth, water, fire, air and space,” said Clarke. “And beyond that, they also both agree that those five elements combine to form three unique dynamics of nature.”
In Ayurveda, the three dynamics are defined as doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The quantum physics dynamics, or “superfields” – gravity, gauge and matter – only relate to the objective world, Clarke said, but in Ayurveda, the doshas relate to everything.
“They include emotions and personalities – it’s the whole energetic realm of our existence that we know is there, but can’t necessarily prove,” she said.
Vata is the dynamics of movement, said Clarke. It’s a combination of air and space.
In nature: Air and wind. In the human body: All forms movement – limbs, digestion, central nervous system, thoughts, etc.
Physical characteristics in a Vata dominant individual: Light and airy in body, rough and dry skin, cold extremities.
“If a Vata type of person is in balance, she may be a successful ballet dancer – light with creative bursts of enthusiasm,” Clarke said. “But that person may also may become easily exhausted and fatigue. An out-of-balance Vata may experience anxiety, distraction, sleeplessness, and constipation from dry digestion, for example.”
Pitta is the dynamic of transformation. It’s a combination of fire, with a little water.
In nature: Fire and sun. In the human body: all forms of transformation – digestion, metabolism, chemical processes, hormones, enzymes, etc.
Physical characteristics in a Pitta dominant individual: Medium build, reddish complexion, warm body, sharp appetite.
“These are generally very focused, organized and passionate people,” Clarke said. “When they are in balance, they are the most productive and creative people in our society. When there is too much Pitta, too much fire, out of balance could create rage, anger, ulcers, heartburn, acidity and diarrhea.”
Kapha is the dynamic of structure. It’s a combination of earth, with a little water.
In nature: Earth. In the human body: All forms of structure and lubrication – skin, muscles, tendons, mucus, etc.
Physical characteristics in a Kapha dominant individual: Stable and solid build, soft skin, generally slower moving and slower talking.
“Kapha types never forget, and they are very loyal,” Clarke said. “They are often compassionate and soft natured, and when in balance, they have the stamina for marathons and Ironmans. When out of balance, however, these people may struggle from obesity and depression, lethargy and laziness, and constipation from heavy stool.”
Get to know your Dosha
“Everybody is a combination of all three doshas, but we tend to have one or two that are more predominate,” Clarke said . “The key to Ayurveda is finding your balance.”
You can take a dosha test at John Douillard’s LifeSpa website: lifespa.com/body-type-quiz.
Ayurveda emphasizes the principle of opposites, so whatever your dominant dosha, it’s foods, climates and activities of the opposite nature that will help to balance you out.
“For example, if you are Vata and experiencing dryness – constipation, dry hair, dry skin, anxiety – look for activities and foods that have the opposite quality. Find a regular routine, get lots of rest and eat warmer, more oily foods,” Clarke said.
For Pitta types who are experiencing too much heat – acid reflux or anger, for example, Clarke recommends looking for foods and behaviors to passify the heat. Add mint, cucumber and fennel to food and drinks, and spend time in nature and with loved ones.
Clarke said the Kapha tendencies of overeating and stagnant energy may result in head colds, depression and obesity. She recommends a lot of stimulation for these types, with new challenges and vigorous exercise, as well as light and dry foods to counterbalance moist and heavy physical characteristics.
Dosha types do shift throughout life cycles, and throughout seasons. Ages 0 to 20 are in Kapha (growing and evolving), ages 20 to 50 are in Pitta (fiery and driven), and ages 50 to death are in Vata (lightness and release). Seasonally, summer is Pitta, fall is Vata, and winter and spring are Kapha.
Clarke said that depending on your dosha type (which will shift throughout your life), you will likely feel better in your body at different times of year and in different climates. That’s why eating and exercising to balance your dosha is always important.
“The one thing that Ayurveda recognizes is that everything is always in a constant state of change, and it all flows from the unchanging source that is the unified field of consciousness,” she said. “It’s important to constantly stay in that flow throughout your life, and to be perceptive to not get caught out of balance.”
Giving it a go
Todd Jackson is a resident of Eagle-Vail and a current participant in Clarke’s Ayurveda program at the Vail Athletic Club at the Vitality Center: “40 Days To Personal Transformation.” Jackson said when he started doing yoga a year ago, he felt like a water buffalo munching grass amidst a beautiful flock of flamingos.
“I am a white, middle-aged business guy,” Jackson said. “I don’t have tats and I’m not sitting cross-legged on a beach. But people have noticed a transformation with me – they mention a better complexion, brightness in my eyes, and a better attitude.”
Jackson, who is Pitta dominant, said the program has designed a diet for him, which will be optimal for being balanced. He said he is cutting out spicy food and acidic fruits, as well as raw vegetables, which can aggravate digestion.
Gretchen Swanson of Vail is 24 years old, and has also been doing the 40-day program with Clarke. As a Kapha type, she said a dosha-specific diet, paired with yoga and meditation, has helped her wake up earlier, have sustained energy, and be more mindful of what she eats.
“For me, it has brought my awareness back to food as energy and sustaining my body, rather than just food to eat,” said Swanson. “I feel pretty great, so I think I will try to incorporate these practices into my life after the program is complete.”
Food for life
Douillard said to overlay your body type on top of seasonal eating.
“Every four months in nature, the dietary rules change,” Douillard said. “The three best-selling diets exists in different times throughout the year.”
He said in winter, when everything dries out, Vata should be balanced by eating heavier and warmer cooked foods, soups and stews. This should be a higher protein and a higher fat diet, with cooked vegetables and more grains nuts and seeds – similar to modern high-protein diets.
In Kapha’s spring, nature provides us with light leafy greens, sprouts, berries and cherries, so lighter meals and green drinks and smoothies can be emphasized, without the existence of too many heavy carbohydrates – relative to modern low-fat diets.
In the hot summer of Pitta, Douillard said nature provides our bodies with an antidote to the heat with a variety of fruits and vegetables – high carbohydrates for quick energy.
Marc Rouse is a local chef and owner of Food! By Marc cooking studio, private chef and market in Avon. He practices Ayurvedic cooking techniques, and has come up with balancing recipes for each dosha type. The cooking studio will also be holding a dinner on Feb. 7, called “Dine For Your Dosha.” Visit www.foodandwinebymarc.com for more information on the event. Call 970-688-5037 to make reservations for the dinner by Feb. 5.
“I think is really comes down to a personal commitment of wanting to be healthier,” Rouse said. “And having a consciousness of a higher responsibility of who you are and what you want to be. Really … you are what you eat.”
By Chef Marc Rouse
Butternut Squash Soup
Preparation Time: 10 minutes; Cooking Time: 55 minutes
• 2 Butternut squash cut in half seed removed.
• 1 cup yellow onion, peeled and chopped.
• 1/2 cup chopped garlic.
• 32 ounces vegetable stock.
• 1 ounce goat cheese.
• 3 ounces olive oil.
• 1 ounce Sun Dried Tomatoes, softened and minced.
• 2 ounce white wine.
• 1 lemon.
• Salt to taste.
• Pepper to taste.
Turn the over to 375 degrees. Score butternut squash, brush with olive oil and add salt and pepper. Cook the butternut squash in oven until fork tender about 25 minutes. Remove squash from the oven, let cool and remove flesh from skin. In a 3 quart stockpot add remaining olive oil. Let the oil get hot and then add the onion. Cook and stir for two min and add the garlic. Cook another two minutes and deglaze with white wine. Next add the stock and the butternut squash. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, remove from flame, and puree the soup with a hand blender. Put the soup back on the flame and cook for another 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper and fresh squeezed lemon to taste. Garnish with goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes.
Baja Shrimp with Vegetable Basmati Rice and Tofu Cilantro Mint Sauce
Preparation Time: 20 minutes; Cooking Time: 25 minutes
• 4 grilled Baja shrimp size U 12-15.
• 1 cup cooked basmati rice.
• 1/4 cup broccoli florets, cut into small pieces steamed.
• 1/4 cup cauliflower florets cut into small pieces steamed.
• 1/4 cup carrots, peeled and diced steamed.
• 2 tablespoons sauteed onion.
• 1 cup silken tofu.
• 1/4 cup cilantro.
• 4 mint leaves.
• 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground cumin.
• Salt to taste.
• Pepper to taste.
• Lemon juice, freshly squeezed to taste.
For sauce: In a food processor add tofu, cilantro, cumin, onion and mint. Blend until smooth scrape sides and add salt pepper and lemon to taste. Blend for 10 more seconds. Place sauce on stove and gently heat. To plate lay sauce down first, then add rice. Next top with vegetables and last place the shrimp. Enjoy with fresh herbs on top.
• 1 bunch kale.
• 1 carrots, julienne.
• 1 rib celery julienne.
• 1/2 Gala apple sliced.
• 2 ounces blue cheese.
• 3 ounces FOOD! by Marc Herb Vinaigrette.
Wash and dry all vegetables. Lightly rub olive oil salt and pepper on kale then grill on low both sides. Be careful no to burn the kale. Next steam the kale for three minutes and immediately shock in cold water. Next cut celery and carrot in julienne strips. Slice apple and prepare blue cheese. To assemble the salad put kale in mixing bowl and toss with vinaigrette. Place kale on the plate and top with carrots, celery, blue cheese and apples.