The author of The Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda breaks it down
I’ve been reading a lot about Ayurveda, India’s ancient belief system that holistically considers the mind, body, and soul when treating symptoms. Those who practice Ayurveda believe that in order to feel one’s best, there are specific ways to go about eating and being—and it’s different for every person.
To learn more, I got in in touch with Sahara Rose Ketabi, author of the Idiot's Guide to Ayurveda and founder of the blog I Am Sahara Rose. "Ayurveda is deeply spiritual, and it takes into account personal preferences, emotional tendencies, and your soul’s desires,” she told me in an email. “Ayurveda is unique in that it’s individualized to each person.”
Ketabi explained that Ayurvedic practice has as much to do with physical routine as it does food. “The foundational Ayurvedic morning routine starts with rising before the sun,” she said. “Personal hygiene steps include brushing the tongue with a tongue scraper, doing an abhyanga (self-massage with oil), then showering. After the shower a short yoga routine and meditation, followed by breakfast.”
Speaking of breakfast, in Ayurveda, an individual’s constitution contributes a lot to what they should eat in the morning. Ayurveda recognizes three distinct Doshas, which Ketabi characterizes as a “a specific combination of elements that are present in each person.” You can think of them as mind-body types. There's Vata, which reflects the qualities of air and space; Pitta, which reflects the qualities of fire and water; and Kapha: which reflects the qualities of water and earth. Based on their personality and physical makeup, each individual can find their qualities align with one of these Doshas. Of course, everyone tends to have a bit of every Dosha inside them. For example, after taking Ketabi’s “mind-body type quiz,” I discovered that my mind is 43 percent Vata and Pitta and 14 percent Kapha; while my body is 50 percent Pitta, and 25 percent Vata and Kapha.
Essentially, Ketabi’s study of Ayurveda helped her to realize that what is beneficial to one person in the morning could be unbalancing to another. She recommends that Vata types begin their day by eating grounding, nourishing fats, like oatmeal cooked with ghee. Ketabi is a Vata herself, and she likes to eat a roasted sweet potato with cinnamon, coconut yogurt and sunflower seed butter for breakfast. While Ketabi says a cold smoothie isn’t the best choice for a Vata type, a cooling green smoothie is excellent for Pitta and Kapha types. Ketabi recommends that Pitta types could also opt for a millet porridge and, to my chagrin, advises avoiding coffee because “it’s too heating.” She suggests Kapha types have a smoothie or fresh fruit in the morning, and avoid pastries.
Of course, it’s hard to completely rethink the way you feed yourself in the morning, especially if you already have a solid routine. But if you want to try it out, explore trading in that morning granola bar for one of the dishes Ketabi mentioned, or even selecting one of the morning self-care methods she described to incorporate into your morning. As Ketabi explains, “The benefits of being in nature, practicing moderation, and tuning in spiritually are key practices touted in Ayurvedic wisdom.” In today’s stressful world, I imagine we could all do with a bit more of that.