There are so many details in Ayurvedic Dina Charya or daily routine. Too many for most mortals. There are very good reasons for all of the rules but most of us simply can't maintain all the recommended Ayurvedic maintenance we'd like. But some indications that are far too important to ignore.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about when to eat. This is often MORE important than WHAT we eat.
Here are 3 vital rules about WHEN to EAT that are not too hard to follow but will serve you well if lifelong health is your goal:
Don't eat before bed.
Ever wonder why your eyes are puffy some mornings and not others? This is (probably) why. When you eat less then 3 hours before bed, longer if your digestion isn't very strong, the food that you have eaten does not get a chance to digest-- so it sits in your belly and festers. The food in our belly is not supposed to ferment and when it does it produces gases and what we call ama. Ama is partially digested food and the cause for lots of disease and can be considered responsible for the western concept of 'inflammation'. It will also make you puffy. And nobody wants to be puffy.
Exercise first thing in the morning.
The ancient texts say exercise comes after prayer and bodily elimination, and before breakfast. This is super important if you don't want to develop arthritis later in life. Why? That pernicious stuff ama gets lodged in joints when partially digested food is circulated around the body by exercise (or any vigorous activity). Ama can't be processed in the joints (only in the digestive tract) and so festers and creates stiffness, blockages leading to pain, and eventually the deformation of the joint. It is OK to exercise before dinner-- but definitely wait at least 3 hours before exercising. But morning exercise will give you better effects especially if weight loss is your goal. Morning is Kapha time (6am-10am) -- inherently heavy and slow. You can counter the heavy slowness of that time a day by vigorous exercise. Whereas exercise in the evening (2pm-6pm) is Vata time and will increase Vata in ways that are not generally beneficial in our Vata agitated times.
Eat a big lunch (and a small breakfast and dinner).
Digestion requires agni (digestive fire). Fire is a principal of transformation. Just like fire transforming fuel into energy agni transforms food into bio-available nourishment when it is digested properly. Agni in your body is related to agni in the environment. So when the sun is highest in the sky the principal of fire is most pronounced in the environment, and in our bodies. Strong agni means strong digestive abilities. You are more able to efficiently digest in the middle of the day, also known as Pitta time. Eat your largest and most nourishing (or most challenging) foods around noon. This includes cold or raw foods, heavy foods like meat or cheese, yogurt. Even sweets are best digested in the middle of the day. Leave breakfast and dinner for lighter and simpler foods; simple grain cereals, light soups, tender sauteed veggies.
One of the best ways to learn is from other peoples experiences (much less painful than going through it yourself!).
When it comes to developing a healthy relationship with food I recommend Jenn Meek's brilliant workshop:
Sunday August 23rd, 2015 2-4pm
1708 Lincoln Ave. Alameda, CA
Learn techniques to re-establish a healthy relationship to food and body:
- manage stress
- enhance body appreciation
- build body awareness
- practice joyful eating
- develop intuitive eating
No dogma here, just practical skills to fall back in love with food and your body.
$20 pre-register; $30 at the door