Ayurvedic Prescription for Well Being

Dr. John Peterson of Muncie, Indiana, discusses the daily routine and the ayurvedic approach to dealing with day-to-day stress

You tossed and turned all night. The alarm didn't go off. You're late for work. There's a deadline to meet, but your computer is acting up. Three cups of coffee later, your head still throbs. Your back hurts. Your eyes sting each time you blink.

Diagnosis: stress.

Prescription: aspirin?

"Try again," smiles John Peterson of Muncie, Indiana. Sitting by the banks of the rippling Big Thompson River in Estes Park where he's flown down on vacation, Peterson looks so relaxed you'd never guess his profession. But perhaps being an ayurvedic physician takes away much of the stress of being an M.D. with a thriving practice.

"I learned Transcendental Meditation® in 1972 to help me cope with the stress and fatigue of medical school and have continued meditating twice a day ever since. I took the first Maharishi Ayurveda physicians' training course in 1985 and found that it helped me understand myself, the patient, the world, and even modern medicine in a richer, fuller way," says Dr. Peterson.

"Ayurveda is a powerful way of dealing with disease at a holistic level," he continues. "Because it treats the person as a whole, and not just that part which is affected. Every day, I see people who perceive their problems as purely physical. Typically, they will say their head hurts or their kidney seems to be in trouble. But after exposure to ayurveda, they realize it is all one: body and mind and heart. Once they understand that, the process of getting rid of a physical problem becomes a blessing in disguise — it becomes a journey towards fuller health."

How easy is it for him to explain ayurveda to his patients?

"It takes time, but it is not really that difficult," says Dr. Peterson, "because the ayurvedic theory of disease and healing has a very solid scientific base. After all, human beings are part of the universe, and are composed of the same five elements as everything in creation. Quantum physicists call these five elements the five basic spin types. The ancients called them space, air, fire, water and earth. Ayurveda describes the three governing principles, or doshas — Vata, Pitta and Kapha — as combinations of these elements. Vata comes from space and air. Pitta comes from fire and water. Kapha comes from water and earth. The nature of these elements gives us a clue about the properties of the doshas. Vata governs movement; Pitta governs heat, metabolism and transformation; and Kapha governs structure and fluid balance. Even children can quickly come to understand themselves, their friends and all of nature in terms of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. It is the interplay among the three doshas that determines the health of a living being."

But there are no stethoscopes or X-rays calibrated to measure the health of these doshas. So how exactly does he diagnose his patients?

"Through pulse diagnosis and observation of how you look, move, and talk. I first determine your individual constitution and the state of your doshas," says Dr. Peterson. It is amazing, he says, what you can learn simply by placing three trained fingers on the wrist. "In the West, doctors take the pulse just for heart rate and rhythm," he smiles, "but with the added knowledge given by ayurvedic pulse diagnosis, I sometimes surprise my patients by telling them things their own spouses may not have known."

Like the lady who came to him with a complaint totally unrelated to her digestion. The doctor took her pulse, and realized that her Apana Vata, the sub-dosha of Vata that resides in the abdomen, was out of balance. When he told her that, she stared at him in disbelief, and then revealed that she had indeed been suffering from digestion problems for years, but had given up on trying to resolve them because nobody had been able to help her. Dr. Peterson says he gave the lady just one "medicine" — plain warm water. He asked her to drink it every half hour during the day. Within weeks, the lady was cured of her problem. "It's a miracle," she enthused on the phone.

So how does pulse diagnosis really work?

"Each wave of your pulse conveys something important to me. I read the pulse at three different levels of pressure, each of which informs me about the state of your doshas," explains Dr. Peterson. "Further, your pulse tells me about the health of your shrotas or microcirculatory channels, which carry nutrients to the tissues. If one or more of these shrotas are blocked or impeded, it can lead to disease."

Dr. Peterson says most people who see him are new to these ideas, so he advises them to take their time getting used to these basic ayurvedic concepts. "For I know that the more a person believes in treating himself/herself as a whole, the faster and better the healing process will be. Happily," says the doctor, "people find these concepts so logical they nearly always want to know more.

"This lady," says Dr. Peterson, "had tried every remedy in the book before she discovered water. That," he says, "is because the modern world is so totally conditioned to quick relief and suppressive treatments. In ayurveda, on the other hand," says Dr. Peterson, "you don't damage your body by ingesting side-effect-causing drugs. You give it just what it really needs. Some tender loving care, supplemented by totally natural and safe herbal formulations."

As a first step toward taking responsibility for their own health, Dr. Peterson advises his patients to invest time and energy on their daily routine. "Little things count. Each moment you spend on yourself is like pennies in the bank. The benefits add up. Take oil massage, for instance. Ayurveda urges you to massage yourself with a good oil — preferably sesame oil — every day. Sesame oil is a very versatile ally in your efforts toward better health. I recommend three ways to use it:

a) "Try sniffing it (nasya) to lubricate and protect your nose and sinuses, which are the ventilation systems for your brain. The oil helps clear mucus out of the sinuses. Just dip your little finger in the sesame oil you use for your massage and rub the oil inside of each nostril. Then pinch and release your nostrils rapidly while inhaling sharply.

b) "Gargle with it for two minutes. It's not as bad as it sounds! Swish a mouthful of it, then spit it into the toilet and rinse your mouth out with warm water. This draws out mucus and has been shown to reduce gum disease.

c) "Best of all, massage oil all over your body to release skin impurities, then bathe or shower with warm water. If you have time, a warm tub bath increases circulation and is a means of further purification.

"And this joyful routine of luxurious massage is just a small part of the holistic ayurvedic game plan against stress. We cannot separate ourselves from the rest of the universe. Our health is dependent on our physiology being totally in tune with the laws and rhythms of nature. The ayurvedic daily routine allows us to be more and more attuned to natural law."

Here's how your day would progress if you followed a good ayurvedic routine:
  • Early to bed and early to rise. Going to bed before 10 p.m. allows us to have the best-quality sleep. Waking up before 6 a.m., we catch the fresh energy of Nature's morning and are lighter and more flexible and energetic than if we sleep in. Studies show that early rising helps people with depression have more energy.
  • Kick-start your metabolism with a large glass of warm water. Spike it with fresh-squeezed lemon and a spoonful of raw honey to help eliminate toxins from the night's metabolism and stimulate a morning bowel movement.
  • Prepare your system for a fresh day's intake by cultivating a healthy, regular bowel habit. If your bowels are irregular, try to train them to move by just sitting on the toilet for five minutes every morning.
  • Pay utmost attention to your oral health: the white coating you see on your tongue every morning is ama, or built-up toxic matter that causes decay and bad breath. Use a silver or stainless steel tongue scraper to clean this out. You can use a silver spoon until you get a tongue scraper. This also gives your digestive tract a reflexive cleaning.
  • Enjoy a head and body massage (abhyanga) with cured sesame oil. Emphasize the ears and the soles of your feet, which contain reflex points for the whole body. Self-massage increases the coordination of mind and body, stimulates the muscles, loosens impurities, pacifies the nervous system and lubricates and protects the skin. Then bathe or shower.
  • Stretch. Sun salutations and yogasanas, done slowly and with your attention on the body, infuse consciousness into the physiology.
  • Practice pranayama. Simple breathing exercises settle the nervous system and clear the mind.
  • Meditate. Transcendental Meditation allows the mind to settle effortlessly into its simplest form of pure awareness, eliminating "noise" in the nervous system.
  • Exercise according to individual preference - easy walking, biking or swimming - and keep your mind on the physical activity, not on the TV or music. Exercise to only 50 percent of your capacity.
  • Wear clean and comfortable clothes suitable to the season and your activity level.
  • Eat a light, nutritious breakfast. Digestive power is not very strong in the morning.
  • Work or study according to your dharma, meaning activity that is enjoyable and life supporting for you
  • Lunch should be the biggest meal of the day, because your digestion is strongest then. Diet should be balanced according to your constitutional type. It's important to eat sitting down and pay attention to the food with all your senses, because this helps the body know how to process it most efficiently. Pleasant conversation is fine, but eating when you are watching TV, reading, upset, angry or trying to forge a business deal keeps your body's energy divided and disturbs digestion. It is good to have a moment of quiet contemplation before eating and to sit for 10 minutes or so after lunch, enjoying pleasant conversation. A brief rest after lunch gives you a good start on digestion. If you want, lie down on your left side, which gives the stomach more room to work.
  • Work or study according to your dharma.
  • Practice yogasanas, pranayama and meditation before the evening meal.
  • Supper should be lighter than lunch so that your body can digest it completely before you go to bed. Then your body can use its nighttime digestive power to get rid of impurities while you sleep.
  • Enjoy some pleasant relaxing activity, and then go to bed early — no later than 10 p.m.

"To many people, the thought of committing to this routine seems daunting at first," says Dr. Peterson. "'Where's the time?' is a common reaction I get. But soon, people realize how pleasurable and beneficial this routine can be. Not only does it improve their bodily health, but it makes them happier and more effective in activity.

"That is the beauty of ayurvedic healing: pleasure combined with an emerging sense of responsibility of self, followed by cumulative, lasting health benefits."

As the perfect complement to this healthful routine, Dr. Peterson prescribes Amrit to his patients. "Amrit is a clinically researched rejuvenant. People who take Amrit regularly report elevated energy levels, enhanced resistance to day-to-day stress and a greater sense of well-being and bliss. For me, the best part of prescribing Amrit to my patients is that I don't have to worry about any side effects it might cause. It is a completely safe, time-tested and highly effective formulation which richly deserves its name — Amrit, or the nectar of vitality," says Dr. Peterson.

In the next issue of Joyful Living Journal, look forward to more insights from Dr. Peterson on dealing with and healing stress.


Feeling Drowsy? Press your Snooze button!

Look what you lose when you lose sleep:

  • Strength and vitality
  • Some of your immunity to disease: latest research links lack of sleep to some serious illnesses
  • Your concentration — so vital to productivity and creativity, not to forget safe driving
  • Your ability to absorb new information and retain old
  • Your memory for things and people
  • Your good cheer: that day-long, down-and-depressed feeling starts when you wake up unrefreshed and lethargic
  • Your ability to handle day-to-day stress

Now look at what you get when you sleep enough and well:

  • Sparkling eyes and radiant complexion
  • Good digestion
  • Rested body
  • Refreshed mind
  • Enhanced energy levels
  • Heightened concentration
  • The enthusiasm to live to the brim the day ahead

Not a bad deal, considering all you have to do is lie down and close your eyes. But obviously the world is having considerable trouble shutting its eyes, or researchers and doctors wouldn't be quoting alarming Sleep Debt figures all the time.

But then there is always some good news to offset the bad. The good news is that people the world over are waking up to the realization that enough good-quality sleep is absolutely necessary for good health. Another reason to smile: they are relying less on side-effect-causing tranquilizers and sedatives.

Every day, more and more people are finding rest and rejuvenation through time-tested advice from holistic healing systems like Maharishi Ayurveda. While Maharishi Ayurveda offers some excellent herbal formulations like Blissful Joy and Worry Free to take you from stressed to rested, these formulas work best in combination with a harmonious lifestyle.

Here are some tips from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians to promote quality sleep:

  1. Avoid nicotine and alcohol before bed. Nicotine is a potent stimulant, and the metabolism of alcohol has an alerting effect, which interferes with sleep. Skip the afternoon latte if you can: the stimulating effect of caffeine can remain for as long as 12 hours. Keep in mind that many teas and sodas contain high caffeine levels as well. If you need a beverage before bed, sip some milk with a pinch of turmeric — it's a natural tranquilizer; or try warm milk with some Organic Rose Petal Spread to cool down the mind, body and emotions. Slumber Time Tea is a blend of ayurvedic herbs and spices that can help you wind down before bed.
  2. Create a cozy cocoon. Eliminate the clutter in your room and in your mind; maintain a comfortable temperature in your bedroom — neither too hot nor too cold; and keep the room dark enough to make your eyes feel rested.
  3. Practice soothing aromatherapy. Lavender oil or a lavender sachet on your bedside table may help you feel sleepy and more relaxed. Or try the Slumber Time Aroma from Maharishi Ayurveda. Let the aroma diffuse in your bedroom for a half-hour before you go to bed.
  4. A warm herb- or aroma-infused bath a couple of hours before bedtime can have a very soothing effect. The bath will raise your temperature, and as the body temperature gradually drops, you will start to feel sleepy.
  5. Because a lower body temperature is a trigger for sleep, ayurveda recommends not exercising vigorously close to bedtime.
  6. Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Waking up and sleeping on time will help balance the doshas and both body and mind.
  7. Try to make your bedroom a haven of peace. Use alarm clocks only if absolutely necessary. Even then, keep them where you can hear them and switch them off quickly, but not see them first thing in the morning. And do invest in a softly-musical alarm clock that will wake you but not jar you awake unpleasantly.
  8. What you eat, and the time you eat it, can affect the quality of your sleep. We have all experienced the discomfort that comes from eating a heavy meal late at night. Ideally, your last meal of the day should be done at least three hours before you go to bed.
  9. Transcendental Meditation, 20 minutes twice a day, is a wonderfully relaxing experience. Done in the morning, it prepares you for the stresses of the day. And in the evening, it teases out the day's built-up tension, ensuring a good night's sleep.
  10. And finally, enjoy life! Laughter is indeed powerful medicine, as is positive, nurturing companionship. The more stress-free your day, the easier it will be to have blissful sleep at night.

Ancient Prescriptions for Blissful Modern Living

"I visited Dr. John Peterson of Muncie, Indiana, for a solution to my frequent headaches. He did ayurvedic pulse diagnosis, and asked me if I had a digestive disorder. The accuracy of his diagnosis stunned me. I was suddenly curious to know more about ayurveda and its approach to healing. And I returned not only with a solution to my problems, but with a prescription for long life," says a happy patient.

The patient is just one among hundreds who have benefited from Dr. John Peterson's pulse diagnosis and ayurvedic prescriptions for healthy living. In the last issue of the Joyful Living Journal, Dr. Peterson talked about the value of a healthy daily routine. Here, he shares his thoughts on pulse diagnosis, herbal healing and de-stressing.

On his methods as an M.D.-cum-ayurvedic physician

"People often ask me how I have been able to blend conventional medicine with alternative," smiles John C. Peterson. M.D. My answer is that I consider myself more integrative than alternative. For I know that my practice of mainstream Western medicine is totally compatible with the 6,000-year-old ayurveda."

Dr. Peterson's method of treatment first rules out things that can best be approached through Western medicine. Then, he uses ayurveda as a complement or as an alternative when other things don't work.

"Ayurveda sets itself apart from other health systems," Dr. Peterson says, "in that it is a completely holstic system. It involves all the senses, which means incorporating daily oil massage, music, meditation, yoga, seasonal rejuvenation therapies, color therapy, aromatherapy, herbs and diet, and even the architecture of your home. All of these, used in conjunction with modern medicine, can not only accelerate your recovery, but also give you a brand new formula for long and healthy living."

On the power of the pulse

"Pulse diagnosis is wonderful for practicing medicine," says Dr. Peterson. "It allows both the doctor and the patient to experience a taste of the Transcendent, Pure Awareness, the underlying Silence. It is so intimately communicative that some healing occurs even while I am taking the pulse. The patient is relieved and is comforted by the settled attention he/she receives and then gives back to him/herself. The doctor feels refreshed. While taking the patient's pulse I must refer to my own pulse, a self-referral process that infuses bliss into the physiology. It's always the joy of the doctor to be able to take the pulse.

"And while I examine you, you may not even be aware of the other things I notice. Like your face, your eyes, your irises and conjunctiva, the texture of your skin or obvious tightness in some areas of the face or neck — I notice it all. Using all the senses is what makes the seemingly simple examination so comprehensive."

On what the pulse reveals

"I take the radial pulse with three fingers, which represent the three doshas — Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The first finger feels Vata, the dosha responsible for movement, space and air. The second finger probes Pitta, which represents the elements of fire and water. Pitta governs areas where there is heat, digestive enzymes, metabolism — where transformation is at work. The third finger picks up Kapha, representing water and earth. Kapha governs structure and fluid balance, and has the qualities of heaviness, slowness and thickness.

"Pulse diagnosis can give important information ranging from how well your body is functioning to what your personality is like.

"The deep pulse reveals genetic information, which tells me how you are unique and different from everyone else on earth. In the superficial pulse, each finger can pick up information from the five sub-doshas for each dosha. You can feel those in different parts of the finger, and they tell how those doshas that you inherited from your parents have gotten out of balance.

"There's more. I can get very specific with organ systems. The mid-pulse is the level of the dhatus, which are the actual tissues. There I can perceive the patterns of ama or impurities — how they are manifesting themselves in the different tissues. So just from a couple of minutes with the patient, I can locate the seeds of the medical problem. Based on the imbalances of the doshas, I make recommendations on how to get rid of the impurities and bring balance to the physiology."

His favorite dosha-balancing recommendations

"As a first step, know your doshic constitution, or prakriti. Through a consultation with an ayurvedic physician, you will awaken to those qualities that make you unique. Imagine how wonderful it would be to know yourself so well that you know what to take in from the environment with each of your senses to create and maintain balance!

"Apart from instructions from a qualified ayurvedic physician, use your power of discrimination to decide what to eat and how to eat it. Fresh food, for instance, is always superior to preserved or canned food. Light food is always better than heavy. Also, never put 'foods that fight' on your plate.

"For instance, milk and yogurt do not mix. Use healing spices and herbs in your cooking to boost digestion and improve immunity.

"Every season, rejuvenate your body, mind and spirit with the magic of Panchakarma. It involves several days of preparation of the body with various forms of deep massage, using a variety of oils. It is extremely helpful in balancing your doshas and returning you to your 'prakriti' or basic nature."

On healing with herbs

Rasayana is a Sanskrit word for that which nourishes the connection between consciousness and the physiology. Rasayanas are special herbal and mineral preparations that act as a tonic. Dr. Peterson especially recommends Amrit — a rasayana by Maharishi Ayurveda that combines powerful immunity-boosting and nurturing herbs and fruits. Amrit promotes "bala" or vital strength that helps the body fight back disease. Look at the tremendous benefits you get from Amrit:

  • It nourishes the seven tissues — nutritional fluid, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and reproductive fluid.
  • Amrit balances the three ayurvedic principles of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which govern vital activities of the mind and body, right from circulation and digestion to respiration and emotions.
  • Amrit boosts all three mental abilities recognized in Ayurveda: dhi — learning; dhriti — retention; and smriti — recall.

The antioxidant properties of Amrit inhibit degenerative processes and boost the body's own defense mechanisms against free radical attack, deemed responsible for premature aging and 80% of disease.

"If I had to describe Amrit in one word," says Dr. Peterson, "That word would be bliss."

On beating back stress

"The key here," says Dr. Peterson, "is learning to turn your behavior patterns — giving them positive direction. You might be surprised to know that ayurveda treats even our behavior as a rasayana," says Dr. Peterson. "The ayurvedic behavioral rasayanas are especially important when life gets complicated. A 'pinch' in our heart due to restricted communication between the heart and the mind can mean that there is a lack of fulfillment of desires — some unhappiness. Behavioral rasayanas can work wonders for depression and cardiovascular disease."

Here is a list of these time-tested ayurvedic formulas for a happier and simpler life. You might want to write them out in your own words and put them someplace where you'll run across them from time to time.

  • Be unconceited, well-mannered, and simple in your behavior.
  • Be truthful, at least to yourself and one good friend you can trust. Speaking the truth is healing, keeps life simple, and frees energy for spiritual growth.
  • Be sweet-spoken. Always speak the truth, but speak it sweetly.
  • Be free from anger. Anger is natural when needs aren't met. Do you know what your heart needs? Listen to your heart and take care of your needs. If anger is present, don't suppress it. Express it in a way that doesn't hurt anybody and then let it go.
  • Abstain from alcohol and immoderate behavior. Everything in moderation!
  • Observe cleanliness — not necessarily "squeaky clean," but comfortably clean.
  • Give yourself an all-body massage with a healing oil before your daily bath.
  • Observe regularity in your daily routine.
  • Keep the company of elders — their wisdom will rub off on you. You'll gain a more balanced perspective of time and purpose.
  • Be self-controlled and follow the precepts of your spiritual beliefs.
  • Practice the technique of Transcendental Meditation® daily. Being established in the Transcendent allows all of these behaviors to evolve spontaneously. As Lord Krishna told Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, "Become established in Being first, and then perform action!" The effortless process of transcending leads to Pure Consciousness, the simplest form of human awareness.
  • Be devoted to the development of higher states of consciousness — spiritual development is why we're here in the first place. Established in being, our actions are then spontaneously in harmony with nature's laws. The highest state of consciousness — Unity Consciousness — is a state of complete simplicity where the Upanishadic expression "I am That, Thou art That, all of This is nothing but That" is a living reality. In Unity Consciousness, everyday life is a continuum of bliss and all fear is left behind.

Eating for Bliss: Diet Tips for the Unique You

Ayurveda believes that the food you eat is not just taste, smell, and satisfaction. It is also desire, feeling and emotion.

The Charaka Samhita, one of the earliest and most comprehensive ayurvedic texts in existence, links food with spirit thus:

"The use of foods and drinks which are heavy, rough, cold and dry, disliked, distending, burning, unclean, antagonistic, or taken untimely ... are afflicted with these psychic emotions: passion, anger, greed, confusion, envy, bashfulness, grief, conceit, excitement and fear."

The obvious choice, it would seem, is to stay away from the 'disliked' and the 'distending.' But it's not so easy to generalize. Some people, for instance, drink milk straight from the refrigerator and whistle through their day. For others, milk in any form is trouble. Even within the same family, no two people have identical food preferences.

Why? "The answer lies in your prakriti, or unique constitution," says The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians. Your prakriti is the sum of your shape, size, weight, complexion, energy levels, emotional responses, and health patterns, which are totally different from those of anyone else's on earth. Improper diet and lifestyle habits, environmental pollution and day-to-day stress can cause this basic doshic combination, or prakriti, to become imbalanced, and this basically is why disorders and disease occur, whether of the body or the mind.

Metabolism, ayurveda believes, is central to your health. Efficient food conversion, assimilation and elimination supplies the nutrients that enable each cell and tissue to perform its job well. If, on the other hand, your metabolic processes are in disharmony, you're on the road to ill-health, just like inefficient fuel combustion in a car engine starts to form deposits on valves.

The key to good nutrition, therefore, is this: eat those foods that please and nurture your own unique constitution and help keep it in balance. And no one can have a better understanding of this than you yourself. Stepping on and off the scale a dozen times a day, or consulting the calorie charts while munching are not the right ways to do this, though. They only take the joy out of eating. The simplest way to chart out your culinary course is to develop a feel for your body and its likes and dislikes.

In conjunction with your own efforts to understand your physiology, visit a vaidya (ayurvedic expert) for a diagnosis of your unique prakriti or body type and individualized suggestions for maintaining balance. Vaidyas receive intensive training in pulse diagnosis. Just a few minutes of holding your wrist, and they can tell you exactly how the doshas are combined in your personality and whether one or more of them needs to be fine-tuned.

Meanwhile, paying attention to the following five principles will help you eat for health, well-being and bliss:

Swabhav, or the nature of the food: Cinnamon, for instance, is hot by nature, while cardamom is cool. Again, clove is hot and cumin is cool. Though you can slowly develop an understanding of the various spices and their properties on your own, it can, admittedly, get confusing in the beginning. As a general rule, too, eat more foods that are cool in swabhav when the weather is hot, and switch to warm foods in cool weather. Maharishi Ayurveda Churnas and Herbal Teas are simple, convenient ways to eat and drink for personal balance.

Sanyog, or proper blending:

This is an important ayurvedic concept. Just like certain plants, when sown together, grow healthier and can resist disease, so can food combinations influence the way you feel. You'll observe that yogurt and milk taken together will disagree with your system.

Result:

You'll be irritable and less productive. But cook light split mung dhal with basmati rice in a spoonful of gourmet ghee, spike it with a Churna of your choice, and you've got the perfect combination for a light, nutritious meal. For more tips on food combinations and for delicious, healthy recipes, subscribe to MAPI's free newsletter on eating right, ayurvedically, and many other health-related topics.

Sanskar, or the qualities of food, which change with processing:

Raw foods, for instance, are considered harder to digest, according to ayurveda. But when you cook them lightly and spice them mildly, they become beneficial for you. Similarly, cold milk, straight from the refrigerator, is difficult to digest, but boiled and cooled milk, taken with a pinch of turmeric and a spoonful of Maharishi Ayurveda's soothing Organic Rose Petal Spread, is a natural tranquilizer.

Matra, which means quantity:

Each of us has a certain capacity, beyond which the system has to struggle to digest food. This capacity differs from person to person and is known as his or her unique 'matra.' A change in the regular matra our system is used to will cause an imbalance in the digestive system, and in our whole physiology. Get a feel for your 'matra' and try to eat close to that quantity at any given meal.

Desha, or location, is critical, too: Within the same country, there are different environmental zones, and therefore different ways our bodies respond to foods. If you've moved recently from a cold, wet place to a desert region, you need more moist, sweet and oily foods like carrots, zucchini, beets, cilantro, cumin, ghee, sesame oil and light beans. This is because deserts have a natural propensity to Vata dosha in the environment. Ghee lubricates and nurtures the body from the inside, so it is especially good for people living in desert lands.

THUMB RULES FOR EVERYONE

Get the six basic tastes on your plate:

The 6 ayurvedic tastes (rasas) are an important part of a balanced diet. The idea is to eat at least a bit of each taste — sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent — at each meal. For an easy way to ensure this, help yourself to a dollop of Maharishi Ayurveda's taste-enhancing Chutneys, which include all 6 tastes.

Eat foods that have a sattvic influence on your mind:

Sattvic foods are those that are digested easily and nourish body, mind and spirit. They include fresh foods, milk, ghee, most vegetables, grains (especially basmati rice), and light beans like mung dhal. When you eat more sattvic foods, you feel calm and poised, but creative and energetic.

Be done with the first meal before starting the next:

This one is self-explanatory. If your earlier meal is not fully digested, the ingredients from that meal will mix with those in the next one and create all sorts of digestive imbalances.

If you eat for good health, eat in the positive company of pleasant friends, and choose the right foods, you help to maximize not just your physical health but your emotional, mental and spiritual well-being as well.


Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.