Health is one of the primary concerns of all living things, especially human beings. The productivity and progress of the nation depends on the well-being of its people. It is essential to realize the fact that being healthy and living free of ailments are distinct. To call himself healthy, he has to be physically, mentally and socially sound. So, a healthy living is possible only if an individual is healthy in all spheres of life. It includes everything from eating the right kind of food for his body, proper breathing, contemplation and reflection of events to spiritual activities like meditation.
Before we even step into the arena of leading a healthy life, we need to understand our body constitution. What we see through our eyes is only a fraction of the human existence. It is not just our body but even in life, what we see is only a minuscule of reality. So what exactly is our body? What is its constitution?
Ayurveda classifies a person on two distinctive, yet un-related factors. First is the body and second in mind. Together, they determine the nature of a human, which is called as ‘Prakriti’, meaning nature or constitution. The prakriti is mainly determined by three biological forces or Dosha’s – Vata, Kapha and Pitta. These three elements are present all over the body. However, the predominance of one or combination of two dosha’s determine the individual characteristic of the being. The characteristic of each Dosha are:
According to the Vedantic Philopshy, we have 5 layers of human existence called as the Panchakosha. These aspects are referred to as layers of the subjective experiences. It starts from the dense physical body to the more subtle levels of emotions, mind and spirit. The 5 layers are:
Anna-maya-kosha is the first layer of our personality which is made up of the quintessence of food, and it expands because of this essence. So the food we consume plays a major role in what we are, since it governs this layer.
Praana-maya-kosha is the second layer of our personality. The word praana means source of energy. Every physical activity needs energy. Our vital functions which the prana primarily governs are breathing, heart beats, circulation, and digestion, so on.
Mano-maya-kosha is the third layer of our personality which depicts ‘mind’. Thoughts are provoked by reminiscences, conditionings, emotions so on.
Vigyana-maya means our wisdom and intellect which forms the fourth layer. Through this layer, we experience the intellect and knowledge. Also these experiences lead us to a discriminative thinking ability and guide us through the good and bad.
Aananda-maya-kosha is the soul of Vigyana-maya-kosha which forms the last layer. Resultant of the previous birth, the residues, the deeds and actions leads us to the formation of the layer which constitutes our personality.
“We are what we eat”
Life from the perspective of food is what is assimilated by the father, nourished in the womb of mother. It continues to exist based on the food we consume and ultimately after death it goes back into the fertile earth to become food for other living organisms. Thus, our physical structure is something which rises from food, exists in food and goes back to become food. With this, we can appreciate the value of food and the role of good food in our prosperity.
The well-being of the Annamaya Kosha or the physical body is based on the food we consume. It does not suffice if we consume quality food. It is also essential that we consume food that is suitable to our body. The type of food for an individual varies according to the predominance of the Dosha. After identifying your type of Dosha, which is best done by an Ayurvedic Doctor, consume food which helps balance the Dosha. A very brief description of the types of food for the Dosha’s are:
Kapha aggravating (to be avoided when there is a Kapha imbalance):
- Dairy (cold dairy) – try to stick to warm skimmed milk
- Red meat, Seafood
- Any kind of Oil in large quantities
- Nuts and seeds (except pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
- Rice, Wheat, Oats and moist cereal
- Sugar and fat
Kapha decreasing (to be consumed when there is a Kapha imbalance/aggravation)
- Barley, Corn
- Raw honey
- All kinds of herbs and spices
- Dry food cooked without much moist
- Stimulating foods with pungent astringent taste
Vata aggravating (to be avoided when there is a Vata imbalance/aggravation)
- Raw vegetables
- Dried and unripened fruits (especially bananas)
- Red meat
- Spices in Large quantities
- All bitter and astringent herbs and spices (e.g: Coriander)
- Dry food and bitter food
Vata decreasing (to be consumed when there is a Vata imbalance)
- Sesame and olive oil
- Warm food, heavy texture with added butter and fat
- Salt, sour, sweet
- Spicy food
- Starchy food
Pitta aggravating (to be avoided when there is a Pitta imbalance/aggravation)
- Steaming hot food
- Sour food
- Salt oil and spices
- Salty and heavy food (fried)
- Sour or unripened fruits
- All pungent herbs and spices
- Red meat
- Butter and fat
Pitta decreasing (to be consumed when there is a Pitta imbalance)
- Bitter, Sweet and astringent food
- Warm milk
- Sweet and ripe fruits
- Ice cream
- Starchy food
- Salad herb tea
- Cold food / cooling food
In the Kapopanishad, the body is compared to the chariot. The intellect is the driver of the body chariot and the mind is the rein, and the sense organs are like the horses of the chariot. Therefore, if you have to reach your destination safely, the welfare of all the above are exceedingly important. The most intelligent person in the world will be the person who knows the importance of his/her body as a means to attain liberation which is the ultimate goal of human life. Go on to be a fine and healthy individual to serve the society unaffected like a lotus floating on water.