Ayurveda is based on the simple principle of seeking balance. Eminé Ali Rushton believes it is, therefore, in many ways the perfect tonic for our incredibly hectic modern lives. Even if you're busy, stressed, overwhelmed, the simple act of eating Ayurvedically will help to keep your body in balance in a way that will strengthen it against the day's challenges.
It's the best starting point for busy people, because it gently, very gently, brings the body into line without shocking the system.
Ayurveda has divised three entities, called the doshas, used to describe different body types and needs.
The Three Doshas:
Vata - the equivalent of an Ectomorph
Pitta - equivalent of a Mesomorph
Kapha - equivalent of an Endomorph
Everyone possesses all three doshas - we need to in order to carry out all the different functions of our body. But the doshas make up different proportions within each of us. Vata types tend to be slender, enthusiastic, talkative, drawn to adventure and new experiences but lacking in willpower. Pitta types can be driven, assertive, high-achievers and self-involved. Kapha types are loyal, calm and steady, compassionate and quietly confident. They are the most likely to suffer from weight-related issues due to a slow metabolism. See the chart below for some more typical characteristics to help you identify your dosha type.
Ayurveda believes that if we adapt our lives to the seasons we will avoid the inevitable maladies that come when we're out of sync with the world around us. We're coming out of winter, a time when Kapha is at its highest - think of the dampness we carry in our systems if still throwing off chesty coughs and colds, and also the lethargy we're left with after months of darkness.
Spring naturally supports change, and Ayurveda places a lot of store in this season, when it's all about getting rid of the Kapha that's built up in our bodies. We hear a lot about 'fresh starts', and perhaps the term has become hackneyed, but I'll never forget the year when I returned from a 10-day April escape (having left the UK after five solid months of rain, snow and far-lower-than-average temperatures) to find my garden blooming. My camellia tree was glorious - bursting with fat pink blooms, and all the little wildflowers along the garden path had sprung up, seemingly overnight.
I have that picture emblazoned in my mind because it came with a huge accompanying sigh of relief. Feeling the spring sunshine on my face, looking up at that blue sky, taking a first full deep breath of warm air into my lungs, I knew that winter was over, I'd left repeated bouts of illness behind me, and now I could start to heal and move forward in both body and mind.
Of course spring is not without its typical ailments: whenever flowers start to bloom, hay fever rears its head too, and Kapha types tend to suffer the most. We're also in the process of getting rid of all that stagnant Kapha energy within our systems; the token spring cold is a symbol of that - and the body's own bid to spring clean itself.
By eating Ayurvedically and always in line with the seasons, you can really bolster your body against most health complaints, but you need to reset your way of life first. The easiest way to do this is to get your body clock back on track and in spring, we all benefit from waking along with the sunrise - before seven a.m.
Early waking dispels sluggishness, which is the cornerstone of Kapha. Kickstart your digestion and sharpen your mind. In lieu of hot water you can also try a cup of fresh, stimulating tea - grate ginger into boiling water, allow to cool and add a small drizzle of honey to taste.
Food wise you should focus on bitter, pungent and astringent flavours. These foods are naturally cleansing and that's what spring is all about. Focus on light and fresh meals that are easy to digest - we don't want to add more stodge to a stomach that's in the process of shifting winter's excess. Food should, however, be warm - steamed, poached and grilled/broiled food is all great in spring.
Spicing is important - ginger, and most peppers (black, cayenne, chilli) are all good, but Pitta types be wary of overdoing it - we all need to shift the Kapha energy in spring, but we don't want to aggravate our doshas while we do it.