All About That Ayurveda – 21 day challenge

Hey there!

Now I don’t know about you lovely folks but with breastfeeding a baby around the clock as well as pumping to encourage supply, I have found I’ve been doing A LOT of reading and listening to books on tape while I’m glued to my now-claimed spot on the couch. (There’s also only so many daytime TV and late-night infomercials I can watch on the ole boob-tube) Thanks to our local library which offers many an e-book I’ve found something that has recently sparked my interest: the wonderful world of Ayurveda!

What is Ayurveda you ask? Well it literally translates from Sanskrit into the science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge) and it originated in India more than 3,000 years ago. It’s foundation is the belief that a person’s health and wellness depends on a delicate balance between your body, mind and spirit with a focus on striving for and maintaining good health, rather than fighting disease and symptoms of illness. It includes a large focus dedicated to diet depending on your type or dosha. But Ayurveda is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle with a diet component.

(Side note: I once attended an Anthropology lecture where the focus was the differences of medicine: east vs. west. Now I’m really paring the substance of the discussion down here but something I thought was very interesting was the proposal of differences in their methodologies. In western medicine the body is treated like a machine, in which faulty parts of the body can be replaced and addressing symptoms, instead of the cause of the problem.  Have a bad hip? We can replace it! Suffer from a heart attack with damage to your arteries? We can replace those too! Heck we can even take body parts from one person that they are no longer using, or have multiples of and put them in a sick person so they can use them!

The eastern philosophy of medicine puts a heavy focus on prevention and paying attention to the whole person rather than just the body/machine. The root of your symptoms is addressed rather than just the symptoms. You’ve also got a mind to take care of, you’ve got a spiritual side of sorts to take care of and these two other parts need to be taken into consideration and taken care of alongside the body!)

Anywho, I had briefly read about Ayurveda when I was a young pup in my very early twenties but never bothered to really dive into it; with reading time on my hands, a baby on my boob and an e-reader with space for a new book from the library I thought why not give it an honest read-through? So I did- and found my interest piqued.

But before I get into the challenge I’m setting up for myself, there are a few things you should know about Ayurveda. Let’s start with a very high-level overview Ayurveda:

1- Body/mind types:

  • Ayurveda is not just diet based on your dosha or type/constitution but your dosha does determine what you should be following for optimal health. There are 3 doshas (very nicely explained and outlined here: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/learning-ayurveda/intro-to-ayurveda/)
    • Vata
      • composed of air and space; think thin person, creative, tendencies towards indecision.
    • Pitta
      • composed of fire and water; medium person, sharp, tendencies towards anger
    • Kapha
      • composed of earth and water; thicker person, purposeful, tendencies towards greed

(Now I am WAY oversimplifying the doshas and for good reason: I’m not an authority on the matter. In fact, I encourage you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions! My focus of this post is more about what Ayurveda will mean for me in this challenge!)

2- Balance the mind-body

  • This does not necessarily mean YOU have to meditate to strengthen and balance the connection but it is a good way to do this. (Mindfulness is another great way to strengthen this connection!)

3- Sleep

  • The body needs sleep. Period. A lack of sleep causes a whole slew of imbalances such as hormonal, mental and physical (think of how hungry you get, how foggy your mind can be or how uncoordinated you get when you’re over-tired! Parents, I’m thinking of us! Kids keep us up at all hours and yet we still have to get up and be responsible for ourselves and the kidlets each and every day!)

4- Exercise

  • Each dosha responds differently to various forms of physical exercise; depending on your constitution going for a run on a cold morning might be torture for you! And for the same person who loves an early morning run with a chill in the air, the idea of following a Tai Chi class could bore them out of their mind.

5- Tendencies towards disease

  • Each dosha, when out of balance, will potentially present itself in various forms of disease (for instance, the Kapha dosha has a tendency towards sluggishness, and the imbalance might present itself as a weight problem on the heavy side, or diabetes). The goal of Ayurveda is to bring the dosha back into balance which should help with addressing that particular disease.

(Here are some great resources to help you learn more about Ayurveda:

Now on to the good stuff: what’s my dosha?? Cue my love for quizzes, like a teen cracking opening up a “TigerBeat” magazine to find out which of the boys from “Home Improvement” should be my boyfriend! (Spoiler alert: of the 3 boys the magic of magazine quizzes determined I should date J.T.T! EEEEEEEEEEEE – so dreamy!!) Just to make sure I got it right, and to see if there was any great difference between results, I took several quizzes to help me determine my dosha. Like about 7 or 8 different quizzes. They all gave me the same result; phew! No complications there 🙂

Now if you look at the title of this blog you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that I’ve a dual dosha of pitta-vata (that’s right, I’m fiery, decisive, creative and impulsive; what more could you want in a blogger?). Www.banyanbotanicals.com indicates that for a dual dosha of vata-pitta one should: follow a vata-pacifying regimen during the fall and winter seasons, during the change of seasons and especially when the weather is cold and windy. Follow a pitta-pacifying regimen during the spring and summer and especially when the weather is warm.

Since we are transitioning through spring and into summer here in Canada I will be following what is required for Pitta.

So what about this 21-day challenge? Why 21 days? What am I adhering to anyway?

Well this is my own 21-day challenge where I will focus on following the Pitta-pacifying diet only to stay in line with the season. I say diet-only because with a newborn at home I have other schedules/routines to become accustomed to; I’m not in a position to commit to a specific way of eating, plus meditation, plus working out, plus, plus, plus, plus! So for my own sanity, as well to make sure I can put some actual focus on this and give it the ole “college try”, I will stick to watching what I eat and go from there. (Who knows- maybe I’ll be a total convert and will keep it up. Maybe I’ll come out of this 21-day challenge and say, “none of this is reasonable to do for me. Thanks but no thanks.” Besides, eating is something I have to do no matter what. Meditation, exercise, etc. are things I should do but might have to take a backseat depending on how life goes. But eating is a must. Baby steps.)

So why 21 days? I picked 21 days because 2 weeks is too short, 28 days seemed too long but I’ve done varying challenges before (daily plank challenge, squat challenge, etc.) and 21-days seems to be my attention-span-sweet-spot for determining if I like something, can keep it up, and if I need to make adjustments without having put in more time than necessary to arrive at the decision.

I must also offer some disclosure: I also felt I could commit to this because when I saw what the food-choices were, they were realistic both long-term as well as in the immediate future while I nurse a newborn and get to know what being a mom is all about! (A local public heath nurse once said to me, “whatever your feeding routine is: e is breastfeeding only, pump/bottle, if you need to supplement with formula or breast milk from a bank- just make sure it’ works for you. If the routine doesn’t work, or it’s taking a toll on your personal health then it’s time to re-evaluate and make a choice based on what’s good for you and baby!”  <- this was about a feeding routine for the baby but I feel this sagely wisdom applies for a feeding routine for me too!)

Now for the guidelines (not rules!), but guidelines for embarking on this self-issued challenge that are principles of Ayurvedic eating:

  • Follow the pitta-pacifying foods according to ayurveda for 21 days starting today (it’s important to note that there’s nothing that seems to be an absolute NEVER EVER EAT list- except maybe drugs/poisons? But instead there’s an “avoid” list which I will be following)
  • Eat only when I’m hungry
    • Don’t eat if you’re bored, emotional…or other things that aren’t hungry!
  • Eat in a calm and comfortable spot
    • avoid eating with distractions (like TV, laptop, etc. we tend to eat more when we aren’t paying attention to what we’re putting in our mouths)
  • Eat until you’re full, not stuffed
    • Don’t eat until you’re uncomfortable, eat until you aren’t hungry any more!
    • Be present when you eat
  • Eat real, quality food
    • No franken-foods, avoid the processed stuff; stick to using fresh ingredients where possible
    • Foods should be at least a little juicy or a little oily to facilitate digestion
  • Don’t eat fast
    • Eating your meal should be a delight, not a race (where possible- though there have been times when I have my baby in my lap and a sandwich in my hand, I’m enjoying a bite to eat when I hear a sound that changes the game. A gurgly sound that signals that my son is about to mess his diaper in a mustard and chocolate pudding kind of way. So what do I do? scarf down my sandwich FAST so I can eat before his diaper becomes an oil spill!)
  • Eat at a regular time
    • If you can, stick to a schedule where you can expect to eat meals around the same time
  • Make lunch your biggest meal

So there you have it! The guidelines I’m sticking to for the next 21 days! (Before and after pictures to come as well as reviews of recipes based on my dosha, struggles, and victories)

I also plan on continuing to read up on Ayurveda throughout the challenge, because, hey- I’ve got time to read and why not continue the learning!

Stay tuned for updates, recipes, info and more sports fans!

Wishing you all a wonderful Tuesday!