Ayurveda is the art of daily living in harmony with the laws of nature. It is an ancient natural wisdom of health and healing, a science of life. The aims and objectives of this science are to maintain the health of a healthy person and to heal the disease of an unhealthy person. Both prevention (maintenance of good health) and healing are carried out by entirely natural means.
According to Ayurveda, health is a perfect state of balance among the body’s three fundamental energies, or doshas (vata, pitaa, kapha) and an equally vital balance among body, mind and the soul or consciousness.
Ayurveda is a profound science of living that encompasses the whole of life and relates the life of the individual to the life of the universe. It is a holistic system of healing in the truest sense. Body, mind, and consciousness are in constant interaction and relationship with other people and the environment. In working to
create health, Ayurveda takes into consideration these different levels of life and their interconnectedness.
As a science of self-healing, Ayurveda encompasses diet and nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, rest and relaxation, meditation, breathing exercises, and medicinal herbs, along with cleansing and rejuvenation programs for healing body, mind and spirit. Numerous adjunct therapies such as sound, color, and aromatherapy may also be employed.
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that means “the science of life and longevity.” According to this science, every individual is both a creation of cosmic energies and a unique phenomenon, a unique personality. Ayurveda teaches that we all have a constitution, which is our individual psychobiological makeup. From the moment of conception, the universal energies of Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.
These five elements combine into the three fundamental energies, or doshas. Ether and air constitute Vata, which is the energy of movement; fire and water constitute Pitta, the principle of digestion and metabolism, the transformation of matter into energy; and water and earth make up Kapha, the energy of structure and lubrication. When the male sperm and the female egg join at the time of fertilization, the vata-pitta-kapha factors from the parents’ bodies that are most active and predominant at the moment, due to the season, the time, the emotional state, and the quality of their relationship, form a new individual with a particular constellation of qualities.
In modern terms, we speak of this blueprint of the individual as our inherited genetic code; form the ancient times Ayurveda has called it our Prukruti or individual constitution, a constant factor that does not change throughout life. It is our own unique patter of energy, our combination of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics and pre-dispositions.
Though the underlying structure of our Prukruti remains a fixe reality, our home base or essential individuality, it is constantly bombarded by numerous forces. Changes in age and in our external environment, alternating heat and cold as the season pass, our endless shifting thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and the quality and quantity of the food we eat continuously affect us. Unhealthy diet, excess stress, insufficient rest or exercise, and repressed emotions all disturb our doshic balance. Depending of the type of changes and the individual’s under-lying constitution, various ailments may develop:
— Some individuals experience an increase or aggravation of kapha, leading to conditions such as colds, congestion, sneezing, and allergic manifestations, as well as attachment, greed, and possessiveness.
— A pitta individual may become highly critical, angry, or perfectionistic, or may develop physical symptoms such as acid indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, dysentery, hives, rash or acne.
— Vata imbalances may manifest as constipation, abdominal distention, sciatica, arthritis, or insomnia, along with psychological symptoms such as fear, anxiety, and insecurity.
All these illnesses and conditions, in addition to the countless others that lead to human suffering, are due to alterations in the body’s inner ecology. These upset the individual’s balance, creating subtle biochemical changes that ultimately lead to disease. This is why the Ayurvedic system of medicine speaks of the need for healing for every individual in every walk of life.
As the internal and external conditions of our lives change, if we are going to remain healthy we need to constantly adjust in order to maintain equilibrium. Some of this adjusting takes place automatically due to the beautiful wisdom and intelligence with the which our bodies have been designed. But much demands conscious choice.
To maintain health and balance, we have to juggle with the three doshas, taking action to increase or decrease vata, pitta, or kapha as conditions demand. This requires moment-to-moment awareness, moment-to-moment consciousness, moment-to-moment healing.
Thus healing — healthy, balanced, conscious living in the fullness of the present moment — is really a way of life. Ayurveda is not a passive form of therapy but rather asks each individual to take responsibility for his or her own daily living. Through our diet, our relationships, and our daily life as a whole, we can take simple actions for prevention, self-healing, wholeness, and growth toward fulfillment.
Illness provides us with an invitation for self-transformation, an opportunity to change our way of thinking, feeling, eating, and in general caring for ourselves and our lives.*
* Vasant Lad’s “The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies”
What is Kitchari?
Kitchari is the traditional healing and cleansing food of Ayurveda. It is a simple stew of basmati rice and split yellow mung lentils, which are both suitable for basically every dosha. Because of their ease of digestion and assimilation, Kitchari is especially recommended for children and babies, the infirmed, older people, intestinal repair, general rejuvenation, and those seeking spiritual growth.
While Kitchari is an Ayurvedic detox food, in many houses around the world, it is consumed regularly as a staple throughout the year. A simple, porridge-like blend of lenitils and rice, kitchari is often referred to as the Indian comfort food. But, contrary to the Western idea of comfort food, Indians are taking comfort in feeling well and in kitchari’s many nourishing and purifying benefits.
Kitchari is Easy to Digest and Good for Everyone
Kitchari is balancing for all constitution types. While beans are typically not a food recommended for regular consumption for vata types—or for people experiencing vata imbalances—the split mung is easy to digest for even weak digesters.
White basmati rice is traditionally used in kitchari because it is very easy to digest and is considered in Ayurveda to be the only grain that is balancing to all three doshas. Using gentle digestive spices and fully cooking the rice and mung beans makes kitchari so mild that it is served for almost every condition in Ayurvedic hospitals and it is often given to babies as their first food. Eating a mono diet of just kitchari for several days, and even up to several months, offers the digestive system a rest.
Kitchari is a Complete Protein
The combination of rice and mung dal provides all the amino acids needed to form a complete protein. Eaten on their own, each of these foods is missing one or more of the essential amino acids that our bodies are not able to make on their own. Together, however, they make magic happen. That is why a significant number of people around the world live on a similarly basic diet of rice and beans.
The protein content of kitchari supports stable blood sugar levels so that energy and mental clarity are balanced during the cleansing process.
Kitchari Can Be For the Every Day
Most people don’t have the luxury of doing a full traditional Ayurvedic cleanse, or Panchakarma, under the care of trained practitioners. These days especially, it is more common to undertake a cleanse while maintaining regular work and personal duties. Unlike fasting cleanses, though, a kitchari cleanse is not a diet. There is no calorie or quantity restriction and there is no restriction of any of the basic ‘macro nutrients’ (fat, carbs, protein.) Kitchari is substantial enough to support you as you accomplish your day-to-day responsibilities.
Kitchari Improves Digestion
Agni, or the digestive fire (loosely equating to metabolism in the west,) is considered in Ayurveda to be the golden key to all health. Good agni means we are able to digest, assimilate, and absorb nutrients from our food. Weak or imbalanced agni means malabsorption and accumulation of ama, or toxins.
Spices like ginger, cumin, coriander, fennel, and even salt encourage healthy agni. Because kitchari is made with spices that can be tailored to your constitution type, it can nourish and balance agni for everyone.
Kapha types benefit from all spices; vata types do well with most spices but should avoid very pungent ones, such as cayenne pepper; and pitta types can find balance with cooler spices like fennel and coriander.
Kitchari Loosens Toxic Buildup
Mung dal has an astringent (dry) quality. This astringency has a natural pulling action that helps to remove toxic buildup from the intestinal lining. This pulling action is much gentler than a harsh or abrasive scraping action that happens with raw or cold foods, especially raw vegetables.
According to Dr. Sunil V. Joshi in his book Ayurveda and Panchakarma, kitchari also liquefies ama during the second stage of digestion. This makes the ama easier to remove.
Kitchari Removes Natural Toxins from the Body
Once toxins are loosened and liquefied, it is essential that they get properly eliminated from the body. The split mung beans provide enough fiber (over 15 grams per 1-cup serving) to move these toxins through the GI tract and out of the body.
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup mung dal (split yellow)
8 cups (approx.) of boiling water
1/2 to 1 inch ginger root, chopped or grated
A bit of mineral salt (1/4 tsp. or so)
2 tsp. ghee or sunflower oil
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
Handful of fresh cilantro leaves
3 cups assorted vegetables
Carefully pick over rice and dal to remove any stones. Wash eachseparately in at least 2 changes of water. Roast the mung and rice in oil for 30 seconds. Add the 8 cups of boiling water to the rice and dal and cook until it becomes soft, about 20 minutes.
While that is cooking, prepare any vegetables that suit your constitution. Cut them into smallish pieces. Add the vegetables to the cooked rice and dal mixture and cook 10 minutes longer.
In a separate saucepan, sauté the seeds in the oil until they pop. Then add the other spices. Stir together to release the flavors. Stir the sautéed spices into the cooked dal, rice, and vegetable mixture. Add the mineral salt and chopped fresh cilantro and serve.
For Vata or Kapha conditions: add a pinch of ginger powder<
For Pitta: leave out the mustard seeds
Teas For Each Constitution
Vata Tea — equal parts ground ginger, cumin and coriander
Pitta Tea — equal parts ground cumin, coriander and fennel
Kapha Tea — equal parts ground ginger, cinnamon, and a pinch of clove