Raw Food & the Ayurvedic Diet (part 2)
I'm coming out of the closet as an Ayurvedic practitioner who eats mostly raw food. I hate to call it “raw” mostly because “raw” sounds cold, severe and intense. Living foods is a more accurate name, as it reflects the alive, pulsating, and natural qualities of raw foods. “Alive” sounds better than “dead”… and when we cook food, the enzymes and the prana dies. The nutrients diminish. I receive emails like this at least once a week, so I thought I'd expound.
Ayurveda, Raw Food & Digestion
The weekly question in my inbox centers of Ayurveda & digestion.
Why are you teaching about Raw Foods in your Living Ayurveda course?
I thought that Ayurveda specifies that raw foods aren't very digestible?
Jane Doe, Certified Yoga Teacher
When we start eating more raw food than normal our digestive tract is in transition. This transition is largely one of detoxing the gunk from a Standard American (or Western) Diet, which usually includes wheat, meat and sugar. On a cooked mostly vegetable, fruit, grain and seed diet your digestion will transition in terms of metabolising and creating enzymes. Except for the weak and the old, the transition can happen peacefully.
My theory is that Ayurveda used to be a lot more green plant oriented and a lot more raw that it's taught today. The Vaidyas (Ayurvedic doctors) of yore, wandering the forests to know the plants. They would pick a leaf and eat it. They would debate the particular affects of the leaf on the physical systems of the body and the mind. That is how the Ayurvedic pharmacological database is the best plant database in the world. They weren't running back to their campfires to boil the leaf before they'd check it out.
Ayurveda Diet & Edible Plants
Ayurveda lies out basic principles on food. Like any holistic medicine, it has do-no-harm (ahimsa) approach to everything, including feeding ourselves from our ecosystems. Many of us never really learned that our food should come from our ecosystem, so this teaching might seem strange. Most people I know who've been to an Ayurvedic Practitioner, become more aware of eating for their dosha than eating from their ecosystem. That is my biggest beef with how Ayurveda today.
The Fundamental Ayurvedic Diet Principles
- Eat locally – locally will by necessity be seasonally.
- Eat seasonally – how else could you eat and not have
- Keep it simple (nature provides major abundance of crops that you're supposed to eat in major abundance when it is abundant)
- Don't overcook your food (observe other mammals – they aren't even cooking their food…. and they're not getting sick)
The door is pretty open for “cooked” vs. “raw”. The above principles are the most important, and will supersede the particularities, even including our constitutions. Shocking, I know.
I started to “come out” on back in September on this blog post: Which Ayurveda are You into (Raw vs. Cooked – part 1). Basically, it all hit the fan when I was sending out the booklist my upcoming Living Ayurveda Course participants. I leaned back into the realm of Grace, listened for the deeper truth and realized I can't teach Dead Ayurveda in an Ayurvedic Living course. I couldn't use the same books. I had to use the books written by the living foods ayurvedic doctors (Dr. Gabriel Cousens & Dr. Shantree Kacera). Since, I've found out I'm not the only school/teacher making this choice.Why this movement from Cooked Ayurveda into Living Ayurveda you ask? Because consciousness is always evolving through us. We are evolving as a species…. and as a sub-species of ayurvedic practitioners and yogis…. we are evolving our trade.
I love to make rash generalizations and overstatements to make a point. Let's open the closet and get the issues on the table.
Ayurvedic Practitioners are afraid of Raw Foods
- Ayurvedic Practitioners want to be Sattvic (spiritual). the sattvic diet of yore was heavy on white basmati rice, yellow split mung beans, and ghee. Rice and beans taste way better cooked than sprouted and dehydrated.
- Ayurvedic Practitioners want to honor their teachers. Most of their teachers and their teacher's teachers ate cooked food, potentially as much for cultural heritage reasons as any other reason. As a group, we aren't as likely to experiment with our bodies scientifically as much as we are likely to honor the teachings of our teachers. However, this can render us a little less avant-garde.
Top 5 reasons Yoga students are fueling the Raw Food Revolution
- Yogis love prana. Raw food has more prana.
- Yogis don't like carrying around extra weight…. most raw foodies notice weight loss.
- Yogis are IN their Bodies… not just their Heads and are more likely to notice how specific foods affect their asana practice.
- Yogis love using their bodies as Truth Experiment Stations. We are more likely to experiment and notice what works, even if it's different from what we've been taught. The guru-disciple culture is more experimental.
- Yogis love the edge. The edge in food evolution right now is alkaline and high in enzymes. “Raw” fits both categories to a T.
I straddle both camps. I'm a yogi and an ayurvedic practitioner hybrid. Superb at neither…. respectable at both. I could never separate the two schools out. Ask any of my clients – I can't really teach a course or a class without diving from one pool into the other. The teachings says that ayurveda and yoga and two sides of the same coin. But…. not all yogis are ayurvedic practitioners…. and…. not all ayurvedic practitioners have studied yoga in depth from true masters. Now the real work to be done lies here:
Top 3 Ways to Evolve the Situation:
Start with Attitude. Let's take an attitude of curiosity and discover that the other camps (ayurveda, yoga, living foods) know that you don't. (After all, these are 3 of the camps at the leading edge of embodied Truth that is seeping through our mainstream culture.) When I bring in 10% more “living” alkaline foods into my diet, how do I feel? When I eat according to the season and my constitution how do I feel? How does food affect my yoga?
Start eating more living foods that are seasonally fit and in the proportion that is great for your constitution. Notice how you feel.
Ayurvedic Practitioners really get digestion, eating seasonally, and eating constitutionally. As a group we can merge our knowing with the knowing of enzymes and alkalinity in the “raw” food community. Raw foodies can further their learning about seasonally eating and constitutional energetics (prakruti). The yogis can offer their bodies as experiment stations that cross-section Embodied Truth with Science.
Of course, eating plants, raw or cooked, with awareness is the heart of the matter. I support all of my fellow Ayurvedic Practitioners in teaching the wisdom they have garnered through conscious experience. And we all know the issue for more people is this: I leave you with a quote from Michael Pollan:
“The human animal,” Michael Pollan writes, “is adapted to, and apparently can thrive on, an extraordinary range of different diets, but the Western diet, however you define it, does not seem to be one of them.”