Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food. Hippocrates
Sadhana means practice, a practice that we have daily. Food sadhana is a practice to cultivate with strength and passion and it is a strong basis of Ayurvedic medicine.
Because the digestive process starts before we put food into our mouths it is important to recognize our eating patterns prior to actually eating the food. When the eyes see the food, ears hear about the food, nose smells the food, hands touch the food, and also of course when the taste buds taste the food, the sense traits stimulate saliva to increase (in the saliva is enzymes that are similar to the enzymes in the small intestine) and the brain sends out the message to the rest of the digestive team that food is coming and that the body needs to prepare for the incoming food.
But, the digestive process even begins before this. Standing in an organized and clean kitchen, cutting and preparing the food slowly with positive thoughts and making a meditation out of preparing a meal sets the stage for the therapeutic aspects of food sadhana. Putting quality, peace, and positive energy into the food process will put our mind into the present action of eating, will create a sacredness about feeding our body and will also increase the tastiness and health of the food.
Once we sit down and have our food in front of us, we need to get present and allow our parasympathetic nervous system to be alert: the parasympathetic is the more relaxing side of the nervous system that when activated slows the heart rate and engages the digestive system to be awake. This side of the central nervous system awakens the senses, slows the heart rate, calms the mind, slows the production of the adrenals pumping adrenaline into our body and awakens the digestive system and all the elements, organs and glands involved.
BEFORE YOU TAKE YOUR FIRST BITE:
1. Sit down, close your eyes, and take 3 deep breaths.
2. Say a prayer or positive intention for your mealtime.
3. Eat your food slowly with awareness of finishing one bite before beginning the next one just as we in yoga try to finish the inhale breath completely before exhaling the breath out. CHEW, chew, chew, your food until liquified, the more you chew the more aware you become of your food, the more saliva is mixed with your food the more enzyme amalyze is mixed with the food to break down the carbohydrates and sugars. Traditionally you chew each bit 50x, about 20x will do.
4. Eat only until 75% full, after the last bite, the body begins to process all the food, eating slower will allow for more awareness of what 75% full is, satisfied, not hungry, but not stuffed.
5. Rest after eating ideally 10 minutes, if possible lie on your left side. Then take an easy walk around the block.
Some of these food practices and guidelines for healthy eating are things our grandparents may have told us, some may be new or just forgotten. Start with just stopping, sitting down, taking those deep breaths and then beginning your meal and eat your largest meal at lunch time between 10 and 2:00.
Only try to incorporate one of these steps for one meal a day for a week or so until it feels like it's natural and regular for you. Then add another. Baby steps always makes a deeper foundation for long term change.
The nature of digesting:
When finished eating the digestive process is now beginning to really take place as the food is moving out of the stomach (Kapha’s home) and into the small intestines where enzymes (Pitta’s job) work to digest. The pancreas may send more enzymes over to the small intestines and the gall bladder (which stores bile) will send bile to the liver and then into the small intestines to digest and assimilate the food into the body. The waste matter (ama), toxins, and the left over particles not used by the body, will be sent into the colon (large intestine) to be moved down and out the body (Apana Vata’s job). So we need to encourage the beginning of this important part of digestion by resting 5-15 minutes after our meal (ideally lie on your left side) instead of jumping up and getting into that daily fast pace mode, fight or flight mode, or activity mode. These ways of being usually involve the sympathetic nervous system side of the central nervous system. We need this part of our nervous system to get us up and going and energized and motivated in life. But we don’t want to always be in that mode.
So rest even if it’s only 5 minutes, and then, if possible after resting, take a short walk.
Lunch time: the most important and highly digested meal of the day…it’s true we don’t often have a two hour lunch here in America, but cultivating at least a more restful lunch is a boon to our health and helps us sustain energy for the long term. Also, when we create this stillness at meal time, we not only allow a break away from our day and encourage being in the present moment, but we allow for our body and mind to practice stilling the restlessness we often have. This fosters sadhana and a healing by taking in our food quietly, it encourages our cells of our body to benefit as much as possible, and treats the body as a temple and source of energy to keep us alive.
The stillness that sacred mealtime creates can begin to seep into our other activities in our day and it will encourage being present and aware in our lives.
Om Annapurnaya Namah
Om Annapurnaya Namah
Om Annapurnaya Namah
I bow to/give thanks to the Goddess who nourishes us through food
Annam Brahma Raso Vishnu
Pakto Devo Mahesarah
Evam Jnatva Tu Yo Bhunkte
Anna Dosha Na Lipyate
The creative energy in the food is Brahma,
the nourishing energy in the body is vishnu,
the transformation of food into pure consciousness is Shiva,
if you know this, then all impurities in the food you eat will not become apart of you.