What is Ayurveda? Sahara Rose explains


Hi, my name is Sahara Rose. I’m the best-selling author of
“The Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda” and host of the Highest Self podcast. I’m really passionate about
merging ancient Ayurvedic wisdom with modern nutritional science
and plant-based recipes. I think Chinese medicine is
a really good entry point to people because acupuncture is so common and there’s more Chinese medicine places,
but most people don’t know Chinese medicine actually originated
from Ayurvedic wisdom. Ayurveda is the world’s
oldest health system. It originated in ancient India 5,000 years ago but was even passed down orally
2,000 years before that, so it’s super old. It’s based off of the same tenets that
our bodies are a reflection of nature and we’re comprised of 5 elements just
like Chinese medicine has 5 elements. However, the elements
are a little different. In Ayurveda, they’re: air, ether
(space), earth, fire and water. We’re all a combination of all 5,
but we have varying amounts. They take these 5 elements and
they put them into 3 doshas. The word “dosha”
literally means “energy.” I like to call it your
mind-body type. You have vata—
I like to call it air energy. It’s comprised of air and space,
but it’s really like airy, cold, dry. We can talk more about what
that means, but just think: air. There’s pitta which is more fiery.
It’s actually comprised of fire and water but it’s really strong, passionate, acidic in the mind and in the body,
so it’s a very powerful energy. Then there’s kapha and
kapha’s really earthy. It’s grounded, it’s rooted. In the body can sometimes lead
to heaviness, as well as in the mind. Ayurveda has something called dinacharya,
as well, which is your daily practice. One of my favorite ones to start with that
I recommend to everyone is tongue scraping. Tongue scraping is— you can
buy either a tongue scraper or just use a spoon —scraping off the white
stuff that accumulates on your tongue. In Ayurveda
it’s called ama— toxins. If you have a lot of white stuff in your
tongue when you wake up in the morning, it’s a sign that there’s a lot of
toxicity built up in your system. Another one is dry brushing. Dry brushing is just taking
a dry loofah and brushing your skin the same way you
would in the shower but dry. The reason is because it
stimulates your lymphatic system but also eliminates all
of the dead skin cells that are on the surface of your skin. Your skin is your largest organ and
if you have all of these dead skin cells, you’re not actually breathing and
breathing in new prana, new life force. There are so many. I can keep going
for days but that’s one really good. Oil pulling is another amazing one,
which is sort of like Ayurvedic mouthwash. It’s just taking
a scoop of oil in your mouth and swishing it around your mouth
anywhere from 3 up to 20 minutes. You don’t have to do 20 minutes. I think a lot of people have
heard of oil pulling and like, “20 minutes of oil in my mouth?” But all you do is just put it in
your mouth, swish it around. You can get ready, you can do
whatever it is, and then spit it out. It’s really important when you spit it out to
cleanse your mouth with some warm water because in your mouth is going to be
all the toxicities that you’ve spit. You’ll notice the oil that you
spit out is actually white and foamy, and that’s the toxins that
you’re pulling from your system. The reason they recommend
doing oil instead of mouthwash is because mouthwash, like Listerine
or other antibacterial mouthwashes, they kill all bacteria, good and bad,
just like an antibiotic does. But if you kill all bacteria, then
the bad bacteria is more likely to grow and then that’s going to create more… That’s
why Listerine and all these things are addictive. Once you start using it,
you need to keep using it. With oil, it gently removes the bad
bacteria without the good bacteria. It’s more gentle. It takes longer,
but if you practice it every day then you’re not going
to need anything else. In Ayurveda, it’s really based off of
that there’s no one diet for everyone and there’s not even one diet for you because everyone’s different
and we’re also always changing. Just like what you ate in your 20s is going to be
different than what you ate in your 30s, 40s. What you eat when you’re menstruating is
different when you’re not menstruating. It’s really based off of the doshas and
assessing where you are right now. Let’s say you’re feeling
more vata, more windy. What that really means is they have
a lot of air accumulation in their system: gas, bloating, constipation. What they need is something that’s
more grounding, more warming, that’s going to help
build up their digestive fire because the reason that
you’re so bloated in areas is because you’re not actually
breaking down your foods. Someone like that would need more cooked
foods, more spices, more root vegetables. In Ayurveda, we take on the energy
of everything that we eat. When we eat root vegetables
literally grown under the earth, we take on those grounding properties and that makes us feel more
grounded in every aspect of our lives. Another thing with vata is it’s
a lot of movement, even in the mind. Vata people tend to feel
more anxious, more insomnia. Changing their diet, having the root vegetables
and grounded fruits will also make them feel more grounded mentally. If someone’s more pitta,
they have a lot of fire in their system. What that means is their
digestive fire is burning too strong. They may feel really acidic. They might feel like they’re
experiencing heartburn. It’s literally heat in their body. If you’re someone that gets hot all the time,
you need the AC on at night, you have a lot of pitta in your system. What you need to counterbalance
that is more cooling foods, more coconut water, leafy greens,
mint leaves, and things like that. It doesn’t have to be raw.
It could still be cooked, but you want it to be really light.
Think of foods that grow in the summertime. It’s like little springy vegetables,
and berries, and things like that. That’s exactly what you need
when you feel too hot. It’s really looking at what nature
provides us with at that season and most of the time it’s
what our bodies need. Lastly, there’s kapha.
Kapha’s really grounding. What happens if you feel really grounded
in your body is you gain weight easily because your body is taking
everything that you put into it and it’s holding onto it more
than it should be which is why you, or you might have a friend that
tends to gain weight really easily, they just look at someone else’s
fries and they’re gaining weight, it’s because of that kapha imbalance. What you need to juxtapose that grounding and
heaviness is something that’s more stimulating, different spices like turmeric
and cayenne pepper. That’s why drinking cayenne pepper
lemonade was so popular for so long because the cayenne pepper
speeds up your metabolism. Ayurveda would say [to]
add tons spices to your food, make sure it’s light, not too heavy. You don’t want any dairy,
you don’t want lots of carb-y things— that’s going to promote the sweetness
and the heaviness that’s in your body. Really, it’s looking at your body where it’s at
and eating the foods of the opposite quality so you can regain balance. Ayurveda is really
focused on the digestion and it’s much more focused on
food than Chinese medicine is. Chinese medicine, they’ll give you
general food guidelines, “Eat more warming, eat more cooling,” whereas Ayurveda will tell you what
exact ingredients to eat and to avoid and they’re ingredients that
you could never imagine. For example, we were talking
about pitta, the fire dosha. Grapefruits are really bad for them and you
would think grapefruits are really cooling. In my book you can find different lists of
specific foods that are the best and worst if you have a digestive issue, but almost
everything else comes from digestion. A friend of mine had really bad
eczema on her face and she went to an Ayurvedic practitioner. She did a panchakarma,
the Ayurvedic detoxification process, for 5 days and she’s never had eczema again. If you have anything that could be related
to digestion, which is almost anything, you could visit an Ayurvedic practitioner. If you’re looking for an acute
pain somewhere, if your back hurts, this, that, or maybe you
just need to get your endocrine system moving, then acupuncture could be
really helpful for that. They both work hand in hand and
they overall suggest the same things. I think it’s really hard for everyone
because when we see practitioners, they’re experts in one subject. There’s not really just
a practitioner that does everything. It’s like you’re a Chinese medicine person,
you’re an Ayurvedic person, you’re a functional [medicine] person. It’s really hard to find someone who
can meet you on all aspects because there’s no everything-wellness specialist. We’re kind of paving our own path. What I noticed when
I first started studying Ayurveda was I was always arguing
with my Ayurveda teacher. I was like, “This doesn’t make sense.
I learned that this scientifically is not sound,” because a lot of these things
are very intuitive. For example,
in my nutrition training program, I learned that you shouldn’t
cook something and then blend it, like cook greens and then blend them.
You should blend it first and then cook it. But a really common
Indian dish, saag paneer— [it’s] like spinach curry —you pressure cook the spinach and
then you blend it with the other stuff. I’m like, “Why won’t you just do it the opposite
because then it can be more nutritionally sound?” They’re like, “No, this is how it’s done.
This is the way. There’s no other way.” I was like, “Why don’t you just change the order
and preserve the nutrients?” and they’re like, “Do you want to learn Ayurveda or not?” and I’m like, “Wait, this just
sounds like another set of rules and it doesn’t really
sound intuitive to me.” When people ask me all the time,
“Oh, where did you study Ayurveda?” It’s like, I can give you
the places that I studied in India but what I practice is nothing
based off what I said to you. It’s something that
I just figured out on my own and what I practice is going to be
different than what anyone else practices, so that’s why I don’t
make it about what I eat. It’s not about that because what I eat
changes so drastically every single day. It’s just giving you the tools that
you need so can notice in your body like, “Hey, I’m feeling really fiery.
Maybe I need more cooling things,” “Hey, I’m feeling really earthy.
I’m gaining weight. Maybe I need more lightness,
more stimulation.” And just learning that language for the little
things that we already know about ourselves, but I think what’s beautiful about Ayurveda
is it gives it language that we didn’t have, and then we can go about our lives
and create it in any way possible, whether it’s Indian food, Mexican food,
Thai food, American food, whatever else. The only doctor that’s ever helped me is one
that I met maybe 2 or 3 weeks ago. She’s a naturopathic doctor because it’s
very expensive to visit naturopathic doctors. It’s something
insurances don’t cover, so I was going my whole life
to just regular Western doctors to get my physical and testing,
but it was almost like I didn’t even bother telling them anything
because I knew anything I told them, they wouldn’t be able to meet me at because
before when I told them I had digestive issues, they’re like,
“Oh, you have IBS. Take this pill.” I really didn’t have anyone until just
recently I visited this naturopathic doctor and she suggested to me that I get tested for
parasites being a raw vegan in India for 2 years and to check my cortisol levels
because I just wrote a book and I’m doing so many things. It’s
so beautiful to have that support and I wish that
all doctors were like this. If you can
afford a naturopathic doctor, an ND: They go through the same training as
medical doctors with a more natural approach. They can still order blood tests for
you and things like that. She sat down and asked me questions
for 2.5 hours and I was like, “Wow, this is what I’ve
been missing my whole life.” There are Ayurvedic doctors
in India who’ve trained in India because Ayurveda is recognized as an actual
health system there, whereas here it’s not. Even if you’re an
Ayurvedic doctor who studied in India, here you can’t practice as a doctor. I don’t even think you could use
that doctorate credential really. It’s just another system.
There, they definitely are doctors. Here most of the time, like what I am and most
of the [ones] you visit, are Ayurvedic practitioners. They’ve gone through some sort of training
about helping people with Ayurveda. Mine is focused on nutrition just
because I come from a sports nutrition, holistic nutrition background,
but some are specialists in panchakarma, detoxification processes.[NK4] Others are in Ayurvedic herbs
and massages. There’s so many facets of Ayurveda
that a practitioner can be an expert in, so find one that’s really
working to what your needs are. If you’re looking for nutrition, look for
someone that has a nutrition background. If you can find an Ayurvedic doctor
from India who’s here, there are many. There’s Dr. Vasant Lad, who’s
a very well-known author, who has a center in New Mexico. There’s Dr. Suhas [Kshirsagar]. He is an amazing
Ayurvedic doctor trained in India. You can definitely find them, but
your insurance isn’t going to cover it. I used to be the kind of person
who’d eat out every single meal. I loved it. I loved going to
restaurants, ordering things. It was like a way that you can
go on dates. It’s a social thing. Then once I started to really realize,
“Wow, their food’s probably not organic. They probably didn’t
wash all these things.” I naturally just didn’t
want to eat out anymore. I’m fortunate in L. A. that there are
organic restaurants like Cafe Gratitude and things like that, so if I eat out,
I’ll go somewhere that’s organic, plant-based, but it’s like every few weeks. I try to make all of my own food myself. It’s easy when you know about Ayurveda
because a lot of it you can do in a batch. You can just do a batch of lentils
and eat those for a few days and then turn them into lentil burgers
and then freeze those lentil burgers. Traditional Ayurveda would say, “Make all your food from scratch
every single meal, every single day,” but realistically, how many of us… In India,
there was a wife who stayed home all day and all she did was cook.
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It was way easier for them,
the Ayurvedic practitioner/doctor men to say, “Oh, someone needs to cook
all your meals from scratch.” In India, there’s no concept
of going out for lunch. You bring your own food. It’s a really different culture. Here I think it’s better for you to eat your
own leftovers that you cooked yourself than to go buy something fresh from
a restaurant which probably isn’t fresh anyways. The amazing thing about Ayurveda
is that it’s really affordable. If you go to a grocery store, the most
expensive thing is going to be meat or cheese, and things like that.
But with Ayurveda, it’s just beans (super affordable), rice,
and the local seasonal vegetables. Just roast a bunch
of them twice a week, make some lentils, make some
quinoa or rice, and you’re good. One of the easy things we can all
do is to stop drinking iced water. When you go to a restaurant,
you sit down, they bring you iced water and it’s just everywhere.
We drink iced coffee, iced this, iced that. Ayurveda views your digestion like a fire, so when you’re putting ice on a fire,
the fire is going to go out. Instead of drinking anything iced, drink it
at least room temperature, if not warm. I know you might be thinking,
“It’s so hot where I live,” or “It’s the summer,
I can’t drink warm stuff.” That’s what I thought
too and I realized India, it’s like 110 degrees every day and
they’re eating warm food all the time. What happens when you eat cold food is
your body has to expend so much energy that you think you’re cooling down but all
that energy is going to make you even hotter and going to make you
keep drinking that cold stuff. If you’re drinking cold anything,
switch to room temperature. Even if you don’t listen to anything else,
your digestion is going to feel so much better which is going to impact everything else. If you live somewhere along the equator,
like in South India or Jamaica, it’s not going to matter as much because
the same food’s growing throughout the year but if you live somewhere like
New York where it’s drastically different, then your diet is going to
have to change drastically, too. It really is dependent on the temperature
because the season does change the temperature, but also
the qualities within that temperature, like windiness vs.
wetness vs. dryness. It could be 100 degrees in Dubai
and 100 degrees in the Bahamas and your diet’s going to be still different
because one’s dry and one’s humid. Also, in Dubai, the foods that grow
there [are] like dates, stuff that’s going to help
your body retain water, whereas the foods in
Jamaica or Bahamas are fruits that are going to
make your body lose water. Just eat what’s there, what’s growing
around you, and you’re going to be good. Really the cornerstone of Ayurveda is you are
not what you eat, but you are what you digest. It doesn’t matter how healthy something is,
how many nutrients it has, if you’re not digesting it,
it’s not going to do anything for you. I think a lot of us get stuck on, “Oh, kale’s really good for you
so I should eat all the kale,” or
“This superfood is amazing for you.” If your body is actually not breaking
it down and assimilating the nutrients and then releasing the toxins,
it’s going to be harmful. I like to think of it like a banana peel. A banana is a plant, it’s really clean, but if
you leave a banana peel in the car for a day, your car really starts to smell. You leave it in there for a week, your car is going to reek. Let’s say you leave that
banana peel in there for a month. You go on vacation, that car is closed,
it’s 100 degrees in that car and you open the door a month later, your car is never going
to smell good again. It’s going to be entrenched
in the seats and everything. When you think of our digestion,
it’s the same way— [it’s] about
100 degrees, if not more. If we’re filling it up with foods
that our body’s not breaking down, it’s going to be like that
banana peel, even if it was kale, even if it was a banana. If it’s sitting in our stomach,
it’s going to turn into toxins. Instead, pay attention
to how you’re feeling. Whatever it is that you’re eating, whether
it’s a salad or a smoothie or whatever else, notice how you feel,
not what anyone else says. If you’re feeling like, “Wow, I feel tired,”
or “Wow, I feel bloated,” or “Wow, I feel gassy,”
then something is going on and maybe it’s a little bit of time that
you’re going to have to stick away from that. You can come back to it. Maybe
that food just wasn’t meant for you, but the more in touch
you are with yourself, the more you’re going to become
a radar and seeing: this works, this doesn’t.
It’s not going to take you years and years and years of imbalance,
which we’ve all had to do to get here. You’re going to be able to see, “Wow, coconut water,
wintertime, not working for me.” I just hope that everyone can
practice that level of self-awareness, and it doesn’t come with
just food, it’s in everything. If you’re meditating, you’re going to be
more aware of everything that you do. That’s why it’s such
a lifestyle transition. Meditation is really,
really important in Ayurveda because it’s only when we meditate
and we clear our minds can we open ourselves up to creative channels and
flow and the things that we truly want to do because our minds are always chattering
but our souls know the direction. Really central to Ayurveda is that you’re
not your mind, you’re not your body. We just have to balance those so you
can get to the deeper layers of you, your soul, and that each soul has
a purpose which is our dharma, which is the reason
why you were put on this planet. You have to heal your body.
You know, when you’re sick, all you can think about
is getting better. Heal your body, but once
you’ve healed your body then it’s time to step up to: What’s my dharma?
How am I here to serve? I think once you even get on that
path, even more healing happens without you even trying because your body’s
like, “Yes, I’m doing what I was here to do.” It’s really important
to be that example. If we’re not living in
a state of wellness, it doesn’t matter how much
we want to help others. We have to be that example. I know what it’s like to live in a family
where no one wants to listen to you, but once they see like,
“Wow, she’s really feeling better. She has so much more energy,” they notice the shift in your vibration. That’s
naturally going to make them want to shift. As you continue in that shift and
that evolution of consciousness, you’re naturally going
to be inclined to share it and you’re going to say,
“Hey, you know what? I want to start a blog.
I want to start a podcast. I want to start a TV show.” It’s just naturally what happens to
everyone when they get more well. You’ll never find a blogger or wellness advocate
who didn’t need the healing themselves. Do that healing and
it’s going to be effortless. You’re going to want to help others.

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