Feng Shui v ayurveda dining
Our quest for a healthy diet takes an alternative Asian direction Discuss this article
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In the quest for a healthy diet, why not try some alternative advice on how to stick to your food goals for 2013? Experts will tell you that making changes is a lifestyle choice, not a temporary fad, and a balanced lifestyle is also key to success. There are ancient schools of thought that support this modern nutritional standpoint, devised around the principle that a healthy, happy life is dependent on maintaining balance in your eating habits. In the Chinese philosophy of feng shui, this involves the balance of the life-giving but opposite forces of ‘ying’ and ‘yang’. Meanwhile, ayurveda – a traditional Indian form of medicine – advocates the balance of the body with its external surroundings. Here we explore the teachings of these two very different schools in relation to health and eating.
Originating in India and dating back as far as 5,500 years, ayurveda is an ancient art that uses the beneficial properties of natural ingredients. In Dubai, Balance Wellbeing 360, which houses the Balance Café, is a centre aimed at providing healthy lifestyle solutions in accordance with ayurvedic principles. As such, the venue serves a menu of healthy options cooked to ayurvedic requirements (see the examples, pictured). It also offers other treatments linked with ayurveda, such as yoga, with specialist practitioner Chandy George on hand. ‘Ayurveda is a way of life,’ explains Chandy. ‘It comes from two Sanskrit words: “ayu”, which means life, and “veda”, which means “the knowledge of”. To know about life is ayurveda.’
The lifestyle theory follows a holistic system, to promote healthy living. Chandy explains it does so by ‘drawing a balance within the body and with the environment in a natural way, through modification of diet, yoga, meditation and other therapies’. On a medicinal level, he adds, the system uses entirely herbal and natural remedies to cure ailments by resolving the underlying issues.
According to ayurvedic thought, this focus on natural qualities means the food you eat can also have medicinal properties, with each ingredient noted for their health benefits. Herbs and spices (which are naturally abundant in India, where ayurveda developed) are particularly useful.
At Balance, Chandy’s first step in a consultation is to establish the customer’s body type, achieved through an ancient process called ‘nadi pariksha’. Three fingers are used to measure the patient’s pulse, which is monitored for the rate, rhythm, tension, volume and flow of blood. From here, Chandry can establish which of the three ‘elemental energies’ or ‘doshas’ – vatta, pitta or kapha – the patient is most in line with. The aim of this system, he explains, is to keep these three forces in balance, which affects the function of both mind and body, although a tailored ayurvedic lifestyle plan can also be used to tackle goals such as weight loss, detox and stress relief.
‘Each “body type” needs to follow a particular type of diet,’ continues Chandy. ‘For instance, individuals with kapha body type need to avoid ghee and butter, while those with vatta body type will have no issues consuming it.
‘According to ayurvedic principles, food consists of five elements that are essential to our vitality and health, and an individual’s nutritional requirement is reached when a fine equilibrium is achieved between these five elements and the body type.’
The importance of balance is also present in the culinary nature of an ayurvedic diet. The ideal flavour spectrum is one that encompasses six key tastes, considered to be sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. In line with modern medical thought on healthy eating, ayurveda also ‘advocates the importance of eating on time and never skipping meals,’ explains Chandy. However, he points out that this is not an ascetic lifestyle choice, with guidance regarding food offering ‘more dos than don’ts’.
Ayurvedic consultations at Balance Wellness 360 from Dhs100. Oasis Centre, Al Quoz, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 515 4051).
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