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The three aspects of taste in Ayurveda

In our new Ayurveda and Digestive Health Intensive,Ayurvedic practitioner and Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher Greta Kent-Stoll, delves into the foundational concepts of ayurvedic eating, such as the six tastes, and the role that each of the three doshas plays in digestive health. You will learn how to recognize vata-, pitta-, or kapha-type digestive imbalance and what to do to provide support and balance.

Below is a peek inside the 4-session intensive:

An Ayurvedic Foundation

Ayurveda is a complete holistic system of traditional healing. Its essential objective is to return your body to a state of natural balance in order to optimize its self-healing capacity. Ayurveda, literally translated as "knowledge of life," is perhaps the oldest form of medicine still in practice today. It predates even TCM, and systems like TCM and Tibetan medicine were undoubtedly influenced by Ayurveda.

Those who practice Ayurveda understand that balance is a relative word. Each individual possesses a unique state of inherent balance. Some people naturally warm ( types pitta< /em> ) ; others work naturally well ( types vata and kapha ). Some body types are a bit heavier ​​and full; some lighter and thinner. What is ideal and harmonious for one person may not be ideal and harmonious for another. This all depends on one's dosha or one's unique constitution. The foods, herbs, and lifestyle practices that bring one person into harmony can bring another into a state of disease, and vice versa.

The essential approach in Ayurveda is to employ the opposite. Herbs, foods, sensory therapies, body therapies, and lifestyle practices are recommended to reduce imbalances and return the individual to a state of natural health and well-being.

Digestion is fundamental in Ayurveda

Also, agni (digestive fire), prana (life force) and ojas (vitality) are like the three legs of a three-legged stool: each plays a key role in health, and if one is gone, the whole stool falls over. . However, in many ways agni comes first, as without good digestion one cannot have enough prana (life force) circulating, nor can one build and maintain good ojas (vigor and vitality).

You can think of agni (digestive fire) as a campfire. You want to keep it burning steadily and bright, adding just the right amount of fuel at the right times. This inner fire plays the role of catabolism and anabolism. It is responsible for breaking down our food into smaller pieces that can then be digested and absorbed. It is also related to whether or not we build healthy tissues (Halpern, 2012).

“On a physical level, digestion is the most important determinant of good health. This is because the quality of a person's digestion is directly related to the body's ability to produce quality, healthy tissue” (Halpern, 2012).

If agni is weak, we can build a lot of tissue, such as adipose (fat) tissue, but it will be of low quality. Or, if agni is low, we may not be able to develop healthy bone and muscle tissue. If the digestive fire is too powerful, the body will be exhausted, literally burning up. Either way, if agni is out of balance, whether the body tissues are excessive or deficient, energy levels and overall health and brightness will be compromised. Overall, when we practice mindful eating and choose foods that are appropriate for our constitution, climate, and season, we optimize our chances of developing healthy tissues and overall good health.

Aspects of Taste: Rasa, Virya and Vipaka

One of the key tools used in Ayurveda to help clients regain balance is working with rasa (flavor). Specific foods, recipes, and herbs possess flavors that can have a balancing effect on an individual. Taste involves the effect a food or herb has on the body after consumption. There are three essential parts to savoring: rasa (the initial taste), virya (warm vs. cold) and vipaka (the post-digestive effect). . Every food and herb can be described in terms of rasa, virya and vipaka. As Dr. Vasant Lad states, “The concept of taste ( rasa ), action (virya ) and post-digestive effect ( vipaka) will promote the understanding of the basic principles of cooking and Ayurvedic healing” (2009, p. 34).

The Caraka Samhita, one of the classic texts of Ayurveda, states: “There are six rasas (tastes): sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. When used properly, they maintain the body and their incorrect use results in the vice of dosas” (Dash & Sharma, 2014, p. 113). Simply put, a taste can be balancing or harmful depending on the effect it has on the Ayurvedic dosha (one's constitutional type). According to Ayurvedic teachings, the effects of rasa are far-reaching. Both are physical and subtle.

An obvious example of virya is cayenne, which has a spicy rasa (hot) and a spicy virya . The general effect of cayenne pepper is that it warms and stimulates. This is useful for those whose circulation and digestion need a boost. By contrast, red clover has a bitter and sweet rasa and a cold virya. A cool virya is desirable for those who get hot or have hot conditions such as rashes, acne, and anger .In contrast, fresh herbs may aggravate those who naturally have a cooler body temperature or suffer from exhaustion or lethargy. However, a cold herb can be combined with a warm herb in some cases to counteract any unwanted influences on temperature.

Vipaka is a slightly more complex concept. The literal translation is "post-digestive effect", but its translation in practical terms is whether a substance is toning or purifying. Toning herbs are strengthening and fortifying. They help build and regenerate body tissues. Purifying herbs shrink tissue and, in some cases, help eliminate pathogens.

There are three types of vipaka: sweet, sour and spicy. Herbs of an invigorating nature have a sweet vipaka . This means that its post-digestive effect is nutritious. Herbs that purify or reduce have a pungent vipaka . Sour vipaka falls somewhere in between. It has a somewhat nourishing effect, but not as much as the sweet vipaka .

The following table describes the six rasas and their corresponding typical virya and vipaka . It is important to note, however, that particularly in herbalism these relationships are not fixed. For example, there are sweet herbs that have a warm virya . The following table represents typical relationships.






















Ayurveda teaches that for a practitioner to be successful, they must understand the nature of the person being tested, the nature of the health imbalance, and the nature of the herb. By the nature of the individual, we mean their inherent constitutional balance, or dosha , thus as to its current state characterized by the three doshas. One must understand the rasa , virya and vipaka of the herb, as well as the qualities of the individual taking it. Understanding rasa, virya and vipaka furthers our understanding of herbalism, as well as Ayurvedic cooking and healing. Most importantly, knowing the rasa, virya and vipaka of an herb improves the clinician's ability to adjust herbal therapies to most effectively support an individual (Halpern, 2012).

To conclude,

There is a saying in Ayurveda that “everything is fine for someone, but nothing is fine for everyone”. This is certainly true when it comes to Ayurvedic herbalism. Understanding the rasa, virya and vipaka of an herb gives the practitioner vital clues about the proper application of an herb. By understanding the nuanced qualities of an herb and how they intersect with the attributes of the drinker, we become more skilled as practitioners and better able to select herbs with precision and wisdom.

Be sure to check out our new Ayurveda and Digestive Health Intensive !

Gabriela Ana / Luz Infinita

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