Ayurveda places significant emphasis not only on what you eat, but how you eat it.
Each of us has what is called the Autonomic Nervous System. It’s a part of our nervous system that “auto-magically” does many things for us – like blink, breathe, make the heart beat, move food through the digestive tract, secrete and release enzymes / neurotransmitters / gastric juices. This “auto-magic” part of our nervous system has two modes:
1. Sympathetic, known as our “activity or stress response”, and
2. Parasympathetic, nicknamed “rest and digest”.
Guess which one you want to be in when you eat so you can better digest your food?
Exactly. There’s a reason it’s called “rest and digest”.
The Ayurvedis recognized this thousands of years ago – that cultivating a calm and pleasant eating environment helps us to better digest our foods, which means that we get more nutrition from it (medicine!) and end up with less waste and build up (poison or toxins) as a result.
Here’s what Ayurveda recommends for the eating environment:
- Eat in a calm and peaceful environment. Think “romantic meal”, even if you are the only one eating J
- *Sit down to eat. Standing shifts the gears of your nervous system out of “rest and digest”.
- Eat in a clean space. Clear the table of all non-essentials before sitting to eat.
- Have something nice to look at – perhaps a plant, some flowers, art that appeals to you, or near a window where you can look outside.
- Be present and mindful of where you are, who you are with and what you are doing.
- Take a break from working, texting, emails, etc to eat. It’s amazing how quickly any of these things can shift our gears into the stress response.
Then we continue this idea as move to eating the food:
- Bless your food. Take time for gratitude.
- Eat with all your senses – look, smell, taste, feel and listen.
- Breathe regularly while you eat.
- Eat until you feel full, yet not heavy.
- Chew your food.
- If you are with others, enjoy the company.
- After eating, rest for a few minutes laying or leaning towards the left side.
Notice which of these you are already doing, and if there are one or two you’d be willing to test drive for the next week or so. I wish you great digestion, and the gifts that come with it!