Nicky Park: Kharmic living key to wellness

In a bid to find balance, Life & Style Editor Nicky Park turns to the ancient Indian healing practice of Ayurveda.
Eating for your body type is great for your wellbeing.
Photo / Thinkstock
Eating for your body type is great for your wellbeing. Photo / Thinkstock

I've gone without my morning latte for a month. I use a copper tongue scraper after brushing my teeth within five minutes of waking, then drink a glass of warm water with lemon juice, ginger and honey.

I am following the ancient Indian healing practice of Ayurveda. Essentially, it's about making lifestyle and dietary changes to keep your body balance.

There are three Ayurvedic principles - vata, pitta and kapha - each with a unique set of characteristics. Each requires slightly different routines to stay in tune.

It maintains that the body is made up of five basic elements and when these elements are out of balance there are negative consequences.

I caught on to the concept when I met with Dr Ajit Singh in his Auckland wellness centre, Spa Ayurda. I wasn't feeling particularly poorly, but I was weary, lacking motivation and just feeling a bit average.

Dr Ajit, one of the best Ayurvedic doctors in Australasia, said most of his clients come in without specific ailments - they're just keen to be in the best health they can.

"They don't need to move to the Himalayas, they just need to make subtle changes," he says.

Dr Ajit checked my pulse, looked at my tongue and asked me a couple of questions.

"Do you feel most fatigued between the hours of 3 and 6pm? Do you get lower back pain? Is your mind always busy? Do you have vivid dreams?"

He was spot on. Turns out I'm a classic Kapha Dosha. Physically, they tend to have wide hips and thick wavy hair. When they're out of balance they have a sluggish digestion, poor circulation, can feel unmotivated and lethargic.

So to get back in balance he had the following tips:

* Within five minutes of waking up, brush your teeth then use a copper tongue scraper to rid your body of toxins so they don't settle themselves in different parts of the body.

* Drink a glass of warm water with lemon juice, ginger and honey every morning.

* Take 10 long deep breaths, three times a day to help prevent shallow breathing.

* Concentrate on your breathing for 10 minutes each night to prepare for a good night's sleep.

* Don't eat or drink anything very cold as it's harder to digest.

* Have a handful of almonds and raisins for morning and afternoon tea to stay energised.

* Exercise is essential.

He gave me a list of foods to eat (like ginger, garlic, porridge, almonds and high fibre fare like legumes) and foods to avoid (such as miso soup, banana, cream, pasta, cheese, cold meat and sweets). I was handed a tongue scraper and a box of calming tea.

Dr Ajit tells me to give it a whirl for 15 days, by then I would start noticing the effects of my wholesome Ayurvedic lifestyle.

Dr Ajit says you have to be prepared to make changes if you want to reap the rewards of Ayurveda. Day one I battled to keep my eyes open as I sat at my desk checking emails. I'm not sure if I can blame this on coffee or sugar withdrawals, or maybe just a bad night's sleep. But I was battling to get to the gym after work and I struggled to focus through the haze of hunger and cravings.

However each day has gotten easier. Four weeks on the Ayurvedic wagon and my morning routine is set. I can start the working day without a caffeine hit, have saved money heating leftover veges for lunch and I'm feeling lighter, more energised and have no problems sticking to the foods that are my friend while phasing out the foes.

I'm sure a month of being mindful isn't enough to undo 26 years of indulgence and destruction - but I'm certainly going to keep scraping my tongue and drinking my lemon water.

What dosha type are you?

Vata Dosha

Vata types tends to be the most slender of the three body types. They actually find it difficult to gain weight. Physically, Vata individuals are thin with prominent bony structures; tend to be cold all the time; have dry skin and hair; and have little muscle tone. Mentally, they learn fast and forget fast, enjoy change, and are very creative. Emotionally, Vata types are excitable, enthusiastic, but can become easily anxious.

In balance: There is creativity and vitality.
Out of balance: Can produce fear and anxiety.

To stay in balance: Vata types benefit from a routine like waking up at the same time, eating lunch at the same time, and going to bed at the same time. Additionally, Vata types will benefit from a warm, spiced milk drink at bedtime. Avoid dry/crunchy foods, carbonated beverages, and cold/raw vegetables, cold meat. They need a diet that is nourishing for the body and their ideal diet consists of warm, cooked, soupy foods, nuts, cooked vegetables; and hot milk. Also, ghee, which is clarified butter, is particularly good for Vata individuals.

Pitta Dosha

Pitta individuals are typically of medium build. Physically, they have good muscle tone; have a tendency to always feel warm; have premature greying hair or balding; have reddish complexions; enjoy high energy levels; and have really strong digestion - they can eat almost anything. Mentally, they are extremely intelligent, focused, ambitious people. Emotionally, they are passionate about life, have a tendency to be perfectionists, and can become easily irritated.

In balance: Leads to contentment and intelligence.
Out of balance: Can cause ulcers and anger or frustrations.

To stay in balance: Pitta people should avoid hot spices, alcohol, coffee, vinegar, and acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes. These are typically their favourite foods. They should eat sweet juicy fruits such as mangos and melons. They should also include lots of cooling vegetables with high water content, like cucumbers, kale and lettuce.

Kapha Dosha

Kapha is typically the largest of the body types. Physically, they have wide hips/shoulders; thick wavy hair; good physical stamina. Mentally, Kapha types tend to be slow to learn, but they have great memories. Emotionally, they tend to be very loyal, stable, and reliable - they are often referred to as the rock in a relationship. Out of balance, Kapha individuals have a tendency towards sinus congestion, poor circulation, and sluggish digestion that can easily lead to obesity.

In balance: Expressed as love and forgiveness.
Out of balance: Can lead to insecurity and envy.

To stay in balance: To avoid congestion, Kapha types can add ginger and garlic to their diets. Exercise is also critical to keep Kapha people in balance. To fight their sluggish digestion, Kapha should reduce oil/fats, cheese, sweets like lollies, cakes, muffins, yoghurt, cold meat and salt. Instead, they should focus on cooking with lots of spices and favour warm cooked food, eating large amount of vegetables, and high fibre foods like legumes.

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Nicky Park

Editor of Life & Style.

Nicky lives to wine, dine and thrive. As Life & Style Editor at the New Zealand Herald online, she feels lucky she can call this work. Nicky crafted her writing skills as a cadet for an Australian news wire. Amongst the coverage of sport, news, finance and courts she found a favourite in features. A stint as a foreign correspondent sent this chipper Aussie across the Tasman, covering the big issues of the Pacific Islands. Every single day Nicky relishes the opportunities she has to mix and mingle with interesting people, feast on delicious food, visit new places and write all about it. Nicky wants everyone to make the most of their minutes, learn lots and live their best life.

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