Upayoga samstha - ayurvedic guidelines on how to eat
Ayurveda reveres fire or agni - it is the metaphor for all metabolic functions in the body. Agni plays a vital role in our digestion, perception, taste, touch, hearing, sense of vitality, mental clarity and alertness. When agni and the functions it supports are balanced, it brings about a beneficial state of health. We are sharper, clearer, more energetic and strong and feel more cheerful, confident and optimistic. When agni is imbalanced we typically feel an imbalanced state of health – heavy, slow, congested, sluggish, dull and experiencing frustration, anger, and fear.
To support agni, ayurveda has guidelines on how to eat, a philosophy called upayoga samstha. The thinking here is that the healthiest of food holds no value if it is consumed in a way that agni cannot receive it, such as when we are rushing, stressed, and eating at the wrong times (e.g. at midnight).
Some of these guidelines we would have heard of through the years, but may have not stopped to think about. We also may not have the luxury to practice all of the guidelines at every meal such as sitting down after a meal, or eating freshly cooked meal three times a day. Start small, pick one or two habits that are easy to adopt and make observations of any changes you may feel. Once these become habits, pick a couple more. These are little shifts that bring benefits incremental benefits over time.
Eat warm food
Try to eat freshly cooked as much as possible
Eat the right quantity of food
Chew food thoroughly
Eat at a moderate pace
Give your body a break in between meals
Eat around the same time each day
Eat when you’re hungry
Don’t eat when you are emotional – e.g. upset/sad/angry/ecstatic
Eat in peace
Sit down to eat
Pay attention to your meal
Sit for a few minutes after each meal