The digestive fire in our bodies requires food for sustenance. Food is life force indispensable for human existence.
In India, it is a custom to pray or think ofthe Almighty before we begin eating. Thanking the universal provider of food helps express gratitude for mother Nature. Offering devout prayers before each meal also helps enhance our respect for food and the positive attributes of food.
We must start aday by ensuring whether our digestive system is functioning properly. This can be done by watchfully inspectingexcrements and tongue. Feces should be brown in colourand discharged consistently and urine should have a pale yellow colour. Urine feculent with foul odour or feces containing undigested food material, expelled with abundant gas and giving off an obnoxious smell, indicates the presence of ama (unmetabolized food that becomes toxins in our body). Ama in digestive tract is indicated by significant amount of coating on tongue.
Nausea and heaviness in limbs along with the appearance of above mentioned symptoms indicate ama, implying that you must fast for a day or at least skip a meal. As a rule, we must eat only when we are physically hungry and never force food on our stomachs or binge.
If bathing is not always possible, we should at least properly wash our hands, feet and face before we eat. A clean and peaceful space isolated from the disturbances of debates, conversations, television, radio, stereo etc. is conducive for eating. We should instead play pleasant music or keep fresh flowers in our dining space. Eating is a gratification of all thefive senses. Ambience should be agreeable and edibles should be appealing to look, smell and taste.We should eat alone or in the company of those we trust.
Avoid eating when depressed, angry, bored or emotionally in an unsound condition. Eating immediately after having undertaken physical exercises is also harmful.
Try to face east – the direction of the Sun’s rising, our Earth’s source of fire and heat – while sitting down to eat. We must ensure that our right nostril – which boosts digestive fire – is functioning properly. If it’s not, lie on your left side for some time or shutleft nostril withright hand’s middle finger and breathe rhythmically via right nostril for a few minutes. Blocking left nostril or hooking left arm onto a chair’s back can also activate breathing from right nostril.
Ideal Way of Eating
Feeding others before we begin to devour food ourselves is a ritual act in India involving five offerings made to the holy Fire, a cow, a crow, a dog and a child/beggar or someone outside from our family. We can express our heart-felt gratitude for Nature by feeding some of Her beings. The ritualistic act also signifies subduing our ahamkara or admitting that food is meant not merely for filling of stomachs, but is part of the greater lifecycle of Nature. We will also get to partly experience Nature’s benevolence when we feed others – be it a bird, an animal or a human; the benevolence Nature bestows on all of us at all times.
Slices of ginger must also be chewed before every meal to stimulate taste buds and flow of juices and cleanse tongue and mouth. Ginger slices marinated in lemon juice mixed with an optional pinch of rock salt would be good to taste.
Absolute silence is best while we are eating. This also allows chewing of every morsel slowly and sufficiently. It is preferable to eat with hands to let skin send signals about the texture and temperature of food to brain.
Tips for Good Digestion
Once we finish a meal, it is beneficial to drink a mixture of yogurt churned with water to assist the digestive fire. However, Ps and those allergic to dairy products must avoid this step. Dairy products should also be avoided if animal flesh is consumed in a meal. Non-fat yogurt in a proportion of 1:3 with water is good for those who have a weak digestion whereas people with strong digestion should take normal yogurt in proportion of 3:1 with water. Vs should add a pinch of salt along with lemon juice and flavor their yogurt mixture with fresh diced chillies or ginger or powdered/whole coriander and cumin. Ps should add cardamom powder or coriander seed/leaf, little bit of lemon juice and some sweetener, like, sugar or maple syrup into their mixture. On the other hand, Ks should add powdered black pepper/ginger or other hot spice, like, diced green chillies and honey.
Express thanks to Nature once again at the end of meals. Thereafter,mouth should be cleaned and water applied to eyes to check the weakening of vision due to the effect of risen Pitta during this time. We can urinate but must categorically avoid defecating immediately after meals. A brief walk of about 100 steps will help us digest well.
Never exercise for at least an hour after a meal and also avoid sleeping or studying for at least two hours. When necessary, for instance, for physically weak people or when we have overeaten, lying for a few minutes on left side is advisable. Lying on the left side ensures that right nostril is functioning adequately keeping digestive fire in full swing.
If feasible, we must abstain from eating anything after sunset. In case food is consumed, it should be a light meal. Kapha-producing edibles, like, yogurt, sesame products, melons, ice cream, cheese etc. should not be consumed at all at night time. Ice-cold food items have a weakening impact on digestive power.
Frequency of Meals
Digestive fire is most active during noon which is why it is recommended that we take our heaviest meals at noon. Vs should consume three-four small meals a day and can snack, if need be, at gaps of two hours. Ps should consume three meals a day with gaps of four-six hours, taking snacks in the duration of the long gaps between meals. Ks should eat a big meal and a small meal every day, separated by a gap of at least six hours and should not snack during the whole day. Our abdomen needs a minimum of two hours to prepare itself for the next food intake, hence, a gap of at least two hours between meals or snacks is strongly recommended.