Sweet harmony – balancing the six tastes of Ayurvedic living

Ayurveda is the science of daily living and a 5,000-year-old preventive medicine system, which operates as a fundamental ecosystem for life and living within nature’s laws. It examines all the energies in the universe that are internal and external to our being, as well as within us.

One of the philosophies in Ayurveda is the concept of balancing our lives through the rasas, which in Sanskrit means ‘essence or taste.’ Taste in Ayurveda has a much deeper significance than we are accustomed to in the West. It is considered critically important in determining the effect that various foods, spices, therapeutic herbs and experiences will have on our state of balance – body, mind and spirit. The six rasas each provide different qualities – sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent – and are used to balance any mind-body doshic (energy) imbalances.

The first way of using the rasas to create balance is, for example, if you have a vata vikruti, which means an imbalance (vikruti) of air and space elements (vata) within the mind and body. Your physical symptoms may look like dry hair, cracked skin, digestion aggravated by bloating, constipation or gas and possibly bad circulation with cold hands and feet, with mental symptoms including anxiety and insomnia. These signs indicate a need for warming, soothing, grounding foods that settle your digestive system, and a routine to calm your nervous system – the governing organ of the vata dosha.

Using the vata rasas, you should avoid bitter, astringent, and pungent foods because they increase the air in your body, cause gas and aggravate vata. Instead add more sweet, sour, and salty foods to your diet.

The sweet rasa is the most grounding and nourishing. The sweet rasas are to be eaten in natural food forms (so no lollies!) such as honey, wheat, rice, dairy, cereals, dates and pumpkins.

The sour rasa can improve appetite, digestion and elimination, but it needs to be eaten in moderation because if you eat it in excess, it can quickly lead to overstimulation in the body. Sour foods include lemon, vinegar, wine and pickled and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut.

Salty rasas have a grounding and hydrating nature and also add taste to food, stimulate digestion and help balance electrolytes. Salty foods include sea vegetables, sea salt and black olives.

So each taste has its functionality within our elemental and bodily systems – to balance the excess of what is already within us – and its purpose – to bring us back into alignment.

The rasas would of course be used differently for a pitta (fire and water elements) or kapha (earth and water elements) vikruti. Pitta would be balanced by the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and aggravated by the sour, salty and pungent tastes. Kapha would be balanced by the pungent, bitter and astringent tastes and aggravated by the sweet, sour and salty tastes.

Rasas also relate to our emotional wellbeing and experiences. Have you ever craved something sweet? We view that as due to a lack of that sweet external experience in your life, so your body is seeking to counterbalance it internally. Are you lacking love, affection and sweetness in your life experiences?

I guarantee that starting to view the world through this lens will change your life! As you begin to observe, self-regulate and manage your energy according to those around you, your energy levels and what you’re experiencing, you balance your internal and external world through food, senses, experiences and emotions.

If you want to find out what your doshic imbalance might be, head to my website and take our quiz to learn about your dosha and what you should begin to incorporate into your daily life to start living a life of true alignment.

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