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Surviving Winter with Ayurveda

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AYURVEDA: A BACKGROUND

Ayurveda is a Hindu system of medicine whose focus lies, as with many holistic practices, on balance. Over 5000 years old, Ayurveda postulates on a broad scope of theories, from the origin of life, to the creation of matter and energy. Whilst opting for slightly more poetic terminology, there are indisputable correlations between its theories and those of modern Western science. Ayurveda schools in India have consistently maintained the discipline’s strong scientific rooting, however the correlation between Ayurveda and modern Western science has come as more of a surprise to some who’ve found its poetic, ambiguous narrative harder to take seriously. Across the past few decades due to progressive thinking and positive attitudes the West has seen a generation more receptive to Eastern healthcare philosophy, and a call for deeper exploration into its scientific validity.

THE DOSHAS vs WESTERN SOMOTYPES

In fitness, we often refer to the different body types ‘Mesomorphic’, ‘Endomorphic’, and ‘Ectomorphic’. These three alternate ‘Somotypes’ are defined by characteristics like body shape, ability to build muscle and tendencies to storing fat. As you might expect they are also reflective of your body’s much more complex inner workings and genetic makeup, and a means of illustrating complex scientific theories like metabolic pathways into practical, usable, and understandable formats for their application to human health. In Ayurveda, the theory of Tridosha forms the basis of all Ayurvedic philosophy and clinical application. The three Dosha ‘Vata’, ‘Pitta’ and ‘Kapha’ define sets of traits and nuances describing a person’s constitution that strongly resemble those found under Western body type classifications, as well as being applied to their external environment and the seasons. Whilst Ayurvedic Dosha take a more qualitative, subjective approach, cross comparisons show strong correlations between these and the Western Somatypes that are based on quantitative research.  

VATA

ECTOMORPH

PITTA

MESOMORPH

KAPHA

ENDOMORPH

TRAITS

Vatas are described as long-limbed, tall, delicate and bony. They have visible veins, muscles and tendons, poor muscle growth and are the lightest of the three body types. The Vata personality is described as flighty, with oscillating bursts of energy. They find it hard to initially connect  but are fully committed to a task when their concentration is engaged. Linear, Tall, Thin Fragile Lightly Muscled Higher Type I Muscle Ratio Slow Muscle Growth Fast Metabolism Slow to warm up Good Endurance Respond well to high intensity  interval training. Less inclined for strength & power Pittas are described as having a balanced build with good muscular composition, prone to good (but not excessive) muscle growth. They are strong and agile, with strong digestion and a good appetite, but not prone to holding excess weight. Pittas are known as fiery, focused, and competitive. Rectangular Athletic Medium Sized Bone-Structure Well-Defined Muscles Higher Type II Muscle Ratio Gains Muscle Easily Strong, Balanced Metabolism Good functional strength, speed and agility. Well suited to a range of athletic pursuits. Kapha are the heaviest of the three Dosha known for their broad and stocky build. They have thick hair and healthy skin. Whilst slower to learn and Kapha are known for committing to tasks, decisions and movement alike. They build muscle and store fat easily, have regular appetites but slow digestive systems. Soft, Round Bodies Shorter, Stocky Build Gains Muscle & Fat Easily Higher Type I Muscle Ratio Slow, Metabolism In spite of good musculature, likely to be less defined due to adipose tissue. Suited to weight training and powerlifting.

HOW OUR BODIES ARE AFFECTED BY OUR ENVIRONMENT

The prevailing idea across both systems is to adapt the approach toward health and fitness to suit the body type of the individual. What sets Ayurveda apart from Western systems is that it is applicable not just to the subject, but the subject’s environment also. This, in Western science, overlaps with theories not commonly applied to fitness and nutrition: thermodynamics. Don’t close the window and run away screaming whist we quickly revisit some high school science (I promise to make it brief) because the correlation is really fascinating. The laws of thermodynamics teach us a few things about energy which, in a nutshell are: 1 - that energy comes in the form of heat and movement and 2- energy between us and our environment can be transferred. Weather (changes in temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind velocity, etc.) are in fact simply changes to heat and movement, or energy, of the environment. Though we automatically may change up our routine depending on the weather, the correlation between our bodies and the seasons aren’t something we automatically consider to be a key affecting factor to our health and fitness - at least, not in the way we consider our body types and genetic makeup - yet in actual fact the two are intrinsically linked. Ayurveda, on the other hand, applies the same familiar narrative of Tridosha to the various seasons and their energetic constitution, as they do to physical and emotional character of an individual.   Ayurveda  

SEASONAL QUALITIES

AYURVEDIC QUALITIES

POSITIVE EFFECTS ON THE BODY

POTENTIAL IMBALANCES

KAPHA

Late Winter / Early Spring Low temperatures dampness, rain, snow, clouds, storms, fog, shorter days (less sunlight) Cold Heavy Wet Static Dull Dense Strengthening and fortifying, boosting digestion. Deeply nourishing. Lubricates internal systems increasing fluid production. Encourages rest, patience & reflection Issues with congestion and sinus problems. Susceptibility to illness. Lethargy, depression Potential to gain excessive weight.

PITTA

Summer Higher temperatures, extreme weather conditions (drought or monsoon), longer days (more sunlight) Hot Sharp Oily Light Mobile Smooth Stimulates metabolism Improves circulation Energizing, encourages movement and activity Dehydration Nausea, MigrainesExcessive acidityStress and hypertension.Adrenal fatigue

VATA

Autumn / Early Winter Cool temperatures, mists, wind, dryness, shedding of leaves (movement) Dry Dry Cold Light Rough Mobile Subtle Improved circulation and blood flow. Stimulates nerve impulses and emotional responsiveness. Encourages creativity,  action and reaction. Anxiety, stress, hyperactivity. Dry skin Digestive complaints: gas & constipation. Arthritis, joint pain, osteoporosis.
 

AYURVEDA FOR ENERGY & TRAINING RESULTS:

If energy is transferred to us from our environment, it makes perfect sense that no matter how much you want to do hill sprints at 6am every day in the summer time, in the cold, dank, dark days of winter you’d much rather eat cookies in bed. Of course, most of us don’t follow these compulsions, but overcoming them can be quite a feat. Apart from anything it's nice to know there is some scientific logic behind this unfortunate phenomena, but better yet it's nice to know that Ayurveda can be used as a tool to counterbalance these effects. In fact, that’s exactly what its clinical application was initially designed to do. As we’ve established, your approach to each season depends very much on your own constitution, but by counterbalancing the effects of our surroundings with Ayurvedic nutrition we can remain internally balanced, maintain consistency in mood & attitude to training, and therefore continue to drive results throughout the year.   The current season, Winter, or Kapha, is cold, wet, slow and heavy. The body requires more fuel to stay warm and energy is channeled towards digestive processes, so we feel ourselves slowing down. Bitter, pungent, spicy, sour and salty flavours denote chemical compounds in foods have an actual warming effect on your body. Spices like ginger, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, fennel, black pepper, cayenne, and chilli, are commonly associated with winter for their warming effect. Items like these can boost the metabolism where it might have become sluggish. Also, topping up on nutrients like  B-vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Selenium, Iron, and Zinc can fortify the immune system to help it cope with harsher environmental conditions, maintaining good energy levels and recovery rate. Monkey Nutrition selectively incorporates wholefoods and a multitude of Ayurvedic natural extracts in addition to Vitamins, Minerals and Whole foods that support each supplement’s designed purpose. Here are my top 3 Monkey picks for Ayurvedic support this winter:

3.MATRIX PAK

Garlic and Gotu Kola can be found in the Matrix Pak’s herbal adaptogen complex maximising recovery by supporting the body’s anabolic processes. These help you build lean muscle and sustain healthy metabolism, offsetting the cold, damp weather that may leave you feeling sluggish and less effective to recover.

2.NOX

The NOX Night Time Recovery Pack use Ayurvedic herbal extracts from Hops & Passion Flower, Chamomile, and Valerian Root known for their potent soothing effects. Combined with ideal quantities of Fats, Vitamins, and Minerals to promote good sleep and effective tissue repair,  NOX is the perfect partner to MATRIX to counterbalance winter stress.

1.VITALIS

Along with antioxidants from fruit and other ‘super’ whole-food powders - Kale Turmeric, Beetroot and Acai to name a few - Maca Root, Siberian Ginseng and Ashwagandha are just some of the ingredients in Vitalis that are renowned in Ayurveda for their adaptogenic qualities, supporting a healthy, balanced adrenal function, immune system, and inflammation response. Combined with select nutrients that lower inflammation and support healing (such as B Vitamins, Vitamin D3, Magnesium & Zinc), the Vitalis Superfood Powder is an ideal addition to protein shakes and smoothies to help get you through to spring-time in one piece.

Article by Phoebe Wynn-Jones. [IM]Pressed Health

In 2011, hit by a moderately-sized truck travelling at a less-than-moderate speed, Phoebe was told she wouldn't walk again. Using holistic nutrition, yoga and boxing as a means of recovery, she went on to complete her education in Biochemistry and became a qualified nutritionist in 2012. Phoebe has since consulted on, opened and developed multiple locations within the food and fitness industry in Los Angeles, New Jersey, London and New York. She is now working out of her own fight gym MBOX in East London's Forest Gate as a nutrition coach and industry consultant, specialising in nutrition for combat sports competitors and endurance athletes. https://www.instagram.com/phoebej_nutrition/

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