One of the most important aspects in Ayurveda as well as Yoga is proper digestion. The bodies we possess are made up by the five elements (Panchamahabhoota), and so is everything around us, food being one of it. In order to nourish the body and its tissues, a healthy and strong digestion is required, that way the five elements in the food (along with Prana) will be absorbed and keep the five elements within the body be at perfect state.
Some tips I have found to be very helpful in aiding digestion:
- Eat at proper times. Eat when you are hungry, and on the other hand, don’t eat when you are not. Hunger is the sign for us that the previous meal has been digested, and so the body requires more energy in order to function. Having a routine of eating times will tremendously benefit one’s Agni, and by that will assist digestion, absorption and elimination. Proper times for eating will be: 8 AM, 1 PM, and dinner before sunset (around 6:30 PM). Do not munch in between.
- Sit while you eat. While eating it is best to sit down and not stand or walk around. While sitting, the stomach is relaxed and ready to welcome the food we eat. One will feel when the stomach is filled to the optimal quantity while sitting, rather than while standing.
- Chew each morsel well. Don’t eat quickly, have time while chewing your food. Let the saliva mix with the food, and all the flavours to come out so the tongue can perceive it. According to Ayurveda, once the tongue perceives the taste, it sends a message to the brain to secrete the appropriate enzymes in the stomach.
- Don’t overload the stomach. Eat up to your fill, but not more than that. Lots of people ask, how do I know my fill? Well, my answer is just watch how much you eat. When one gets the first belch, and it doesn’t carry the flavour or smell of the food eaten, will be the sign to have one’s fill. When we overfill our stomach, proper digestion cannot take place, as the stomach (a muscle) cannot contract and relax.
- Don’t drink while eating. Well, I am sure some will disagree with me on this, however this is what I feel from personal experience. Do not drink an hour before and after food. While drinking we dilute the enzymes in the stomach, which will lead to poor digestion. Most of the foods we eat are with some kind of liquid, so it isn’t really necessary to drink along with food. If the food is dry, it is permissible to have few sips of lukewarm water along with the meal.
- Rest after eating. Don’t do rigorous work or exercise after eating. Let the stomach do its work. After eating, the blood flows towards the stomach to help with the digestion process, that is why one should rest, and let the body do its work. When one will not rest and let the blood flow to the peripheral (instead of the stomach), digestion will be affected. Rest does not mean sleep! Food should energize the body and not make it heavy and dull. If lying down, do so on your left side, so the right nostril will be active (it will help digestion).
- Practise Yoga. Having a Yoga practice routine will help digestion as well as absorption. Surya Namaskar as well as other asanas, will help in enkindling Agni, the factor crucial to digestion. Few things I feel help with digestion are: Kapalbhati, Nauli (even just the madhyama – central), uddiyana bandha and of course agnisar kriya . All these three exercises are helping with making Agni optimal. If you don’t find Yoga appealing, even walking and having any other exercise will help. Yoga is better as it has a linking to the digestion process.
- Sleeping patterns. A very important aspect which influence digestion and of course elimination is sleeping times. Waking up early, preferably before sunrise, and going to sleep by 10 PM will be the best. see how you can adjust to these timings. If you will follow the rest of the tips it will be easy. If one finds it difficult to wake up early, cut 15 mins at a time from the sleeping time, until reaching the goal.
Try and implement as much tips as you can. Try few of them, in the beginning, to see the change in your own digestion and overall health. Digestion is crucial as even medicine will not be effective if it isn’t digested properly.