Every parent knows that no two children are alike. The psychological, emotional and physical requirements of each individual child vary widely and are dependent upon their unique constitution or nature, called “prakruti” in Ayurvedic medicine.
The health and creativity of a child hinges on the amount of good emotional, physiological and psychological nourishment received from his or her parents. If you understand your child’s prakruti mind-body type (basic make-up and dominant body type: Vata, Pitta or Kapha), you will know how to help even further.
Ayurveda emphasizes knowing yourself and your environment well and choosing your diet and lifestyle in accordance to the law of nature that governs you and your surroundings. There’s no better time than childhood to begin teaching the importance of self-knowledge and the nature of true health!
The Main Idea of Ayurveda is Balance
A well-balanced diet, adequate sleep and a lifestyle that includes hygiene, indoor-outdoor exercise, learning and recreation are essential for growing kids.
All parents must examine the quality and quantity of fat, protein, sugar and carbohydrates that children ingest. In accordance with Ayurvedic medicine, the brain needs these four major nutrients for mental clarity and integrated functioning.
Recommended fats include ghee (clarified butter), olive oil, coconut oil, sesame seed oil and other seed oils. Recommended sugars include organic raw sugar, Sucanat, honey and maple syrup. Even if it’s of good quality, it’s important not to let a child eat too much fat or sugar. Just as an example, the average Canadian consumes 125 pounds of sugar per year, when just a hundred years ago the average was two pounds. Recommended proteins for daily diet are lentils, beans, legumes and a small amount of dairy.
Sleep and Indoor-Outdoor Activities
Sufficient sleep, good quality air and ions from nature are essential for brain function and learning. Outdoor activities as simple as walking, bicycling or snow playing provide oxygen and ions for proper cellular activity. Indoor exercises such as yoga, meditation, Pilates and breath work can be good family activities that help kids with emotional release and confidence-building.
Hygiene goes hand-in-hand with health. Internal and external hygiene are both essential for maintaining proper metabolic activities. As parents, we always guide our kids towards healthy external hygiene habits such as washing hands before eating, using a clean plate and utensils, sitting upright and so on.
Ayurvedic medicine emphasizes healthy habits that help reduce toxicity due to undigested food, supporting internal hygiene, such as:
- Eating in a relaxed environment.
- Chewing your food well.
- Eating only ¾ of your stomach’s volume.
- Playing or showering at least an hour after eating meals.
- Giving at least a 2-hour gap between two meals.
- Drinking minimum water with meals (so as not to dilute digestive juices).
- Eating seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Keeping consistent daily meal times.
Ayurvedic Food Compatibility Promotes Learning and Intelligence
Food combinations are important for nutritional balance, digestion and optimal absorption. There are certain categories of foods that when combined do not support proper digestion and absorption and is one of the reasons for a tired mind-body. Some incompatible foods from an Ayurvedic medicine perspective must be avoided, such as:
- Milk with meat
- Fresh fruits with grains
- Dairy with fish
- Fresh fruits with meat or fish
For healthy, wholesome meals, Ayurvedic medicine recommends blending six flavors of nature in food preparations: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, hot and astringent. Each flavor has an essential role in restoring a healthy state of mind-body and spirit. However, it has to be consumed in moderation; excess or insufficiency is unhealthy.
- Sweet: promotes growth of all healthy tissues and relaxes the nervous system
- Sour: stimulates enzymatic flow from stomach to brain
- Salty: works as a sedative
- Hot: promotes secretions such as tears, sweat and saliva, kills parasites, improves development of body tissues
- Bitter: antibacterial and cleansing, supports healthy immunity
- Astringent: promotes closing of wounds and sores, aids in joint/bone repairs
Ayurveda for General Lifestyle
Ayurvedic medicine focuses on the happiness and playfulness of a child. With stress so much a part of modern life, even children reared in the best economic circumstances are left unhappy and isolated.
A weekly Ayurvedic massage and relaxing aromatherapy with essential oils like sandalwood, jasmine, rose and cedar can be beneficial for children. Make sure that they get plenty of affection and understanding. Teach your child daily stress-relief habits such as breathing exercises, stretching, singing, walks and family time. More importantly, if you manage your own time and stress levels well, you act as a powerful role-model for your children.
Vaidya Ismat Dhala Nathani, Doctorate of Natural Medicine, Ayurvedic Practitioner
Note – Information in this article is provided for the sole purpose of imparting education on Ayurveda and is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, please consult a health professional.