Sivana Podcast: Ayurvedic Life Hacks For Optimal Living
About this Episode
What is Ayurveda? And how can this ancient form of medicine help you live up to your fullest potential. Join us as we chat with Britt Barret, an Ayurvedic Counselor and founder of Daily Ayurveda. She offers up some Ayurvedic Life Hacks so you can bring Ayurvedic concepts into your life to optimize your health and strengthen your immune system.
If you want to have that cream cheese frosting cupcake with your best friend, sitting at the best bakery downtown.
Eat the cupcake, enjoy the cupcake. But just, that’s your cupcake for the week.
Moderation and self-love is really what it’s all about. Don’t starve yourself, don’t overfeed yourself foods that are supposed to be good for you. Sit back and really listen to what your body is telling you.
Namaste, you’re listening to the Sivana podcast. Join us on an exploration of eastern spirituality, yoga philosophy and conscious living for the new age.
This podcast is a production of sivanaspirit.com, where you can find a large selection of Om and yoga clothing, spiritual jewelry and unique fair trade gifts from the Far East. Now here’s your host Ashton Szabo.
Greetings everyone, Ashton Szabo here with the Sivana podcast. I’m here with my guest, Britt Barrett. She is a wellness counselor, Ayurvedic chef and the creator of Daily Ayurveda.
Today’s topic is all about Ayurveda.
We are going to talk about Ayurvedic life hacks for optimal living and get a general idea and sense of what Ayurveda is, what it can mean to you, and how you can use it into your life to live more optimally. Britt, welcome on the show, it’s nice to have you.
Thank you. It’s nice to be here.
So for people that really aren’t familiar with Ayurveda.
What is Ayurveda?
How can you explain it in a very simplified way for people that have never heard of it before, or only heard the name?
Okay. So the word “Ayurveda” is a Sanskrit word. It literally translates into “life wisdom.”
Ayurveda is a five thousand year old system of medicine that originated in India. It’s the sister science to yoga. It’s more of the diet and lifestyle aspects of yoga.
How to really live your life in balance using nature as your guide, and how to not just survive, but really to thrive and live to your optimal potential.
Awesome. What originally inspired you to study Ayurveda or get involved with Ayurveda?
My dad was actually an Allopathic Physician. I grew up with Western medicine. I dabbled and was sort of curious about alternative medicine, but I really didn’t start researching any forms of alternative medicine until I actually came down with a pretty gnarly digestive disease when I was graduating college in 2005.
I went to the doctor and had a colonoscopy. I ended up being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which is a chronic digestive disease. Basically, it’s an autoimmune disease where your body eats holes in itself, for lack of a better word.
I was very very sick, and actually just sort of researching started all different forms of alternative medicine. And when I stumbled into Ayurveda, through attending a lecture at a bookshop randomly one night, I realized that it was a complete system.
It wasn’t just, “Take this herb and you’ll feel better,” or “Stop eating this and you’ll feel better.” But it’s looking at your mind, your body, your spirit, your lifestyle, everything.
In the work that you do, what would you say is the most common condition or the most common things that you come across with your clients and with students and the people that you’re working with?
A lot of different reasons actually.
So, some people come with digestive disorders. Other people come because they want to know what their Dosha is, or what their basic constitution is. I can get into that a little bit more later.
People who are relatively healthy, but they just want to know what foods are going to be best for their body type. Then I have clients of M.S., I have clients who are trying to lose weight, pre-diabetic. Pretty much all across the board.
Is there anything that you see culturally that you’re working with, that is sort of epidemic?
From my experience, a lot of people do seem to have digestive issues going on. Our culture outside the realm of things like yoga, we don’t encourage a lot of feeling in the body.
And so a lot of times when you get people doing a practice that gets them to feel, it’s like
“Oh my gosh, I have a lot of abdominal discomfort and are living with it all the time.” They’ve kind of just turned it off quite a bit.
Are there things like that, that you notice? That you see very common throughout, regardless of, perhaps, specifically why people are coming to see you?
Yes, definitely. A hundred percent.
Everything that you just said is pretty much, you hit the nail on the head. I think people are largely disconnected from their bodies. We’re a relatively new country, and so our diet consists of, you know, multiple different cultures and traditions and backgrounds sort of into this melting pot of what tastes good.
We’re not actually using all of this beautiful knowledge that we humans have developed over the years.
What should we be eating in certain seasons?
What is nature actually providing during different times of the year?
What spices are going to be medicinal for what different types of ailments? And so, it’s almost like going back to our witchy roots basically. I think it is becoming an epidemic, this disconnection with the body, and also the addiction to food. Not using food as medicine, as it should be, but just having this weird relationship with food where it’s becoming like this sort of a guilty pleasure versus, “Oh God, okay. I guess I’ll eat my greens because that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
As a parent, one of the things that always blows my mind is the idea of rewarding your child with junk food.
“Oh! You’ve been good, you can have a piece of candy.”
Why would you reward your child? I mean, with a child I get that they like candy, but it’s like you’re giving something that is not healthy for them as a reward. To me, that always seemed crazy.
“Yay! You did great! here’s a carrot.”
That makes more sense. Because it’s like “Oh you’ve done something well, let’s honor that and celebrate that with something good for the body instead of something that’s going to harm your body.”
Another thing that I’m not sure where, perhaps, in the conversation Ayurveda, or if Ayurveda touches on this. But you touched on it a little bit in your conversation. We live in a really interesting time where, unlike any other time in human history, not only especially in our culture, we have access to a lot of different cultural foods. But we have access to things well out of season.
So you have people eating fruit in the wintertime. You have all these sorts of things where, like, we have stuff where it’s not being grown in season where we’re at, and then we import it from somewhere else, which gets into a whole other side of, you know, use of fossil fuels.
Then the transport which is a different conversation. But as well, I see a lot of allergies happening in people because they’re not eating foods in season. That’s a common thing. I don’t know, you know, where in the conversation that comes up in Ayurveda, but…
Yes. Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you’re asking such great questions. And yes, that’s a huge part of why we have developed so many allergies. We’re not listening to nature.
So right now, we’re entering into springtime and if you look around us, what’s happening is, the snow is sort of melting off the mountaintops. All of this sort of earth and water-heavy energy that has accumulated over the wintertime, of eating a little bit heavier foods and maybe, like, hibernating a little bit more.
It’s a natural time for that to come out of our bodies. The way that we want to make that happen is to eat more bitter, astringent, and a little bit more pungent foods to help sort of clear and cleanse the system.
So what’s actually coming out of the Earth right now, when you actually look around-I mean I’m in Mere Beach right now-and looking over the hills, it’s just lush green. My garden is just bursting with mint and greens.
This is the time to eat those cleansing foods and to really make sure we’re eating less in quantity than we were in winter as well. That will really help prevent those seasonal allergies. We have a different view of allergies in the Ayurvedic world. They’re looked at as imbalances.
Okay, So pollen is the enemy.
Well the pollen is doing something to you, but if you didn’t have that excess Kapa-or Earth and water in your system from eating fruits in winter that really you probably shouldn’t have been eating or overeating etc., we can get more into that later-then you wouldn’t have that histamine response.
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People being educated more on foods, you mentioned earlier as well and it’s something that one of my teachers used to say like, “Food is medicine.” Most people tend to think of food as medicine, but its medicine that you’re taking a few times a day, every single day of your life. It’s a really big deal, because the quality of the types of foods that you bring in is really going to impact your health, and I think that’s something that’s very much missing at least from American culture.
People in the United States, we’re just not educated on not only the types, we get a little bit into like, “Okay, well this generally is a healthy food and this is not a healthy food,” but we don’t get a lot of education.
When do we eat these types of foods?
How do we combine these foods?
And I think that it’s something that’s slowly coming in more and more as people are, as one end of the food chain is getting worse and worse and worse with fast foods and stuff, other people going to educate themselves more because we are getting so many health problems related to food.
So if you if you could get your clients or your students to either stop doing one thing, or to all do one thing, so either stop it or start something what would that be?
I would say. Stop overeating, really. I think that is, even people who are health conscious and they are eating healthy food, they’re just eating beyond their capacity of what they can handle.
And what happens is, if you think about our digestive system, we have something that’s called an Agni, or digestive fire. You can imagine like a campfire burning, imagine there’s like a campfire in your stomach and you always want to keep that campfire burning at a consistent rate.
So what this means is, let’s say you’re out at a campfire and you find a bunch of a wet logs and you just throw the wet logs on top of the fire. You’re going to douse out that fire. So it’s knowing what kind of wood to feed the fire and how much to feed it.
What happens is, when you fill your stomach too much, it doesn’t actually have the space that it needs to do the work that it needs to do in order to properly digest your food. And when you don’t have that adequate fire or the adequate room for the fire to do its work, then we kind of end up with these half-baked cookies floating around in our bloodstream, which is also known as “ama” or toxicity in Sanskrit.
Really I’d say top two things when you eat: fill your stomach with half food, a quarter water, and preferably warm or room temperature water, and then leave a quarter empty space.
A really good way to figure out what portion size is right for your type, or for your body, is to hold both of your hands out in front of you like you just gathered water from a well and imagine that you have food filling up your hands. That’s about the amount of food that you should eat in one doing.
Are we doing just the palm? Or are we including fingers?
Imagining it like you just scooped up a bunch of popcorn, and how it kind of might round over the top. That’s about how much.
So for each person, it’s going to be different. If you’re a tiny person, you’re going to need less food and if you’re a larger person, you’ll need more. And also, keeping in mind how hungry you are. If you’re not very hungry, either don’t eat and wait till you’re hungry, or just eat a really small amount.
Those are sort of some contrasting things living in Asia for so many years. When I came back to the United States, it’s always mind blowing of how large our portion sizes are here. Everything’s always overflowing the plate here in United States, but traveling all over Asia, you get these little portions. You are still always satiated and you feel good, but you weren’t overwhelmed with food all the time. It’s so clear whenever I come back to the states to recognize that.
So I mean, that gives us an idea of quantity of food.
What are some general kind of tips or hacks that the vast majority of people could benefit from? That would help…again, those ideas give some ideas of quantity-wise with food, you also mentioned things like the bitters and more pungent foods.
What are some things that people can be doing without knowing specifically what their constitution is, let’s say, that could help with their overall health, with digestion. Some basic things to help their overall lifestyle, or help them live a little bit more optimally.
So a couple things come to mind. First is, we really should be eating fruits separately from our meal. And a lot of people kind of eat fruit with their meal because they want to get their fruit into their diet. But what we don’t realize is that fruit actually digests quicker than other food. So if you eat it at the same time, oftentimes people might get bloated, or get a stomach ache, and they may not know why. And a lot of times, fruit is actually that the culprit there. When you eat fruit by itself, then it digest really well, and it actually digests quicker than other foods because it’s so sweet and easy to digest. So eat your fruit at least twenty minutes before your meal so it has time to digest a little bit, or have it as a snack instead.
And then I would say, don’t drink cold water when you eat. Actually, try not to drink cold water ever especially, in these winter and spring months. You can drink cold water in the summertime, but that ice, it’s pretty taxing for the system, and especially when you’re eating.
I like to always tell people, “Imagine that you have two tanks, and one tank is full of ice water and the other tank is full of hot water. And now, imagine dropping a slice of pizza into both of those tanks. The one with the cold water is just going to coagulate and it’s not going to move. And the hot water, will at least help to start, kind of, melting the food and helping the process along.
So, one more thing I would say is people who are probably listening to this podcast are going to be already interested in health, and probably already doing some things that they have heard are beneficial for them. And one myth I’d kind of like to bust, is this sort of raw kale, like, juice situation that’s happening. Raw green kale juice is good for everyone, and we have to just remember, just like anything else, every food can be a medicine or a poison, depending on who’s taking it, how much they’re taking, what season they’re having it in, and what the state of their digestion is.
And so, just try and look up Ayurveda and see what type you might be in. Don’t just take what everyone says as this, sort of, one-size-fits-all program, because it doesn’t work like that. Each person works differently, and I’d say checking in with your body and taking note of how you feel after you eat or drink something is the best indication of, you know, knowing whether that will be beneficial for you or not.
Do you have any resources that you would suggest?
A website or a book for someone that is looking to get a little bit more understanding of this, or try to figure out their constitution, their Dosha?
Do you have anything like that that you send people to regularly that you recommend?
There is a book by Vasantlad V-A-S-A-N-T-L-A-D. Vasantlad Ayurveda: A Practical Guide to Self Healing, and it’s a very thin and small book. It basically gives you all of the basics that you would need to know. But, I would also say do some research, but be careful about what websites you’re looking at. Because Ayurveda is not regulated in the US yet, not legalized, there’s a lot of people who take, like, a two-month course and call themselves a practitioner, and they could actually end up causing more harm than good if they don’t know what they’re doing. So, it’s hard to know your constitution just by reading a quiz, taking a quiz online, or reading something. I would recommend seeing someone who has been practicing Ayurveda and really knows what they’re talking about, because it’s really important that you don’t blindly start doing things without knowing if it’s going to be beneficial for you or not.
Oh, and then one other book, I would say. There’s a book called Eat-Taste-Heal. That’s a cookbook that has some great recipes in it. So for people just wanting to, sort of, explore some seasonal recipes and learn more about what qualities different foods have, that’s a great one. Very visual.
So I have a question. I’m a pretty fiery guy. I like hot foods. So, I like spices, I like my garlic, and I’m already pretty hot and fiery.
From an Ayurveda perspective, am I just screwed?
Do I have to give up those things?
Are there things that I could, sort of, balance with that so I can still enjoy the hot or spicy foods?
What does Ayurveda say to someone like myself, who is already running hot, but we usually gravitate towards the things that we’re similar to? So most people that are running hot, tend to gravitate towards the hot stuff. I mean do I have to go cold turkey? Do I just eat more cooling foods?
From Ayurvedic perspective, without really knowing-I guess to get more specific you’d have to know all constitutional and that sort of stuff-but what are some general ideas?
Am I going to have to give up all the stuff that I like to be balanced? Or can I find a middle range? Some diets, which, without even getting to the conversation of actual diets instead of lifestyles, like, “Oh you have to go cold turkey against this,” or “you can only eat that.”
Is it that strict in Ayurveda? Does it depend? Or what’s kind of the view on that?
Good question. So it’s funny, some people who run hot crave hot, and some who run hot crave cool. It’s across the board in that sense. So here are the things to really consider. First of all, did you grow up eating spicy food?
Okay. If you did, I would say it would be a little bit more okay for you to have spicy food because there’s a comfort known as “Satmya,” which means that it’s sort of in your bloodline or that your body is more accustomed to eating more spicy food. But I am not a believer in doing anything in excess and creating balance, right?
So if you absolutely love spicy food, let’s not cut spicy food out entirely, because then you’re going to have one day where you just say “Ahh, I just need something spicy.”
So it’s really knowing more about, “Maybe we shouldn’t have the chili powder, but we could have this instead,” or maybe instead of having spicy food for every meal, just cut it down by half just to start, and see how that really affects you.
And also, keeping in mind the season. So if its summertime, and it’s the blazing hot outside, and you’ve been in the sun all day drinking tequila, let’s just say.
Totally! Cause that’s how I spend my afternoon.
Right. You’re just raging on the river, just eating hot chips and salsa. That’s the time you don’t want to eat spicy food and you actually don’t want to drink during those super hot, dry days. But having a glass of wine, or a stew that’s a little bit spicy in the winter time, can be really beneficial.
So I’d say, if you are having heat-related issues, then you can’t just eat an avocado and a cucumber and say, “Oh it balances out, the chili relleno I had.” But you can incorporate more of the avocado, the greens, and the things that are more cooling, and just lessen the spicy without getting rid of it entirely.
Well that’s encouraging. So I don’t have to give up all the spicy stuff that I like, so I’m fine.
And the thing is, it’s really important to have all six tastes, no matter what your constitution is. So, even if spicy food is not your best friend, it’s important to have things of a little bit of that pungent quality, even if it’s black pepper or mustard seeds or cumin seeds, just so that you get a little bit of that taste.
You mentioned alcohol as well.
Where does that fall in conversation of Ayurveda? Obviously, in India, generally speaking, alcohol is kind of taboo and frowned upon. Definitely not in Western cultures.
Where does that fit into one’s diet?
Is that something that is generally considered, like, you want to avoid? Or, again we’re not getting into the absolute side of things, but are there reasons why somebody would drink more alcohol or less?
What’s the Ayurvedic opinion on that?
Like I was saying before, everything can be a medicine or a poison depending on everything. Depending on the season, the quality of what you’re drinking, who’s having it. If you take a shot of tequila, for example-I don’t know why tequila’s on me, I hate tequila. But anyway, I’m just thinking of, like, the most hot, intense kind of alcohol that there is-then no matter what your constitution is, no matter what the season, it’s going to hit you pretty hard, and it’s going to be kind of harsh. It’s more of the poison variety than sipping a glass of red wine in the winter, next to a fire with your meal.
So there’s a whole section in the Ayurvedic textbooks about medicinal wines and using alcohol as sort of a conduit for medicine, because it does have that quality of cutting, piercing and opening, right?
So making, like, a tincture for example. Some certain herbs need that alcohol because I know, because I’ve been working with people for five or six years now, and I see that it’s very unlikely that someone’s going to cut out alcohol from their diet completely. They might do it for a couple months, but then most people are just in their social situations and it’s a cultural norm, and it’s when you go to a work party.
If you’re having a serious health condition, I would say definitely avoid alcohol until we get it figured out and we get you back to being in a healthy place again. But if you’re relatively healthy and you’re not overdoing it, having a drink every once in a while, it’s not going to be the end of the world. Just this binge drinking and even the mentality that goes along with drinking to get drunk, is what it really messes people up.
Do you have any last tips or thoughts or comments for listeners out there that want to know more about their bodies, want to know more about Ayurveda?
More about living to their fullest in life, especially in regards to their diet?
Any last words or things you like to say about that?
I would say. Enjoy life and trust your gut above all else. This means to watch what you’re eating and try to be curious, ask your body what it wants and learn about a little bit Ayurveda if you’re interested in it.
And also, I think a lot of people just go full bore and they’re like a hundred percent, you know, “I’m going to eat dal and rice or khattri(29:41?) every day.” I went through that phase when I was in school, and I think part of the purpose of life is to be able to enjoy food and enjoy living, and to keep in mind what’s best for you and to follow what’s best 80-90% of the time.
If you want to have that cream-cheese frosting cupcake with your best friend, sitting at the best bakery downtown, eat the cupcake, enjoy the cupcake, but just, that’s your cupcake for the week.
Moderation and self-love is really what it’s all about. Don’t starve yourself, don’t overfeed yourself foods that are supposed to be good for you. Just kind of sit back and really listen to what your body is telling you.
Awesome. Well I think across the board, that’s good advice for people to start listening to their bodies more. Where can we find out more about you and what you’re doing?
I know that you’ve got your podcast starting as well, you’ve got a website, you have your coaching, you do all kinds of different stuff. Where can people find out more about you?
So my website is “DailyAyurveda,” and I have some information on there, just basics about Ayurveda. Then I also have a bunch of blog posts, videos, recipes. You can also sign up for a consultation if you’re interested in doing one-on-one coaching with me.
And then also, I’m actually going to be, sort of, rebranding. I don’t know when this podcast will come out, but sometime in the next six months I’m gonna be changing my name to “curedbythekitchen,” because I just feel like that’s a little bit more accessible for people who don’t know about Ayurveda to be able to resonate with these principles, and to kind of spread my wings a little more. But yeah, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions, I’d love to. I offer free 20-minute consultations. So if anyone’s interested, I’m happy to just chat with you and hear what’s going on in your world.
Awesome. Well you might get flooded with things after offering, like, “Oh I’ll get it free!” But that’s awesome, and what we can do too is we can put both of the website links in the show notes so that way, if someone is listening to this months down the road, they know that they can switch over to that. Was it curedbythekitchen?
CuredbytheKitchen but it’s not up yet.
Ya, so we’ll have the notes for both; for the dailyayurveda and the other.
Awesome, well thank you so much for sharing your passion and your knowledge of Ayurveda with us. Best of luck with all the stuff that you’re doing, and we’ll stay in touch. Maybe when can get you on the show again some time, get some more awesome Ayurvedic tips.
Thank you. You’re an amazing interviewer by the way.
Thank you. The first few weren’t so great, so I’ve had to I’ve study up and work on it, but I’m glad that I’m going in the right direction. So thank you.
Again and that was Brit Barrett from Daily Ayurveda. I’m Ashton Szabo and this is Sivana podcast. Thank you all so much for listening today and I hope you will tune in next time. Namaste.
Hey everybody, thanks for listening to this show today. Please go over the iTunes, write a review, and let us know what you think. It helps us in creating new content for all of you and also helps new listeners get a sense of what to expect from the show.
We really appreciate your feedback. Thanks again for listening. Namaste.
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