Updated: Sep 3
6 steps for a natural, easy, gentle framework for balanced living. Learn about our two-fold approach to daily intermittent fasting.
Explore more on the Saumya Blog, selected top Ayurveda blogs and websites to watch.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that translates directly as the “knowledge” (veda) of “life” (ayu). Ayurveda is a branch of the Vedic tradition - an ancient Indian knowledge system, and the oldest wisdom tradition in the world - which is based on the idea that all of life, from the mundane to the majestic, is inherently connected and divine
Ayurveda is often thought of as only one component: Ayurvedic medicine. While Ayurveda is a profound approach to holistic health and healing, this is just one small dot on the vast map of this ancient tradition. Ayurveda is a path, a system of living, a spiritual journey that lasts a lifetime.
Ayurveda uses food as medicine, herbs, and lifestyle practices like meditation and breathwork to balance the dynamic energies within our body – creating harmony throughout our inner and outer worlds.
What is Ayurveda? Ayurveda’s Place in Modern Medicine
Modern “allopathic” medicine treats individual ailments directly. In contrast, Ayurveda treats the whole human – mental, physically, and spiritually. The symptoms we associate with illness and disease are signs of a deeper imbalance within the body, and Ayurveda goes to the root of the issue to restore balance.
Ayurveda’s 5000-year track record is a testament to its effectiveness and ease of use. Nevertheless, Western medicine has been slow to embrace Ayurveda and other traditional healing modalities. But as more people seek to live healthy, preventative lifestyles instead of dealing with problems as they arise – the times they are a’changing!
The mind and body are connected. Food affects us both physically and mentally (think of someone who eats a lot of sugar or drinks a lot of caffeine). The outer world affects our inner systems. One size does not fit all (we all need different things for optimal wellbeing).
As modern clinical trials validate Ayurveda’s ancient knowledge, this powerful wellness tradition is working its way into contemporary healthcare practices. As a result, more and more folks are embracing Ayurveda as a powerful way to integrate positive changes and bring their lives back into balance.
What is Ayurveda? Key Ayurvedic Concepts
Ayurveda seeks to achieve an optimal energetic balance in the body and mind, so we are healthy and free to pursue our fullest spiritual lives. But what does that really mean?
Everything and everyone in the world around us is composed of five elements: air, fire, water, earth, and space. Ayurveda groups these elements into three basic energetic properties, known as doshas. These foundational energies (called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) are the building blocks of our entire universe.
Vata: That Which Moves
1. Vata dosha is characterized by space and air. The essential engine of the universe, Vata governs all functions of movement within the mind, body, and outer world. Like the elements it embodies, Vata’s physical properties are cold, dry, mobile, subtle, and light.
Vata’s powerful mobile nature is the source of creativity, expansion, openness, eagerness, and ingenuity. However, when Vata falls out of balance, we may feel scattered, ungrounded, tense, and anxious.
2. Pitta: That Which Transforms
Fire and water combine to form Pitta dosha. A universal force of action/reaction, Pitta governs all transformations within the body and mind (think digesting thoughts, emotions, sunlight, and of course food). Pitta characteristics are hot, light, sharp, oily, liquid, and spreading.
In balance, Pitta energy is ambitious, discerning, charismatic, strong-willed, and insightful. Out of balance, it sparks heat in the body and mind (such as inflammation, indigestion, heartburn, and fiery emotional responses like jealousy, criticism, and anger).
3. Kapha: That Which Protects
Kapha dosha is governed by water and earth. Nourishing and reliable , Kapha provides structure and stability in our inner and outer worlds. Like the elements it represents, Kapha physical properties are moist, heavy, slow (or dullish), cool, stable, oily, and smooth.
Balanced Kapha supports groundedness, endurance, strength, and dependability. It protects critical systems from our immune system and personal boundaries down to our stomach lining and the fluid in our joints. Out of balance, Kapha manifests as physical and mental “dullness.” We may put on a few extra pounds, or feel weighed down, lethargic, foggy, or depressed.
Explore More: What is Ayurveda? A Beginner's Guide and Beyond
Ayurveda's Approach to Intermittent Fasting.
While intermittent fasting is a hot new health trend, it is actually a practice that has been around thousands of years and is rooted in Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is often thought of as one of the oldest holistic systems of natural medicine, and that is an important part as we all need to be mentally and physically healthy. Yet, that system of medicine is only one part of the vast path known as "the knowledge of life." Ayur, life, Veda, knowledge. To know the nature of life itself--that is Ayurveda.
Today, Ayurveda's Ancient Knowledge of Intermittent Fasting is Now Acknowledged by Modern Science.
John Hopkins Medicine recently rediscovered what Ayurveda has known all along and published Intermittent Fasting: What is it and how does it work?
According to Ayurveda, intermittent fasting does more than burn fat. Ayurveda has known fasting can prevent, and in some cases, reverse conditions and diseases. When there is a gap in the digestive process, it provides critical cleansing time for the body and mind to purify. The brilliant process of cellular purification is compromised when there is a constant supply of food moving from one end of the digestive tract, to the other.
It is only relatively recent that humans had 24/7 access to nearly all foods imaginable. Reflecting on my own ancestors, it was only a generation ago that they grew and raised all their food. Living in a remote area, there was no convenience stores or all night markets.
Raised this way, I observed how to eat seasonally, that food abundance or scarcity ebbed and flowed naturally with the seasons, which built in fasting experiences. The term ritucharya in Ayurveda speaks to this. Ritu means season and charya means rhythm.
Simply put, it is following the natural rhythms of the season year-round. This is in stark contrast to having whatever one may want all the time. When there is a constant supply of foods, and foods that are not produced by a particular season, it can lead to health issues. How is it that in modern life with brilliant medical advances, there are so many chronic diseases? According to Ayurveda, there is a connection.
Digestion consists of four processes: ingestion, digestion, absorption and elimination. What happens when the roadway of the digestive system is constantly processing? (See: Poop Analysis with Ayurveda: What Your Poop Says About Your Health.)
Think of it as a rush hour pile up--all sorts of health problems occur mentally and physically when flow is not optimal.
6 Stesps for Ayurvedic Intermittent Fasting
1. Breakfast. Well, that’s pretty clear, break-fast.
2. Let space exist between regularly timed meals.
According to Ayurveda, intermittent fasting naturally occurs in the space between meals. This break allows us to optimize metabolism and the digestive process. We’ve all heard it, avoid snacking between meals.
The time between your last bite and your next bite IS, according to Ayurveda, intermittent fasting. Here’s the genius of Ayurveda’ approach to intermittent fasting, all day, every day, we are intermittent fasting by giving our digestive system a rest between meals.
Learn more about Pitta Dosha: The 5 Sub-Doshas and Cooling Heated Digestion|GERD
3. Lunch is the main meal of the day. This is when the sun (think digestive fire) is strongest, stomach acid is ready for its main event, and it’s when we need the energy. Healthy fat, protein and lots of vegetables can fill the plate. Dinner, or supper, is a light meal. Eating with others? No problem, just eat less of what is served and focus on the lightest foods.
Learn more about Saumya Ayurveda’s Healing Trifecta: a Framework for a Balanced Life
4. Earlier dinners are a delight for the mind and body. Ideally, we have our last meal of the day around 5:30p.m.
"When we flow with this rhythm, we create a natural, effortless intermittent fasting from 6:00p.m. to about 8:00a.m. creating a fourteen-hour intermittent fast. If life requires eating later, then the later the lighter.” – Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
5. Eat foods that are supportive. When we know how to eat correctly for us (specific to stage of life, climate, season, and for our unique doshic picture), we experience satiety. Less becomes more because our food is now medicine. Book your free phone consultation to learn more.
6. Recognize hunger. It sounds obvious, but it’s not. Learn how to recognize actual hunger versus grazing and nibbling out of boredom or anxiety. Emotional and habitual eating may drive behavior. Explore the nature of the hunger and trace it back to its root.
“When Saumya clients learn how to turn their food into medicine, and the doshas are balanced, they feel satiated and nibbling and emotional eating fades away.” – Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
Explore More on the Saumya Blog: How to Detox Emotionally|10 Ayurvedic Practices for Emotional Cleansing 30 Reasons Why You Need an Ayurveda Emotional Detox
Intermittent Fasting and Vata, Pitta, and Kapha
What is balancing, supportive, and healthy for each dosha is different and with Ayurvedic intermittent fasting it’s no different. Equally important is that what is balancing for everyone is different. The doshic picture, current symptoms, family history, and many factors need to be skillfully assessed through by an experienced Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner.
In general, Kapha predominant people can do a longer fast, Vata the least long, and Pitta, somewhere in the middle. Now, if someone has a Pitta imbalance that high Pitta fire if not fed, just might lead them to biting someone’s head off. Bottom line on what’s a balanced fasting time—it depends.
Other Considerations According to Ayurveda
Physical and mental factors need to be considered. For example, if someone has diabetes a long fast is contraindicated. If someone is anxious, ungrounded, prone to panic, it is also not supportive to fast for too long as food is grounding and nourishing.
Final Thoughts on Ayurveda’s Approach to Intermittent Fasting
The break we take by resting our digestive system between meals is continual intermittent fasting—all day, every day. The fast we create from our last light meal of the day until we break-fast, is about a 14-hour fast.
This wisdom of Ayurveda shines with this two-fold, daily, on-going Ayurveda lifestyle approach to intermittent fasting.
Ayurveda’s ancient approach to intermittent fasting is time-tested and gentle and weaves naturally into our daily lifestyle long term.
"Ayurveda's approach to intermittent fasting is that it is part of our daily routine, or dinacharya." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
There is a saying, "The mind is more in the body, than the body is in the mind." The Saumya 3 step meditation process shifts us from fight-flight-freeze mode, to rest-restore-relax mode. Give it a try for forty days and observe the changes. The more grounded and relaxed we are, the smoother life flows.
"The breath is the connection between the mind and body, so by training the breath, we become calm, focused, and grounded, we slow down the aging process by decreasing stress. These practices are so simple and easy to have as part of our daily life. We actually feel and look younger."
- Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
1. Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life. When we re-learn to breath diaphragmatically, we move from the flight-fight-freeze mode, to rest, restore, relaxation mode from where we want and need to live.
3. Ayurveda Daily Routines: --Ayurvedic Morning Routine | 6 Rituals for a Calm and Centered Day
"Choose a couple of practices from the routines that provide you with the greatest support. Perform them while applying our two minute meditation technique and your mundane tasks, just transformed into a mellifluous meditation. This is meditation applied to daily life." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
“I’ve known Veena for close to thirty years and I’ve sought her Ayurvedic counsel to improve my state of well-being. When I was struggling with significant, unremitting, and deteriorating health issues, her Ayurvedic treatment was extremely beneficial.
She has amazing gifts to share, and people should know that. Veena is a great listener whose subtle, penetrating questions effectively bring forward important information. She is also extremely intuitive.
I appreciate her collaborative approach as it results in an Ayurveda plan tailored to my unique symptoms, needs, schedule, and goals.
Veena stays personally engaged, tracking changes, and adjusting for as long as it takes to accomplish maximum healing and health. She is a true healer. I enthusiastically recommend Veena, without hesitation.” --Jim Nelson, Psychologist, MA, author Running on Empty, Coon Rapids, Minnesota
Discover the Saumya Ayurveda Way
We all want to be heard, understood, and cared for as whole beings, not a set of isolated symptoms. True health is more than the absence of disease, which is why Western medicine so often leaves us feeling hopeless and unseen.
Deep down, you already know what you’re searching for: a new framework for living – one that brings your entire being back into balance. With Saumya Ayurveda, you’ll receive individualized guidance to create the physically, mentally, and spiritually vibrant life you crave.
Veena is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and meditation teacher, and monk.
She is President Emeritus of the Meditation Center and former staff member of the Minnesota Institute of Ayurveda.
Veena fell in love with the traditional medicine used in her family’s home learning herbal remedies at her grandmother's knee. She remains passionate for over 30 years, helping clients feel their best physically, emotionally, and spiritually with Ayurveda.
Veena individualizes treatment plans to each person, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all approach, so it fits your life and becomes woven into your daily life, naturally.