According to Ayurveda, flexibility and suppleness of the body help our vital force, prana to circulate more freely through our energetic pathways; the nadi channels or meridian system in traditional Chinese medicine. When the body is limber, your joints are lubricated and you can achieve an extended range of motion. This allows you to experience a greater sense of freedom of movement, which ultimately encourages a freedom from restraint within your mind.
On a physical level, increased flexibility improves blood circulation, lymphatic flow, nutrient absorption and waste excretion. It improves your posture and technique in yoga practice. Flexibility increases the length of relaxed muscle tissue and power and elasticity of muscles. Overall a flexible body makes you feel good.
With a consistent yoga practice, you can achieve better flexibility and that goes without saying. However, if flexibility isn’t a great strength for you physically you can also help stretch it out by eating foods that will encourage better flexibility of your joints, muscles, and tendons.
Yogi’s traditionally view a vegetarian diet as most supportive for practice and Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga suggests some foods.
Yogi’s traditionally view fruit as one of the perfect foods and by following a high fruit diet is said to support a spiritual yoga practice. This kind of lifestyle can take years to accomplish so it may not necessarily be best suited to an urban dwelling yogi.
According to Ayurveda, fruit is best eaten ripe and in season. As fruit is so easily digested it turns quickly into rasa, nutritional fluid and helps to increase ojas. Ojas is the vital nectar of life, the pure subtle essence extracted from food which enhances immunity, happiness, and vitality.
Raw fruits are best however fruits can be stewed with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, fennel, vanilla, and ginger.
Used extensively in Indian cuisine and in Ayurveda for one of the most health promoting foods of all. A little is used to balance all three doshas: Vata, Pita, Kapha. Ghee is clarified butter, where the milk solids are removed from the butter and is said to be used to strengthen the body, the eyes and the mental functions, improve memory and promote longevity. If taken with meals ghee strengthens the digestive fire. It pacifies Vata and Pita and promotes Kapha and enhances “agni” the digestive fire and is considered a “sattvic” food.
In regards to the muscular-skeletal system, it is said to lubricate the connective tissue and improves the flexibility of the body and help prevent premature ageing. It also nourishes ojas, the protective subtle essence of the body. A teaspoon a day is sufficient when using ghee.
3. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are considered a muscle and bone tonic in Ayurvedic medicine, amongst other benefits such as skin health, virility, and fertility. Sesame seeds are naturally high in calcium and are easy to digest.
Tahini is the butter made from sesame and is used frequently in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. It's for Vata and Kapha types and used sparingly for the Pita constitution. Sesame oil is also highly regarded in cooking but also in massage. Oiling the body regularly with sesame or coconut oil calms the nervous system and pacifies Vata, the wind element. Other seeds that may help are flaxseed and chia (not just for their oil content) as both have a mucilaginous or slimy texture when water is added. It is this very consistency that energetically pacifies excess vata in the system.
Another well known medicinal herb and food. Ginger is commonly used in Asian and Indian cuisine,e but it is also used therapeutically in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese medicine. It is warming, energy building yet satvic and has a stimulating effect on the blood circulation. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and digestive.
An effective and delicious way to use it is by making a steaming medicinal infusion out of the herb. Simply grate one tablespoon of fresh ginger with slices of lemon per cup of boiled water and drink regularly, especially on cold, damp days. It will relieve the chill in your bones, improve digestion by dissolving accumulated “ama” (toxins) and fit your mood.
Yogi’s use turmeric to help stretch out muscles, ligaments and repair from injury. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, improving the blood circulation and detoxifying to the lymphatic system and it is these very actions that help reduce arthritic pain or stiffness of the joints. It is also a digestive and increases Agni, the digestive fire and reduces ama, residual toxicity. Turmeric is considered an alkalizing and satvic food.
1 cup almond milk
1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
1 tsp turmeric, fresh or dried powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp ginger powder
Honey or maple syrup to taste
*Mix all ingredients and heat over the stove and enjoy.
Sea vegetables are full of minerals that are biologically available and vital for the human body. Iodine is one of the minerals most deficient in people who live in mountainous areas, like the Himalayas, very far from the ocean. Kelp, wakame, agar, nori and dulse are a few examples of seaweeds available. They are high in chlorophyl, iodine, protein, potassium, calcium and natural sodium all which support healthy connective tissue.
Before use, seaweed needs to be soaked in water so not to unbalance the Vata dosha, often responsible for stiff muscles and cracking joints. Once hydrated the sea vegetables take on a mucilaginous consistency which helps keep the body energetics flexible and limber.
Silicon is an important mineral for healthy connective tissue. Many vegetables contain silicon, but their levels vary in each vegetable. Some vegetables that contain silicon are asparagus, spinach, cabbage, cucumbers, edible weeds (dandelion greens and nettle), lettuce, green beans, mustard greens, horsetail grass (herb), alfalfa and stems of all leafy vegetables.
Foods to avoid: An excess of tamasic foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and alcohol. Food that is processed or refined. If food is prepared unconsciously or while the preparer is in a negative mood it is also considered Tamasic. Other tamasic items include tobacco, onions, garlic, fermented foods, such as vinegar, and stale left-over food or over ripe foods.
Overeating is also regarded as tamasic and it’s worth noting that moderation is the key to balancing your diet. A small amount of the tamasic foods is far better than excessive consumption of sattvic foods as then the food and is effects on your system is no longer considered sattvic.