I have a love/hate relationship with coffee.
I love it 90% of the time because it warms me up in the morning and has become a meditative and reflective ritual. Coffee also helps me slip into my creative zone and is a joyful comfort.
The other 10% of the time I hate it because if I have it too often, it leaves me feeling anxious, tired and all dried up.
As a yoga practitioner, I believe in finding balance and walking the ‘middle path’. Which means I can enjoy my cup of coffee. Hallelujah!
However, it is vital to listen to the signs from our bodies. This means that we are each responsible for making intelligent decisions about whether something is serving us or hindering us. Balance means that we can take an intuitive stance in our choices and remain unattached to what they might mean. Sometimes we know something does not work for us, but we choose to do it anyway.
Ask yourself: is this using my higher mind or my indulgent mind? Then make a decision based on your new awareness.
Ayurvedic Medicine is an ancient healing system that was developed in India thousands of years ago. The basic philosophy is that each food has a distinct elemental quality such as fire, water, air, earth or ether/space. Ayurveda also believes that every living being is made up of these elements, with often one or two dominating our unique nature. This is called our Ayurvedic Constitution or Dosha.
Food can either act as poison, as fuel, or as medicine depending on the time of year and one’s unique makeup. Put simply—like attracts like.
For example: if you have a high proportion of the fire element within you, and you consume a lot of fire quality food and beverages, then you are most likely adding more flame to your fire, which can overtime throw your body off balance. In the case of the fire element, you may experience this in forms such as inflammation, breakouts, sweating, heartburn, jealousy and/or anger.
There are a large variety of tests available online to determine your Ayurvedic Constitution or Dosha. Here is a good place to determine your Dosha.
“Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. The brain and heart are composed of 73% water and the lungs are about 83% water.”
~ H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158
Coffee is primarily made of the fire element, and since our bodies are largely dependent on water and hydration, it makes sense to say that drinking too much coffee (fire) without adequately rehydrating will eventually boil away the water that is essential to our physical and mental health.
I have provided a few guidelines that may help you to enjoy your coffee in a new light.
If your Dosha is predominately Vata
Take your coffee sweet and creamy to counteract the bitterness and drying effect on the body. Opt for zero to one cup of coffee per day and be aware that one innocent flat white these days can have a double ristretto (one and a half shots) as a standard, so ask for a single shot or less if you are going to have one. Ensure that you hydrate with plenty of water.
If you are experiencing a Vata imbalance (whether this is your predominate Dosha or not) such as insomnia, anxiety, dry skin or nervousness you should avoid caffeine until you re-establish your balance, as coffee can exacerbate these problems.
If your Dosha is predominately Pitta
Take your coffee black and lightly sweetened with sugar, honey or a little milk. Coffee is acidic and drying and if your Dosha is Pitta then you need to ensure that you stay hydrated all the time and compensate with lots of filtered water, high water content fruits and pure green juices throughout the day.
Opt for zero to one cup per day. I can personally tolerate coffee a lot more in winter than summer as the qualities of Pitta intensify in summer.
If you are experiencing a Pitta imbalance, such as skin inflammation or digestive issues, monitor your coffee intake. (Sometimes it’s not actually coffee that causes these problems directly—it’s actually the stress that caffeine stimulates and increases in the body).
If your Dosha is predominately Kapha
Congratulations! This is the Dosha that tolerates coffee the most and can actually act as a medicine for the earthy qualities of Kapha. Take your coffee black or with a dash or milk and avoid sweeteners. Milky beverages can increase mucus, especially in winter, as this is Kapha season. Opt for one cup per day with a large glass of water.
Ayurveda is about connecting to our inner wisdom and listening to our bodies, be mindful of your individual needs when making your next brew.
Written by Erin Stevenson