At 10 a.m. the temperature is already well above 80, but Sandra Maguire is calmly sipping hot water, its steam rising into the humid air.

“It hydrates and it dilates,” Maguire tells me when I ask why she isn’t drinking ice water on this sweltering day. “Cold water does not hydrate, and cold drinks put out the fire of digestion. When sipped throughout the day, hot water is what our body needs and craves. On a hot day like today, I may only have very hot water in the morning and the evening.”

Maguire is a holistic health practitioner who uses the teachings of the 5,000-year-old ayurvedic tradition, which was developed in India and later served as the basis of Western medicine. In the coming weeks, Maguire will offer a series of introductory classes to teach the basics of ayurvedic medicine.

At its core, ayurveda sees the mind, body and spirit as intimately related, and views proper food and diet as crucial to maintaining health.

“Like most people, I’ve always wanted to live well without taking a lot of medications,” Maguire said. Such a non-pharmaceutical approach to health is exactly what ayurveda offers.

“Eight years ago, I went to Kripalu for the first time and that led me to discover ayurveda, as the sister science to yoga,” Maguire said.

After 20 years in sales and marketing, Maguire decided to enroll at the Kripalu School of Ayurveda in Stockbridge, Mass., in 2008 and become a certified ayurvedic consultant. She’d already built a practice as a Reiki energy healer, and has added her ayurveda counseling to her offerings at Sattva Health and Wellness, which has offices in South Portland and Windham.

“Ayurveda is essentially daily living in harmony with the laws of nature,” Maguire said. “Understanding self is really at the root of what ayurveda is all about.”

And who we are is constantly changing, with the weather, the seasons, and the ups and downs of our personal and professional lives.

The ayurvedic tradition says all people are composed of three different types of energy, called vata, pitta and kapha. Often, one of these energies, known as a dosha, dominates in each individual. When our doshas aren’t in balance, we experience physical or emotional disease.

Specific foods influence different doshas in unique ways, based on taste, energetic qualities and post-digestive effects.

For example, if you wake up feeling depressed, unmotivated or lethargic, Maguire says you’re likely experiencing an imbalance of kapha. To correct it, you should steer clear of a breakfast of heavy, dense foods, such as bananas, and instead opt for something light and airy, such as toast.

But if you were to wake up feeling ungrounded or anxious, too much vata is probably the issue. In that case, you’d want to avoid airy, dry and cold foods, such as rice cakes and cereal flakes. A balancing choice would be a bowl of hot oatmeal with ghee, or clarified butter.

Were you to wake feeling frustrated or suffering from heartburn or loose stools, you most likely have too much pitta. To bring your constitution back to balance, you’d want to avoid sour, salty and bitter foods, such as orange juice or gingerbread muffins. A better choice would be coconut milk or pomegranate juice.

“If we can understand and be in touch with ourselves, we can employ a diet that will bring us back into balance,” Maguire said.

While some foods pacify certain doshas and aggravate others, there are a number of foods that are considered neutral.

“Sattvic foods are balancing to all three doshas,” Maguire said.

Examples of sattvic foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, basmati rice and fresh milk. Kitcheri is a popular sattvic dish, which Maguire makes with mung dal, basmati rice, ghee, turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger and mustard seed.

“Basmati rice and mung dal are easily digested,” Maguire said. “So they enhance clarity of the mind.”

Maguire and her husband have made shifts in their diet to keep them in balance, including eating their largest meal of the day at lunch, when our digestive fire burns brightest.

But like any mother, Maguire realizes it’s impossible to get her children to eat dosha-balancing foods at every meal. So she sets limits, such as no dairy products when her kids have a cold, and then aims to make sure the majority of the foods they eat arrive in her house in their natural state, rather than in a package.

“It’s all about little steps,” she said.

In her upcoming classes, Maguire plans to impart three main ideas.

“What I hope to do is explain what ayurveda is and what the principles of ayurveda are and how people can integrate some of these principles into daily life,” she said.

She offers similar information when she meets with clients for the first time. Her initial recommendations tend to be relatively easy, such as waking up earlier if someone suffers from excess kapha. Or eating three meals a day without snacking.

Or sipping hot water throughout the day.

“Most times people are surprised by the simplicity of ayurveda,” Maguire said.

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]