Remember when you were a kid how you believed you could do anything? Kids have an inherent ability to learn, appreciate and apply new knowledge when it’s presented in a way that’s exciting and fun. The ancient medical system of Ayurveda is particularly easy for kids to understand because it is simple and based in nature. Most kids are totally grounded in their physical bodies. They can relate directly when an explanation of health also describes the natural world they see around them. When I had the opportunity to teach Ayurveda to my son’s class, I had no idea that I’d be creating such a riot of epiphanies.
The Five Elements Are As Basic As It Gets
Kids easily get that the universe and our bodies are composed of five elements. Maybe it’s not obvious at first that those elements are space, air, fire, water and earth. But once explained they can quickly shoot off endless examples of things in nature that are made of those elements. Even the qualities of those elements come without effort. I translate the Ayurvedic doshas of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha as Wind, Acid (easier than Bile), and Phlegm. Ask them to describe wind. They all know what that feels like. Ask them to describe Acid. They’ll rattle off lots of characteristics. Phlegm is an easy one. They’ve all had stuffy noses.
We spent a few minutes defining the qualities of the elements as well as their opposites. Because Ayurveda treatment is based on the principle of opposites, it was important to make this connection in the beginning. Later we would tie it all together.
Categorizing Foods As Windy, Acidic and Phlegmy
I asked the kids in my son’s class to give me examples of foods that fit each category according to the qualities we’d just described. Almost all of the answers were totally correct.
Tell me what foods are airy? I asked. Hollow bread, one child shouted. What foods are phelgmy? Ice cream!
Did I mention that this comes naturally to kids? It was so obvious that given the chance to understand an ancient, “esoteric” system, the kids latched right on. They were experts already.
Feeling The Elements In Their Bodies
It was very fun to hear how the kids responded when I asked them what it felt like when there was fire in their bodies. “Fever”, they shouted. How about wind, I asked. “Like a headache”, one boy yelled. It doesn’t take any time for kids to understand that the elements in nature outside of them are also inside of them. Phlegm is one substance with which most kids have a lot of personal experience. But kids are in Kapha stage of life anyway, so they are more prone to congestion.
Kids Already Understand What They Need To Be Well
Finally, we spent some time “guessing” how to stay healthy using Ayurvedic principles. We all fondly remarked how in the heat of summer, we enjoy watermelon, popsicles, and lemonade. And how when we get cold in winter we want more soup and hot foods. Although one precocious boy joked that he now knew how to get sick so he could stay home from school, all in all the kids realized that this very simple explanation of Ayurveda enabled them to better understand their bodies and also to make healthy choices.
Kids already know that they are a part of nature. They are closer to the source. They haven’t forgotten, like most adults who have to be reminded. It makes sense that kids will make healthy choices when they really understand why. What an incredible gift to give them. An affirmation that they are in control of their bodies and that they can be responsible for their own health. As parents we need to support this by providing wholesome food options. But imagine growing up understanding how we are all made up of the same five elements, yet unique in our own expression of them. How we each require different foods to be healthy, and how even as kids we can confidently say what those foods are.