Tag Archive: Ayurveda

Spring Cleanse?

Though there is still snow on the ground, the days are about to be longer than the nights, and my inbox is full of both expensive and discount offers for cleanses of various sorts, and I’m seeing Facebook posts asking about good spring cleanses with all sorts of suggestions in response.  If I were a different kind of reader and practitioner, I’d no doubt be beset with explanations and special offers for dieting into a bikini-worthy body.  If I were an even different sort of reader, I might be thinking I needed an official spring cleanse, one of the ones that yoga acquaintances say make them feel light or high, etc.

I don’t much believe in cleanses, but I do believe in listening–really paying attention–to my body and emotions and how they relate to the cycle of the seasons.   In winter, I tend to gain a few pounds from spending more time inside and eating the heavy, dense food my body wisely craves in winter both for warmth and protection from starvation (granted the latter is not a real threat for the middle-class, but my genetic make-up doesn’t know that). I fully trust that when the days get warmer and lighter and I can spend more time outside walking and spring vegetables and fruit start to show up at the market, I will lose a few pounds.

Before you get too caught up in thinking that to have the body you’re supposed to have (whether it be for looks or some fashion-driven notion of health) you need to go on some formal diet you might not need or spend money having someone tell you what to eat and when (although if you find that works for you, who am I to say no?), why not try noticing whether the change of light and temperature alters your natural cravings (not the ones for junk food or excess sugar or salt)?  If you can notice a change in what food attracts you, try honoring the change.

You might find that small portions of kitcheree (lightly spiced rice and lentil porridge), along with plenty of fruits and vegetables (and as spring produce comes in, you’ll find spring vegetables and fruit want less cooking than do winter ones, or perhaps none at all), feels like a nice way to lighten up for several days as the seasons transition.  Ssssh!  That’s pretty much what’s in a spring cleanse.  If you want to make your change of diet feel sanctioned by the yogis add some reading on Ayurveda or mindful eating to invigorate your practice and your dedication to paying loving attention to your body and how it relates to the seasons and the web and cycle of being.

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Podcast on Ayurveda for Yoga Students and Teachers

Thanks to the generous Cate Stillman for this podcast.  What I like most about Cate’s perspective is her teaching that  truly practicing Ayurveda is paying attention at the deepest level, including paying attention to what in the classic teaching of Ayurveda work for you and what do not–being that they are imbued with cultural elements of the Indian subcontinent that do not necessarily support or resonate with our culture or individual constitutions.

As I study more, I find that it turns out that I had been practicing Ayurveda already by keeping to a regular daily and weekly routine, eating seasonally and locally, eating with sensitivity to impact on my digestion and energy level, and by having a steady practice.  Not being interested in detox (more some other time on the dangers of detox)  or constitution types, or arcane herbal remedies (many of these, by the way, are becoming endangered species), it turns out, does not mean having rejected Ayurveda.  I do know that whether I call it Ayurveda or just plain common sense, the more I live in a balanced, sensitive, and steady way in terms of diet, sleep, entertainment, work, and consumption in general, the more I optimize my health and sense of well-being.

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Found Exhortation (and Samskaras)

Over the years, our minds and emotional selves get clogged with junk unless we do something to clear things out and to avoid repeating old negative patterns (in yoga–samskaras).

Our bodies, too, get clogged with junk energies that take us off-balance and ultimately manifest as illness unless we take care to eat well, exercise, sleep regularly, and avoid undue stress.

A home filled with junk has its own samskaras and can prevent us from dissolving and liberating those of mind, body, and spirit.

Do meditate, live a healthy life, and surround yourselves with only that which cultivates a more beautiful and generous life. You will likely be happier for it.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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Ways to Eat Day Old Bread (Is that “fresh” food?)

Ayurveda says one should only eat “fresh” food.  What does that mean?  How does that translate into having delicious food making the best use of every bit of it without waste and without having all of our time being devoted to creating it (from start to finish).  Is making a fresh dish from a food item from yesterday’s meal “stale” food?  I don’t think so, but then, I am not an ayurvedic practitioner.  I am fairly certain it is less “stale” than “fast” or packaged food.  And I am too much the New York grandchild of peasant immigrants to forego making the most optimal and complete use of all the food that enters my kitchen.  Also, the simple efficiency of leftovers are too important a component of having the most personally and lovingly prepared food I can with my life style.

Here are some of my favorite ways to eat bread the day after it was a fresh accompaniment to a salad, sandwich, or larger, festive meal.  (Obviously, this is not for all of those who cannot or do not like to eat bread, which I think of as indeed the staff of life.)   Here are some of my favorites, not in any particular order:

Crostini/Bruschetta (topped with tapenade, salsa, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, etc.)

Bread salad (with the best of the summer tomatoes and fresh basil)

Croutons (for salad or soup, my favorite is rubbed with a little garlic)

Red pepper spread with pomegranate molasses and walnuts (bread is the thickener)

Skordalia (also can be made with potatoes or a mix of bread and potatoes)

Stuffing for squash

Bread crumbs for a whole variety of things

Savory bread pudding

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“A Balanced Diet, in Moderation, Is the Best” (Yoga of Eating Part IV)

Geeta Iyengar, in Yoga, A Gem for Women, sums up the proper diet according to Ayurveda as follows:

“A balanced diet, in moderation, is the best.  Ayurveda says that the stomach should be filled with two parts of solid food and one part of water, and that one part of the stomach should be kept free for the movement of air.  Food which is not congenial to the system should be avoided.  Too oily, dry, spicy, and sour foodstuff are not good for the system.  A diet which is balanced, light, varied, and well cooked is ideal for health.”

In other words, to be healthy, we should eat fresh, varied, well-prepared, tasty food.  We should eat with sufficient awareness to know enough the effects of what we eat on our energy level, sleep, digestion, and ability to move and think that we know what is good for our system in small, large, or any quantities (and eat mindfully in accordance with that knowledge).  We should not eat to the point of fullness and beyond (this is a common suggestion in the West for losing weight, i.e., stop eating when you are full or right before — think getting away from the unrealistic American portion size).  Any other dietary practices should serve to find this place of moderation and enjoyment, the two real keys to health and happiness with and in eating.  Diets that take us away from balance will be hard to follow, unhealthy, and cause all sorts of other shifts in our mind-body.  What is best for you depends on your own knowledge of yourself and your environment.

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Yoga of Eating Part I (what it is and what it isn’t)

Yesterday, a former student of mine stopped me in the hallway at Willow Street and asked whether the “Yoga of Eating” workshop I will be leading on June 13th  will cover Ayurveda.  “I will mention it,” I said, “but I will not be teaching it.”  I didn’t have time to explain further because I was about to lead class.  As far as I got was to add that I was not sufficiently trained to teach it.

Ayurveda is a wonderful science, and I honor and respect my yoga friends and colleagues who study, practice, and teach Ayurvedic principles.  Ayurveda is a much broader discipline than yoga, though, and is really medical practice rather than yoga.  Asana are among the practices that might be recommended by an Ayurvedic practitioner for a client or patient, but eating in accordance with the Ayurvedic principles is not the same as bringing yoga to how we eat.  For me, many of the principles of Ayurveda I have read or been taught are useful, but it has not resonated for me as a governing system, just as I do not believe in applying all of the principles of Western medicine to how I heal and nourish my body.

Bringing yoga to my eating, like bringing yoga to all of my life off the mat,  is both simpler and harder than being taught a science such as Ayurveda with fairly clear, but quite complex, do’s and don’ts and then following them.  For me, practicing the yoga of eating, is practicing conscious eating.  It is practicing reverance and moderation.  It is balancing nourishment and pleasure.  It is knowing deeply when the will to eat is serving us or getting in our way.  It is both simple and subtle.  It is easy to say, but deeply challenging and sometime complicated to practice — just like practicing the Anusara yoga principles of alignment.

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