It seems that our modern society has a love/hate relationship with food. We promote the high calcium levels in milk (actually lower than most leafy greens), but quickly turn on it when it appears to cause allergies. We talk about the need for more fiber in our diets, but bemoan grains for allegedly making us gain weight and cause inflammation.
Ayurveda, a science that spans more than 5,000 years, has been around as many diet trends have come and gone. As people continuously look for health by restricting or over-analyzing their diets in new ways, Ayurveda remains an infinitely simpler way to build a positive relationship with food – by treating ourselves as individuals composed of the same five elements as everything in nature and approaching eating as a sacred act.
Inside you there is a fire that you must tend mindfully in order to nurture good health. Give that fire too much fuel, it will become too strong. Throw sand on that fire, it will smolder and become weak. But when it is tended properly, given enough wood at the right intervals, that fire will give you the energy you need to live happily in a state of true health.
In Ayurveda, true health begins in the digestive system. Agni, the Sanskrit term for digestive fire, is the energy responsible for this health. When you have strong agni, your body is fully able to absorb the prana, or life force, from your food and eliminate ama, or toxins. When agni is weak, digestion is slow and toxins accumulate. This is the beginning of the disease process.
Your body is meant to be free of pain, illness, and disease. The rishis who wrote the Ayurvedic texts 5,000 years ago knew this. They outlined panchakarma, a powerful Ayurvedic whole-being cleanse and rejuvenation practice. Ayurvedic wisdom is as true today as it was then.
When is the last time you took flight? With arm balances, it’s possible even for us wingless beings to get that change in perspective that comes with hovering above the ground. Just as a baby bird looking over the edge of a nest must learn, the key to flying in arm balances is to trust that your body knows exactly what to do if only you move your mind out of the way.
Bakasana, crow pose, is a great place to practice the trust that leads to flight. It might seem counterintuitive, but getting into this pose has little to do with the strength of your arms. Like all asana, it’s about alignment – knowing how your muscles and bones should line up and where the strength of the pose lies. In the case of bakasana, the strength is in the pelvic floor.
Do you remember a time when you felt completely at ease and had a knowing that all is well? When you felt freedom to be yourself? This feeling of complete ease is our birthright. Some of us have forgotten that we can feel that way. Often the aftermath of addictions has left us with a diminished sense of well-being.
A combination of cooked white basmati rice and split mung has been shared through centuries as a simple and nourishing way to heal your body and mind. This is kitchadi – Ayurveda’s healing food.
You may look at this meal and ask what could possibly be so healing about kitchadi? First, the rice, beans and vegetables offer balanced nourishment for your body. Second, by adding spices, like cumin and ginger, the meal becomes tasty and cleansing. Finally – and most importantly – by gently cooking the ingredients together to a soupy consistency, the meal is easily digestible, which gives your body a break and restores the natural strength of agni, digestive fire.