Fall is a delight. Surrounded by warm, rich colours and crisp air it’s truly a joy to get outside and experience nature’s glow. It is a time when we feel compelled to ‘get down to business’ and put in effort to create the change we wish to see in our lives. Fall is also vata season when the wind dominates and bringing with it with it the energy of movement and change. However we can get carried away with this energy and take on too much. We may find ourselves spending excessive time in front of screens or splitting our attention between multiple activities at once, all in an effort to accomplish our goals. Excessive mental activity, coupled with the momentum of change we see in nature will tend to aggravate vata dosha and cause a state of imbalance. When we experience anxiety, sleeplessness and forgetfulness, we know that we need to take care of vata dosha.
Inside your digestive system lives a whole universe, home to about 100 trillion microscopic organisms. Meet your intestinal flora, tiny bacteria that support your digestion by breaking down the food you eat into easily assimilated nutrients and getting rid of undigested matter.
In Ayurveda, digestive health is the source of whole body health. When your intestinal flora is well-balanced, symptoms like gas, bloating and constipation are rare and easily remedied. As a result, your ojas is stronger, leaving your body with better immunity. When this balance is disrupted, the reverse is true.
You can find plenty of Ayurvedic recipes, Ayurvedic cookbooks and Ayurvedic chefs, but as much as you look, you’ll never find Ayurvedic cuisine. That’s because Ayurveda is more than just a way of cooking -- it is a way of looking at food and life as a whole through the lens of nature’s rhythms.
Nature is always changing. If you study what is happening outside your home, you’ll notice that not a single day is the same as another. Your body and mind are a reflection of nature, so they are always changing too. In fact, the Sanskrit word for body is sharira, which translates to “that which is always changing.”
The practices of Ayurveda allow us to prevent illness, but the science also has a lot to say about what to do in those times when you do get sick.
Illness is a time to take care of your body. It is a signal to slow down, rest and come back to balance. It is important to allow time for full recovery -- nothing else is more important. What you do during this time matters greatly in how fast you will heal and the level of health you will reach afterward. Until symptoms subside, let go of your daily responsibilities, stay in bed, avoid looking at computers or screens and, most importantly, eat only very simple foods.
Agni, digestive fire, is weak during illness, so you cannot digest the same kinds of foods you enjoyed before. Yet as you are healing, your body needs nourishment. Kunyi, a soupy rice cooked with mineral salt and ghee, offers a meal that is very easy to digest and perfect for times of illness.
In the West, it is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is also true from an Ayurvedic perspective.
Breakfast, the first meal of the day, means to “break the fast.” You have not eaten all night and your digestive organs are meant to be in a state of rest. In these early hours, agni, digestive fire, is like a pile of smoldering coals. Come out of this nighttime fast with care and you will turn these coals into steady flames.
What you eat for breakfast will affect agni all day long. Heavy foods, such as eggs, sausage, or nut butters, dampen your fire. Cold foods, such as smoothies, yogurt or cold milk, restrict your body’s digestive channels, weakening agni for the rest of the day. Dry, crunchy foods, such as toast, cereal or granola, increase vata. Vata and agni can support each other or create imbalance in the other, so the better your relationship is with one, the better it will be with the other.
The best choice for agni is a simple, cooked meal. A good breakfast for any morning is a bowl of warm porridge.
Nature draws inward during the cooler seasons. Plants shift their focus away from producing showy flowers and leaves and focus instead on strengthening their roots in order to stay grounded and nourished throughout the year.
The wisdom is simple, but profound: When you go within, you grow your foundation. You can apply this to your own life, starting in your kitchen.
Root down with root vegetables
The food we eat brings in the qualities we’d like more of. So if you want to be more grounded, more connected to the stability of the earth, eat root vegetables.
It’s time to rethink your smoothie habit. You know that cold, blended fruit and veggie drink that you’ve been told is a healthful meal. Be honest: How do you really feel after you have one?
On the surface, smoothies appear healthful. Fruit is filled with vitamins and fiber. Protein powders have a long list of nutrients. Nut butters are filled with good oils. Yogurt, coconut oil, cacao, maca -- what else do you toss in your blender? Taken individually, the ingredients in a smoothie seem to have all that your body needs to function.
But Ayurveda asks you to look holistically. From this view, the results are different.
Combining fruit with other foods wreaks havoc on digestion, resulting in gas and bloating. Adding ice or frozen fruit dampens agni, digestive fire. Topping everything off with a heaping scoop of protein powder fills the void with something that is unrecognizable as food to your body. All this leads to uncomfortable digestive problems that are the first step on the path to illness and disease.
If you’ve got a smoothie habit, leave them out for two weeks and replace them with our recipe of the month: a date shake.
By Lisa Åkesson Stryker
I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. As much as it’s a lovely idea to have day where love and attention to our fellow human beings is in focus, it has also sadly been connected with pressure, consumerism and anxiety for me in the past.
I remember in high school, we could all buy roses for our friends and boyfriends for Valentine's Day and get them delivered to the school. The one strutting home with the most blood red roses at the end of the day was perceived as the most popular person.
It would always leave me with an icky feeling in my stomach, knowing that others were not as privileged as those who could afford to buy roses. It is a clever marketing trick for the flower and gift shops, and a great way to make insecure teenagers even more apprehensive by making them attempt to find their value in a symbolic gesture.
What exactly is a “superfood”? So many foods get this label lately, leaving people jumping from one expensive trend to the next.
Turmeric has been in the superfood spotlight for years. Ayurvedic practitioners have used this rhizome for centuries to reduce inflammation, support digestion and release toxins. But in recent years, turmeric has been presented as having superpowers that can fix nearly any ailment on its own. Turmeric’s health benefits are wonderful, but eating it every day in great quantities will not solve all your health problems. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that too much can have the opposite effect.