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.
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.
In Ayurveda, it is said that we only need five foods to stay alive: wheat, rice, ghee, milk and mung. It’s really that simple.
Dhal, as split mung is often called, is a staple here at Hale Pule. It is easy to digest, nourishing and, since it doesn’t require soaking, it is a simple choice suited for any day. Since split mung calms all doshas, it is wise to have plenty on hand when you are feeding a crowd of people.
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.
Green vegetables are showing up everywhere lately -- raw in salads, pureed in smoothies, even baked as chips. It’s good to see more people interested in eating healthfully, but just because a little bit is good for you doesn’t mean that more is better. In fact, too many green vegetables without enough grounding, nourishing foods can quickly send vata dosha soaring.
Is it possible to live in the modern world while maintaining a spiritual focus? Of course. Cultivate consciousness through regular spiritual practice and bring that into everything, everyday.
Cooking can be a spiritual act with that intention. That means turning off the cooking shows, putting away cookbooks with complicated recipes, and moving into your heart, where you have all the information you need to create simple, healing food. Allow your spirit to lead the process and you will be satisfied every time.
Some days your cup feels full. You feel alive and whole and thoroughly grateful for what you have. Other days, your cup feels depleted. You gave too much without replenishing, and you feel tired and worn. These are times you need to recharge your body and mind, to get back to your true state of health and vitality. Tonight, fill your cup with warm, spiced milk.
If you want to experience lifelong health, make vata dosha your friend.
The doshas, or three vital energies, help us understand how internal and external factors influence your health and well-being. Each of us has all three doshas, just in different amounts. While any dosha can become imbalanced in us at any time, the dosha you have most of is the one that is most likely to go out of balance. When you understand your tendencies related to imbalance, you can avoid doing those things and focus instead on what makes you feel your best.
When you are feeling imbalanced overall, vata is often the reason. With the light and subtle qualities of ethers and air elements that make up vata, it is the easiest of the doshas to go out of balance. And because of the mobility of the air element, imbalanced vata will disturb the other doshas toward imbalance.
One of the greatest investments you can make in your health is committing to eating home-cooked meals. This doesn’t need to be a complicated process. In fact, it takes little more than a quality rice cooker to create a simple Ayurvedic meal. Our favorite meal to make this way is a basic combination of split mung and rice. Try this nourishing meal when you are traveling (just pack a rice cooker and all the ingredients to make it in your hotel room). You could also buy a rice cooker to keep in your office to take the place of take-out lunches. Or toss all the ingredients together to eat well on a busy day.