How do we practice asteya in the kitchen?
Sometimes, perhaps oftentimes, the gratification of the moment takes precedent over well-being in the long-term. We’ve all had moments when we have done something that we know won’t make us feel good later. Many people have this relationship with food. Ice cream is good now. Bad later. I know this, but I’m going to do it anyway.
Consider the idea that this behavior is stealing from yourself. You’re stealing your future well-being.
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.”
Ayurveda offers each of us the opportunity to become our own healers. To step into this role is a journey, one that requires a commitment to learning the unique functions of your mind and body.
The doshas -- vata, pitta and kapha -- are one of the foundational tools that Ayurveda offers to go within and find out why you feel, act and look the way you do. The doshas are profoundly important to understanding your body and mind, but they are often oversimplified and misunderstood.
Beyond the dosha quiz
A person’s first experience with Ayurveda is often marked by taking a dosha quiz. The results usually include lists of foods and activities to avoid for your dosha (or products to buy). But living according to a black-and-white list is opposite of what Ayurveda teaches.
When prana is flowing without interruption, your body has everything it needs to heal itself (see the first in this series on pain relief to learn more about prana). Pain, whether mental or physical, cannot take hold in a body with an easy flow of prana. When prana is blocked, pain can become so much to bear that people often look to drugs or surgery to cope. But these methods of pain relief dull your body’s natural intelligence and further disrupt the flow of prana that is the key to healing. On the contrary, herbs and Ayurvedic treatments work with the body to address the root cause. As prana comes back into the body, the doshas regain balance and health follows.
Understanding Ayurveda is not about academics and memorizing a list of rules, it is about slowing down and being in the experience of life. One of the best (and most delicious) ways to learn Ayurveda is by taking your studies to your own kitchen.
Becoming an Ayurvedic cook requires little more than a willingness to study the effects of what you eat on your body and mind (although this guide to setting up your Ayurvedic kitchen has a few other tools to get you started). Throw away limiting dosha food lists and focus instead on exploring different foods and different ways of preparing them. Pay attention to the results with a wellness journal, and you’ll soon be able to move away from black-and-white thinking about what and how to eat and toward the innate wisdom inside you.
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.
Kapha dosha makes our bodies and minds strong and sturdy. A daily Yoga asana practice builds on kapha’s natural strength and reduces the tendency toward weight gain that can come with excess kapha.
It doesn’t have to take a lot of time -- even 15 minutes in the morning will combat the effects of sedentary living and create enthusiasm for life that will reach far beyond your Yoga mat. Just set your wake up time a bit earlier (start before 6:00 a.m. and you’ll get the bonus of the increased energy that is present in the vata time of morning called brahmamuhurti) and make the commitment to asana as a part of your morning routine.
To balance kapha’s heavy nature, focus on invigorating poses, such as strengthening standing poses and backbends, as we have outlined in the two sequences below. Hold each pose for 10 to 15 breaths if you are feeling sluggish to awaken kapha. If you are feeling fearful, scattered or other signs of vata imbalance, hold each pose for 20 breaths.
A few weeks ago in our post about a kapha-balancing diet, we shared how kapha is the dosha with the fewest diseases associated. Kapha’s earth and water elements are stable by nature and less prone to go out of balance than vata’s air or pitta’s fire. This is why people with dominant kapha in their constitutions tend to live long, healthy lives. However, one factor can easily aggravate kapha, and it is quite common in our modern lifestyle: sedentary living.
Making friends with kapha dosha is about embracing stability, compassion and even-mindedness. Cultivate balance in kapha and you experience the sweeter side of life.
Even if kapha is not a primary part of your constitution, the qualities that make up kapha (heavy, dense, cool, wet, soft) exist in you. Your body itself is made of kapha tissues such as bones, muscles and fat. Without the structure kapha provides, vata could not move and pitta could not transform. You need to maintain balance in all three doshas to enjoy true health in body, mind and spirit.
You peer into the mirror. There are new lines around your eyes. You see a few new white hairs popping out from your scalp. The universe is giving you a choice here: you can either resist the aging process with chemicals, surgery and fear, or you can simply accept the changes as a reflection that you, too, are a part of nature.
Everything in nature ages, including us. But aging doesn’t have to be scary (no matter what the advertisements may say). In fact, it can be a lovely, natural experience. And, by finding balance in your body and mind and embracing changes as they come, you may find that you can actually feel better with age.
Ayurveda and Yoga can serve as guides to help you feel stronger, more confident and secure as you progress in the natural process of life.
The principles of Ayurveda were first recorded about 5,000 years ago – long before stress became an epidemic and we created a world filled with a million ways to be distracted from finding your true self. But Ayurveda is based on nature’s rhythms, the same rhythms that make up everything in the world around us, including us. As such, the principles of this ancient science work in any age and any situation.
Ayurvedic treatments are a perfect example of this. These techniques have the ability to balance and heal our modern society’s uniquely modern health issues. As more people look for balance and healing, Ayurvedic treatments are gaining in popularity.
Here are three of our favorite treatments to balance modern ailments:
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and what happens on the outside reflects what is happening on the inside. While people often seek to address skin issues with external remedies, Ayurveda suggests healing them from the inside out.
By understanding the doshic imbalances behind common skin issues, you can make changes to bring whole-body health. Addressing the underlying imbalance will bring a calmer mind, healthy digestion and an improved relationship with the God of your heart. You certainly can’t get that from a prescription cream!
Here’s a look at three common skin ailments, their root causes and ways to bring your skin to its natural state of health.
Have you ever wondered why oil is such a significant part of Ayurveda? From the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet, the oil treatments recommended in the Ayurvedic texts provide healing benefits inside and out. Here’s a quick look at why Ayurvedic self-care and treatments recommend oil for health and healing.
You may know about panchakarma as an Ayurvedic cleanse, but the benefits go far beyond that. People have been undergoing panchakarma for centuries because it not only removes toxins from the tissues of your body, but also promotes healing and rejuvenation in your whole being. That’s because panchakarma centers on rebuilding the strength of agni, digestive fire, along with balancing the three doshas. This brings about profound effects in all aspects of your health, including your mental well-being and spiritual openness.
What would it feel like to be at your very best state of health? How would you feel with your body at its ideal proportions for your build and dosha balance? How much freedom would you have knowing that your body was at its healthiest function?
The answer to all of these questions is simple: You would feel like your true self – vital, joyous and content.
The beautiful thing about Ayurveda is how it can so easily be integrated into every aspect of your life, even the holidays. If you have a tradition of sharing cookies with your loved ones, here are three Ayurvedic cookie recipes that will make them feel even more loved. Each one is simple to make, lovely to eat and sweetened without even a dash of refined sugar.
There’s another benefit to these Ayurvedic cookies – they are based on foods that build ojas. Considering the role strong ojas plays in supporting health and immunity, these cookies couldn’t come at a better time as many of us are traveling during the holidays.
If you’re looking for a way to bring some new flavors to your meals, spoon on some Ayurvedic sauces.
We’ve created three simple Ayurvedic recipes for sauces that are a great addition to your plate. Our basil pesto, parsley wasabi and tahini honey sauces are crowd-pleasers that will make your delicious meals even better.
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.
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.
Why does kitchadi heal? First, the rice, mung and (optional) vegetables offer balanced nourishment for your body. Second, by adding spices, like cumin and ginger, the meal becomes cleansing, balanced and satisfying. 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.
Allergies. Something people have to deal with each spring, right? It may be normal, but normal doesn’t always mean natural! Perhaps it’s time to take another look.
Ayurveda views allergies in the light of whole-body health. Pollens, dust, mold and other common allergens cause a response in some people because of a disturbance in the digestive system, where the root of our health lies. If agni, or digestive fire, is not functioning at full strength, it’s easier to become susceptible to allergies. So if you’re suffering from the sniffles this spring, take the steps below to improve your digestion. And if you keep your digestion strong, this could be your last bout of allergies, ever.