The next time you are tempted to eat lunch while checking email or want to have dinner in front of the television, pause and take a few slow, deep breaths first. As you inhale, you welcome prana, the life force that is our connection to the divine.
We get prana from our breath, but also from the food we eat. Plants have done the work of transforming the prana from nature into nutrients that make it possible for our bodies to move and our minds to think. The food we eat is the reason we can have this incredible experience of being alive.
When you eat with prana in mind -- not just calories, vitamins or minerals -- you eat to heal your whole self. Perhaps this understanding will inspire you to put down your computer or remote control, find a table and take in the nourishment of a home cooked meal where you can truly enjoy it.
We have the perfect recipe for you to taste the power of prana: baked pumpkin. Go to the farmer’s market and find a sweet pumpkin that has been growing plump in the summer sunlight. Grab your knife and get ready to bake something that will satisfy your soul.
How augmenting vegetables calm the body and mind
When people think about vegetables, it’s usually the green ones that come to mind: kale, celery, broccoli. Those are important, but they can’t take the place of augmenting vegetables. Augmenting vegetables are the primarily sweet kinds -- sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini.
Augmenting vegetables have a slightly more important role in your bowl than the green ones (which is why we recommend a balance of 60% augmenting foods to 40% extractive). Here’s why: Your body is constantly releasing and rebuilding tissue. This is a natural process that cleanses toxins and supports new cellular growth. Eat too few augmenting foods and your body will take what it needs from the valuable stores of nutrients in your bones and muscles. Eat too many augmenting foods without balanced amounts of extractive and you’ll gain weight.
The right amount of augmenting foods gives you fuel to rebuild what has been lost. Your body can create healthy muscle, protective fat and strong bones. And then the mind softens. The weight of augmenting foods grounds vata dosha, reducing anxiety and fear and covering you in a warm blanket of faith. This is what we mean when we say food is medicine.
You’ll find a list of common augmenting foods here, but we encourage you to be your own teacher to learn which foods are augmenting and which are extractive. Look for the sweet rasa, or taste, and quality of heaviness and you’ll easily identify the augmenting foods.
A recipe for nourishment
We’ve been growing incredible pumpkins on Durga Farms for years. They can weigh up to 20 pounds, so they are perfect for feeding a crowd of hungry Yoga teacher training students. It’s one of our favorite augmenting foods, and we’ve found plenty of ways to cook it. Pumpkin kitchadi, pumpkin soup, stewed pumpkin and so much more. But the tenderness of baked pumpkin is one of our favorites. Enjoy this as part of the Hale Pule balanced bowl and you’ll feel nourished from the inside out.
Simple Ayurvedic Recipe: Baked pumpkin
Any kind of squash (butternut, acorn, kabocha) is interchangeable with the pumpkin. Use what grows best where you live.
2 ½ cups pumpkin, cut into large wedges (about the size of half your palm)
2 Tbsp. ghee
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. fennel powder
1/8 tsp. mineral salt
Pinch black pepper (or substitute 1/8 tsp. clove powder)
1/8 cup chopped basil
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F/190 C.
Add all ingredients to a long, shallow baking pan. Stir well to coat the pumpkin with the ghee and spices. Add water to about ¼ the level of the pumpkin and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes. About halfway through, scoop the liquid over the pumpkin.* Serve warm with an open heart.
*Be sure the water doesn’t boil off -- it’s what keeps the pumpkin moist and tender. If you need more, heat it in a kettle before adding it to the pan. Adding cold water will increase cooking time.