Ayurveda Explained-ish

food for your soul Ayurveda Explained ish

In writing articles for the blog about the health benefits of those foods we’re growing I noticed I reference Ayurveda…a lot. I wonder if I’m just rambling-on while few even know what I’m talking about.

To remedy this potential situation I’m gonna school y’all real quick on Ayurveda.

Bring ya up to date on this ancient health system hailing from India. Oh, and when I say “real quick” I should say studying Ayurveda is one of those things that takes a lifetime…maybe two, so give yourself time.

I found Ayurveda when I began studying yoga. This led to two years living and working at a yoga retreat center in California, which was also home to a College of Ayurveda. Knowledge of Ayurveda seeped in like osmosis, it’s the nature of being secluded and surrounded by something.

I find Ayurveda fascinating and over the years have experienced many benefits like reduced anxiety and improved digestion from this lifestyle.

And that’s exactly it Ayurveda is, a lifestyle.

The bottom-line is; Ayurveda’s all about collaboration. It’s between you and your body, what we consume and how we consume it.

Same team here people, same team.

Ayurveda is the study of this, with the ever-present goal of cultivating balance between our body, mind, and spirit.

Ayurveda is not…

  • just cooking a certain way. Yes it is plant based/nature based, however it also encompasses your mental state and certain yoga postures to help certain conditions. For instance, if you’re experiencing sluggish digestion then poses with spinal twists or torso compressions may be helpful. In addition, body-work, vastu (which is the Indian version of Feng Shui), astrology, gems, colors, aromas, all of these things are incorporated in Ayurveda. All can facilitate balance or perpetuate imbalance.
  • like Western Medicine. There’s no magic pill to take symptoms away. It doesn’t treat acute ailments. I’ve heard this concept described as Ayurveda won’t make you well.

Ayurveda is built on the concept of doshas, an Ayurvedic term for constitution or body-type. Each dosha is a mixture of natural elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. We’re all born with a certain dosha and then it can morph as life kicks in and we eat certain things, do certain things, live in certain climates, seasons change, etc.

The three doshas are: VATA, PITTA, KAPHA, with a mix of two predominant doshas being most common. Oh, there is so much to this really! But basics…

Vata is ruled by the elements of air and ether

Pitta is fire and water

Kapha is water and earth

So it’s common to hear someone described as Vata-Pitta or Pitta-Kapha.

Many Ayurvedc texts describe each dosha according to typical physical and personality characteristics, and this is a simple way to get a grasp on your general body-type, however it just doesn’t do it total justice. To truly know your dosha your pulse and other subtle clues are taken into account, which can be measured by a knowledgeable practitioner.

The pulse is important because Vata, Pitta, and Kapha move through the body and reveal themselves in the pulse. It is possible one practitioner will tell you they read one thing and another will tell you something different. This can be true for many forms of alternative medicine considering a number of variables can manifest as a certain symptom of ailment. This is why I believe it’s important to get familiar with your own system so you can throw-in some of your own body intuition/wisdom.

My personal interest in learning about my dosha began because a practitioner described me as Vata-Kapha, which can have opposite qualities, therefore working against each other. Something I learned from reading a book by a wonderful Ayurvedic doctor named Dr. Vasant Lad (reading list included below) is that a Vata-Kapha can have the physical appearance of a typical Pitta type person. So without the guidance of a practitioner it would appear I’m Pitta, however, I know my personality characteristics aren’t typical of Pitta. So it’s helpful to get guidance and clarity.

When you start to get acquainted with your dosha…

and experience the effects foods and lifestyle have on your system your ability to cultivate personal health and balance skyrockets. However, I’ve heard the feedback we can care too much about being in optimal health and trying to “feel good.” I can agree, sometimes part of finding balance is embracing those moments of feeling less than stellar.

So why don’t we hear about this in our weekly yoga classes?

My first thought is in The U.S. we typically want to focus on the physicality of yoga when we’re in a class for 75 minutes. We go to a yoga class to feel good or sometimes get a workout and to please the entire room.

However, as Ayurveda becomes more prevalent in the west you can find teachers that bring these teachings into class, which I think is awesome and empowering.

Also, if you spend some time studying yoga outside of a class you’ll begin hearing about it as Ayurveda is discussed in ancient yoga texts. In India, where Ayurveda comes from, it’s often engrained in their everyday lives. Passed down from generation to generation.

I’ve had an Indian doctor tell me Ayurveda’s not considered special, it’s just the way it’s done.

So there you have it. Helpful? Not sure. Will this help you next time I reference Ayurveda (probably next post)? Who knows.

Have a question? Ask!

Some books and websites I recommend:

Any book by Dr. Vasant Lad. A good start is The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies.

Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution. Dr. Robert Svoboda.

The Yoga of Herbs. Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasanat Lad

Dr. John Douillard and his website www.lifespa.com. He’s got a database of awesome, well researched, videos about different health topics from an Ayurvedic perspective. One of my faves.

 

What We’re Planting This Month

This winter has been crazy! Right now it’s kinda spring, but it was 23 degrees this morning.

So what are we planting and when?

Right now we’re still planting cold season veggies in gardens with room for both.  You can harvest things like broccoli and lettuces until May in certain years and that’s what we’re hoping for.

Now we can’t predict the weather… even though I have 4 weather apps on my phone, but I’m hoping to be able to plant all our spring/summer veggies the third week in March.  So that’s things like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil and so on.  I’ll print the full list of things we’ve got going in around town that Monday.

Be warned though… These plants are cold sensitive and can be affected by prolonged periods under 45 degrees.  Please protect your plants and don’t plant if a freeze is predicted.

Early March Planting

Vegetable Beds:

Seeds
  • Daikon
  • Radish
  • Beets
  • Favas
  • Carrots
Transplants
  • Artichoke
  • Cardoon
  • Cabbage 
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower 
  • Asian Greens
  • Kale 
  • Onions 
  • Lettuce
  • Frisee
  • Radicchio

Herbs:

  • Cilantro
  • Fennel
  • Mint 
  • Parsley 
  • Leaf Celery
  • Mitsuba (An herb related to parsley & chervil)
  • Chervil 
  • Oregano 
  • Thyme
  • Marjoram 

Edible Flowers:

  • Viola
  • Pansy
  • Dianthus
  • Nasturtium (A flowering edible green – used in salad mixes)
  • Chrysanthemum (A flowering edible green – used young in salads and older in stir-fries)

 

Release Your Fire + Ease Your Allergies With Cilantro

food for your soul Release Your Fire + Ease Your Allergies With Cilantro

Cilantro’s growing in the garden these days and that’s a good thing! A natural heat-expeller (I’m making that term up, but that’s what it does), anti-inflammatory to ease allergies and arthritis, digestive, anti-bacterial and anti-viral, the list goes on.

The leaf to the coriander seed, this green is used widely in Indian, Asian and Mexican cooking. It has cooling properties which balances the heat found in many dishes that use chilies and peppers, like salsas and curries.

cilantro Release Your Fire + Ease Your Allergies With Cilantro

According to Ayurveda, spicy dishes can add to a person’s internal fire

Ayurveda calls our internal fire Pitta, affecting the way we feel, as well as the way we interact with and see the world. Mix this up with the abundance of Pitta-increasing foods/activities engrained in our lives (i.e. coffee, alcohol, over-work, stress, etc) and we can become unbalanced.

A post diving deeper into what Ayurveda is and why I reference it in relation to the healing benefits of food is coming soon, yet I’d like to say a little more now.

A common question is, “Does Pitta have to do with the physical body and temperament?” And “What will I feel like when I get rid of it?” Ayurveda in general weds the body and mind. One can experience physical symptoms or qualities of Pitta and, most likely, will experience mental qualities as well.

Now, to “get rid of it.” You don’t want to, we need fire. A friend, and small business owner, gave me an example from her life as she worked with a Doctor of Chinese Medicine to help her with a sleep disorder. Let me just say also, if she had an abundance of fire in her system it makes sense she’s a hard-working, successful small business owner. Fire is needed to manifest and accomplish such goals.

Pitta (even in overabundance) can be helpful!

The charm comes in knowing when and how to find balance so we don’t work to exhaustion or start yelling impossible demands at our employees.

My pal was experiencing troubled sleep, acne, and painful menstruation. Her doctor of Chinese Medicine gave her an herb regimen and for the first week of therapy she experienced the physical sensation of heat in her body. After that first week her skin began to clear and she felt relief from painful menstrual cramping and restless nights. According to Chinese Medicine she was expelling excess heat.

This is a perfect example of what Pitta-reducing or cooling herbs can do.

In terms of “how will I know if I’m balanced?” Heck if I know, really!

I can’t tell you what you will feel when you’re balanced. Health and body awareness are personal journeys. Always in flow, balance is never static. You’ll know when you feel balanced and when you need balance, even if others disagree. Ya dig? So go forth, and good luck!

This brings us back to cilantro, which is a great herb to help reduce and balance heat.

It can act as a mild diuretic, aiding the body to release excess heat. As we enter into Spring it’s a perfect time of year to start using cilantro in cooking to expel stored heat we may have accumulated from heating foods during the winter (i.e. meats, fats, sweets, heartier vegetables, butter, and dairy products).

Cilantro helps alleviate allergies.

Due to anti-inflammatory properties cilantro helps sinuses and blood vessels stay open and flowing. Cilantro also aids digestion, which helps strengthen our immune system. Keeping internal inflammation at bay and digestion healthy is essential to alleviating allergies.

All you need is a teaspoon of cilantro juice a day to start benefiting. Use it in cooking, chopped and tossed over rice, in salsas, throw a handful of fresh leaves in a smoothie even! Keep a bundle in a cup of water on the counter and nibble a sprig when you walk by. Make it up, do what you want!

Do you have a cilantro recipe to share?  Leave it in the comments!  We’re always looking for new ones.

What to do After a Freeze in Your Garden

Ugh!  The freezes will never end this year!  Stay positive friend…

A winter freeze is always a good test for the year round gardener.

Our failures in gardening inform our successes.  I leave my personal garden uncovered to see what will be affected by freezes and what I can get away with.  The freezes in 2011 taught me a lot about what I can grow without being afraid it will die.  Now I can plan gardens with an added degree of confidence.

Here’s how you can learn to make more informed decisions about your future winter gardens.

Take note of what was affected by the freeze and why.

Did plants die?  

Note which plants died and what the low temperature was.  A plant I’m always sad to see bite the dust are my nasturtiums.  I always try to protect them, but they just aren’t very cold tolerant.

Did all of a specific variety die or just some?  Make observations as to why this may be.

Where were they located in the garden?  

Gardens can have what’s called micro-climates.  These are things that might affect the garden like being up against the house on the south side, having a big shrub or tree on the north side, or being totally exposed to the elements with nothing to block the wind or insulate the plants.  All of these things matter when planing for next year’s winter garden.

Which varieties got damaged?  

Do some of your lettuces have freeze damage?  I’ve noticed this year that some of my lettuces like the oak leaf varieties seem to be getting the brunt of the freeze damage while some like my new all time favorite Red Summer Crisp look just as beautiful and radiant as ever.

Cut back freeze damage on your veggies.  Cut off affected portions of lettuce leaves and other plants that were damaged by the freeze.  This will help the plant grow back healthier instead of spending energy trying to repair damaged appendages.

If your herbs were affected the rules for cutting back are a bit different.  The top parts of your herb plant, even if they are looking a bit crispy, are actually insulating the lower part of the plant.  Now if you can’t stand the looks of the plant in this condition, by all means, cut it back.  But if you can wait until the weather is a bit warmer on a regular basis then it will allow your plants to grow back much more quickly.

So go out into the garden this weekend, assess the damage, and learn from your observations.  This is what makes gardening fun and exciting!  Cause you never know what’s going to happen…

Sooth Your Strung-out System with Winter Veggies

food for your soul Sooth Your Strung out System with Winter Veggies

As we transition from Fall to Winter our bodies naturally start gearing-up for the time to draw inward and gather strength for the cold season ahead. Even in Austin, TX, or at least we can pretend can’t we? According to Ayurveda, it’s the time of year to start incorporating rich sources of protein, grains, and hearty vegetables.

Ayurveda is India’s ancient health system that focuses on balancing the body and mind through diet, herbs, lifestyle, and yoga.

 

So let’s take a look at what we’re growing out there in our gardens. Deep-dark-nutrient rich leafy greens, peas, and root veggies like sweet potatoes. All things that naturally grow during this time help our bodies sustain through the corresponding season and climate.

The qualities of winter are cold and dry.

 

Yes, it does rain during winter, but in general it has a drier quality when we add in frost and wind.  Balancing foods are ones that will warm us, ground us and provide a healthy dose of nourishing fats and proteins.

Fats are fabulously soothing to the nervous system.  When I spent 2 years living at a yoga community I was practicing a number of Ayurvedic remedies.  During this time I learned about the different qualities of oils and their effects on the body.

Here’s a great remedy I learned after going through a bout restless sleeping.  Rub sesame oil on the bottoms of your feet and/or your forehead.  Trust me, it really works! Sesame oil has a warming quality that soothes the deeper nerves.

In Ayurveda the bottoms of the feet are thought of as the body’s internal pharmacy and entrance into the body.  As for the forehead, this will soothe mental activity and nerves associated with the head.

roasted veg Sooth Your Strung out System with Winter Veggies

Another thought is to drizzle some olive oil on your wintry meals.

 

By ingesting the oil we are nourishing the internal tissues, which is an important part to staying healthy during the harsher winter season.

When looking at what to do with all those fabulous winter roots and hearty greens there’s no need to be daunted.

 

Bake ‘em. Bake ‘em all; potatoes, beets, carrots, celery root, burdock root, radish, turnip, rutabaga, cauliflower, broccoli, herbs, even greens.  Toss them in a baking dish, don’t over crowd, give them space to breathe as this will help create a caramelized flavor.

To start, toss them with salt, pepper and olive oil. Bake at high-ish heat, 400 degrees, until looking good and toasty and easily pierce-able with a knife.  Serve with a hearty grain if you wish.  Maybe add a protein rich piece of meat or some well-cooked legumes.

You’ve got a winter meal that will help calm and ground even the most strung-out of us.

 

Paying attention to what’s growing and in each season gives us insight into the effect it can have on our bodies. It’s really an experiential concept, so give it a shot and see how you feel.

A Garden Is The Perfect Holiday Gift!  We Have Options For All Wallet Sizes.  See Your Options Now!