When I graduated from college in 2006 I was diagnosed with a chronic digestive disease called Ulcerative Colitis. The doctors told me there was nothing I could do to heal from the disease and the best I could hope for was to go into remission for short stints of time. At my lowest point, I was taking 18 prescription pills and my symptoms were still extremely debilitating, not to mention embarrassing.
In 2008 I started researching alternative forms of medicine, and even flew solo to Bali to meet Wayan, the healer from the book, "Eat, Pray, Love". Although it was lovely to meet Wayan, unfortunately having one session with her was not going to heal me. I was looking for a quick fix, and eventually realized that with my disease there was no quick fix.
About a year later I moved back home with my parents, depressed, sick, and feeling hopeless. I would often attend these free lectures at a local book shop near my parents house. One night, a beautiful Indian woman named Shunya Pratichi Mathur gave a lecture about the ancient indian healing practice called, Ayurveda. From the moment she started speaking, I was completely captivated. She spoke about how humans are a microcosm of the macrocosm of the universe. She explained how the 5 elements, earth, water, fire, air and space exist in our bodies and how imbalances of these elements can cause disease. She also spoke about the mind, and the spirit, and how true healing can only be achieved when we look at the person as a whole being. It was the first time I had even considered the possibility that my disease was not just bad luck or poor genetics, rather an imbalance that was curable once the root causes were removed.
I signed up for an Ayurvedic retreat with Shunya Ji the following weekend, and ended up carpooling with 2 Ayurvedic doctors who would change the course of my life forever. As we drove through the golden hills down the 101 on the way back from the retreat hey listened with warm eyes and compassionate hearts as I shared my story with them. I had tried so many different diets and supplements and tinctures and traveled halfway around the world and was still not cured. Tears streaming down my face, one of the doctors looked into my eyes and told me with confidence that I would heal from this disease. He told me to get out a pen and a piece of paper and write down everything he said. The doctors collaborated giving me a list of foods to avoid and new recipes to cook. They also gave me instructions on what time to wake up in the morning and how to do a simple meditation every morning to help me connect to my deeper self and heal my mind and spirit as well. After a few months of following their instructions, my condition had improved dramatically. I became fascinated with Ayurveda and signed up for a one year self healing course with Shunya Ji at Vedika Global, a small Ayurvedic college in Emeryville, Ca. After submersing myself in Ayurveda for a year, changing my diet and lifestyle, meditating, doing yoga, and learning how to cook foods that were balancing for my body... I healed. Not only did I heal from ulcerative colitis, but everything in my life improved. I slowly weened myself off all prescription mediation, my skin cleared up and I even developed a glow. I would get tonsillitis four times a year before I started following an Ayurvedic lifestyle, after that one year course, I have not had tonsillitis once.
I was so impressed by my own recovery, and deeply intrigued by this 5,000 year old science that I studied for two more years and became an Ayurvedic Lifestyle and Wellness Counselor so I would be able to share this knowledge with others. In 2012 I founded Daily Ayurveda. My goal is to share the deeply rooted solid science of healing in a simple and digestible manner so that others may benefit from all of the gifts Ayurveda has to offer.
From the heart,
Whether at your best or worst, kitchari is the ideal food for you. It is sometimes referred to as Indian comfort food but it is also one of the most gentle foods for cleansing and a great first food for children. While it can be made with other grains or legumes, the most popular and balanced recipe for all body types is the one made with mung beans and basmati rice.
Why are the specific ingredients such as white basmati rice and mung recommended?
Basmati is a long grain rice. Long grain rice that has the husk removed has a lower glycemic index than other kinds of of rice. It is also lighter to digest compared to other varieties of rice yet highly nutritious.
Split yellow mung beans are the least vata increasing and gas producing bean used in Ayurvedic recipes. This is why it is recommended during all seasons. The difference between the yellow beans with the husk removed and the green mung is that the husk is slightly harder to digest and can increase gas in some with delicate digestive systems. Also, I personally believe that yellow mung beans makes a more palatable batch.
Combining these two ingredients provides a complete protein which means that your body gets the fuel it needs to have sustained energy throughout the day. You can use it for gentle, slow weight loss combined with proper movement excersise based on your body type, Also you can use it to cleanse your digestive tract after making poor food choices, and it will not make you feel weak or lack luster like other restrictive diets.
What about ghee?
Ghee is sweet and cooling. It is known to increase immunity, strength and intellect. After meals, it also helps in feeling satisfied for longer when used in the proper amount like in this recipe.
And the spices?
The spices that I always use are hing, cumin and turmeric. Cumin acts as an appetizer, digestive, slows intestinal growths and it prevents abdominal distention. Turmeric enhances complexion, relieves skin diseases, blood diseases, swelling, anemia and more. Hing while relatively unknown in the USA is a taste promoter and is a powerful medicine for spasms, pains, intestinal growths, abdominal diseases, distention and worms. Himalayan rock salt is the salt of choice for this recipe. It is less heating than other kinds of popular salts, it enhances taste perception, is a digestive and acts as an appetizer.
Depending on season, one may add fennel seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, fresh ginger, black cumin, etc. It should be tasty, comforting, warming to the stomach and not bland. If it’s bland then you should add more spices or salt. If you aren't excited about the taste of something, the early stages of digestion will be hampered and you won't even get the full health benefit of the meal.
I’ll never forget my first pomegranate. I was walking around in Old City Jerusalem and wearing my favorite pair of jeans and a light colored shirt. A man came over and pushed a cut pomegranate on my friend and I. What was I supposed to do with this thing? I had no idea so I just started pressing and squeezing. Immediately after I started squeezing those precious seeds into my mouth, my thirst was quenched and I felt an energy boost. My shirt and pants were not so happy though.
Lesson learned: take my time, use the water method to extract the seeds and sit down to eat it.
Since that time more than 10 years ago, I have moved to California where one can easily buy or grow their own pomegranates. So what was the first tree I planted? Yup, it was a pomegranate shrub that was just 1 foot tall. It now blesses me with a lot of pomegranates to eat and juice with my kids. I also buy pomegranate juice from the farmers market to supplement when I don’t have any available in my garden.
So what are the benefits of pomegranates?
They are sweet, astringent, sour and work wonders for cooling off any aggravated pitta in the body without aggravating kapha and vata. Pomegranates soothe inflammation in the digestive tract, alleviate diarrhea and loose motions, act as an antiemetic so can be helpful in morning sickness, stop bleeding, help in anemia, reduce fevers, act as a cardiotonic, a brain tonic and as an aphrodisiac. The astringent rind while not very tasty is a strong medicine for stopping dysentery, traveler’s diarrhea and getting rid of parasites. Due to such things as the high quantity of vitamin c and tannins, the fruit is also known for its ability to slow the aging process, prevent heart disease and even prevent cancer. The pomegranate is a great overall tonic that helps when one is feeling weak.
Besides buying them whole to eat the seeds, you can get great benefits from the juice or the dried powder sold in stores. The juice is best taken at room temperature as opposed to cold. The powder known in Indian stores as anardana can be used in sauces, spice mixes or chutneys in the fall season to reduce pitta and add a complex sweet and sour taste that can't be found elsewhere.
Autumn Swiss Chard & Cauliflower
1 medium fennel bulb (chopped)
1 medium sweet onion (chopped)
1 bunch swiss chard (chopped)
½ head of cauliflower (broken into small florets)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon pomegranate powder
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon ghee
In its essence, Ayurveda is a road map to happier and healthier lives by accepting that we are a part of the natural world. A lot of lip service is paid to our individual constitutions and to vata, pitta and kapha. There is a growing understanding of this even among those who were once skeptical. There does seem to still be a bunch of confusion on the seasons and I hope we can gain greater clarification right here and now on this.
First off, in Ayurveda, the year is broken up in to six seasons. Each location may experience the seasonal changes in slightly different ways or barely feel one or more of these seasons but the underlying premise remains the same. It's not only about the day to day weather but also the relation of the sun and moon to our location.
The first group can be seen in the northern solstice:
The second group which resides in the southern solstice:
It is important to note this seasonal breakdown because in the northern solstice months the sun is said to deplete us gradually more and more each day, and in the southern solstice there is the opposite occurring with the sun and moon giving strength and nourishing respectively. This means that by the time early winter comes around, we are in our strongest period to build health and immunity for the whole year. That is when our digestive capacity is the strongest so we are encouraged to not only eat more heavy foods but also warm and even spicy foods as a way to maximize the nourishment from our food. It is a gradual build throughout the second half of the year to get our digestion back to its strongest and then it will start to wane again. By the middle of July, our digestion is at its weakest and it is when we need to rest as well as eat light and moist foods due to the powerful sun depleting and drying us out.
Each of the six seasons has a unique natural ebb and flow with respect to the doshas. Throughout the year each dosha will go into an accumulation stage, an excitation stage and a baseline, calmed stage. For example, vata accumulates in early summer, excites in late summer and is brought back to a calmed state in autumn. Pitta dosha accumulates in late summer, excites in autumn and calms down in early winter. Kapha accumulates in late winter, excites in spring and calms down in summer.
There is no such mention in Ayurveda of there being only three seasons known as “vata season”, “kapha season” or “pitta season”. I have read in many places over the years that the fall or early winter is considered "vata season" and since that is not what any traditional Ayurvedic texts have said, I am not sure where that misinformation began spreading. What is clear to me is that we live in a culture that is predominantly vata and so I do think that general lifestyle precautions on not increasing vata should be followed year round irregardless of what season it is. What you shouldn't do is jump right into all the strong and pungent spices without understanding that early fall in Ayurveda is actually the time of year where you still are in a stage of excited pitta. If it starts to cool down faster in your location then you can shift the dates above a little bit or not go too excessive on foods like cucumber or coconut. Still, you never should shift your seasonal foods too fast. Check in with your body and make smooth transitions. The few weeks in between seasons is the time where more conditions and diseases are kicked into gear than any other.
Stay tuned for seasonal recommendations as the Year goes on...
Whether you have one apple or a whole box that you just picked, you can try this delicious and comforting Stewed Apple recipe for breakfast.
Cooking apples increases the digestibility and absorption of the many vitamins and minerals.
This recipe also calms vata & pitta, enhances strength, builds immunity, fires up the metabolism, stimulates regular bowel movements and adds to overall health & vitality. You will feel light and energetic all morning after eating this for breakfast.
1 organic apple
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon organic raisins or chopped dates
1 clove or pinch of ground clove
1/8 teaspoon true cinnamon (Ceylon)
1 pinch ground cardamom
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ghee
In Ayurveda, the three important pillars of health are diet, sleep and sex.
Just like with food, each person has a different kind and amount of sexual activity best for them. The general rules are that each constitution has a different amount of sex each month and then the recommendations are raised and lowered seasonally as well. Due to the ease in which vata dominant folks deplete, they do best with sexual activity just a few times a month. For Pitta dominant people the number doubles vata dominant. The ladies and gents with kapha constitution are cleared for the most sexual activity with multiple times a week being recommended.
Seasonally, the winter months and spring are the time where we are meant to keep warm by the side of a partner and have the most sex. It is when our bodies are the strongest and where we can expend the most kapha. In summer and early fall, our bodies are at their weakest and driest from the strong sun depleting our energy. This means that this is the time of year where we should conserve our vital force as opposed to constantly overdoing it.
An important thing to note is that you shouldn't hold back urges such as bowels movements, urinating, ejaculating, or sneezing so if you have a willing partner and a strong urge for sex then it is best you go for it. A pattern of not doing so can cause longterm problems in the reproductive organs, urinary system or digestive system. Engaging in morning sex before clearing the bowels or urinating also can create problems in those systems so if that is something you engage in and you experience frequent constipation or bladder infections then switch the order of your morning routine.
Many of the recommended Ayurvedic foods such as ghee, milk, almonds, figs and pomegranates build healthy sexual tissue. Drinking a glass of warm milk after sex is said to immediately replenish any lost energy. Adding an herb such as shatavari (women) or ashwaghanda (men) to your milk can have an even stronger effect.
Roses are mostly known these days as a symbol of beauty and romance but they have been used for thousands of years around the world in many different ways. In Ayurveda, roses are said to not only uplift the spirit but to reduce inflammation, act as an aphrodisiac, benefit skin, menstruation, liver, spleen, kidneys and eyesight as well as slow the aging process. With its cooling nature, we can use roses both internally and externally to calm our mind, body and soul. This is especially recommended in the early fall season as pitta is at it’s highest in the atmosphere.
3 Ways to Keep Cool w/ Roses
½ cup whole milk yogurt
2 cups of water (previously boiled and brought back to room temperature)
1 tablespoon rose water
3 tablespoons sucanat, turbinado or other raw sugar
pinch of cardamom (optional)
Calming Rose Facial Mask
3 dried rose buds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
¼ teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons besan / chickpea flour
Rose water (optional)
2 cups whole milk or coconut milk
1 cup water
6 tablespoons kudzu root starch powder
⅓ cup sucanat, turbinado, rapadura or coconut sugar
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
½ teaspoon rose powder
¼ teaspoon vanilla powder
2 teaspoons rose water
1 tablespoon lightly toasted shredded coconut (optional)
What started out as a short term fitness experiment turned into a deeply transformative experience that has reshaped my relationship to inhabiting a body.
Before I begin, I need to come clean about something. In my first post on this topic, The Before, I didn't tell the whole truth. I said, "Let me be very clear about one thing. I am not dissatisfied with my body the way it looks now." That's not true. I still have mornings when look in the mirror and wish that things looked different. It would have been more accurate for me to have said, "I have done a lot of work around accepting and appreciating my body as it is and have come a long way in that process. However, my conditioning around wanting my body to look a certain way runs very deep, and although I am much closer than ever before, I have not gotten to the place where I have full acceptance of my body yet." This process of publicly posting pictures of myself in my underwear to show my results really illuminated how deep those insecurities run.
On Monday, I went in for my final assessment appointment at Relic Tree fitness center to get my photos taken and to be weighed and measured in order to track the changes in my fat and muscle percentages from when I started on this journey five months ago. I was confident that there was going to be a massive shift in numbers and that my after photo would look drastically different than the before shot. When I received an email with the results, my jaw dropped. Almost everything was the same. The only difference was that I gained 2 lbs of muscle and lost 1 lb of fat. When I received this email and looked at the pictures I was flooded with emotion. Anger, sadness, frustration, disbelief. I had been working my ass for the past 5 months. Did I not try hard enough in class? Did they mess up on the measurements? How could this have happened? How disempowering to post a before and after picture that look almost exactly the same.
Then another voice fought back. The voice was loud and strong and it came from the center of my being. It reminded me of all the times I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning for my 6:30 class, but I did it anyways. It reminded me of the day I did my first push up without assistance (I can now do 10). It reminded me to really check in with my body and pay attention to how different it feels now instead of being consumed with the way it looks.
The truth is, I inhabit my body differently now. I hold my head up higher. I feel more agile, more capable, more free to move with a new sense of strength and deep seeded power. My digestion is stronger now than it has ever been, I have way more energy throughout the day. My back pain has dissipated tremendously. This is not the end of my fitness experiment. In fact, I see it as a more solid starting point. Rooted deeper into the way my body feels as opposed to the way it looks. I am ready to begin again.
For the past two months I have been placing more focus on my body by working on building muscle and increasing strength and endurance. I am proud to announce that I have been very diligent in my efforts, attending Natural Fitness classes at least 3-4 mornings per week at 6:30AM at Relictree Fitness. My original goal was to focus for 2 months on my body and take before and after stats to track my progress. I choose to share my experience with the public so I can inspire others to invest in their physical well being in a healthy and sustainable way. Following an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle has been one of the key components to this transformative process. Over the past two months I am happy to report my overall energy has increased dramatically, my digestion has improved, and my sleep has become more sound. I have officially completed my 2 month commitment, but have realized that I am not done yet. In fact, I have embraced the fact that I will never be done. I will post an "after" shot with my stats next month, solely for the purpose of completing my initial objective, but I now realize that there will never really be an after.
Some Things I Have Learned Along the Way.
1. Commitment is KEY.
Figure out what works for you, your body, and your schedule and stick to it! If you overcommit, you might not be able to uphold your agreements and are more prone to feeling guilty and falling off the bandwagon completely. You can always turn up the volume later.
2. Preparation is a MUST.
Every night before bed I fill my water bottle and lay out my workout clothes on my dresser, and put them on first thing. It makes it much easier to convince yourself to workout once you already have your clothes on!
3. Accountability is FOUNDATIONAL.
When we tell our friends and family about our health goals, we are more likely to keep them up! If you really want to hold yourself accountable, do what I did. Build a website, start a blog, make it your status update. The more people you have cheering you on the better!