Spices: 5 Favorites for Fall

tulsi loves you

Did you know that spices can have up to 50 times more antioxidants than your favorite fruit, making them powerhouses when it comes to anti-aging?

Most of us think of spices as a food flavoring. Ayurveda considers them as medicine. One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods, for example, found that spices can significantly reduce blood sugar levels, a potent aid in warding off premature aging, heart disease, and diabetes.

Think of it as Spice Therapy. It’s one of the genius gifts of Ayurveda: Optimizing health in a pinch!

To keep you healthy, happy and whole, here are my top five spices for Autumn ~

1. Tulsi

My love for Tulsi causes me to write today. Tulsi has been my tea of choice this week. When I woke up Monday morning feeling a sore throat coming on, it was to Tulsi I turned. When I inadvertently inhaled gas on Tuesday (from a restaurant’s open patio fire extinguished by the wind, which then scooped up the gas and swept it right into our lungs), Tulsi relieved the ensuing headache. When a reaction to new carpeting caused a slight asthma flare up, I sat down to a cup of Tulsi.

I am talking like Tulsi is a person! In fact, Tulsi is a living being, a plant known as Holy Basil. Similar to the basil that so deliciously flavors Italian dishes, this basil is warm, slightly sweet and a bit peppery. It’s becoming a bit of a celebrity in the arena of women’s health as it reduces cortisol, that tricky hormone that when chronically elevated can cause aging, weight gain, sleeplessness, irritability, depression, and the list goes on.

Organic India has built a successful global company on Tulsi and their organic teas are prolific these days. Look for them in your local healthy markets. Or, you can order online:  Banyan Botanicals is now selling the divine Pukka teas with a Tulsi sampler, also selling Tulsi in an easy liquid extract and powdered.

2. Ginger

You know that people the world over turn to Ginger for stomach upset, but do you know why? According to my Ayurvedic mentor Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, Ginger stimulates Agni, the inner fires that burn away toxins and any cause of upset.

Warming, calming, balancing, Ginger also helps reduce anxiety, inflammation, asthma, congestion, cough, cramps. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and analgesic.

One inch of fresh ginger in a cup of boiling water is the ideal accompaniment to your meals this season. You can also use 1/2 a teaspoon of ginger powder, which is in fact the better option if you are Pitta Dosha.

3. Cinnamon

Light, dry and warm, cinnamon is one of the best digestive spices there is. No wonder it is added to so many sweet dishes!

According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, “Cinnamon may help reduce chronic inflammation, which is linked to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Meningitis.” It is also known to lower glucose and cholesterol, helpful again for heart disease and diabetes.

4. Cardamom

Probably my favorite spice in any season, Cardamom is medicine for all three doshas (doshas are bio-energies you can learn about here). It decongests Kapha, regulates Vata and calms Pitta. Add it to coffee and it reduces the negative impacts of caffeine. Add it to any dessert and it helps reduce blood sugar.

According to Vedic guru Dr. David Frawley, cardamom can help with nausea, vomiting, bloating, flatulence and acidity. According to Dosha Guru, “science is investigating its antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, kidney and urinary disorders, gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering, diuretic, and sedative” actions.

For all these reasons I love cardamom, but mostly I love those peppery little seeds as they tumble out of their ochre-lined, green pods. I love the way it is added to breakfast every morning in India so you start your day fragrantly. I love it in Chai, Chayvanprash and Rose Petal Lassi, and I love the way it smells in a home-made, seasonal Abhyanga oil. Cardamom is like a favorite perfume to me: redolent of all that is rich, tender and so dear.

5. Nutmeg

Remember when Grandma made you a cup of hot milk to help you sleep at night? Did she add Nutmeg? Nutmeg helps cut the heaviness of milk which is one way it helps you sleep – so you are not kept awake by a noisy, roiling digestive engine. More importantly, nutmeg has been found to have direct benefits to sleep by its calming, sedative effects, which is one reason it is such an key ingredient in this deep sleep tonic.

Nutmeg is a nervine, and can be useful in treating skin, liver and bladder problems. According to Dr. Vasant Lad, nutmeg is a tonic for the brain and heart. Just don’t take too much.

Cinnamon Cardamom
Cinnamon Cardamom

In the Autumn, when days are shorter and cooler, brewing a cup of tea is a simple way to enjoy the benefits of the spices in your pantry, while warming you to the core, and encouraging that necessary daily pause.

Autumn Wellness Tea
Serves 2

1 T Tulsi, powdered
1″ fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped, or 1/2 t Ginger powder
1 stick Cinnamon or 1/2 t Cinnamon powder
2 pods Cardamom crushed, or 1/2 t Cardamom powder
1/8 t Nutmeg, freshly grated powder
2 cups water

Steep spices in gently boiling water for ten minutes. Strain and serve.

This tea is great as is, but you can also add almond milk for a richer cup. For a deeply nourishing tonic, blend 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk with 2 dates. Add 1/2 cup of the hot spice tea. Stir, drink warm and watch your Vata melt into a puddle of Ojas.

teaPhoto: Art Flow | Getty Images

In addition to the Tulsi, you can order organic spices from Banyan Botanicals.

What are your favorite autumn flavors, spices, and ways to renew? What I really want to know is how are you taking care of you this month? 

Namaste! 

Gluten free, Sugar free, No Bake Apple Pecan Pie

no bake apple pie
Two years ago at our Yoga Therapy Training, I served a gluten free, dairy free, no sugar added, homemade apple pie. The recipe was requested. It has taken me these years, but at long last, here, finally, it is.

Unfortunately, when I first came to write it up last month I couldn’t find the recipe. Fortunately, that meant I had to try it a few times before it came right again, and that meant a lot of apple pies this autumn. Yes, we are blessed!

raw-gf-apple-pie

The saying An apple a day… is truer than everApples support your liver to help your body process and releases toxins in our air, water, food – more important now than ever. Apples help clear your colon, also more important than ever – as everyone, even mother earth, needs extra support now in eliminating waste.

Apples are good for your bloodeyes, skin. Apples are cool, so they are Pitta-reducing and anti-inflammatory. They are sweet, so they are Vata-reducing and tonifying – especially when sliced, tossed in fresh lemon juice, and sprinkled with cinnamon, as in this recipe. They are also light enough to be good for Kapha, reducing blood sugar and helping you feel full with less, thanks to so much fabulous fiber.

That makes apples tridoshic, meaning they love everyone, so everyone gets to enjoy this super food, super “free”, super pie!

sweetie apple

Be sure you use your favorite apple. Since they aren’t going to be cooked, they will taste in the pie the way they taste in your hand when you eat straight from the fruit basket. I used “Sweetie” apples, but anything fresh, crunchy and sweet will be good.

For the decoration, I wanted some red so used a Fuji, but a crispy green apple would give a lovely color, too.

apple pecan pie

I added a bit of almond butter to make it an extra high protein, high fiber, high nutritional meal I could have for breakfast, or for the kids as a midday snack. The almond butter makes the filling a bit more caramel-y, but if you feel that is too nutty for you, leave it out. It’s still great.

Also, if you are allergic to nuts you can skip the pecans and just make a crust of dates. Yes, just dates. Or, if it’s safe for you, add a tablespoon of coconut oil, and/or toasted sunflower seeds,

If you want it fully raw, skip the pecan toasting. I’ve done it that way and it works, too. But toasting draws the divine essence from pecans, giving golden, nutty grounding to the crisp, sunburst of the apple.

glutenfree apple pie

Easy, No Bake Apple Pecan Pie

Pie Crust:

2 c Pecans
10 Medjool Dates, pits removed
1 T Coconut Oil
A hearty pinch of Himalayan Salt
A pinch of Cinnamon
A dash Nutmeg

Pie Filling:

6 Apples
6 Medjool Dates, seeds removed
1 Lemon, juiced
2 T Almond Butter, optional
1 T Raw Honey, also optional
1 hefty pinch of Himalayan Salt
1 hearty dash of Cinnamon
1 light dusting of Cardamom, optional
1/4 c Chia Seeds

To make the crust:

Toast the pecans until they are very lightly brown. Put them aside. In your electric blender, macerate the dates. Add the coconut oil and spices and mix. Toss in the pecans and pulse lightly three times, just enough to break up and integrate with the dates, but careful not to turn this into pecan butter.

Press the crust into a pie dish (mine is 9.5″). Cover with a plate facing up so the slight bowl of the plate presses into the crust and so that the crust is entirely covered. Place in your refrigerator if you have a few hours before filling, or into your freezer if you don’t.

To make the filling: 

Again, start with the dates. Blend on high speed until they are completely mashed. Juice your lemon and set aside 1 tablespoon for later. Add the lemon juice, almond butter honey and spices to the dates and blend well. Slice your apples and add. Blend until the mixture starts resembling a very chunky apple sauce. Add the chia seeds. Pulse a few times to blend thoroughly. Pour this mixture onto the pie crust. Spread evenly. Cover (I turn the plate that was sitting on the crust over and use to cover) and place in your fridge. Allow to set at least four hours.

apple pie

Garnish: 

This doesn’t need a topping, but if you like the apple rose on top, just core an apple and slice very, very thin. To keep the slices from browning as you slice, put each slice as you cut into a bowl with that remaining lemon juice. Once all the pieces are cut and in the bowl, sprinkle a dash or two of cinnamon and toss. The set each piece, one by one, in an overlapping circle around the outer edge. Continue making smaller circles towards the middle until the pie is covered. Then set a pecan or a few thin slices of lemon rind in the very center.

This is so simple and so quick: apart from the 4 hours in the refrigerator to let the chia seeds do their work, you can make this start-to-finish in 15 minutes.

apple pie

I guess you could call this a trick on a treat, because it seems like dessert, yet it’s delightfully good for you. Let me know if you try it, and any variations you enjoy.

being silly at the bay: napping after a yoga therapy training picnic
being silly at the bay :: protecting from the sun :: napping after a yoga therapy training picnic

What sort of tricks or treats are you doing this hallowed e’en?

How to Make a Dosa

I am really excited about this. Today I’ve done something I never thought I would. I have to share it because now I know you can do it, too.

It started about a month ago at Bhakti Fest, where we always have lunch at the Dosa Dosa food truck because they make the world’s best Kichari. They also make the world’s most divine Dosas, and I asked them to show you how. Thankfully, they agreed.

Wah and his father Matamandir, the creative dynamos at Dosa Dosa, were gracious to allow us to interrupt their hot and busy service of feeding hungry Yogis and Kirtan Wallahs. But since we didn’t get their top-secret recipe, I thought I’d do a little research and post some links to go with the video.

Wah-DosaDosa

I never intended, myself, to make a Dosa. Never. In some unconscious place inside of me, surely I thought, you have to be Indian to make a Dosa. You have to be South Indian, for that matter. You even have to be a South Indian grandmother who spent her life practicing Ayurveda’s everyday ways, or her granddaughter well-trained by such a wisdom-keeper.

While editing the video, my husband commented that no one is going to do this at home – no one has that griddle or those instruments, he said – we should just direct readers to Dosa Dosa‘s 5 new food trucks in San Francisco.

How to Make a Dosa

Yes, but I don’t do that on this blog. I don’t set you up, elicit mouth-watering expectations, promote the promise of truth, beauty, love on a plate, only to let you down, hungering for an external, elusive, distant deliciousness, when all of that is already inside of youyou are already delicious. Within you is the power to create untold treasures of beauty and delight, and this realm of your own possibility is as close as your kitchen, as quick as you can roast a sweet potato!

At least I had to offer you a dish. Something you can make that would be enough exotic goodness for you to taste the truth that real food is love, and love’s food is bhakti

coconut cilantro chutney

SweetPotatoMasala

The Potato Pea Masala that fills the Dosa, giving its full name Masala Dosa, seemed like something those of us not schooled since birth in Dosa tradition would be able to master. We could enjoy it with Naan, I reasoned. Which we could buy at the local Indian market… Or we could mix and match cultures, roll it into a tortilla, and call it a Mexican Masala!

I never intended, even as I experimented with my own version of a Masala, ever that I would make a Dosa. We’d just have to make a trip to San Francisco for that, and look forward to having Dosas again at ShaktiFest in May.

how-to-make-a-dosa1

With experimentation, one thing led to another and, spurred on by the challenge of being told “no one will do it…” the next thing you know, I made a Dosa! Now I am making Dosas for breakfast, Dosas for lunch, Dosas for dinner, Dosas for anyone, any time, all the time. I love Dosas!

The photos above and below are my first and second attempts. I am learning as I go, inspired by this Dosa recipe, which looks fastidious because she takes you through step by step, but is actually very easy. You just mix together rice and lentil flour (look for besan, also called gram, at Indian or Asian markets), let it sit overnight, stir in a pinch of salt in the morning, and pour it on the skillet. In no time you will have your very own Dosa, on which you can sprinkle cinnamon for a high protein breakfast and any time snack, or fill with the Masala for a hearty, healthy meal.

Sweet Potato Masala Dosa

I swapped sweet potato for the filling, making it healthier, and added fenugreek powder to the Dosa batter. I wanted to add fresh peas, but it is not the season so I slow cooked split peas and added that instead. It lended an earthy taste which balances beautifully with the fresh crunch of the coconut chutney.

To make this user-friendly it’s all written it out below, but certainly follow the links if you want to see more examples of how-to. Be sure that you read through before you start. You want to blend the Dosa flours the day before so they can ferment overnight, and you want your Masala and Chutney ready to fill the Dosas which cook up quick, and are best enjoyed piping hot.

chutney dosa

If you are short on time or access to ingredients, the graciously talented Puja over at IndiaPhile has a Dosa recipe using semolina, which can be substituted with a good gf flour. Her Coconut Chutney is the inspiration for this one, and she has a couple of short, helpful videos showing you how to pour the Dosa batter for success.

SWEET POTATO MASALA
Serves 4

1 sweet potato
1/4 c peas, cooked
1 T ghee 5-6 cashews
1/2 onion, diced
1/8 t mustard seeds
1/4 t cumin seeds
1 t curry powder
1/2 piece thai chile (these are very small, so not too spicy), chopped
1/4 t ginger, grated
1 pinch turmeric
1 pinch asafoetida (or hingvastak; alternative: coriander powder)
1 T cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Preheat your oven to 475F. Puncture a few fork holes in your sweet potato and bake for 45 minutes, or until a fork inserts easily through the center. When it is done, allow it to cool, then cube into small bites.

Melt the ghee on in a medium flame. Brown the cashews and set aside. In the same pan, with the same oil, add the mustard seeds and cook about 1 minute util the pop. You have to listen closely. Stir in the cumin, curry and onions. Sauté until the onions are golden and soft. Mix in the chili, ginger, turmeric and asafoetida (or coriander). Add the sweet potato. Mash it a bit with the back of a spatula, or large wooden spoon. Stir in the peas and cashews and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro leaves, turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

COCONUT CHUTNEY

3/4 c coconut flakes
1/4 c cilantro leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 thai chile (with seeds for heat, without for a mild version)
1/2 t curry powder
1 t freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup water Optional: dash of pink salt, or to taste

Put everything into an electric blender and mix until it becomes a creamy consistency. Add more water if needed. Taste and season accordingly.

DOSA
Serves: 4-8

1 1/2 c rice flour
¾ cup dal/besan/gram flour
2 1/2 c water
1 scant t fenugreek powder pinch pink salt
2-3 T ghee

Stir the flours together in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and mix well. Be sure to smooth out any lumps. The consistency will be thick but very watery. Cover and allow to ferment at room temperature overnight for 10 hours or more. Once the batter is fermented, stir in the fenugreek powder and salt and mix well.

Melt 1 T ghee in a large skillet or iron griddle over medium heat. While the ghee heats up, whisk the batter one more time so it is well mixed and quickly ladle it up. Pour into your skillet in a circular motion. When one side of dosa is browned, gently slide your spatula around the edges of the Dosa to loosen it. Flip it and cook the other side. Spoon the Masala filling into the middle, add a spoonful of the coconut chutney and a dollop of yogurt optionally. Fold the Dosa and serve hot.

The leftover Dosa batter can be refrigerated and used within 4-5 days.

skillet sp masala

My first attempt fell apart. I learned not to swirl the pan. On the second attempt, when it started to break apart I filled the cracks with drops of batter. It worked. Another lesson. Be brave. It’s as wonderful in pieces as it is whole. Aren’t we all?

Once you try it, you’ll know why so many Bhakti lovers line up for buttery Kichari and crispy Dosas.

how-to-make-a-dosa

When Dosa Dosa founder Matamandir asked me about my blog and I told him that it’s Ayurvedically inspired with the emphasis on inspired because more than anything I hope to share the nourishing bounty of mother’s love through food, you know how he responded?

“Yes. Never be pedantic. It’s not about following rules. Just cook with love. Then your food will be nourishing and healing. Above all, cook with love. You will taste the difference.”

Above all, cook with love… 

Dosa Dosa is opening 5 food trucks in San Francisco, giving us all another excuse for a road trip. You can find them and their locations here: WebsiteFacebookTwitter.

wah at dosa dosa food truck

I thank Morgan Willis and Miles Demars-Rote of Wellness Gangsters for filming! With immense gratitude to all – Wah, Matamandir, Miles, Anna, Morgan, Bhava, and everyone at Bhakti Fest! 
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I leave you with a taste of Bhakti ~

Do you love Dosas? Do you have tips for us make them better? Please share so we can all learn and grow and continue to be delighted and healed by earth’s love and heaven’s manna.

Above all, do it with love.

Namaste! 

What’s Your Dosha?

Wind, Fire, Water are the Three Dynamic Elements Governing Existence

Are you air, fire or water? Is your best season Autumn, Winter, Spring or Summer? Are you more dynamic, focused, or nurturing?

Ayurveda sees our bodies as microcosms of the macrocosm – the universe within each being. This means you, me, everyone. We are all, all living beings, comprised of the five elements of the universe ~ space, air, fire, water and earth, animated by Mahat, a deep inner intelligence often called the Soul.

These elements, in their biological form, combine to create Doshas, which you can think of as an energy or force. There are three Doshas: Vata is made up of a combination of air and space ~ think of it as wind; Pitta is a combination of fire and water ~ think heat; and Kapha is water with earth, so it is the most stable.

Because we have all of the five elements of the universe in our being, we have each of the Doshas as well. But each of us is born with a unique, individual balance of these Doshas. That innate natural balance is called Prakriti, which is the unique combination of nature’s energies that determines your body type and personality.

Air can be gentle and refreshing, or strong and violent ~

Given that Prakriti is your inherent, unique, individual mind-body profile and Dosha is your energy imbalance, you can have a Vata, Pitta or Kapha Prakriti, but an entirely different Dosha at any given time. In other words, you can be Kapha, with a Vata imbalance. Or Pitta with a Kapha imbalance. It sounds confusing at first, but once you understand, a simple and elegant logic is revealed.

Since our health and well-being relies on balanced energies ~ stabilizing, strengthening and harmonizing our vital forces ~ in Ayurveda we look to the state of your Prakriti, your stable, balanced nature, and the play of Doshas, the fluctuating, dynamic energies, to determine wellness.

So how do you learn what Prakriti/Dosha you are?

Prakriti and Dosha Questionnaires and Quizzes abound, but the quickest way to determine yours is to consider your skin, sleep and digestion. Ask yourself the following ~

Fire is the principle of conversion without which there would be no life, no world, no existence

Skin
Is your skin usually dry?
Is it prone to redness, break-outs, itchiness or rashes?
Is it milky, thick, moist, with large pores?

Sleep
Are you challenged in falling asleep at night, restless, worried, even occasionally  insomniac?
Do you sleep easily, get up easily but often wake in the middle of the night?
Do you “sleep like a log” and enjoy staying in bed in the mornings?

Digestive Fire
Is your your metabolism quick but digestion is sensitive with occasional constipation or gas?
Is your appetite regular and strong, making you fierce if you don’t eat?
Is your appetite sluggish, especially in the morning, with metabolism slow?

The first question in each set above represents Vata. If you answered “Yes” to two or three of the first questions, then it is likely that Vata is your nature. The second question in each set represents Pitta and the third, Kapha. If you are still not sure, or want more detail, you can take my Dosha Test here.

Water gives us cohesion, stability, nourishment and refreshment

Like Doshas, the seasons move energetically, too, which is why it is so important to eat seasonally ~ to balance the doshic impact of your environment. Spring is Kapha, when Water dominates and combines with earth to make mud, or heavy, cloudy, foggy days. Summer is Pitta when heat, or the Fire element is strongest. Late Autumn into Winter is Vata, when the colder winds clear the trees of their leaves, creating more space for new life later to come.

Nature is always changing. At the same time, nature is always compensating for that change by offering foods that balance the energetic shifts, the Doshas, as they move seasonally.

Therefore in the Spring, we eat light and focus on detoxification. In the Summer we eat juicy, refreshing, cooling foods and in the Autumn we ground and strengthen with Autumn’s harvest of root vegetables, grains, warm soups, stews and herbal teas.

The Play of Elements

Throughout this Blog you will find Seasonal Recipes to illustrate nature’s bountiful wisdom. But many of you have asked me to write up ideas for a Whole Day of Meals Specific to Each Dosha.

This is daunting, but important, so I am going to break it down season by season, and post for the relevant season, hoping that you will enjoy getting the information you need when it’s most timely.

Since it is still gloriously Summer, I’ll start here, with A Day of Meals for Summer Season.

Beets, Carrots, Zucchini & Sprouts: Grated, Dressed and Ready to be Wrapped for Lunch

Breakfast ~ Green Smoothie, or Whole Grain Toast with Chyvanprash, or fresh fruit.

Morning Snack ~ Snacks are not essential but summer’s energy burns quick, often burning up the morning meal well before lunchtime. To keep that Pitta calm, stoke the fires with a piece of fruit or a frothy, blended juice of green veggies. You will feel that roaring heat mellow to a sweet purr in no time.

Lunch ~ Summer is the season and lunch is the time to go raw. I love a Veggie Wrap with grated carrots, zucchini, sliced cucumber, avocado, sprouts, lemon juice and a dash of of olive oil for dressing, seasoned with a sprinkling of fresh dill, mint or cilantro, and served with a side of Heidi Swanson’s Summer Corn Salad.

Afternoon Snack ~ Again, snacks aren’t essential or even ideal for most of us. We should arrive at a moment where we feel hungry between meals. But snacks can be very helpful when Pitta fires rage. Be prepared with Fresh Pea Hummus & Flaxseed Crackers, or Guacamole with a fresh Tortilla roll, a Coconut Banana Smoothie, a handful of fresh-picked vegetables plain or juiced, a handful of sprouts, Almonds or Sunflower Seeds, or even a slice of this delicious Live Coconut Pie, or this outrageous, Raw Chocolate Pudding that I wrote about last week.

Dinner ~ Grilled Vegetables with Quinoa; Cilantro Pesto Pasta with Broccolini and a Seasonal Salad; a warm, not hot, bowl of Beans & Greens; a room temperature soup of your favorite vegetables; or a simple meal of slow-cooked Kichari.

This is also a great time of year for a short Juice Fast. Try juicing for 3-5 days to deeply cleanse and throughly feed your body’s tissues. It helps reset your tastes to the singularly pure and healthy, so it is a nourishing way to turn bad habits to good.

Summer is really the easiest time of year for meals because most of your food is just hanging off the tree or vine seducing you with its vibrant color, ripe aroma, juicy flavor. Sweet and delicious, nature wants to nourish you, please you, excite you, love you, care for you.

What is your favorite Summer Meal?

Heaven’s Banquet by Miriam Kasin Hospodar

I’ve mentioned it before, but my favorite Ayurvedic cookbook is Eat Taste Heal.  Another one I love for its variety is Heaven’s Banquet by Miriam Kasin Hospoda, above.

Lisa Coffey is an American Ayurvedi who has been immensely creative in her expression of the Ayurvedic science. I borrowed the title of this article from one of her books, What’s Your Dosha, Baby?  She also has a lively website where you can play with quizzes on your Dosha and Doshic relationship compatibility.

It is all about Balance!

 May your food, breath and thoughts bring balance so your true light can shine.

Namaste!

~

Spring: Season of Fiery Spice & Wild Greens

Spring is a time for healing and growth, bringing life to its fullest blossom while sloughing off accumulations that weigh and slow us down. This, therefore, is the prime season for detoxification, when we want to do what nature is doing: melt the freeze of winter and prepare for the liberation of Summer.

The key to healthy detoxification is Agni! Agni is the Sanskrit word for fire. It is generally used to describe our digestive fire, which resides in our solar plexus. Agni’s job is to help us digest and assimilate the nutrients in our food, and to support the cleansing organs, including the skin, liver, and kidneys, to move the waste out of our body.  Agni is like a little potbelly stove at the center of our “house” (or body). Our digestion, as well as our immunity, vitality, and clarity of mind, depend on it.

You can strengthen your Agni in four simple ways: aerobic exercise, a targeted Hatha Yoga practice, healthy whole foods, and detoxifying herbs.

To stoke your digestive fire, sip ginger tea with your meals and add zesty warming spices that help to break down foods and eliminate waste. In the Spring, Ayurvedic spices such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, clove, basil, oregano, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, asafetida (hing), fenugreek and chilies offer flavor, aroma, healing wisdom and most of all, fire to your foods.

Hot peppers “melt” Winter’s “freeze.”

What to Eat

Edible wild greens of Late Winter and early Spring are especially detoxifying. Bitter and pungent tasting, they include dandelion greens, purslane, ramps, sorrel, lamb’s quarters, chickweed, chicory, garlic mustard, shepherd’s purse, escarole, fiddleheads, wild prickly lettuce, mache, nettles, frisee, sour grass, and onion grass. Sample some of these Spring greens, freshly picked and still moist, and you might be surprised by its peppery, pungent blast.

Green Vegetables: Loaded with fiber, leafy greens like mustard greens, spinach and kale act like industrial scrub brushes to aide your body in its housecleaning and repair.

Dark leafy greens: Full of chlorophyll, a detox agent, chlorophyll will help release toxins from your body, while stimulating cellular intelligence and improving your energy.

Beans: Packed with protein, a side of legumes, like dhal or hummus, add savory satisfaction as a substitute for the heavier, harder to digest, and often pesticide-laden meat, fish and eggs.

Good quality fats (including avocados, extra virgin olive oil, ghee and coconut): Enjoyed in moderation high quality fats are stored in the body as energy, not fat, and help you lose weight in the long run. Remember, it is not fat, but sugar that makes us fat.

Zesty warming spices: Strengthen digestive fire with the help of pungent spices that help to break down foods, and eliminate waste. In the Spring, Ayurvedic spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, black pepper, cayenne, ginger, asafetida (hing), cloves and fenugreek offer flavor, aroma, digestive muscle and purification.

Farmer’s Market Sprouted Beans & Sunflower Greens
What’s in Season

Artichokes, asparagus, avocadoes, beets, broccoli, grapefruit, kumquats, meyer lemons, blood oranges, tangelos, mandarins, grapefruit, carrots, chard, dates, fava beans, fennel, green garlic, kale, leeks, lettuces, mustard greens, new potatoes, nettles, English peas, Snap peas, pea shoots, pea tendrils, radicchio, radishes, rapini, spring onions, shallot shoots, sorrel, bean sprouts, strawberries, watercress.

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For delicious Spring detoxification, try this Cilantro Pesto.
For a more detailed Spring Clean Regime, how about joining our Spring Clean 21 Day Challenge?

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Namaste!

Ayurveda on Fasting

There is something delicious about hunger. It presents a raw desire we rarely allow ourselves to feel. Like Silence, it offers a deeper insight into ourselves, and takes us to the source of our true nourishment.

In this New Year, I have begun a practice of fasting on Thursdays. Thursday is named for Jupiter, the planet that relates to the Guru. I offer my hunger to my teacher and to spirtual teachers everywhere, to wisdom wherever it is revealed, to the light of consciousness within and all around. When I feel hungry I try to remember that food is love, that what quenches my hunger is love, that love is inexhaustible ~  and I vow to feed all such hunger with love.

Fasting is a beautiful ritual in the New Year. It clarifies, purifies, and helps us move into the New Year with an internal spaciousness, a greater expanse for life yet to come.

Physically, fasting strengthens the digestive fire while burning away toxins that clog the channels, weight the body and muddy the mind. Fasting increases energy, luster, mental acuity, immune response and overall well-being while reducing weight, fatigue, irritability and mood swings. It makes the body feel lighter, refreshed, more supple, and provides the satisfaction that comes from personal achievement.

For all these reasons, Ayurveda encourages fasting, but favors consistent, short fasts such as skipping dinner once a week or fasting for a few days each month over long-term fasting that can deplete vital tissue and increase, not decrease, imbalances that lead to disease.

According to your constitution, Ayurveda recommends the following types of fasting:

  • Eating a mono-diet of Kichari only
  • Consuming a liquid diet of raw or lightly cooked vegetables only
  • Abstaining from all solid foods while drinking only water or herbal teas

If you know your doshic constitution, consider the following ~

Vata does best with the Kichari fast for one to two days;

Pitta benefits most from the second option, blending together a variety of dark, leafy vegetables with fiber like psyllum husks, oat bran or ground flaxseed, and a dash or two of turmeric, fasting for up to three days;

Kapha people get a boost from the traditional fasts of abstention, drinking only warm water and herbal teas, and can usually fast for longer periods of up to five days.

For an easy introduction to fasting, you can join me and choose one day of the week to consistently follow either of the options listed above. Thursday is a good day, as are Mondays. They are both “Kapha days,” when nature’s support makes it less challenging.

Whatever type of fast you choose, be sure to squeeze fresh lemon into warm or hot water and drink it often. Sipping ginger tea throughout the day will also help you burn, baby burn.

A small, thin woman once told me that she tried the Master Cleanse (the one with lemon, maple syrup and cayenne) but felt like a failure because she didn’t last the prescribed ten days. She did fast for seven days, but cold sores began developing throughout her mouth after the fourth day, and finally it became too painful for her to continue. Apparently, friends suggested that the fire in her mouth was a sign of detoxification and that she should have pushed through it, which only helped solidify her feelings of failure.

In fact, the cold sores were a sign of excess Pitta, or too much inner fire, which developed as a result of consuming only the sour (lemon) and pungent (cayenne) tastes – both “fire” tastes that are highly Pitta-increasing. Maple syrup added the sweet taste but not enough substance to balance so much fire. Because this young woman was slight, she did not have much tissue to contain that fire, nor much toxic waste to burn. Once the fire did purify her system, it had nothing left to consume but her healthy tissue.

I like the Master Cleanse and have done it many times, but this example is a reminder that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to diets or fasting. So if you feel discomfort when fasting ~ more than the occasional lightheadedness or gentle headaches ~ trust your body’s wisdom: please discontinue and seek professional advice.

Just as Silence deepens us into Mystery, fasting helps us remember our true hunger – that deep, longing for union: to be one again with the divine, with the eternal, with Oneness itself.

It reminds me of this wonderful piece by Thomas Merton ~

Dawn

There is in all things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light,
a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.
This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all.

There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity;
a silence that is a fount of action and joy.

It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me
from the unseen roots of all created being,
welcoming me tenderly,
saluting me with indescribable humility.
This is at once my own being, my own nature,
and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me,
speaking as Hagia Sophia,
speaking as my sister, Wisdom.

I am awakened, I am born again at the voice of this my Sister,
sent to me from the depths of the divine fecundity.

May you know the divine fecundity of Love ~

Namaste!

If you are interested in learning more on Ayurveda and diet ~ in clear, simple language, the fantastic book Eat, Taste, Heal outlines Ayurvedic cooking, and fasting, for the Western palate.