Ayurvedic Meal Planning

There are many benefits of making our own meals. We know all the ingredients involved in the process. We know the energy put into the process. We can make it balancing for our constitution and beloved ones. We can create a peaceful environment for eating. We save money, and the list goes on.

But within our fast-paced lives, we may end up just eating something processed or eating out. Ayurveda works by looking at the things we have control over. One very important aspect of this way of living, is that Ayurveda asks us to take responsibility for our choices, including our dietary choices. Through this, there is empowerment and we realize we can make a difference in the quality of our life, and how we feel based on our choices.

When you cook for yourself, you are exercising self-responsibility, and making the right choices for your health, both body and mind. Here are four tips to make cooking your own meals both manageable and fun!

  1. Plan your meals in advance. I personally plan my meals at the beginning of each week, in order to save time and reduce stress. But you can even plan it the night before, in which case you would set out the grains and legumes on the counter each night and soak the ones that require it. This helps you get on track when you start cooking the next day.

  2. Have a scheduled shopping time. It is beneficial to have a stock of staple items in your pantry, and to shop regularly. Grocery day in our household is Saturday early morning, which works for our schedules. If you can go daily, then that’s great! For many of us though, we might find the time  to go once or twice a week. Plan around your “grocery day”, so that you always have the ingredients that you need.

  3. Have your largest meal midday. This is ideal. A lot of our health issues today come from having large meals at other times of day, or multiple times a day. Here is how you could make a habit out of this ayurvedic guideline. Depending on your schedule, you may be able to prepare the meal in advance and then eat it at midday. I find that there are days when I have to make lunch right after I have breakfast or even before. I prepare the grains, the legumes, and the vegetables that take longer to cook. Then I leave the greens washed and chopped, and cook them once I arrive home. Also, if you don’t have time to prepare another meal in the early evening, you might have some leftovers that you could use from lunch. In fact, that’s what I do most days. I make a little more for the midday meal and use that for the evening meal and add to it as necessary. What changes from lunch to dinner is the veggies and greens. I usually take what is left from our lunch, combine it together and make a soup out of it. It’s ideal to prepare the meal and then eat it, but if you know this is not possible for you and the alternative is that you might eat out or eat something that’s processed, then this is a good choice. Cook enough food for both lunch and dinner and then supplement dinner as necessary with a different side dish. If you eat your cooked food within 12 hours from when it is ready, you are still getting most of the prana from it.

  4. Keep it simple. Eating simply is very important. It seems that food has become trendy, and people are more focused on using ingredients to make food look and taste exotic. Our digestive tract actually isn’t that fond of exotic ingredients. It really likes simple foods, and especially not too much variety at once, such as having five vegetables for one meal. For simple and delicious recipe suggestions,  I recommend one of my teachers’ books: Simple Ayurvedic Recipes by Myra Lewin.


Simple yet delicious!

Simple yet delicious!

What is Integral Yoga?

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Historically, the heritage of Yoga was passed from teacher to student orally. Inevitably, in this process, much was left out, changed, or added! Naturally, as time progressed, many branches emerged representing distinct traditions. So when we talk about Yoga, we are talking about a multitude of yogic paths and orientations. Despite the diversity, they all agreed in the need for going beyond the ordinary personality and setting self-transcendence as the ultimate goal. The differences among the classical branches relate more to the way in which self-realization is accomplished and how the transcendental reality is defined.

Out of this context, six major paths of Yoga have gained prominence. They are: Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Japa Yoga. Sri Swami Satchidananda, one of the great Yoga Masters of our time, is the founder of Integral Yoga, a system which integrates all six major branches of Yoga. His life is an example of the Yoga teachings which he learned from His guru, Sri Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh.

Sri Swami Satchidananda describes Integral Yoga as a “flexible combination of specific methods designed to develop every aspect of the individual: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual…”. When we begin to study Integral Yoga, depending on our personalities, backgrounds, and life journeys, we will likely be inclined to explore one branch more than the others.  Or we may discover that two of the paths really speak loudly to our heart. I consider myself a Hatha and Bhakti yogini. No doubt, these are the forms of Yoga that nurture my body, mind, and spirit the most, and keep them closely devoted to the Divine. What about you? Have you investigated which paths would best support your earth-spiritual journey?

Four Practices for Spring Balance

Less than a month before spring officially starts. The earth is awakening once again!  In Ayurveda, spring is the season of the kapha dosha–the earth and water dosha–meaning that qualities of these two elements increase in nature during this time of the year. In late winter, we can already observe the changes. After the long winter’s rest, the snow turns into rain and make the land soggy and muddy… the trees are coming back from hibernation and pollen is increasing. The combination of moisture and dust can make the air quite heavy.

As water increases in the environment, it also increases in our body and mind as well and makes us feel soggier than in other seasons. We may feel heavier and more sluggish, especially if we overindulged on heavy foods during the winter months. The result is that we can feel lethargic when the world around us starts blossoming. Colds, headaches, allergies, and upset stomachs are common complaints this season.

If you’re missing the gifts this season has to offer, these four lifestyle choices can help to overcome spring’s challenges while promoting optimal health, so that we can truly celebrate the earth’s awakening!

1- GET MOVING!

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Use the renewal energy that nature brings with this season and cleanse the body from the winter’s hibernation. It is time to remove the gunk! In the earlier, cooler morning hours before 10 am, engage in brisk physical movement such as jogging, hiking, or cycling. Favor a more vigorous and dynamic hatha practice. Increasing the rounds of sun salutations is a good idea to support the elimination of any accumulated kapha and can help bring lightness to the body.

2 - CLEAR THE AIR PASSAGES!

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Kapha accumulated in the body and mind will bring inflammation and excess mucus. Use a nasal wash or neti pot every day upon awakening. After your neti wash, rub 3 to 5 drops of sesame oil into your nostrils. This will keep your sinuses clean and reduce bacterial growth.

Another excellent practice for keeping the sinus clean is kapalabhati and bhastrika (the skull-shining breath and the bellows breath). These are pranayama, yogic breathing practices, that will oxygenate the blood and bring a sense of lightness to the body. These practices are very cleansing and invigorating. And remember, because of the power and subtlety of these practices, it is recommended to practice pranayama under the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher.

3- EAT FOOD FOR BALANCE!

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Ayurveda’s main principle of healing is ‘like increases like, and the opposite brings balance’. Kapha qualities are slow, moist, and heavy—so seek the opposite qualities of kapha to find balance. Now it is time to shift our diet! Notice that the land is already giving us different foods. Eat them! I have already notice asparagus and leafy greens increasing in the grocery stores. Reduce the intake of heavy and oily foods and place emphasis on the astringent, bitter and pungent tastes.

4 - USE COLORS THAT UPLIFT

Surrounding yourself with light, bright, and transparent colors—either on your body or in your personal spaces—can help to lift and to balance the heavy, cold, and moist kapha qualities of spring.  Think warm, dry, and stimulating hues like reds, oranges, yellows, and golds.

These are simply general guidelines. It is important that you tend to your current state of balance/imbalance while also making adjustments to stay in tune with the cycles of nature. Getting an individualized assessment can further refine your springtime routine to more specifically support your body type and will help you flourish during all seasons. I offer consultations in person or via phone, Skype or FaceTime.

What Binds Us

As a lover of Yoga and/or Ayurveda, you probably have heard of gunas. The principles of gunas are one of the primary themes of Yoga Science and Ayurvedic Medicine. Through the understanding of these principles, these sciences teach us how to keep our body and mind healthy to fulfill the four goals of life: dharma (duty), artha (wealth), kama (desire), and moksha (liberation).  

The gunas are sometimes described as energies, sometimes as qualities or forces. These qualities are the main powers of Cosmic Intelligence that determine out spiritual growth. They are the subtlest components of creation and underlie our behavior, thinking, health, and diet. Gunas is a Sanskrit word that means “what binds”. Therefore, when we do not understand these forces of Nature we are kept in bondage with the external world.

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The three gunas are called rajas, tamas and sattva. They represent a triangle of simultaneously opposing and complementary forces that govern both the physical universe and our personality and thought patterns in everyday life. All objects in the universe consist of different combinations of the three. The quality of our actions depends on the gunas, giving rise to our achievements or failures, joy or unhappiness, health or illness.

Rajas is the principle of activity, the force of passion that causes conflict. It has the quality of change and turbulence. It is motivated in its action, ever seeking a goal or an end that gives it power, causing us to seek happiness outside ourselves. It creates distortions and we lose track of our inner peace.

Tamas is the principle of materiality and has the quality of dullness, darkness, and inertia. It is heavy, veiling or obstructing, weakening our power of perception. It promotes insensitivity, sleep, and loss of awareness. It brings about ignorance and delusion in the mind, keeping us identified with the physical body and feeling isolated.

Sattva is the balance of rajas and tamas. It is the principle of clarity and peace, that allows us to see the truth. It is responsible for true health and healing. It provides happiness and contentment of a lasting nature. Sattvic living – living in harmony with Nature and our inner Self – creates harmony, balance, and stability. It is important to not be attached to sattva since even this can bind the mind. Rajas and tamas have their place in the cosmic harmony and pure sattva does not condemn them.

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For me, understanding these forces makes my life easier. All is reduced down to three qualities. Knowing them, I will recognize if I am growing in consciousness (sattva), expanding in ego (rajas), or simply stagnating in ignorance (tamas).

In my life-- the way I organize food in the fridge, my attention to a friend talking, the making of the bed, the folding of clothes, awareness to the breath…all of these actions are performed in ways to support sattva.  

What about you? How do the ways that you live your life sustain sattva, rajas or tamas?