Tag Archives: vata

Ginger Masala Chai Worthy of a New York Winter

chai-tea-e-liquidI recently moved to New York City from California and am (ahem) “enjoying” my first real winter here. Let the wuss jokes begin!

It’s alright. I’m laughing at myself, too. Born and raised in California, used to being fairly tan, gets cold easily, loves sunshine so much she’s basically part lizard… Yep, that’s me. Now instead of donning a windbreaker for misty San Francisco mornings or wearing a hat for fun in the 60 degree Los Angeles winter sun, I’m learning the art of boots, down coats, ear muffs, long johns and mittens. Endless mittens. See you next April, world, because I am officially 75% clothing right now, and I can barely see over my scarf.

It’s going to be a long winter.

In all honesty, though, I love autumn and winter. I love the snow; I love the holidays; I love the feeling of warming up after being cold. It probably has something to do with a nesting instinct. One of the most beloved memories I have from childhood is making nests with my big sister on rainy days and sick days. When it was miserable, grey and raining outside, or when we were stuck in the house with colds and fevers, my sister would orchestrate a grand “nesting.” We’d pile tons of blankets and pillows on the ground, arranged in little cup-shaped seats like an egg carton. And then we’d hop inside the nest with a box of Nilla wafers and tea and watch a Disney movie to pass the time. Pure joy.

I still make nests of sorts, as does she, both literally and figuratively. Sans actual blankets and pillows, I just love making people feel warm, comfortable, and cared for. In any kind of weather, there’s little I love more than bringing people together around a table for delicious food and loving company. But this is a particularly important practice during the cold and dark months when our souls really need that extra swaddling. And many traditional winter recipes do the trick of warming us inside out.

Case in point, spice-infused recipes. This season you’re undoubtedly enjoying foods flavored with all kinds of spices, whether you know it or not. Butternut squash soup, gingerbread cookies, curries and stews, applesauce, etc. Winter recipes tend to incorporate many different spices, for several reasons. In Ayurveda, the winter season is associated with exacerbated Vata qualities, which are best assuaged through warming foods. This can be literally hot foods (like soup, hot cereal and warm drinks) and/or through warm-ing foods, made invigorating through the use of spice.

Even outside of Ayurveda, there’s a very practical reason to eat more spice during the winter. It’s cold, there’s a bug going around, you’re sniffly and sick…Voilà, spices curb cold and flu symptoms! Ginger, for instance, is an anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It can help boost your immune system, loosen mucus, open your sinuses, and relieve sore throats. That’s a lot for one little root!

Keeping the health benefits in mind, as well as the essential need for warming and nesting that we all experience during this season, I offer you chai.

“Masala chai” is the Hindi term for a drink made with black tea, milk, and lots of spice. It is a drink that has been consumed in South Asia for centuries and is traditionally much less sweet and much more spicy than what you’d get at your local coffee shop. I can’t necessarily vouch for the total authenticity of my recipe, as I’ve never been to India, but I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Ginger Masala Chai

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups of milk (I like organic whole milk, but soy, almond, or oat work as well)

2 cups of water

3 tablespoons of loose leaf, unflavored black tea (the stronger the better; I like Darjeeling)

1/4 teaspoon Wakaya Perfection ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of saffron

2 whole, crushed up cardamom cloves

3 teaspoons of Turbinado sugar (or Agave, honey, etc)

Instructions:

Get two saucepans going on the stove on medium heat. Pour the milk in one and the water in the other. You’ll need to work in both pots simultaneously. As the milk begins to warm, add the pinch of saffron, pressing it between your fingertips gently before dropping it in the saucepan.

Once the water in the other pot begins to boil, add the loose tea leaves and reduce to a low simmer. Let steep 3-5 minutes. While you’re waiting, add the sugar to the milk and stir until it dissolves. Once the tea is ready, place a strainer over the milk and strain the tea water into the milk saucepan. Now you’re working in just one pot.

Start building the spice. Add the ginger, cinnamon and any other spices you want to the pot, saving the cardamon to the side for the end. You can try the chai to see if it has the right spice/sugar ratio, and adjust until it’s just right. Bring the pot to a boil, and as it begins to bubble up, throw the cardamon in and turn the heat off right away. The chai will stew for a second, cooling down slightly, and the cardamon will infuse the drink just enough without overpowering it.

Serve in two mugs and enjoy! Stay warm, everyone!

5 Ways to Look and Feel Better Than You Did in High School!

Spa Treatment at Le Telfair Golf & Spa Resort - MauritiusIt’s been said that youth is wasted on the young. When we’re in our teens we can get away with bad habits because we have that natural, youthful energy anyway. As we get older, we find that energy is a commodity that we prize and need to be more diligent in our self-care so that we have plenty of it!

Luckily for us, Ayurveda, India’s 5,000 year old “Science of Life,” has some easy guidelines we can follow to look and feel healthier, sexier, and more energetic than we did in high school!

Here are 5 tips from Ayurveda on how to look and feel better:

1. Know your body type.

THEN: In high school you probably coveted the body types of the women in Charlie’s Angels, or wanted to look like Cheryl Tiegs. Now we know better! YOU are the best you, don’t try to be someone else.

NOW: Know your body type – Are you Vata, Pitta, or Kapha. This way you know what “normal” is for you. That way you don’t have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Every dosha is beautiful! Be your best self.

2. Eat for energy.

THEN: In high school you probably lived on pizza and leftovers, and ran through the drive-through after school.

NOW: Eat energizing foods. Fresh vegetables should constitute 40% of the meal. Green, leafy vegetables are especially high in minerals and fiber, so should be eaten often. Raisins are among the best of fruits because they enhance purity, pacify the mind and heart and increase the coordination between them. They are also a rich source of iron and vitamin B6, and provide magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium. Raisins aid digestion and elimination when they are soaked in water overnight. One handful per person is a good amount.

A date-milk energy shake is a nourishing way to end the day because it promotes sleep and calms both Pitta and Vata sleep imbalances.

Date-Milk Energy Shake

  • 4-5 whole dates
  • 1 cup whole organic milk (may substitute soy or rice or almond milk)
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Boil the milk until it creates a foam. Turn off the heat and cool until the temperature is comfortable for drinking. Combine the milk with the other ingredients and blend until the dates are ground up. Drink it warm in winter and at room temperature in summer.

By the way, the warm frothy milk can also be used as a face mask – wonderfully hydrating and leaves the skin super soft!

Herbs and spices are your friends! Cumin helps digestion, freshly crushed black pepper helps you assimilate food better, cilantro cools and nutmeg soothes. There are spice blends, or CHURNAS, specifically to pacify each dosha – you can buy them ready made or make them at home.

Also, avoid energy-draining foods. Any fast foods, canned, frozen, packaged, leftover, or old foods, or foods with preservatives, chemicals and additives, are difficult to digest and contain little nutritional content. They actually drain the body of energy. If you do have some of these foods and feel heavy afterwards, drink half a glass of warm water with ¼ of a lime squeezed into it.

3. Keep skincare simple.

THEN: In high school, you probably spent a ton of money on grooming products, soaps, perfumes, lotions, hairspray.

NOW: Keep it simple. Nourish the body with natural oils. Abhyanga is a daily self massage which is good for keeping all the doshas in balance. It helps moisturize the skin, helps to release toxins, helps to tone the muscles, and it soothes the nerves. Sesame oil is usually recommended in general and is very good for Vatas specifically. Almond oil is also good for Vata. Coconut and sunflower both work well for Pitta. Corn and olive oils are beneficial for balancing Kapha.

The massage can be done in the morning before your shower, or in the evening before bed. Start by warming the oil to skin temperature, and drizzle a small amount of oil into the palms of your hands. Massage the top of your scalp (on days when you wash your hair), pay particular attention to the circumference of your ears, and the soles of your feet. Massage with long strokes on your limbs, and round strokes on your joints. It’s best to leave the oil on the body for 20 minutes before washing it off in a warm shower or bath. This 20 minutes is a good time to do your morning meditation!

4. Maintain a regular routine.

THEN: In high school, you probably kept late nights studying and partying with friends, up early for school, activities – on the go all the time.

NOW: Regular routine can help prevent stress. Ayurveda says there are 3 types of fatigue. Mental fatigue is a Vata imbalance, emotional fatigue is a Pitta imbalance, and physical fatigue is a Kapha imbalance. For all three:

  • Meditation – Twice daily
  • Good sleep habits.
  • Regular meal times.
  • Regular exercise, morning walk in the sun, yoga.
  • Dosha balancing routines – and teas.

5. Support fertility naturally.

THEN: In high school, energy probably came easily. You were always ready for a date!

NOW: Some grains, such as quinoa, enhance estrogenic activity and support the hormonal activity of both men and women. Cook it with a little ghee, salt, and spices such as cumin. Fruits such as papaya and pineapple are also helpful in strengthening the ovum. Turmeric helps enhance the binding of estrogen and progesterone.

Take the Dosha Quiz to determine your Dosha and learn more about Ayurveda with my free 6 week e-course here.

 

Originally published April 2012

Ayurveda and Weight Management

In Ayurveda, India’s 5,000 year old Science of Life, there’s no “one size fits all” answer to managing our weight. The solutions are as unique and individual as we are. You start by knowing your “dosha” or Ayurvedic mind/body type.

KAPHA

The most common type of weight gain is caused by having a slow metabolism. This is common for a person who is a classic Kapha type. Kapha dosha is comprised of the earth and water elements, so this type of individual will reflect those qualities. A Kapha person will be structurally bigger, with bigger bones and a more easy-going, stable, gentle personality.

For a Kapha person, being skinny is usually not a healthy goal. If you are prone to gain weight, and are always five to ten pounds overweight no matter how little you eat, it would go against your nature to ever be really thin. Rather, it would be better to balance your metabolism, increase your ability to digest sugars and carbohydrates by adopting a Kapha balancing diet and lifestyle, and allow your body to naturally find its ideal weight. You may not be skinny, you may always weigh five to ten pounds more than average, but you will feel better and look healthier, and you will lose most of your excess weight.

Diet

The main principle for balancing Kapha is to introduce some of the fire element into your food and lifestyle. This will balance the earthen and watery elements of Kapha dosha.
Flavor your vegetables and dhal soups with spices that are mildly pungent, such as black pepper, fresh ginger, and turmeric

Other tastes to balance Kapha dosha are the bitter and astringent tastes. These include green leafy vegetables, split mung dhal soup and other bean soups, and astringent vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. It’s important to cook your vegetables and eat them warm, rather than relying on raw vegetables. Raw vegetables are difficult to digest, whereas to balance Kapha dosha you want to eat warm, light, cooked foods.

Quinoa is an excellent grain for managing weight, as it has high protein and zinc content (4 mg of zinc per cup). But it should be cooked with a bit of ghee or olive oil, as otherwise it may be too drying.

Basmati rice is also a good grain for Kapha dosha, because it has a more drying quality than other types of rice, but quinoa is better because it has the intelligence of fire to support weight loss.

The fire element can even be added to the water you drink. If you boil your water for five minutes on the stove, you are adding the intelligence of fire to your drinking water. If you sip the water throughout the day, the intelligence of fire will permeate the molecules of water, and thus permeate your body. You won’t notice anything right away, but if you continue with this routine, in time you will feel less fatigue. This is because Kapha dosha tends to create a feeling of lethargy, and by introducing the fire element in the water, you’ll gradually feel more energetic.

If you are Kapha by nature, you’ll want to stay away from heavy, cold desserts such as ice cream and cheesecake, as these will only slow your metabolism and increase the cold, heavy qualities of Kapha in your body. Rich desserts, fried foods, foods made with refined sugar and refined flour, cold foods and drinks — all of these should be avoided if you want to balance Kapha and your weight.

Lifestyle

Regular exercise is the most important change you can make to improve your metabolism. The problem is that people with excessive Kapha dosha often feel somewhat complacent or even lethargic, and they might have to push themselves a little to exercise every day. Usually Kapha types need more vigorous exercise for a longer period to have the same effect as milder exercise would have on a Vata person.

Even making a habit of breathing more deeply can help charge the metabolism with more of the fire element. When Kapha dosha is out of balance, one of the first things that happens is that the person becomes a shallow breather. Deeper breathing is healthy for all body types, but especially for Kapha dosha, because deeper breathing helps wake up the body’s metabolism. When the metabolism is lower and breathing is shallow, the body’s channels get blocked and cause even more lethargy, which becomes a vicious cycle.

The digestive fire is weaker in the morning when you wake up and in the evening before bed, so breakfast and dinner should be lighter meals. An excellent breakfast for balancing metabolism for all three body-types is a cooked apple or pear with cooked prunes and figs. This breakfast choice is light and sustains most people until noon, when they can eat their heaviest meal. A healthy supper for a Kapha person might be soup made with vegetables, grains and dhal and flavored with spices such as cumin, fresh ginger, black pepper, and turmeric. Or kitcheri, a light meal made with rice and split mung dhal, is also a light Kapha-reducing meal Kapha Churna is an excellent spice mixture for balancing Kapha dosha.

VATA

If you are Vata-predominant, you are normally thin and wiry. But that does not mean weight gain will never be a problem for you. Sometimes Vata types are thin all their lives and then suddenly put on weight because their metabolism has changed. Vata-predominant people are susceptible to mental stress because they tend to overuse or misuse their minds. When under stress they also tend to forget to eat regularly, thus disturbing their digestion, creating ama and clogging the channels. This is often the precursor to weight gain.

Diet

When Vata dosha is the underlying cause of a weight problem, it’s important to eat a balanced diet that is easy to digest but also nurturing. Take the middle path, and eat a tridoshic diet, which means one that balances all three doshas. Avoid foods that are too hot and spicy (such as food spiced with chillies, cayenne, and black mustard seed), and at the same time avoid foods that are ice cold, such as ice cream, iced drinks, and cold, heavy desserts. Stay away from foods that are too heavy (such as aged cheeses, meats, and heavy desserts) and also avoid foods that are too light and dry, such as crackers, cold cereals, and packaged snacks. In general, avoid leftovers; frozen, canned or packaged foods, and processed foods of all kinds.

Lifestyle

People with a predominance of Vata dosha need a regular routine, to balance the uneven, variable nature of Vata dosha. It’s important that they go to bed early, well before ten o’clock and rise early, before 6 a.m. A regular routine with adequate sleep is one of the best antidotes to Vata imbalance. Regular meals are essential, with three warm, cooked meals a day. It’s important to eat them at the same time every day, as Vata digestion tends to be irregular. By eating at the same time, your digestive enzymes will prepare to digest the food and digestion will be stronger. Avoid work that is stressful to the mind, and practice relaxing exercise such as yoga and pranayama. A daily oil massage, abhyanga, is especially important for Vata. The skin is one of the primary seats of Vata dosha in the body, so massaging your body every morning with warm, Vata-pacifying oil can go a long way toward soothing your entire nervous system and emotions. The more relaxed you are, and the more regular your routine, the better you will withstand day-to-day stress and the less likely you are to fall prey to weight imbalances.

Many times people with Vata disorders find themselves in a rush, always in a hurry. It’s not healthy for anyone to always be rushing around, to constantly have to hurry, and it’s especially harmful to people with Vata imbalances. If you find yourself in that situation, it’s important to cultivate a habit of taking it easy and slowing down. Learn to structure a more relaxed, royal daily routine. This is important for mental, emotional and physical health.

PITTA

You would think that since Pitta dosha is associated with the fire element, a person with high Pitta would not have any problem burning up carbohydrates and sugars. Yet if the person doesn’t take care of the digestion, that can create problems. For instance, if someone who is predominantly Pitta by nature skips breakfast or other meals, that can create ama, digestive impurities, because the digestive fire becomes too strong. In this situation, stomach acids can “burn” the food and even damage the stomach.

To understand how this happens, think of setting an empty pot on the stove. The heat is on, but there’s nothing to cook. Instead, the pot itself gets burned. In the same way, if you have a strong digestive fire but you don’t feed it regularly, then the digestive enzymes go out of balance, burn the food and create ama the next time you eat.

Many people with high Pitta dosha are overweight, precisely because they are not eating regularly and as a result ama has coated their digestive system. When ama blocks the channels of digestion and the channels that circulate nutrients throughout the body, then metabolism slows down and weight gain results.

Diet

First of all, the person with high Pitta should get into the habit of eating three meals a day, starting with breakfast. This is very important, as otherwise the stomach will continue to be burned by digestive acids. Eating a cooked apple or pears with cooked prunes or figs for breakfast is a good idea, because it will soothe the digestive fire but not overload it. Raw pears or other sweet, juicy fruits are also good for people with high Pitta.

A vegetable that is good for weight management is daikon radish. This white radish can be grated and added to dhal soups for a mildly spicy flavor. Include sweet vegetables for lunch and dinner, such as squashes that are white inside (zucchini, loki or yellow squash). Steam them well and then sauté them in ghee with mild, cooling spices such as powdered fennel, small amounts of cumin and small amounts of turmeric. Flavor foods with Pitta Churna, a delicious spice blend specifically created for balancing Pitta.

Avoid eating pungent spices such as chilies, cayenne, and black mustard seed. These will only increase the acidity. A person in this situation may be drawn to heavy, cold, sweet foods to cool the acidity. But heavy, cold foods will only make the problem worse by creating more ama and blocking the channels of digestion and metabolism. It’s better to cool the digestive fire by cooking with cooling spices, eating light desserts with your meal such as fruit crisps, and by drinking light dairy drinks such as sweet lassi.

Lifestyle

People who are predominantly Pitta should go to sleep before the Pitta time of the evening (10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.). Even if you feel like you have a lot of energy then, or feel more creative, it’s not a good idea to stay awake during the Pitta time of night, because this only aggravates Pitta dosha further. And if you stay awake during the Pitta time of night, you will invariably get hungry and thirsty and may eat packaged cookies or salty snacks, or drink soft drinks or alcohol. All of these things will only disturb Pitta dosha further and contribute to weight gain.

Lissa Coffey is world renown as the authority on Ayurveda and relationships. She is the author of “What’s Your Dosha, Baby? Discover the Vedic Way for Compatibility in Life and Love.” For information on Ayurvedic products to balance your dosha, including teas and churnas, visit her website: http://www.doshasmart.com

photo by: Kerala Tourism

AYURVEDA

The word Ayurveda is a combination of two words AYUR (life) + VEDA (science). Ayurveda is a science, which tells how to live healthy life without affecting nature of a healthy human body: physically, mentally and spiritually.

“Health cares for every one,
Cure of diseased from disease.”

Ayurveda is a wide knowledge of dietary habits, healing by herbal remedies, yoga, meditation, Panchkarma (a rejuvenating & de-toxification therapy) etc. Ayurveda also tells us how external and environmental factors can disturb our health and provides precautionary methods to lead healthy life in changing environment. In Ayurveda the whole life cycle is divided into several parts according to the body growth and social activities.

Today’s life and effect of Ayurvedic remedies:

At the time when Ayurveda originated everything was natural when the human body responded to its magical ways and was given immediate relief. However, today when the environment is polluted and we are using chemicals every day our immune system is suffering in a big deal unlike the ancient times. However, even today, if we follow wise nature Ayurvedic medicine will still work in treating several chronic diseases.

Healing in Ayurveda:

Healing process in Ayurveda is based on two procedures:

Shodhan (Purification and detoxifying process)

Shaman (Healing process by balancing dosha with herbal preparation)

According to Ayurveda stomach is the origin of every kind of illness. Whenever stomach is affected by dietary habits and lifestyle it will first create gastrointestinal problems and convert into a chronic illness later on. That is why shodhan is the most important part in healing before starting any medical preparation. However, remember that shodhan is not to be used for every illness. Shodhan is the procedure of purification and detoxification, which helps to get rid of the routine abdominal problems as well to maintain diet. Panchkarma is the best therapy and a useful part of shodhan. Shaman follows shodhan…

Shodan is the process of healing by medicinal remedies done only the supervision of a qualified doctor (with complete knowledge of all “doshas”: vata, pita, kapha as well as desh (country), kaal (time/duration), prakariti (nature of a human body).

According to Ayurveda three main “doshas’ are responsible for creating illness after imbalanced dietary habits. They are:
 

  • Vat
  •  
  • Pita
  •  
  • Kapha

In these three “doshas” Vat is the major because it carries the remaining “doshas” and circulates in the whole body. Balancing these three “doshas” is the sign of a good health. Whenever these are imbalanced they create dysfunctions in a body. Naadi pariksha is the best way to find out the status of “doshas” in a healthy or unhealthy body. Prakariti (nature of a human body is also decided according to “doshas”. Along with these factors “desh” (country) is also important due to the fact that diseases vary from country to country. “Kaal” is also an important factor for the severity of any illness develops according to the three stages:
 

  • Su-sadhaya (Can be easily treated)
  •  
  • Krich-sadhaya (Difficult to treat)
  •  
  • A-sadhaya (Can’t be treated)