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NSAIDS & Ashtanga. Do they belong together?.

I don’t use NSAIDS – I usually take turmeric! It’s a natural anti-inflammatory that you can add to your food or take as a supplement. Ginger also works well, and both turmeric and ginger together are quite powerful!
I’ve also learned (sorta) how to take things a bit easier during my practice since I am a menopausal woman – recovery takes longer…

People who study yoga (or who just take classes for the fitness aspect) generally want to be nice people; they feel better after taking class or practicing, they want others to know the benefits, and they realize how much there is too learn. But there is no pleasing some folks, or maybe they are practicing in a manner that is increasing their attachment to their physical bodies or their “right way” of practicing.

lotus openingWhat began as an innocent exchange on the comments section of a popular Ashtanga Yoga teacher’s YouTube video quickly turned sour as the original commenter began by denouncing the teacher’s documentation of her personal advanced level practice as a “bastardized version of traditional Yoga exercise” and quickly degenerated into base name calling and profanity. As he seemed to get more agitated with each post I decided to reply with a little Sanskrit which seemed to tone him down a little without deflating his ego one bit (and yet he said nothing useful on what he thought true Yoga is).

Using the exchange as a teaching tool in my morning class at a women’s health club I used my Sanskrit reply of “Tat tvam asi” as a launching pad for the concept of “Sat Chit Ananda” – we are that/Truth, Consciousness, Bliss – and the search for that calm center which watches our conscious mind wrestle with such agitations. The physical practice combined meditations on how the physical body moves and holds positions (via a SLOW sun salutation) as well as how it lets go (or not) of unnecessary held tensions which holds us back from effortless effort.

It’s amazing how much one can cram into a one hour class when you’re on a roll but watching myself teach somehow I had the feeling that I was no longer the one teaching the class. While feeling happy that the students were enjoying their practice I couldn’t really take credit for it; somehow the true teacher was this flaming asshole with a New Zealand email address who refused to hold an intelligent conversation about the nature of Yoga and meditation.

So wherever this jerk is I hope he continues to practice a little every day as his practice will subtly change him over time. May he feel safe and protected, may he feel happy, may he be healthy and strong, may he care for himself wisely.

Lokah samastaa sukhinoh bhavantu.

May all beings everywhere be happy.

The mist on the lake
rises to greet the morning.
The world comes alive!

The philosophy of Ayurveda teaches that it is important to your health to rise before dawn; when all is quiet outside, the mind can be quiet inside. Brahma Muhurta roughly translates as “time of Universal Consciousness (Brahma)”. It’s the best time for spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga and qigong. By practicing before you get caught up in your daily activities you can establish yourself in the calm and thus avoid allowing others’ agitation affect you.

Getting up early doesn’t have to be painful but does require getting to sleep early enough to allow for 7 – 9 hours of rest. You may have to Tivo your favorite late night shows or give up your attachment to them so you can keep your mind open to the new experience of getting in touch with your deepest self. Try adapting the following basic daily routine to your own needs for at least one month and then assess if your energy is increased, your mind is calmer, and your body more limber and balanced.

Awaken between 4 – 6 am. Eliminate wastes (ideally, you should have a bowel movement when you get up – within 1/2 hour of waking; if you don’t, you may have too much dryness in the colon or your routine is too chaotic, or your diet needs to be adjusted). If eliminating early is difficult, or if you see a thick whitish coating on your tongue, drink a cup of hot water to facilitate a bowel movement.

Brush your teeth, take your warm shower, and rub some warm sesame oil into your entire body (you may also rub the oil in before your shower, then brush teeth, etc, before showering off the excess – no soap! it’s supposed to be absorbed…); use your neti pot to rinse pollen and dirt out of your nose, and rub a little sesame oil in your nostrils to keep dirt and pollen out!

Do your spiritual practice, as long as you have to devote to it – as little as ten minutes per day can give you huge benefits over time!

Leave enough time to make yourself a warm, nourishing breakfast – some eggs poached over fresh veggies, cooked steel cut oats…. Concentrate on the sensations of your meal rather than watching TV or reading the paper. Avoid eating too fast or chewing too little – sit down and enjoy!

Have your lunch at midday – between 11 – 2 pm, when the sun is highest in the sky, or when you feel hungry. If you don’t have the time to make a healthful meal for yourself choose wisely from what is available commercially. Avoid highly processed “foods”. At the same time, don’t make the mistake of eating too little at lunch or you will eat too much at dinner or snack on whatever you can get your hands on in the afternoon. If you have time, you can take a short walk after eating so you assimilate your food better. Make a note if you start to feel sleepy after eating – you may have difficulty digesting some foods and the brain pulls energy from your waking mind when the body needs more energy to digest.

When you are ready for your dinner, again make it a warm nourishing one made from fresh ingredients. Meals do not have to be elaborate; simple ingredients prepared with love (and perhaps some wonderful spices like coriander, turmeric, and cumin to enhance flavor while improving digestion) can provide a wealth of nutrition in a short preparation time. Be sure to give yourself enough time to digest your meal fully before winding down for the evening. If you wish to get to bed between 10 – 11 pm give yourself 2 hours for digestion and one hour for winding down (that means turn off the TV, computer, music, etc that can agitate the mind and make it difficult to fall asleep easily).

If you need to eliminate a few unnecessary things in the process of building this new routine, do so – if you still miss them one month later you may be able to find a better time to fit them in (I like to watch The Daily Show, but no longer watch it at 11 pm – there are re-runs during the day and it’s available online anytime!). If these things you’ve eliminated give you a bit more time for more important things, great!

But most important is whether you notice this new routine increases your “happiness quotient” overall – give up something good to make room for something better and find that true contentment lies within you. Awaken it!

During the blizzard of 2010

The back-to-back blizzards that shut down much of the East Coast present a wonderful opportunity to solidify your personal Yoga practice; if you have a long term regular comprehensive routine, perhaps you’ve noticed that it has helped with your energy, your strength, and your recovery from the massive amounts of repetitive work required to move up to 3 feet of the white stuff from sidewalks and driveways. At least we took some time off from shoveling to rest while the second storm worked its magic (at least, I did!).

If you took time off from your practice instead, you may be noticing the strain; while Yoga won’t prevent muscle aches and pains from overuse, lack of it may make those pains a lot worse. Here’s a simple, effective practice to do in the mornings, as well as some lifestyle tips that may help you recover more quickly.

When you awaken in the morning, do the usual stuff: pee, poop, brush teeth, shower…. If you have difficulty moving your bowels try drinking a cup of warm water (warm enough to make tea with). If your skin tends to be very dry in winter, if you have a bottle of sesame oil handy take it into the shower with you to warm and afterwards thoroughly rub some of it into your skin (start at your feet and work up your legs, then do your arms working from wrist to shoulder, then rub some into your belly using circular motions from the right side up and over under your ribs and then down the left side. Don’t forget your back, shoulders, and neck!). If you feel dry in your nasal passages, purchase a neti pot and neti salt (a very fine grained salt with no added iodine or anti-caking agents) and begin to use it; regular jala neti will not only lubricate your nasal passages but rinse out mucus and any dust, pollens, molds and fungi that stick to it. You can then put a little sesame oil on your little fingers to rub up your nose, which then helps keep new contaminants out.

Now you are fully ready for practice! Do as much or as little as you need; you only need to practice enough to remove stiffness and soreness from your body. Later, with regular practice, you will find that your capacity is increasing and you can then add to your routine. We will shortly begin uploading video routines to our new virtual Yoga studio, The Well-Seasoned Life at http://www.harmonyswell.com/anglesyoga; we will have free content as well as the opportunity to sign up for access to more personalized content.

First, clear the stagnation and stiffness from your joints. Begin by circling your ankles; you may do this standing or seated but remember to be gentle and relaxed, gradually increasing range of motion if you have any restrictions to movement. Be sure to circle in both directions.

Next, focus on your neck where it joins the head. Pretend you are making circles with your nose against a fogged up mirror. Start with small circles and only increase the size of your circle if there is no pain, clicking, or “crunchiness” in your neck. Do the same number of circles to both directions.

Now work on your shoulders; make small gentle shrugs in each direction avoiding pain and crunchiness.

With your wrists, bring your palms together and lace all of your fingers together. Touch your forearms together and bring your elbows up to the level of your shoulders. Start sliding your forearms up and down against each other, making your wrists bend to one side and then the other. Once this motion is established, add a little turn to the wrists so you make a figure 8 circle.

Now take a wide stance with your feet (not too wide). Swing your arms from one side to the other, allowing your torso to turn with them; try not to twist your hips too much, but turn your head to look over each shoulder and feel your spine begin to loosen up. Be gentle and do as many swings as you can, the more you do the more your spine opens up!

You can now pretend you are using a hula hoop; keep your feet planted and imagine that your head is stuck to the ceiling. Begin making circles with your hips, emphasizing the lubrication of your hip sockets.

Lastly, try making a wavelike motion of your spine beginning with the tailbone tucking under and slowly rolling up your spine with the head coming up last before dropping down and beginning again. Don’t worry if you don’t get this right away; it takes much practice as well as internal awareness of each part of your spinal column. You can leave this part out if things get too frustrating and wait for the video!

When you are finished, be sure to eat a healthy breakfast; cooked cereal like steel cut oats, or scrambled eggs, something warm and nourishing. Avoid eating and drinking cold foods and drinks so your digestive fire remains strong and able to help you assimilate the nutrients you need to rebuild your muscles. You never know when the next SnowPocalypse will occur!

One of the most potent and versatile foods in Ayurvedic cooking is ghee, made by cooking high quality butter over a low flame until the proteins and sugars cook out and water evaporates. The pure fat is left behind, fragrant and delicious; it doesn’t need to be refrigerated as the fat is fully saturated and thus cannot become rancid. Properly made ghee tastes better as it ages.

Ghee is used not only in daily cooking, helping to convey the wonderful flavors of any spices used, but is considered a vehicle for delivering medicinal herbs to every cell in the body. As the body needs fat for lubrication of the joints, moisturizing the skin from the inside, and building and maintaining the structure of the cells themselves, ghee is a perfect food from the Sacred Cow, the representative of the Divine Mother Herself, the understanding that the Creator of the Universe provides for us everything we need to maintain vibrant health the way a mother provides for her children.

Making ghee can also be a metaphor for our own lives. We put ourselves to the test (or the universe does it for us), refining and purifying our bodies and minds so that we can become the vehicle for nourishing others’ journeys. If we push ourselves too hard we will burn out and others will not find us “palatable”. If we don’t strive enough we may hold onto memories, impressions, or habits that fester and prevent us from accomplishing our full potential. With patience and full attention we can cook ourselves just enough so that the impurities are removed (still nutritious but having served their purpose) and just the Divine Healing Presence remains.

Use organic unsalted butter (if you can get raw milk butter it’s even better); cook it over a low to medium flame in a stainless steel or other high quality pot. Listen to the interesting sounds it makes as it cooks, watch the foam rise to the surface and eventually sink down to the bottom. When things quiet down and the liquid begins to turn brown, turn off the heat and allow it to cool before pouring out the ghee into a clean jar (use a strainer to make sure the sediment doesn’t end up in it).

Mix some brown sugar, raw sugar, or maple sugar and cinnamon into the sediment and spread it on toast – it’s quite nutritious and tasty! And once your ghee cools you can put the lid on the jar and either store it for a while or begin using it right away…

We don’t think about breathing too much, even though it’s vitally important to us. Because it happens automatically we tend to think everything’s taken care of.

But the breath is more than just “air in air out”; how we breathe affects how we feel, how much energy we have, even body temperature and mood are affected. The practice of pranayama is an ancient method for controlling energy in the body and mind.

Modern medicine acknowledges that improper breathing can cause stress, asthma symptoms in otherwise healthy people, even affect the heart (many sleep apnea sufferers have heart problems due to a lack of oxygen during sleep). Learning how to be aware of your breathing patterns and changing them for the better may be the best way to begin reversing many health problems.

In the Ashtanga Yoga tradition, the ujjayi breath is the first one taught – deep, slow, even inhale and exhale breath, and sound in the throat – because it’s simple to learn and profound in its effect. Ujjayi is heating to the body and calming to the mind, and because the inhale breath is equal to the exhale breath in length with no holding of the breath it will over time create balance in the other systems of the body. When the practitioner has gained reasonable mastery over ujjayi breath and the asanas (postures) together, more advanced breath control methods may be learned. In the tradition, practicing incorrect pranayama can create disease while proper practice will alleviate and/or prevent disease.

In your daily life, notice your habits regarding your breath – is it shallow, rapid, uneven? Can you notice what you feel like emotionally when you breathe this way? Try deepening your breath, slowing it down, make it even and smooth; how does this change how you feel?

In my university courses many students note that after class they feel more relaxed, calmer, more focused. They are asked to practice ujjayi breath and reminded to return to it when they forget. Parallels are drawn between their Yoga practice and their daily lives and examples given to illustrate how Yoga can be brought into their interactions with others. For most, this is the first time they have thought of “exercise” being a mindful practice though it is hoped that it won’t be the last.

In the grand scheme of things, our practice is really an attempt to bring deeper meaning to the word “Yoga”; think of Yoga as the art and science of becoming fully conscious, a means of becoming aware of the inner workings of each cell in our bodies, how the energy flows in it, and how the same process (even in different forms) occurs in all other living things. And as “Ayurveda” is the science of life itself (and Yoga is a part of Ayurveda), this awareness transcends the mere physical workings of our being and extends to all aspects of living.

Through this awareness we can Begin to Realize, Embody, And Transmit Healing Energy to others in whatever form we choose….

I hear this a lot from people. Because of the images of long-time practitioners who have busted their asanas to be able to bend over backwards and stick their heads up their own butts (and live to tell about it) the average Joe and Jane can’t wrap their brains around the idea that these “freaks of nature” weren’t born that way.

Most people who practice never end up looking like they get a job with Cirque du Soleil, but they do end up more flexible than when they started. The keys are consistency, moderation, and long-term dedication to practicing every day (or almost every day). If you never start, you’ll never get where you want to go. If you only practice once a week your progress will be slow (assuming you make progress at all). Even if you only do a little each time (even five minutes!), practicing every day will make your routine smooth and effortless over time. As things get easier, you may wish to add more into your routine. If you do other things for fitness you could use the yoga routine to warm up, cool down, or both. If you play a sport, yoga can help keep you from injuring yourself by improving your joint mobility (a stiff joint usually ends up an injured joint. say hello to your knees….),

Here’s a short routine for you to try based on the Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar):

Stand with your feet together with weight balanced evenly between your feet. Lengthen your low back and draw in your lower belly slightly. Inhale deeply and exhale completely, each time trying to keep the ratio of in and out breath even.

Inhale, raise your arms up and stretch as tall as possible.

Exhale and fold as far down as you can; if you can’t touch the floor, bend your knees as much as you have to (you want to feel your abs!). If this is still very difficult stand up on your next inhale, lifting your arms up, and exhale to lower your arms to your sides. Don’t feel discouraged, you just need more time to loosen up! Repeat this until you can reach the floor. Perhaps this will be your entire practice every day until you can touch the floor without too much effort. Might take a week, might take longer, might take less time – you’ll never know until you just do it!

When you can reach the floor without too much difficulty (as in, you’re not busting a gut to do it), begin as before: inhale reach up, exhale touch the floor. Then inhale and just lift your head and chest (elongate your upper back) and exhale to step your right foot back into a lunge. Keep things challenging by keeping the back heel off the floor and reach back through the heel until your leg is straight (if this is not possible, lower your right knee toward the floor for balance but work at not putting your weight on the knee; you need to keep the pressure on your feet). Inhale and stand up; keep your left knee over your ankle and your back leg straight (or the back knee lightly touching down if needed). You want to feel the stretch in the top of your right hip and no pressure in your low back. If you feel your back, try to tuck your sitting bones under you and draw back your belly and ribs until your shoulders are over your hips.

If you can balance, reach your arms up, and if you can still balance try looking up at your hands. On an exhale, fold forward keeping your belly pulled in. Feel like you have to push your way to the floor rather than letting gravity pull you down. Keep the front knee bent and the back leg straight. Once you reach the floor, inhale and as you exhale step the left foot back next to the right until your body is parallel to the floor (as if you were about to do a pushup). Hold this position as you inhale again. Exhale, push your hips up and stretch your heels to the ground – if they don’t come down, you can step your feet forward until they do. Try to balance your weight between your hands and your feet. If you want to stay here for a few breaths, feel free!

On an inhale step your right foot forward and stand up to your “balancing warrior”. Exhale to fold back to the floor. Inhale step the back foot forward and lift your chest. Exhale to fold forward. Inhale to stand up with arms overhead. Exhale and lower your arms.

Repeat the entire thing stepping back with the left foot first.

If you find this difficult, remember that practice is the key to mastery of anything. If you want to be a better runner, practice running; if you want to be a better golfer, golf! But whether you are a runner or a golfer (or a housewife or GI Joe) you will benefit from stretching your muscles and building strength and endurance in a functional manner.

And just maybe, your next life will be as that circus freak with your leg behind your head!

(to see some of this online, check out YouTube!)

You are what you eat: when was the last time you really thought about what that meant? Judging by what’s in the grocery store aisles, we are a nation of people made up of highly processed, sugary, boxed, canned, bagged, junk.

Many people bemoan the “high cost” of food but don’t consider the end results: obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cavities, susceptibility to illness, and other ills of “modern” civilization. Our government (and others) fixate on access to medical insurance and health care for our neediest citizens but have neglected to insure that all have access to healthy food, proper exercise, and the knowledge required not only to take advantage of these vital links in our lifestyle chain but to understand why they are important.

It’s important to consider how much is removed from a plant (or animal) when it’s processed. Scientists study the nutritional value of various foods but will never know everything there is to know – it wasn’t that long ago that no one knew that some foods exerted an effect on the hormones, particularly estrogen (soy, for instance). It’s now becoming known that the active ingredient in a medicinal plant may not have the same effects when isolated – the traditional uses were usually for the whole plant or some portion of the whole plant (ie the root, or leaves and stems) and it was harvested at a particular time and prepared in a particular way (and the traditional Ayurvedic method and many shamanic traditions also include prayers so that the plant would have its healing effect the right way).

The Vedic tradition from which Ayurveda springs states that “we are born of food” (TaittiriyaUpanishadic verse). and Ayurveda considers food to be the first step in creating the tissues of the body: rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), mamsa (muscle), meda (fat), asthi (bone), majja (marrow), and shukra or artava (reproductive tissue). Any deficiency at any step in the process can wreak havoc on the tissues above and below in the chain, as all are connected. So the first step in healing ourselves from inside out begins with consuming pure food, whole food as much as possible so that the things we don’t know about yet can synergistically work to create the strongest tissues.

Good food need not be expensive: membership in a Community Supported Agriculture farm, while requiring an upfront expenditure, brings families a huge amount of healthy, usually organic, produce druing the growing season (and sometimes year-round. My membership this year cost me around $500 upfront, but that money will bring me enough fresh veggies and fruit to feed four people for 6 months – that’s $83 a month folks, track what you spend a la carte in the grocery store on the same stuff for six months and then see what it comes to. The middle man is eliminated, the farmer makes more, you get more, you eat more healthy. How to help the poor? How about community co-ops, churches, charities, etc. combining forces to help subsidize CSA farm produce for communities that don’t have decent grocery stores in their communities and may not be able to travel to farmers markets?

Perhaps it’s time to begin a new revolution, one that helps those of us who know the benefits of eating real food teach those who don’t how to take charge of their own health; a new foundation created to attract donations specifically to purchase CSA shares and distribute this healing food to those in need of it, to hire teachers to instruct them in how to properly prepare it for maximum benefit, and to build communities around the principle of “you are what you eat – a whole person”.

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You may hate to keep hearing this, but research shows that regular exercise is the best thing you can do for yourself. It helps you on so many different levels – it strengthens muscles, limbers joints, burns bodyfat, reduces stress, lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure, boosts metabolism, and your ability to learn (so it’s also good for your kids). And one recent study by the University of Boston School of Medicine showed tremendous promise in using Yoga to treat depression (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/71719.php) while other studies being conducted at Walter Reed shows benefits for soldiers suffering from PTSD (http://www.yogajournal.com/health/2532?print=1).

From the Ayurvedic standpoint, exercise is part of a daily routine that includes cleansing the body, purifying the mind (meditation), and consuming pure food. Exercise should be appropriate for the individual’s nature: some need to exercise gently while others should be more vigorous in order to avoid creating imbalances that can cause disease.

Someone who is “Vata” dominant is already inclined to movement, as Vata is responsible for movement. One who is “Pitta” dominant is fiery in nature, and often very committed to whatever they wish to do; Pitta is responsible for digestion of food as well as mental impressions. “Kapha” dominant individuals tend toward stability, and may not wish to move unless the benefits are clearly explained and they have some time to consider and make up their minds. Kapha is responsible for assimilation of nutrients and impressions. Which type would benefit most from vigorous exercise, and who should slow down? (hint: the things you hate to do are the things you need to do most…)

We should also keep in mind that any one of these doshas (literally, “that which goes out of balance”) or combination of doshas can be out of balance. A Vata person can have a Kapha imbalance, or a Pitta imbalance, or all three doshas out of balance. The right type and amount of exercise can help alleviate these imbalances, but one can’t expect to continue eating bad food and hope that exercise will keep away the imbalance. If you aren’t sure what your type is or what may be out of balance, consultation with someone who specializes in Ayurveda can help you to understand your nature and why you constantly suffer from cracking joints, stuffy sinuses, or whatever else may ail you. He or she can also help you find the proper regimen for slowly bringing you back into balance so these things will become a thing of the past!

While we may have difficulty making radical changes in our lifestyles, if we make small steps and work consistently towards a lifestyle that is sustainable as well as beneficial for our natures we will notice how much better we feel when in balance. Even a little change, practiced consistently over a long period of time, will make a big difference years down the road. So Vata and Pitta types, learn to slow down and smell the Yoga; Kapha types, get offa yer asana and move!

What if your daily routine could heal you to the point that you no longer needed aspirin for headaches you no longer have? Or lower your blood pressure, normalize your blood sugar, clear your arteries, help you sleep, reduce your stress?

What if your food choices reduced your grocery budget, made your skin glow, kept your kids healthy, happy, and eager and able to learn in school?

Our selections are too often made not by considering how much they will cost us down the road but by what they cost us now – cheap, overly processed food-in-a-box, meat and milk from factory-farmed animals raised in confinement (because it’s cheaper and more convenient for the “farmer”), “energy” bars and trendy “energy” drinks (they claim to give us quick nutrition or all day energy), bottled water (because we no longer trust what comes out of our taps) that turns out to be tap water….

But many of us haven’t yet found one of the most powerful cost-reducing tricks on the menu – joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group. By “buying into” a local farm that grows our produce or raises our chickens or beef we can significantly reduce our yearly grocery bill. I just signed up for One Straw Farm’s CSA for $425 for the growing season from June – November, and my one share will feed four people all summer (about $71/month for six months, or less than $18/week for FOUR people! $4.50 per person per week!). Greens, tomatoes, squashes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, radishes, lettuces, strawberries, melons, and a few things I am not familiar with (forcing me to try new things…), and my costs were reduced by half while I ate better than I ever have. I saw my migraines disappear to the point that I no longer have to take the expensive medication I was on. I’m not even buying over-the-counter pain relievers (I make fresh ginger tea instead)! Obviously, this makes me very happy…

If One Straw Farm is not the CSA for you, google CSA and find a farm in your area. Many farms have extensive websites that describe what they do, how they do it, and even provide recipes for the more unusual produce they grow. One Straw has a blog that keeps us up to date on what affects our deliveries, such as weather, critters that may eat “our” food before it can be harvested (we got a lot of greens last year, because their groundhog population had eaten “our” other crops….). Having a closer relationship with our food and the people who grow it gives us a greater appreciation for the work involved in lovingly bringing healthy meals to our families.

One of the most meditative experiences we can build into our days is that of preparing a truly nutritious meal from fresh, locally grown ingredients. It only takes a minute or two to slice some fresh kale, onions, or mushrooms to add to our scrambled eggs in the morning (from a local egg farmer of course) or our rice in the evening. And by sauteeing our veggies in sesame oil or ghee (clarified butter) which has been infused with healing spices like coriander, turmeric, or cumin (or all three!) we can reduce inflammation in our arteries while adding rich flavor to our meal. Don’t be afraid of the fat! It’s important for that full satisfied feeling, for assimilation of fat-soluble vitamins, for getting us to our next meal so we don’t snack on junk food in between meals…

In Ayurveda, ghee is considered important for bringing the healing properties of spices into our cells. The clarification process removes the sugars from butter which then makes the butter stable at room temperature (no refrigeration required!); this means that ghee does not burn when cooked, nor does it go rancid quickly like other oils might. Ghee is also a highly saturated fat, which is not a bad thing – this saturation is what makes it stable and solid out of the fridge and keeps it “good”.

Rancidity occurs when oxygen molecules bind with the fat or oil to make it go “bad”. Rancid oils (the polyunsaturated ones, which have “open” spaces in their molecules) bind readily with oxygen, and since most processed foods use these oils, chances are that processed food is already rancid by the time you buy it. Doesn’t that sound yummy? And, that rancidity is what creates inflammation in your body, which causes heart disease and other ills.

I remember that my grandparents cooked with lard (a highly saturated fat from pork), used lots of butter on bread, made the best fried chicken, and the veggies came from the garden just outside the farmhouse, picked fresh (the peas were sweet enough to eat raw!). And they stayed healthy as long as they ate that way. In Asia, coconut or red palm oil is used, and traditional societies there also have low rates of heart disease (it’s only recently, as they shift to a Western lifestyle, that they are now experiencing “our” diseases).

Just by changing how we eat, how we cook, what fats we use when we cook can go a long way towards reducing inflammation while improving the taste of our food. At the same time, our health improves and our medical costs are sure to decline. I went from seeing a neurologist (for the migraines), my primary care doctor, a naturopath, acupuncturist, and physical therapist (I was a mess…. more on that later) to keeping the PT and the acupuncturist, with a consultation with the Ayurvedic consultant at Kripalu (where I am studying Ayurveda). This year I do not expect to meet my $2500 deductible on my health insurance where in previous years I was spending $5000 or more on health care.

When we look forward to a fresh-cooked meal made with high-quality traditional fats, spices, and main ingredients we can really focus on the experience of tasting, smelling, and fully digesting our food. By scheduling regular meals with our families, we also keep the tradition of sharing the experience with others, staying in touch with each other, infusing our meals with love and compassion.

The ancients said “we are born of food”. We in America amended it to “you are what you eat”.

Either way, wouldn’t you rather be made of the highest quality ingredients?

June 2017
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