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Breast Thermography: A Different Kind of Breast Screening

Breast Thermography_SantaRosa

Diet, exercise, breast massage, and regular screenings are key to maintaining healthy breasts. According to the American Cancer Society, mammograms are the most common and traditional type of breast screening that can be taken as early as 40 years old for women who are at high risk of breast cancer. Breast thermography offers a different kind of breast screening, that women can take as early as 20 years old. Chit.Chaat.Chai sat down with Renne Russo, a board certified Thermographic Technician and owner of Thermography Center of Sonoma County, to learn more about the process and benefits of breast thermography screenings.


A Q & A with Renne Russo, a board certified Thermographic Technician and owner of Thermography Center of Sonoma County

What is Breast Thermography?

Breast Thermography is a risk assessment process that uses an infrared (heat sensing) camera to detect heat variations in the breasts. Because infection, inflammation, fibrocystic and fibroglandular tissue, and breast cancer can cause excess blood in the breast tissue, thermography can detect these areas before any other type of breast screening. In 90% of breast cancers, the first physiological change in the body involves the formation of additional blood vessels set up to feed the growth of a tumor. Thermography sees these patterns first, and is, therefore, an important predictive tool. These variation patterns can indicate a risk for breast cancer, either now or in the future.

Why should a woman consider a Breast Thermography screening?

Breast thermography is chosen by women who prefer to live a proactive life and take their own power back regarding breast health. Most women choosing thermal imaging are already practicing preventive habits in their lives; they eat organic whole foods, limit sugar and alcohol consumption, attempt to enjoy a life balanced with work, play, creativity, adventure, and purpose, and they strive to process rather than suppress their difficult emotions. There are also many women who are just fed up with mammography and want a safer technique.

Is Breast Thermography Safe?

Yes. It is a contact-, radiation-, and pain-free scan which was approved by the FDA as an adjunctive screening in 1982. It is safe for the following women: 20 years or older, pregnant or lactating, those who have implants, have had a breast reduction or other breast surgeries), and women who have already had breast cancer, especially those who have had a mastectomy.

The process is as easy as having your photo taken. In a temperature-controlled setting, a woman disrobes to the waist, allowing the surface of the breasts to cool to the room temperature (18–22ºC). This takes 15 minutes. Then with the arms raised, seven images are taken in order to capture all of the tissue in and surrounding each breast, including each armpit. Once the images have been captured, they are sent to a Board Certified Thermologist for interpretation. A written and image report is given directly to the client.   

With mammograms, usually recommended at a much later age, why is breast thermography recommended as early as the age of 20?

Since thermal imaging is completely safe, we start screening women at age 20 and ideally follow them throughout their lifetimes. Once a baseline has been taken, each subsequent scan is compared to the previous one, so that any change of pattern or temperature is recorded. Other than a physical breast exam and an occasional breast ultrasound when necessary, there is no standard other breast screening for women between 20 and 40 years old, and sadly, breast cancer is getting younger and younger. Although getting a baseline is best at the youngest age, it is never too late to start using Thermography. Most women hear about thermal imaging between the ages of 35-60.

When did thermography begin?

The first historical mention of the thermal process comes from Hippocrates, in 400 BC. He had a theory that disease created inflammation in the body, and as an experiment, he smeared wet mud on a patient’s bare body and watched to see which part of the body dried the quickest. His theory was correct.

Modern thermography was developed in 1957 when Dr. Ray Lawson discovered that the surface of a breast with cancer was warmer than the healthy breast. He published his findings in the Cancer Medical Association Journal 75 in 1956, entitled “Implications of Surface Temperatures in the Diagnosis of Breast Cancer”.  His hypothesis led to more than 2 decades of research into methods to improve breast thermography as a useful screening tool. At a time when there was no other screening procedure widely available. In 1982, breast thermography was approved.

How are the images captured?

Breast thermal imaging is literally a heat map of the breasts; “thermal” = heat, “graphy” = map. The images are captured using a high-resolution infrared camera. Have you ever seen a movie in which people wore heat-sensing goggles to hunt people or animals? This is the same technology only with much better equipment!

What do you look for in the images?

The Thermologist looks at how the blood vessels are shaped, and how warm they are compared to the same area of the other breast. In the history of breast cancer, there has never been a documented case showing symmetrical cancer in one woman, in each breast at the same time. For this reason, any differing patterns or heat is recorded for future comparison. The most important information on a thermogram comes with subsequent scans, as areas of heat are tracked and can indicate the prediction of pathology.

What do you recommend to patients whose images are less symmetrical, yet no lump can be detected through a physical exam?

There are 5 breast screening methods, and we recommend each client research each method and then choose and utilize several since each technology misses something. Many women also find that when they adopt healthier lifestyle habits, their scan results improve. This can include finding a healthier balance between stress and fun, processing emotions on a regular basis, and changing food patterns. In addition, some women find it useful to work with a preventive practitioner to help them make these lifestyle changes.

Breast Thermography detects heat variations in the breast, what are other screenings are there other types of screenings that can provide another layer of information in monitoring breast health?

Today, the most effective way to use thermal imaging is in conjunction with other breast screenings. Most of our clients choose 2 or 3 screening methods since each one is looking at a different layer of information. These are the 5 breast screening options: Physical breast exam, Thermography, breast Ultrasound, Mammogram, and MRI. None of the current screening methods can actually diagnose breast cancer, only highlight an area of concern. Only a biopsy of the tissue can determine pathology. For this reason, utilizing several screening methods can assist women in making an educated and intelligent choice when considering any further action.


Renee Russo is a board certified Thermographic Technician and owner of Thermography Center of Sonoma County.  She is passionate about breast health. Her mission is to empower women with the information they need that can immediately improve their breast health, clean up unhealthy conditions and in some cases even reverse dangerous conditions that are already present. Offering comprehensive breast education, support, and resources to assist women in making sound breast health choices based on individual preferences


Disclaimer
This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

Why Your Breasts Need A Massage

Photograper-Valeria-BoltnevaWhile diet, exercise, and regular screenings are essential to maintaining great breast health, breast massage is also essential to have healthy and happy breasts. Breast massages are not just about maintaining good breast health, but they feel great too! Chit.Chaat.Chai talked with notable author, teacher, Ayurveda practitioner, and retired midwife, Terra Rafael, to discuss the health benefits and best practices for giving yourself the most effective breast massage.


Q  & A with Terra Rafael, Ayurveda Practitioner

Why should breast massage be a part of a woman’s healthcare ritual?

In many parts of the world, breast massage is a routine part of massages. Breast massage is a simple way to improve your health. It stimulates circulation and lymph drainage in the chest which improves detoxing which helps prevent breast disease. This is especially important if you wear a bra. Cyclical breast tenderness can be reduced by massaging them before the tenderness usually happens.

How does massage help flush out toxins?

The breast has many lymph nodes and channels within the fatty and glandular tissue. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting and cleansing white blood cells throughout the body. The lymph system, unlike blood circulation,   no pump to move the lymph. Usually, this is moved by either muscular squeezing of the lymph or movement of it by massage. The lymph system is a system for detoxification and immunity. Since the breasts don’t have muscles covering them, the lymph needs a massage to help it do its cleansing job.

Is there a particular way or time we should massage the breasts?

While there is no “wrong” way to massage them, there are many different techniques available.  It’s more important to do the massage rather than what type. For some busy women, massaging in the shower just with water is the way they can be sure to do it. Other women do it before showering with oil.

One technique I often recommend is to massage from the nipple in a circular spiral outward, ending with some massage in the armpit, where many lymph glands feed into.

How much time and how often should we practice this ritual?

There’s no need to spend much time unless that’s what pleases you.  Just five to ten minutes can be sufficient. A little breast massage is better than none at all!  It can be done daily or once a week.

Is there a time when we should not massage our breasts?

Breast Massage should be pleasurable, so if there is discomfort, wait for a time when it is comfortable. It is contraindicated if there is suspected or confirmed breast cancer to avoid spreading through the lymph.   (Remember though, that it is a GREAT preventative of breast disease.) Post surgery would be another time to wait until ok’d by the surgeon to allow proper healing.

Do we need oil for breast massage? If so, what kind?

Using oil for breast massage is generally recommended. Women who to Ayurvedic self-massage can just add it to their routine. Warm Sesame oil is a basic recommendation. One formula for those with fibrocystic breasts is a mix of equal parts sesame, castor oil, and coconut oil. You can choose to add an optional essential oil: rose, clary sage, geranium, lemongrass, fennel, cypress, or vetiver.

Are there any rituals we should integrate pre or post breast massage?

Oftentimes women have found it hard to love their own bodies and breasts. Ayurveda teaches that our emotions have a strong connection to health, and is especially true of the female organs. By including a loving intention during the breast massage, this practice works for healthy emotions as well as a healthy body. A friendship with the breasts means we love them, even if they aren’t exactly the way we would like them to be.

Some women, especially those concerned about the possibility of breast cancer, may want to do a full invocation of blessings to their breasts by including such elements as prayers, chanting, lighting a candle and other ways they usually invoke the sacred.

For women who are thinking about conceiving or currently pregnant, can breast massage help with breastfeeding or providing healthier breast milk?

For healthy childbearing and breastfeeding it is best that a woman is as healthy as possible. Ayurveda recommends doing a cleanse and rejuvenation according to ayurvedic principles before conception. Breast Massage can be a part of this preparation.

Many women have breast tenderness at the beginning of pregnancy making breast massage uncomfortable at first. However, gentle breast massage later on during pregnancy can promote a healthy development of breastfeeding structures, which occurs during pregnancy.

What other practices do you recommend to support healthy breasts?

Healthy eating is also key to healthy breasts.  Ayurveda states that both breast milk and menstrual fluid come directly from the blood plasma. Even while not breastfeeding, the tissues are especially tuned into the quality of blood.

One Ayurveda technique that is also useful is marma point therapy. There are several specific points which can be massaged for 5-10 minutes to energetically support breast health. Reiki to the breasts is another energy healing technique that can be used.


Terra Rafael, Registered Midwife (in retirement), attended home births from 1981-2001 and taught over 150 midwifery students, apprenticing several in her practice. She’s also a Certified Ayurveda Practitioner and a 2001 graduate of the Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula. Specializing in women’s health, her online school, WiseWomanhood features many education videos. Rafael is also a Certified Practitioner of Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy™. Find her latest book, Journey to the Great Midwife in our library. 


Disclaimer
This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

The Sleepy Time | a saffron & nutmeg bedtime elixir

saffron-nutmeg-elixir-ayurveda

Without a worry in the world, sleeping like a baby, deeply and soundly tends to dissipate as we get older.  The natural, innate, rhythmic occurrence our mind-body requires to rejuvenate, can be challenging as we age. Slowly, taking a toll on the immune system, the digestive tract or our emotional/mental faculties. Through Ayurveda’s lens, insomnia or restless sleep usually speaks of a vata imbalance. The dosha governing all movement in the body. When vata (air + ether) become excessive, the mind-body can begin to move rapidly. Manifesting as nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, and even constipation.

When it comes to sleep, vata, a dosha living within us all, and the most common dosha to go out of balance in today’s age of fast living and technology, appreciates warm, nourishment. Words, rituals, foods, scents, sounds to ground its hummingbird-like energy in a soft, gentle manner. Using sensorial signals that call its attention, informing it the time has come to slow down. Similar to our childhood days, when a loved one would transition us from the active phase of the day to the passive phase with an evening bath, a bottle of milk and a bedtime story, the vata dosha in us appreciates transitory rituals. Gently nudging and caressing the buzzing, mobile qualities to let go and relax.

Transitory rituals can be as simple as lighting a candle and permeating your space with an earthy scent. A grounding aroma like vetiver or lavender to signal the brain of an energy shift. Aromatically informing the mind-body bedtime is near.  Or dimming the lights, turning off the television or computer, which softly supports the process of letting the eyes rest. Then there is a warm, nighttime soak in the heavy element of water. Which acts as a warm embrace on a cold night. Last by not least, is when the leaves begin to turn yellow, brewing a nightcap of spiced milk infused with nervine and sedative properties.   

An elixir of cardamom, dates, nutmeg, and saffron. Ingredients that counter-balance milk’s heavy, mucus properties, with a warm, nourishing and balancing effect on vata dosha. Nutmeg, a natural nervine and sedative when used in small doses, calms vata’s nervous, rapid moving energy internally.  Combined with saffron, which amongst its many other properties is also a nervine. Both spices have tryptophan, an amino acid that supports the elevation of serotonin. Not only will this elixir, recommended in Ayurveda for restful sleep, ground buzzing energy, but it also serves as a mild laxative. With vata balancing, digestive spices, and the fiber, magnesium, potassium, iron and vitamin B6 of dates. All nutrients that support the nervous system, in-turn supporting vata dosha. Sweet dreams.

Rumin-Jehangir-Chit-Chaat-Chai-Nutmeg-Elixir

The Sleepy Time | a saffron, nutmeg bedtime elixir

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy

Dosha: V
Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
Qualities: Warm, Liquid, Heavy, Moist, Soft
Tastes: Sweet, Pungent, Astringent, Bitter
What you need: a small pot

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of full-fat cow’s milk* or nut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cardamon pod (opened)
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated)
  • small pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 1/2 to 1 Medjool date chopped (raisins, dried fig)*

Directions

  1. In a small pot bring to boil all ingredients except for saffron, then turn to low and continue to let it simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Turn off the stove, and add in the saffron threads. Let steep for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the cardamom pod and serve warm.

*Notes from our test kitchen:

  • for this recipe, we used non-homogenized, grass-fed, raw milk.
  • 1 dried fig chopped can be substituted or combined with dates or a big pinch of raisins.  Figs/raisins are a better choice for kapha constitutions or for extra support with elimination.

Disclaimer
This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

Ten Keywords to Live by in Vata Season

Chit-Chaat-Chai-Ayurveda

To understand vata dosha is to know it’s personality. The specific traits that describe its character, how it feels and functions. Whether it’s in relation to an emotion, action, thought, smell, texture, sound, taste, or sight. Understanding vata dosha’s specific characteristics will begin to reveal how vata dosha manifests within you or the environment. Deepening your awareness through ten keywords called the gunas, or qualities. These words will also support you in pinpointing to specific vata traits that need extra attention. To maintain or return to a healthy balance. Complimentary with today’s commonly used health terms, the gunas, or qualities, cultivate inner wisdom, serving as an informative guide when making daily life choices.  

Developed by the Rishis, the Sages,  over 5,000 years ago, Ayurveda was created to make healthier living accessible. The gunas are just one component within this vast world of preventative based healthcare. They may sound simple, but considering Ayurveda’s lifespan, time informs us they are effective. There is no limit to their application. The gunas applied to the season, times of day, the bodily tissues, and everything we take in via our five senses. Including our thoughts and emotions. Since the qualities form the doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha),  the gunas, like the doshas, exist in all life. At the same time, similarly to how the quantity of each dosha differs each season or individually, the quantity of each guna will also differ. The varying quantities will then play a role in how vata dosha manifests.

For example, seasonally speaking, experiencing vata season, or fall season, on the east coast is different than the west coast. On the eastern side of the United States, fall tends to be colder, with temperatures dropping rapidly after the end of summer.  In comparison, on the west coast, fall tends to be drier, and less cold. Through Ayurveda’s lens, the quantity of the gunas, cold and dry, speak to the differences in how fall is experienced. Its the quantity of cold that informs the temperature, which then helps us to choose between a light jacket or woolen coat.

Once we are aware of vata ’s characteristics, when specific trait(s) becomes excessive, using the qualities opposing force can bring balance. The opposing force is where the solution lies. This approach is rooted from a key concept in Ayurveda. Like attracts like, and opposites balance.  This simple sounding, foundational mantra is intended to support living a life with balance. Similarly, to the type of jacket, we opt on a cold, fall day, the gunas can be used in dietary choices, how to respond in any given situation or choosing between hard rock or classical music when seeking to balance out the vata traits within you.

Vata dosha’s qualities may seem simple at first glance, but applying them in various situations can be challenging. Yet, this is how the gunas cultivate awareness. Inviting us to think broadly, find corresponding synonyms that tie back to the guna. Over time, as self-awareness deepens, the gunas take a new form, revealing insights through everyday simple words. Integrating vata dosha ten keywords into daily life and the concept of opposites can have a profound effect on day to day living, bringing a sense of agency by cultivating information that innately lives within us.

To illustrate the various terms branching out from one quality, we’ve created a list of the ten keywords with synonyms. Along with examples of how these ten keywords, or vata dosha qualities, apply to the fall or aka vata season.  Through what you might eat, hear, listen to, see, touch, communicate, think or feel.


TEN KEYWORDS: VATA DOSHA QUALITIES | SYNONYMS

HOT | WARM, WARMING, WARMER,

Think warm meals and beverages for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Enjoy warming spices, and warming foods like nuts, bone broths, and citrus. Speak warm, loving thoughts to soften the heart and reduce fear. 

HEAVY | GROUNDING, STABILIZING, NOURISHING, CENTERED,

Prevent this airy dosha from flying away by choosing heavier foods like creamy soups, stews, bone broth, grains, and warming milk tonics. Create a routine to foster stability, set expectations and help keep energy centered.

WET | MOIST, OILY, LIQUID,

Keep the body-mind well lubricated. Moisturizing the skin with warm an warming sesame oil, which will absorb and nourish the tissues. Try nasya for dry sinuses, headaches or neck stiffness. Hydration combined with nourished tissues can help support mobility, and help calms the nervous system.

SOFT | GENTLE, CUDDLY, KIND,

Be gentle with yourself. Taking time during the day to assess your energy levels. Is your teacup full, spilling over, or is the cup empty? Without any positive or negative judgment, observe how you feel. With your findings speak gently with yourself, offer a positive affirmation before planning the remaining part of the day. Time is abundant, the more time we believe we have, the more time will exist.

SMOOTH | CONSISTENT, ROUTINE, STEADY

Creating consistency. Whether it’s knowing your plans for the day, meals for the week, events for the month or daily rituals, a practice or routine will provide a steady framework. Whether it’s a self-care practice just for you and/or prepping meals for the week, knowing what is coming your way can reduce last-minute rush, one less thing to think about. A task list, a schedule, calming music can support fostering a steady energy through the season.

CLOUDY | THICK, CREAMY, EARTHY, DENSE

Curate menus, meals around ingredients that if blended are dense and naturally creamy. Like root vegetables, grains, wheat, oats, good fats, and nuts or seeds. When mashed, pureed, or boiled have a natural softness and weight. The natural heaviness and soft quality will be nourishing while being gentle. Lean towards plant-based options like parsnips, carrots, beets, and yams. They are fiber and nutrient-rich, and when cooked nourishing and soft.

SLOW | STROLL, SIMMER, LISTEN,

Take time and listen to the leaves rustle in the fall breeze, the sound of dry leaves being crushed with each step, the beat of a flowing creek, or listen to the breath between each spoken sentence. Rather than a run, go on a hike, reducing the intensity behind the energy expelled.

DULL | SLEEP, STAGNANT, REST,

Restoration, replenishment begins with fall into the winter season. With fewer light hours, Mother Nature visually informs us to hibernate earlier, whether curling up with a good book, knitting on the couch listening to slow tunes, or relaxing in a tub of water give your mind-body the opportunity to refuel and build immunity to take you into spring and summer. Scents like nutmeg and vetiver can further support this quality.


Disclaimer: The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

Apricot & Ginger Chickpea Stew

Garbanzo-Bean-Stew-Ayurveda-ChitchaatchaiAs a big fan of one-pot meals with all six tastes and a textural variety, stews place high on the weekly menu. No matter the season, and especially towards the end of summer, the beginnings of fall. When energy begins to dissipate. Simplify daily living to focus on rejuvenation is one essential goal. This period when summer aka pitta season begins to meet fall aka vata season is also peak tomato season. A fruit that is known to be unbalancing for all doshas. Therefore, omitted from diets rooted in a 100% pure sattva only foods.

A fan of eating the fruits and vegetable Mother Nature blesses us with each season, tomatoes continue to remain on my food list. This is not without significant testing to a balance that works for me. When I see Roma, Early Girls, San Marzanos’ and heirloom varietals dress the stalls. Looking all fiery, ripe and ready for a drizzle of olive oil and salt. I’m ready to enjoy the seasonal nutrients Mother Nature is communicating to me. She’s talking and I am listening. As long as the tomatoes are grown naturally. With no GMOs, pesticides, ripened by the sun in loam from a farm as close to home as one can get.

Although, I appreciate a sweet vine-ripened, sun-kissed tomato now. There was a time, I omitted them from my diet completely. Eating seasonally is one key layer of living sustainably, then there is the other layer of information that lives within me, Ayurveda. Which reminds me to consider how a food will engage with a body-mind from pre to post-digestion. A perspective, which leads to—are tomatoes healthy for me?

From this lens, I’ve learned that tomatoes, a night-shade, are not considered ideal for any dosha. They are said to promote inflammation and be overly acidic food. Not just according to the time-tested science of Ayurveda, but also by today’s health standards. Inflammation and acid, are two factors that lead to dis-ease. Especially for those with arthritic conditions, joint pain, hyperacidity, skin issues, any disorder rooted in inflammation.

Nonetheless, tomatoes are a part of many a cultures diet.  For some, it is not realistic to remove this juicy, lycopene-rich (also found in red carrots, watermelon, and papaya) fruit from their diet. What is important is being aware, practicing balance, taking into account how you prep, cook and eat tomatoes, when you eat them, how much you eat of them, and are they fresh or canned? Factors that also play a role in how will tomatoes affect an individual’s constitution. Not only in its current state but also based on what imbalances one is prone to in the future.

When I started looking at all of these factors, the multiple perspectives, I slowly began to omit tomatoes from my diet. Only when I reintroduced them back to the menu, did I have a deeper comprehension of how tomatoes and I are in relationship. I could feel the acidity rising when I ate too much, did not cook them properly, used a can (high in citric acid) or mixed them with other inflammatory foods. The experience was enlightening. Leading me to adjust goto recipes, and slowly realizing, I could cook without them. A weekly grocery item, tomatoes moved to the occasional purchase list.

In between summer and fall is when they move them back to the weekly list, but not the daily menu. I have found this works well for me at this point in my life.  I can enjoy a few raw slices with a little salt and pepper on toasted olive oiled bread. Although, I prefer to slow cook them until their natural sugars are released. Reducing the acidity. Along with cooking them with cooling spices like cumin, coriander to aid digestion and balance the acidity and heat.

Taking the season, Ayurveda’s unique knowledge on how food’s digest and engage with the body-mind and the state of my constitution into consideration has given me the confidence to trust my choices.  Enjoy a tomato in all its glory. With no guilt or judgment. Slightly increasing tomato consumption during peak season has not increased acid levels. I have found that having a complementary perspective alongside nutritional based science has allowed me to think deeper about what is or is not healthy. I know what I need to be aware of, keeping me present and in the moment. Having another language has also shown me there is more to defining healthy than nutrition. The answer is not always yes or no, good or bad. The answer evolves as I age, the current state of my health, the season, and the environmental factors.

Ayurveda + Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a nightshade, like eggplants, potatoes and bell peppers. With properties that causes inflammation in the body, especially around the joints. It is considered a cautionary food, one that can aggravate all doshas. Intake of nightshades like tomatoes is generally not recommended, especially for those practicing a pure sattva diet or imbalances related to joints and high acidity.  When eating tomatoes, taking the quantity enjoyed, season and preparation are recommended, according to your individual needs. Using spices like cumin, turmeric, and black pepper can help reduce tomatoes negative effect. Along with peeling and seeding tomatoes. Nonetheless, its important to state, this does not omit their negative effect.

Apricot-Garbanzo-Bean-Stew-Chitchaatchai

Apricot & Ginger Chickpea Stew

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy

Dosha: KPV Season: Late Summer Early Fall Qualities: Warm, Liquid, Heavy Tastes: Sweet, Salty, Sour, Pungent, Astringent, Bitter What you need: 1 4-quart pot, a potato masher

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 sprig rosemary*
  • 1 small red onion finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 carrots diced or shredded (1 cup)
  • 1 small clove garlic minced (optional)
  • 2 T freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cups fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (2 cups)*
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 1/2 tsp toasted coriander powder*
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans*
  • 7 dried Turkish apricots quartered
  • 4 cups water/bone broth/stock* + 1/8 cup
  • 1 bunch of chard (finely chopped stems and leaves separated)
  • 2 zucchinis (quartered lengthwise and chopped in big chunks)

Garnish

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. In a 4-6 quart pot, add ghee and let warm over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the cumin seeds (it should gently sizzle). Let the seeds toast slightly for 10-20 seconds, then add the onions. Saute for 2 minutes, then add the carrots.  Continue to saute until both soften up.  About 10 mins in a well-heated pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another 2-3 minutes to remove the raw flavor. If the ginger starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, don’t worry. Once the tomatoes are added it will deglaze the pot. Be careful to not let the ginger burn.
  3. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, toasted coriander powder, salt  + 1/8 cup water. Stir, bring to a simmer and cover.  Let cook occasionally stirring to ensure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Turn down the heat if needed.
  4. After 30 minutes, using a potato masher, gently mash the mixture. This help blend the flavors and help break down the tomatoes. Continue to cook for 30 additional minutes, to bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes and reduce the acidity. Occasionally stirring or mashing the mixture if needed. Add a little more water if needed, to prevent sticking. Remove the rosemary twig during this time, the needles can remain in the sauce.
  5. After 60 minutes or so of cooking, add the garbanzo beans, apricots, and 1/2 the broth/water. Bring to a boil, simmer for 15 minutes to marry the flavors.
  6. Then add finely sliced chard stems and zucchini chunks, cook for 3-5 minutes or until the zucchini is halfway cooked. Then add the chopped chard leaves.  Stir until the leaves wilt.
  7. Sprinkle cinnamon powder over the top, cover and turn off the stove. Letting the stew sit covered for about 5 minutes or just until the zucchini is tender but not soft. Serve as is with a drizzle of olive oil or over Saffron & Golden Raisin Couscous.

*Notes from our test kitchen:

  • If cooking your own garbanzo beans, use 1/2 cup dried beans soak for up to 24 hours. Cook in a pot with 4 cups water. Add a bay leaf and pinch of asafoetida/ hing to aid digestion. Cook covered for about 30-40 covered minutes until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water once time to allow any chickpea skin floats to the top, remove these skins, to further support digestion.
  • Peel fresh tomatoes by soaking them in boiling water for about 5-10 minutes. Removing the skin and seeds are said inflammatory. Tomatoes can also be replaced with 1/2 red lentils to thicken the broth. Add them along with broth/water, when it says to add tomatoes. Then continue with the remaining process. Note cook time will reduce.
  • We used 2 cups water and 2 cups bone broth for the recipe
  • Thyme can be substituted for rosemary
  • If you do not have toasted coriander powder, add it when adding the ginger to toast it up.

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

Waste Not | Herb & Citrus Salt

chitchaatchai-herbed-saltWhat do you do when you have more herbs than you can use? One solution is to preserve them in salt. With more herbs, than the time or energy to cook, a Thanksgiving day, many a year ago,  I decided to shortcut the process for making herbed salt. Opting to “dump” the herbs into a salt jar. Rather than the traditional method of spreading the salt and herbs out on a baking sheet. Washing another clunky dish was not appealing and nor was wasting the herbs. With little to no energy, I put my faith in salt’s fire element. Hoping whether the salt and herbs were on a baking sheet or in a jar, salt’s heat would still extract and dry, in-turn preserving the herbs.

Every day or two, I’d check up on the mixture and give the fragrant blend a stir. The aroma was as divine as therapeutic. Bringing a little sunshine to the cold, fall days. After about a week, I had a lovely jar of herbed salt. Fortunately, the short-cut method worked and since that Thanksgiving day, the same vintage blue jar still remains invisibly labeled as the waste-not-herbed-salt-jar. Where extra herbs are continuously dumped-in’ followed by a mineral-rich rock salt.

lemon zestShortly after the success of my initial experiment, I starting sprinkling in citrus zest from limes, lemons, and oranges. This brought a new dimension to the blend and led me to zest or peel any citrus before juicing it. Since I tend to use a lot of citruses, I’ve now also created a jar labeled, waste-not-raw sugar. In addition to herbs and citrus, I add leftover ground toasted spices like coriander, cumin, fennel, and black pepper. Who knows what will ‘dumped-in’ next. There is no formula to making waste-not-salt, except remembering to add more salt every now and then.

Birthed from a mother who engrained reusing, recycling, repurposing into our daily life, food waste was a no-no. From how we trimmed our fruit and veggies, to saving glass jars, practicing waste reduction was a core value in my childhood home. A practice, I practiced for many a decade. Eventually, transforming into muscle memory, a ritual, a mindful daily living practice. Which in some ways has become an unconscious act, yet still fostering new, creative ideas on how to prevent waste, repurpose and reuse.

Requiring little to no effort, this ritual makes spicing it up easier. When time is of the essence, I reach for my herbed salt jar. Of course,  you never exactly know what to expect flavor wise, but it has yet to disappoint. I’ve sprinkled the salt on eggs, in baked goods, soup, stews, grains, as a rub, etc.. its been keeping life salty and spiced up in a good away.

waste-not-salt-chitchaatchai

Waste Not | Herb & Citrus Salt

  • Difficulty: easy

Season: All
What you need: a jar

Ingredients

  • 1/2 to 1 cup Himalayan or Sea Salt
  • Fresh herbs
  • Citrus zest (optional)

Directions

  1. Add salt to your favorite glass jar, mix in the fresh herbs. They can be de-stemmed or slightly chopped (especially rosemary) and zest. Let the mixture sit for a few days so the salt grasps the flavors of herbs and zest. Store in a cool, dry space, occasionally stirring if desired.

*Notes from our test kitchen:

  • Herbs can be continuously be stirred into the jar. As salt reduces, or quantity of herbs increase add more salt. Ensure herbs are well coated.
  • Leftover toasted spices also make a great addition.
  • There is no rhythm or rhyme to waste-not salt, trust your eyes, nose, and hands.
  • After adding fresh ingredients give the mixture a stir every day or so prevent clumps and ensure the salt is doing its job.

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

Moringa & Amchur Red Lentil Coconut Dal

moringa-red-lentil-dal-ayurvedaAny opportunity to make a one pot, six taste meal, we are all about it. In an era, where time is of the essence, even for those of us who love to cook, having a quick, easy recipe makes life a little easier. One of our favorites is a simple red lentil soup or dal. Readily available, red lentils adapt well to an array of spices, herbs grains, and vegetables. Served thick and creamy or light and soupy, these fiery orange pulses are a tasty source of plant-based protein. Stir in a fresh moringa leaves to the pot for a nutrient boost, a gentle cleansing action and another source of protein, amino acids, and iron.

Taking an ol’ favorite, Simply Delicious Tangy Masoor Dal in 30 minutes, as inspiration. This variation includes a green, fresh moringa leaves and calls for amchur, green mango powder. Fresh moringa leaves fall under the bitter taste in Ayurveda, however, the leaves have a delicate and subtle taste. Cooking up like any other leafy green, while the gentle cleansing benefits from bitter (earth + air) still remain.

Amchoor, coming from the Hindi word for aam (mango), is derived from keri (green mango). An early summer, emerald green fruit with a pale yellow earthy goodness on the inside. Unlike mango, keri is hard and sour. Commonly used to make achaars, non-vinegar based pickles. Keri, like turmeric and ginger, is also dried in the sun to make amchoor powder. Generally speaking, it is a South Asian pantry staple. Used to bring the sour taste to meals and commonly used in chaat, South Asian, snack/street food.

chit-chaat-chai-moringaAyurveda + Moringa

Moringa is referred to as sigru in Bhava Prakash (16th century canonical textbook of Ayurveda). Meaning it moves like an arrow. Quickly absorbing, supporting and detoxifying the blood and fat tissues. Moringa also can deeply penetrate into the tissues, including the bone marrow, one of the seven tissues in Ayurveda. Rich in calcium, vitamin c, & iron, moringa leaves come from a tree also referred to as the drumstick tree. Drumsticks are the long edible and nutritious pods, commonly found in sambhar. A spicy lentil soup served alongside dosa.

With a unique combination of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, according to the research paper published by the California College of Ayurveda. Moringa has seventeen amino acids, surpassing the quantity found in meat. Taste wise, moringa is considered pungent and bitter. Primarily encompassing the elements of air, fire, and earth. With a heating energy. Moringa has light, fluid, dry and sharp qualities, making it an excellent green or herb to pacify the heavy, wet, sluggish and static qualities of kapha dosha. An anti-bacterial and fungal, these delicate leaves have a mild taste. Hard to believe they are nutrient rich with amazing medicinal benefits. I guess it shows, you don’t have to flaunt it if you got it!

Notes: eating fresh moringa versus taking a moringa as a supplement are two different ways of consumption. With moringa’s sharp & dry qualities, consider consulting with an Ayurveda Practioner or Vadiya (Ayurveda Physician) who has in-depth knowledge on how moringa will engage with your current constitutional state.

moringa-soup-chit-chaat-chai.jpg

Moringa & Amchur Red Lentil Coconut Soup

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy

Dosha: PKV
Season: Late Summer, Early Fall
Qualities: Light, Warm, Moist
Tastes: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Astringent, Bitter
What you need: a blender or hand blender

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup split red lentils (soaked for 20 mins) 
  • 3 cups water
  • 1-inch ginger piece (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 -1 tsp amchoor powder*
  • 3-4 cilantro stems with leaves roughly chopped
  • 1/2 serrano green chili seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1 cup moringa leaves (washed)
  • 2 T shredded coconut (unsweetened)

Tempering

  • 1 T ghee or coconut oil
  • 1/8 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves (nice to have)

Garnish

  • 1/8 cup finely chopped cilantro

Directions

1. Rinse and soak lentils for a minimum of 20 minutes to overnight. This helps speed up the cook time and aids digestion.

2. In a heavy bottom, medium size soup pot, bring water and lentils to boil over medium-high heat. As the water begins to heat, white foam will appear on top. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, skim off the foam. This also helps with digestions.  Then add ginger, turmeric, amchoor, cilantro stems, and green chili. Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the red lentils being to break down. Then remove from heat and blend for a smoother creamier consistency.

3. Return pot to stove, over low heat and add in coconut, moringa, and salt.  Add warm water at this time, if needed to adjust the consistency. Cover and let simmer.

4. In the meantime, in a small pot or frying pan, add warm ghee or coconut oil over medium heat. When oil appears warm, add 1 mustard seed to test the temperature. If it begins to sizzle its the right temperature if it pops out its too hot. When the oil is at a sizzling temperature, add the mustard seeds. Cook until they begin to gently crackle., then add in the cumin seeds. Let the cumin toast up and become fragrant. Then add in curry leaves and turn off the stove. Immediately adding the spices to the pot of simmering soup.

5 Let the soup continue to simmer until the moringa leaves are cooked. From the time they were added to the pot until cook time is about 10-15 minutes.  The tempered spices can be added in the middle of the cook time.

5. Taste and adjust salt, sour if needed. Add finely chopped cilantro, turn the stove off and keep cover until its time to serve.

*Notes from our test kitchen:

  • Lemon or Lime can be substituted for amchoor
  • Serve as a bowl of soup, over a grain, with a tasty slaw or achaar

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

The Alkalizer | Coconut Water & Cardamom Elixir

ayurvedic-coconut-cardamom-drinkThis cooling, alkalizing elixir comes from ayurvedic physician, Vaidya, Lakshmidevi M. Kartha, BAMs., from Kerela, India. A quick, easy and alkalizing tonic made with two ingredients, coconut water, and cardamom. Cold infused for ten to fifteen minutes, this refreshing, aromatic drink acts as an antidote to acid. While also preventing its reoccurrence in the body and urine. An age-old recipe commonly recommended when there is indigestion or a burning sensation during urination.

The tender, young, coconut water serves as a natural cleanser with its’ diuretic, antimicrobial properties. Helping flush out infectious bacteria and keeping the body cool. The crushed cardamom pods or powder balances samana vayu, a sub-dosha located in the abdomen that governs digestion and assimilation. Cardamom, a carminative and diuretic also balances apana vayu.  Another vata sub-dosha permeating the lower abdomen area, responsible for downward movement in the body.  Including the elimination of carbon monoxide, urine, stool, etc.

The combination of these two natural ingredients acts like a gentle cleanser.  It can be enjoyed at room temperature, a few times throughout the day for two-three days.  To flush excess heat and acidity from the body. The alkalizer also makes for a tasty beverage electrolyte and mineral-rich beverage to enjoy in balance throughout the summer season. Happy drinking. Happy digesting.

Please note: excess acid in the urine or burning pee could be due to bacterial growth, a UTI— urinary tract infection. Please see a physician and get tested. This recipe can help reduce the burning sensation during urination and is not a cure for a UTI.

cardamom-coconut-ayurveda-elixir

The Alkalizer | Coconut Water & Cardamom Elixir

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy

Dosha: PVK
Season: Summer or when acidity is high
Qualities: Light, Liquid, Cold, Mobile, Slightly Dry, Clear
Tastes: Sweet, Pungent
What you need: a glass

Ingredients

  • water from 2 young, tender coconuts or 32 ounces of raw organic coconut water
  • 1 very big pinch of cardamom powder or 4 cardamom pods crushed

Directions

1. In a jug or large glass bottle mix cardamom and coconut water together. Let sit for a minimum of 15 minutes to infuse. Strain if desired before consuming (pods can be added back to remaining water if desired).

*Notes from our test kitchen:

  • a big batch can be made ahead of time. It will keep for up to 2-3 days in the refrigerator. See expiry date on coconut water bottle.
  • if making a refrigerated batch, removing the 8oz serving amount an hour before consuming.  Drink at room temperature or slightly chilled is okay.

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

 

Nasya | Why Cleanse & Lubricate your Nose with Oil

photo-by-Elisa-GuarnerosThe nasal cavity is considered the gateway to the brain, mind, and consciousness, according to Ayurveda. Through the nose, prana—the vital force, flows. Entering the body with every inhale, with every breath. One reason why nasya, an herbal oil based therapy, is one of five key ayurvedic cleansing and restorative therapies. The treatment detoxifies the nasal cavity, by clearing and lubricating the respiratory pathways. Promoting the assimilation of prana. While also relieving sinus congestion and dryness. Two imbalances that can amplify issues with memory, nervous disorders, mental fog, emotional stress, and tension in the head, face, sinuses, jaw, throat, neck, and shoulders.

A time-tested therapy supporting imbalances above the clavicle bone, nasya has been practiced for thousands of years in India. The herbal oil drops improve circulation to promote clarity and boost overall mood. Balancing prana vayu, sadhaka pitta, and tarpaka kapha. The three sub-doshas that govern inhalation, processing emotions, and lubrication.

Consisting of a face and neck massage along with steam helps to open up the respiratory pathways, encouraging circulation while beginning to loosen accumulated mucus. After the initial preparatory steps, a few drops of oil, specifically formulated to address the individual ‘s imbalanced dosha, are gently dropped at the base of each nostril. Then taken in through inhalation to begin lubricating the nasal cavity and decongesting the breathing passages.

The oil counterbalances the dryness, which is often considered, the root cause of many respiratory, allergic, inflammatory and mental/emotional conditions in Ayurveda. The oil coats the cavity, forming a protective layer from airborne irritants and pollutants. The heaviness and lubricating qualities of oil calm vata dosha. In turn, supporting the central nervous system and imbalances associated with it.

While oil is known to lubricate, it can also support with decongestion. Oil moistens old, accumulated sticky or dry phlegm and coats viscous mucus. Helping both to dislodge to open up the breathing passages for easier, longer and deeper breaths. In decongesting the sinuses, nasya supports enhancing cerebral circulation, relieving tension and reducing pain. Allowing prana to flow and assimilate throughout the body.  The proper flow of prana, the master of all energy as said by Dr. David Frawley, can bring about positive change not only in the body but also the mind.

Practiced for thousands of years, this time-tested therapy can be part of a panchakarma program or a stand-alone treatment.  Like neti, nasya can also be self-administered as well. Incorporated into a daily routine or dinacharya using tri-doshic or non-herbal oils to help keep the nasal cavity decongested and moist.  For those with long-term sinus issues, congestion, colds, muscular tension or experiencing high-stress, nervous disorders, nasya administered via an Ayurveda practitioner, panchakarma therapist or vadiya (Ayurveda physician) is recommended for maximum benefits.

5 KEY BENEFITS OF PUTTING OIL IN THE NOSE

Protection: Using oil in the nose lubricates the nasal cavity and sinuses, offering protection from the recycled air, and creating a barrier against pollen and environmental pollutants.

Breath Deeper: Nasya fosters deep inhalation by opening up the nasal passage, allowing prana to flow, aiding in relaxation, releasing stress, and clearing blocked energy.

Clear Blockages: The oil clears stagnation from dry accumulated mucous and relieves congestion, opening up the nasal passages, sharpening the sense of smell, and reactivating breathing through the nose.

Think Clearer: Because the nose serves as the gateway to the head, keeping the nasal passages well hydrated promotes mental clarity, sharpens the memory, and aids in creating emotional stability.

Relieve Dryness: Regular application of nasya oil relieves dryness, nourishes the nervous system, eases tension in the head, neck, throat, and jaw, and fosters calming, stable energy.

HOW TO DO NASYA AT HOME

  1. Comfortably lay down on your back either on a bed, long couch or the floor. Then tilt your head back as far as it will go. Without the neck, feeling stressed. The aim is to have the nostrils face the ceiling. For neck support, place a small pillow beneath your neck or a rolled up towel.
  2. If desired, take a small amount of a breath free balm or a warming oil like sesame, and gently with some pressure massage the forehead, eyebrows, and sinus area (cheeks). starting inward and working your way out.  This helps prep the area, promotes circulation and loosens accumulated mucous.
  3. With your head tilted back, place 3–5 drops of nasya oil at the base of each nostril. Trying to prevent the dropper from entering the nose. This helps to keep the dropper uncontaminated.
  4. Then take a big sniff to allow the oil to enter deep into the nostrils. Lubricating and coating them. Take a couple more breaths while closing one nostril at a time.
  5. Then breath normally to allow the oil to absorb while gently massaging the nose and sinus for a couple minutes to support absorption, if desired.

Watch this demo video from our friends at Banyan Botanicals

DIVE DEEP: NASYA & THE SUB-DOSHAS

Nasya offers support for imbalances related to prana vayu, sadhaka pitta, and tarpaka kapha—the three sub-doshas that govern inhalation, processing emotions, and lubrication. Prana is the movement, sadhaka is transformation, and tarpaka is protective nourishment. All three of these sub-doshas are important to the function of the brain. They work individually while being interconnected. When one is out of balance, the other two could be impacted and vice versa.

For example, if there is sinus congestion from excess kapha (sticky, mucous), it could hinder the flow of prana (air), causing neck stiffness or mental unclarity. Impacting our ability to concentrate or discern our thoughts. The inability to breath, smell, or sleep can lead to frustration, impacting overall mood. Nasya offers support as the therapy quickly reaches the imbalanced sub-doshas.

Prana Vayu

When prana vayu is out of balance, a person may experience anxiety, insomnia, inability to concentrate, and neurological disorders. Prana vayu is located in the cranial cavity. It moves downward and inward in the head and is responsible for inhalation and the movement of the mind, which includes our perception, sensations, feelings, thoughts, and emotions. How prana vayu flows is determined by our thoughts and it plays a role in our emotional response. If the mind has excess movement, is unstable, or there is excess dryness in the body, it can disturb the nervous system. This can impact how we breathe and, in turn, affect the flow of prana throughout our body.

Sadhaka Pitta

Sadhaka pitta is the caretaker of the heart and the seat of consciousness and resides in the brain and the heart. This sub-dosha is responsible for knowledge, understanding, and comprehension. It helps to intellectually process our thoughts, feelings, and emotions by transforming and digesting them to help prevent emotional blocks. Through the heart, it fosters compassion, understanding, and sharing the manifestations of love. When out of balance, there could be challenges with digesting thoughts and emotions, the ability to discern, overwhelming fear, anger, attachment, and difficulties related to memory.

Tarpaka Kapha

Tarpaka kapha nourishes the brain, where it is predominantly present in the white matter. It is also present in the cerebrospinal fluid which surrounds the soft brain tissue and the spinal cord. For the nerve cells, tarpaka kapha provides nourishment and fosters contentment. It is also a protective layer that lubricates the sinuses and nasal cavity. With its ability to retain and record, tarpaka kapha holds on to memories that can either protect us or, when out of balance, they can crystallize, making it challenging to shift thoughts (prana), transform emotions (pitta), or change old patterns. When out of balance, tarpaka kapha holds on to negative memories, fosters stagnation, creates congestion and dry sinuses, dulls the sense of smell, and can lead to memory loss, lethargy, sadness, and emotional instability.

Please note: Avoid nasya when pregnant, feeling ill or experiencing a sinus infection, and immediately after using a neti pot for nasal rinsing.


Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

The Summer Cooler | minty, cucumber, aloe & lime elixir

chit-chaat-chai-aloe-elixirOn those summer days when no amount of water seems to quench the thirst, there’s nothing more satisfying than a refreshing, minty beverage. A glass filled with a little sweet, a little tangy, and a whole lot of cooling hydration. To rebalance the five elements, nourish the tissues, replenish electrolytes, and pacify pitta dosha. During a season where mineral depletion and heat accumulation are common imbalances, reaching for a cooling mineral-rich drink can recharge the system, while reducing internal heat.

Summertime well-being has a lot to do with the balancing the water and fire elements in the body. Staying hydrated and cool are essential practices in cultivating a balanced pitta dosha. To sustain energy levels and prevent imbalances related to dryness and heat. In a season when the body is prone to rapidly lose water and minerals, dehydration is a common imbalance. Depleting the tissues of vital nutrients and moisture. Dryness in the body can also play a role in imbalances related to blood pressure levels, the flexibility of the joints, muscles, and be one of the factors that cause heat to rise in the body.

aloe-mint-lime-cucumber-summer-drinkExcess heat not only has a drying effect, too much of the fire element can also be the source behind acid-reflux, skin imbalances—acne and boils, headaches, burning during urination, eye sensitivity, nosebleeds or angry outbursts, to name a few. In the summer months, its common for heat to accumulate in the body. Especially in the small intestine, liver, and blood. For optimal balance, reducing heat from the body is as necessary as preventing dehydration. Both go hand and hand. Together determining the quality of pitta dosha in the body.

At times, flushing out heat and replenishing minerals to support hydration can require more than water. On these occasions, an alkalizing, natural coolant is the elixir the body-mind needs. With this in mind, we curated a hydrating, aromatic elixir with all six-tastes and mineral-rich ingredients—aloe (bitter), cucumber (sweet, astringent), mint (pungent) and lime (sour) with a touch of heating honey (sweet), and rock salt (salty). To recharge the physical, emotional and mental bodies on the hottest of summer days

The primary ingredients have a gentle cleansing action, extracting heat from where it tends to accumulate—the small intestine, liver, and blood. While also having an inherently cooling energy or virya, according to Ayurveda. Without ice, they can counterbalance the heat and cool the body.  While still supporting the digestive fires. In gently cleansing, cooling and hydrating, this elixir nourishes the skin, replenishes electrolytes and alkalizes the body for that summertime glow.  Zinging up a relaxing moment after a day of fun in the sun. Happy drinking! Happy digesting!

aloe-cucumber-mint-lime-elixir-ayurveda

The Summer Cooler

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy-ish

Dosha: PKV* Season: Summer Qualities: Light, Cold, Clear, Moist Tastes: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Astringent, Bitter What you need: a blender, strainer, citrus press/juicer

Ingredients

 

  • 1 aloe leaf filleted
  • 1 cup mint leaves* + 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1 large cucumber peeled & seeded
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice (10-12 limes)
  • 5-7 cups water*
  • a two-finger pinch of Himalayan salt or black salt
  • 1/2 cup raw, preferably local honey or raw sugar*

Directions

1. Add 1 tightly packed cup of fresh mint leaves to a bowl with 3 cups hot water. Let steep until the water cools. This step can be completed a day ahead if desired.

2. In the meantime, blend cucumber and 2 cups water until smooth. Strain to remove pulp (optional) and add the juice back into the blender. If you are not removing pulp, add the aloe, lime, salt, and honey along with cucumber and blend until smooth.

3. Then add in 1/2 a cup mint leaves and blend using the pulse mode until mint is finely chopped, but not pureed

4. In a jug, add the blended juice and mix in the cooled and strained mint tea. Let mixture infuse for 2-4 hours in the fridge. Remove from fridge an hour or so before serving. Serve slightly chilled but not cold.

*Notes from our test kitchen:

  • 3 cups of mint tea can be used if fresh mint leaves are not available.
  • Depending on the size of the aloe leaf, an additional 1-2 cups of water may be needed to cut the thickness and/or bitterness of the aloe
  • The drink is slightly tangy, a tad bitter, with a sweet touch. Adjust the amount of honey or raw sugar according to personal taste
  • Since this drink is naturally a refrigerant, serving over ice or extremely chilled is not recommended from an Ayurveda perspective
  • For decor, a few slices of cucumber can be peeled prior to slicing cucumber in half
  • Individuals with a vata constitution or dosha (imbalance), monitor the quantity;  use sugar versus honey; a big pinch of ginger powder or 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger when blending ingredients

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

The Summer Lover | a minty-rose, cardamom probiotic lassi

Mint-Rose-Cardamom-LassiSummer wouldn’t be summer without a little fling. Sweet, intoxicating bliss, sparking the heart’s fire, sadhaka agni, with sattva—peaceful energy. A little wink, wink with an aphrodisiac infused with aromatic roses, mint, and cardamom. Then churned with a probiotic-rich yogurt to boost summers’ low digestive flame.  To tame the heated warrior spirit that arises from acidic heat stored in the gut, liver, and blood. In the summer season, when the element of fire is fierce, turn the wild passions of war into an elixir of love. Hello there…Summer Lover. Happy Drinking. Happy Digesting.

The Summer Lover

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy

Dosha: VPK Season: Summer Qualities: Cold, Light-ish Tastes: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Astringent, Bitter What you need: a blender

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup full-fat yogurt with whey (not greek)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds or powder + a pinch
  • a 1 finger pinch of Himalayan salt
  • 2-3 fresh mint leaves
  • 2 T rose water
  • 2 T raw or coconut sugar* (or to taste)

Decorative ingredients

  • 1 T rose petals crushed + splash of rose water (optional)

Directions

1. Over low heat in a small warm frying pan, add the cardamom seeds or powder and lightly toast until the aroma is released. About 30 seconds. Crush seeds into a fine powder with mortar and pestle or with a spice grinder.

2. Place all, except decorative ingredients into the blender. Blend until frothy and sugar has dissolved, about 30 seconds to a minute. Serve immediately or for a stronger mint flavor, let the mixture chill and infuse for 10 mins or so before serving.  Sprinkle with a pinch of cardamom powder for an aromatic boost.

Getting fancy: to rim serving glasses with rose petals,  place crushed petals on to small plate/saucer. Coat the rim of the glass with rose water and dip the glass into the crushed rose petals. Tap off the extra. Pour the yogurt mixture into the glass and sprinkle with a pinch of cardamom powder before serving.

Notes from our test kitchen:

  • Toasted cardamom can be made and stored for up to 3 months
  • A pinch of fennel powder can be substituted for mint
  • Depending on the tartness of the yogurt, sugar quantity may need to be adjusted.
  • Misri/rock sugar or a date can be substituted for coconut or raw sugar
  • From an Ayurveda perspective, honey is not recommended or serving the lassi over ice
  • Individuals with a kapha constitution or imbalance, enjoy with balance

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

 

 

 

How to Cultivate Digestion & Boost Your Metabolic Rate,  Q & A with Laura Plumb  

out of order text on persons belly

In Ayurveda’s approach to cooking, digestibility plays an integral role. Stirring together the ingredients based on the season, constitution or imbalance, to support the digestive process. With disease said to begin with indigestion, digestion becomes a vast, multi-layered topic in Ayurveda. One that Laura Plumb understands on a holistic level. A teacher of Ayurveda, Yoga, and Jyotish (astrology),  she’s also the author of Ayurveda Cooking for Beginners. A cookbook with ayurvedic recipes inspired from cultures around the world. Here, she shares her knowledge and wisdom about digestion. Chit-chatting with us about the metabolic, digestive fire—feeding, boosting and optimizing fire energy for healthier living and digesting.

Laura also shared a delicious, Sicilian inspired recipe, Fennel & Fava Bean Soup. We cooked up a batch here at Chit.Chaat.Chai and all we can say is ghee + lemon zest + fennel—in love!


Cultivating Digestion & Boosting the Metabolic Digestive Fire, Q & A with Laura Plumb  

In your new cookbook, Ayurveda Cooking for Beginners, you talk about how Ayurveda speaks to feeding our fire for optimal digestion. What does it mean to feed our fire?

We take it for granted now, but the discovery of fire was a game-changer. Fire gave warmth, fire gave light and fire gave protection from wild animals. People gathered together around a fire, cultivating the social bonds essential to survival. Fire consumes waste—it can cleanse, as well as destroy. Ancient people considered fire to be a god. Agni, as we call it in Ayurveda, is a force of nurturance, sustenance and, potentially, destruction.

Over time, people came to understand that we have an internal agni. The agni within is also a power that warms, nurtures, consumes, transforms—and when inflamed, can be destructive. Our principle agni is our digestive fire, we also have metabolic fires, synaptic fires, optic fires, and temperature regulating fires. These fires of conversion help us turn food, information, and experiences into nourishment for our bodies, minds, and lives. 

When it comes to feeding our fire or agni, we feed all of these fires to feed our inner force. In relation to our diet, eating fresh, seasonal foods, closest to its natural design helps to ignite and sustain our digestive fires. While stabilizing us within in an environment that is constantly varied and dynamic.

What are the benefits of using this perspective in relation to our dietary choices? 

First, it means we understand that hunger is not just an ache to quell with any filler, but that it is a call, like bells calling us to prayer. Knowing this inspires us to feed our inner fires intelligently, with greater self-care and self-respect. 

Second, we may no longer consider digestion to be a divine being, but given how powerful it is in maintaining and strengthening our life force, we could say it is one of our superpowers. I believe it is worth taking a moment before each meal to quietly thank that inner power. We know through scientific study that our inner fires respond well to acknowledgment. Similar to how we think better when we are calm, our synaptic fires,  we digest better when we are in a state of appreciation.

How do we feed our fire to cultivate digestion?

The neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel suggests that the invention of cooking made food yield more metabolic energy. Allowing humans to develop the largest primate brain. While the brain is 2% of the body, it uses 25% of the calories we need to function each day.  She says “Cooking is essentially the act of using fire to pre-digest food, and thus to get more energy out of the same amount of food. This is what allowed our brains to get bigger in a relatively short period of time. Cooking also allowed us to support this large cerebral cortex, which in turn supports complex thought.”

When I read Herculano-Houzel’s research, I felt she was offering the western scientific rationale to ayurvedic nutrition.  Cooking food is one of the most important ways we can feed our fire to cultivate digestion. It not only predigests our food, releasing energy for brain power, cooking food also releases more macro and micro-nutrients. 

Adding small amounts of sour and pungent tastes to each meal is also a great way to cultivate digestion.  These two tastes are like lighter fluid for the digestive fire. Sour tasting foods are acidic and include citrus, ferments, vinegar, yogurt, kombucha, etc. Pungent foods tend to be spices and herbs like ginger, onion, garlic, cinnamon, clove, and pepper.

A few more ways to cultivate digestion and boost the metabolic fires:

  1. Opting for warm water at meals
  2. Sipping lemon ginger tea throughout the day
  3. Add a dash of black pepper to meals for more firepower
  4. Eat with the seasons. As nature changes with each season so do your body’s needs. Locally grown, seasonal foods offer the balancing nourishment the digestive fire seeks.

Adjust your diet to your individual needs. Each one of us is uniquely designed. There is no one superfood or super diet that is perfect for all. It is worth exploring what is best for you. This can get complex, but your intuition is a terrific guide. If it feels overwhelming, or you would like some guidance, seek out an experienced Ayurveda Professional to help you develop a personal plan.

Be a sunchaser, love this term!  How does adjusting meal size according to the sun, cultivate digestion?

The geniuses who gave us Ayurveda looked at the world around us and saw parallels. They realized that we can see ourselves in the dynamics of our natural world. In that, they noticed that our own digestive “fire,” the fire at the center of our bellies, follows the rhythms of the fire around which we travel, the fire at the center of our solar system.

The sun is strongest when it is overhead at midday. Generally, this is the time when our inner fire is the strongest. A good time to eat the largest meal of the day, heavier foods or foods that are harder to digest like raw or bitter foods. At sunrise and sunset, the sun and our digestive fire tends to be weaker. Meals around this time are generally recommended to be lighter, gently cooked, and appropriately spiced. For example, breakfast could be cooked grains with toasted seeds and coconut, lunch could be dal, rice, cooked vegetables and a salad, and dinner might be a soup or steamed vegetables.

To be a sunchaser is to be one who remembers that we are alive because of the sun. It gives us our food, it keeps our temperature exact, it gives us the light to see, and color to delight. We are designed to live in rhythm with the earth’s rotations. When we remember this relationship we not only improve digestion, but we restore health, boost vitality and feel our lives more creative, purposeful and joy-filled.

For me, Ayurveda is a reminder that we are always in relationship with food and the internal fires, with breath, the trees that give us the oxygen, with the sun, the moon, and all of nature. It is a relationship of belonging and a relationship that reunites us with our source.  

We hear a lot about intermittent fasting lately, what is it and how does it benefit the digestive process?

In the same way, that too many large logs can impair a fire, our own digestion can get overwhelmed with too much food or food that is too heavy or hard to digest. Just as a fire can restore itself if you leave it for a time to burn away at that load, our own digestive fire can restore itself with time. Intermittent fasting is like that. It gives your digestion a chance to digest excess food or to reset itself.

Ayurveda has always suggested we eat breakfast at sunrise, lunch at midday and a light dinner at sunset. This alone would give a 12-hour fast each night. For someone with sluggish or impaired appetite, digestion or metabolism, skipping dinner the same day once a week can also be helpful.

What are some obstacles you’ve had to overcome or overcoming when it comes to food and eating?

Breakfast! I like breakfast on a weekend, with family or friends. But day-to-day, it is more of a challenge—to enjoy it and to sit down to it. I am usually not hungry in the morning, and there is so much to do! Brush my teeth, scrape tongue, oil pull, abhyanga, yoga, pranayam, meditation, morning walk, and often a stop at the gym. All that before prepping breakfast for my son and getting him off for his day. Then my workday is off and running—articles are due, clients are scheduled, events need to be planned…

I find toast is often a good solution, with a smear of avocado, almond butter and cinnamon, rose petal jam or chyvanprash. In summer, it’s a handful of berries. But really, the ideal for me is to eat my main meal at 10:30 am or 11 am and dinner between 5 and 6 pm.

There’s a saying, a rogi has three meals a day, a bhogi has two meals a day, and a yogi has one. Reminding us, we are each different. Ayurveda is brilliant at showing us how to live well for maximum health, energy, clarity, and contentment. While informing us that we have to apply it’s principles individually. My constitution, age, and lifestyle make two meals a day best for me. Even while I fully understand and appreciate the rules for eating breakfast at a regular time each day!

Ginger is said to be a wonderful spice to ignite the digestive fire, are there any alternative spices you recommend, for people who are not ginger fans?

Ginger has so many benefits it is something of a one-stop spice. But for the anti-inflammatory benefits, there is turmeric, cinnamon and black pepper are good to boost digestion, mint is also wonderful for an upset tummy. While cardamom helps balance blood sugar. Those are just a few suggestions off the top of my head. The Ayurveda spice pantry is vast and potent. 


Laura Plumb is an international teacher of Ayurveda, Yoga, and Jyotish. She is the creator of the popular Ayurvedic food blog Food: A Love Story and the co-founder of the Deep Yoga School of Healing Arts. With a 53-part television show called VedaCleanse and a 12-part series called Divine Yoga, Laura is regarded as a leader on mind-body medicine and the power of the Vedic sciences to promote sacred and sumptuous living. 

Laura’s Fennel & Fava Bean Soup

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“Also known as broad beans, fava beans are a great source of lean protein and fiber. In the spring, fava beans are delicious fresh from the pod and tossed with a salad. Once dry they require a good soaking, but after cooking they become soft, creamy, and sweet—well worth the wait. Sometimes I make this soup more as a mash, like refried beans, by adjusting how much broth gets added back. Either way, this recipe is a delicious gift from Sicily, where it has been traditional farm fare since ancient times.”  Author of Ayurveda Cooking for Beginners, Laura Plumb

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Summer-Grocery-List Ayurveda chit-chaat-chaii

Ayurveda’s List of Summer Season Foods

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Extending beyond the produce aisle and into the pantry comes a unique seasonal list from the preventative based medical system, Ayurveda.  All the essential ingredients to cook a seasonal based meal or make a snack. From oil and spices to nuts and seeds, this time-tested science assesses the seasonality of all ingredients for a whole-listic list. For summer, the list includes foods that support digestion, help keep the body and mind cool, prevent hyperacidity and are nutritionally rich in the elements not provided externally. While also prepping the mind, body, and spirit for the season to come.

In viewing foods through the same lens as the season, the Rishi’s of Ayurveda assessed which foods are balancing for each season. They considered their elements—ether, air fire, earth, and water along with their heating or cooling energy (virya). Leveling the playing field—so to speak. An approach enabling this preventative based medical system to compare their similarities and differences. Simply speaking, foods that differ in the elements and energy from that of the season, will promote balance. While ingredients with the same elements and energy can lead to imbalances.

In a medical system that emphasizes individuality when approaching patient care, there’s no surprise that seasonal foods also come with some nuances. Such as avoiding oversimplification by grouping food into good or bad buckets. Taking away from individualness of a person or the situation. Rather the list includes foods to to enjoy, reduce or avoid. With the individual taking into consideration their personal constitution and food preparation.

For example, a person’s whose primary constitution is pitta may need to reduce foods rich in the fire element. To prevent pitta imbalances. Whereas,  a person experiencing pitta dosha, an imbalance, may need to avoid fiery foods completely. A person with a constitution less dominant in pitta dosha can also experience a pitta imbalance. Considering quantity and ingredient combinations are essential factors in approaching seasonal eating in Ayurveda. In the summer, consuming a high quantity of heating foods on a repeated basis or cooking a meal that includes mainly heating ingredients could create pitta imbalances in anyone. As said by many a teacher, “eating balanced dishes, fosters balance within you.”

When it comes to seasonal eating, the basic principle to keep in mind is ‘like attracts like and opposites balance’. An integral concept of this 5,000-year-old medical system developed with the intention to empower humans to have greater autonomy over their health. The statement’s simplicity has a depth that comes alive on a body, mind and soul level as self-awareness and the practice of a medical system heavily focused on lifestyle habits further develops. An approach that encourages agency over one’s well-being.

In regards to summer-friendly foods, a list greatly helps in preparing well-balanced meals. With the help of many trusted Ayurveda texts, we have compiled a list of foods that harmonize with the summer season. As well as, foods to reduce or avoid in a season where the elements of fire and water take center stage. Read More

Artichokes with Crispy Garlic, Ghee & Sumac

Artichokes with ghee sumac and crispy garlic

After coming home with a bag of freshly harvested baby artichokes from Palo Alto Farmer’s Market last Sunday, I was reminded that some fresh produce still remains seasonal. With year-round access to our favorite fruits and vegetables, sometimes remembering whats in and out of season can be a little challenging. Strolling through the Farmer’s market was a lovely way to reconnect with nature’s seasonal gifts, the farmers, and sunshine. While remembering that produce like fava beans, cherries, peaches, fresh peas and artichokes don’t come by daily. Seasonal produce still exist!

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A picture of man getting the netra basti, treatment

A Ghee Bath: an “Ayurvedic” Therapy to Nourish the Eyes

Netra Basti_Julie Bernier_chit_chaat_chaiOne thing we’ve learned from Ayurveda is to embrace the oily life. Dating back over 5, 000 years, this holistic medical system loves healthy fat–sesame, coconut to ghee. Internally and externally, Ayurveda recognizes the medicinal value of oil. From aiding detoxification to calming the nervous system. “Ayurvedic” therapies utilize oil in a wide variety of therapy to support the mind and the body. When it comes to treating the eyes, oil can be used as well. In a therapy called, netra basti.

Living in the digital era, in which eyestrain is on the rise, we wanted to learn more about the benefits of netra basti. A therapy commonly recommended by Ayurveda Practitioners and Doctors in which the eyes are bathed in ghee to relieve strain and much more. So, we called upon Julie Bernier, owner of True Ayurveda in Malibu, California. A NAMA (National Ayurvedic Medical Association) certified, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Yoga Therapist, Julie chit-chatted with us about the what, when, why, how and what if’s of this ancient, time-tested, eye therapy. Read More

5 Books on Ayurveda We Recommend for “Newbies”

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Have you been wanting to learn more about Ayurveda and looking for a book to get you started? A book that provides an informative overview while having a practical element. Focused on the aspect of Ayurveda in which an individual can participate in their own well-being?

With a vast holistic medical system like Ayurveda, finding an introductory book can be challenging. This 5,000-year-old time-tested science encompasses a wide range of knowledge. From prevention-based practices for the general public to disease management that is geared towards medical professionals. For someone new to Ayurveda, the search for a personally relevant book can feel overwhelming. Read More

In Conversation with Filmmaker, Jeremy Frindel, The Doctor From India


Version 2We recently chit-chatted with Jeremy Frindel, director of the 2012 documentary, One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das about his new film, The Doctor From India. A poetic documentary about the pioneering work of  Ayurveda Physician and Educator, Dr. Vasant Lad, BAM&S, MASc.

Frindel’s immersive portrait shares Dr. Lad’s journey in bringing Ayurveda, a holistic-based healthcare system, to the United States in the late 1970’s. Documenting Dr. Lad’s life from childhood to present day, the film includes interviews with Deepak Chopra and longtime friend, Ayurveda physician Dr. Robert E. Savboda. Frindel’s meditative documentary brings new light to Ayurveda and captures the accomplishments of a doctor and healer with a humanitarian spirit.

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In Conversation with Director, Jeremy Frindel on his second documentary, The Doctor From India 

Rumin Jehangir (RJ): Hi, Jeremy. I am so excited to be talking with you today. Thanks for taking the time. I thought we could just jump right into the questions.  I’d love to hear how this film came about. How were you introduced to Dr. Lad, were you a student of Ayuverda?

Jeremy Frindel(JF): I knew pretty much zero about Ayurveda going in. I was, through a series of circumstances, brought to a retreat, through the teachings that Dr. Lad was giving at the Ananda Ashram.  Which is in upstate New York. Not too far from where I live. I knew a little bit about Dr. Lad. What I knew going into that {the retreat} was that a friend of mine who had been incredibly sick, who was a very strong person and for years couldn’t figure out what was going on, in and out of hospitals and doctors. Nobody could figure out what was wrong with her. She saw Dr. Lad. He read her pulse, gave her a few herbs and told her to change some things in her diet and within two weeks what doctors couldn’t figure out for years, he cleared up.  And she’s been fine and the problem hasn’t arisen since. So that made a pretty strong impression on me.

Before that, years earlier, a friend of mine told me how she was going to India to study with this man named Vasant Lad,  and how he spent half of his year in India treating villagers for free and giving them free medicine. And that she was going to learn with him and help him in that. Which I thought was incredible. And she came back glowing from the experience.

So those are the only two things I knew about him,  which had me pretty intrigued but I was mostly unfamiliar. So I went to this retreat. I was kind of tired of going to listen to the same quote, unquote yoga teachers that I’d spent years hearing with on the circuit. I studied for a long time with Dharma Mittra and traveling with Krishna Das.

I felt kind of like I’d heard it all and was a little bit fatigued of the whole routine. And then I walked in the room with Dr. Lad and was just totally blown away. He just moved me instantly and for the week I was pretty much transfixed with him. I was lucky and was able to get a sort of private consultation with him where he read my chart, jyotish, my Vedic astrology chart. It was just a really powerful experience for me.

Normally when I’m anywhere I’m always looking for stories and films and you know, I’m at the grocery store and I get an idea for film, I kind of sweat these ideas and somehow it didn’t cross my mind at all to make a film about Dr. Lad until the very final, puja, closing ceremony of the week.  This man came and sat next to me named Sartaj and we started talking and we really hit it off.

And somehow in the conversation with him, it just sort of came through.  Like oh, you need to make a film about Dr. Lad. After hearing Dr. Lad telling stories about his life and just the depth of wisdom, I was incredibly intrigued by him. It felt like I wanted to know more about him. I felt like there was something really meaningful to share by exploring his life and trying to bring it through in a film. Sartaj knew about the film I had made about Krishna Das. Sartaj also knew Dr. Lad. So within a couple of months, Sartaj had called Dr. Lad, asked him about us making the film. I sent him the film I made about Krishna Das. Dr. Lad agreed. He felt like it would be a nice way to share his life’s work.  A couple months later I had a camera and I was traveling in India with Dr. Lad and had begun filming.

RJ: Wow! That’s amazing. I feel like that’s such a blessing because as you know, Dr. Lad is a private person. Haven taken two intensives with him and talking to some of his regular students at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, even the people who work with him day in and day out, don’t seem to know much about his private life. And so that was one of…I think that’s one of the gifts of the film.  As a student {of his}, you already know that he lives the life he’s talking about. You see that in every sense of his movement and his being. But then to go in and see his personal space it just gives you this whole other level of insight….You were in his bedroom in India. I mean I was like oh, my god! How did that happen? How did you build up that trust with him? First of all, how long did it take you to make this? When did you first go to India?

Doctor_From_India

JF: I should have that year down in my mind but I don’t. I think it was 2013 or 2014. It was a while ago. He’s private and it was interesting for me. One, it was definitely a process of building trust. You know, I think this is kind of the same thing with Krishna Das. For the first six months or so that I filmed, I don’t think barely any of it ended up in the film. It’s almost just like a process of me getting to know him, the subject, and just building a rapport. Me, learning more about the world and where I want to focus my attention and just really building a relationship and a trust.  So that there’s a certain invisibility that can start to grow with the camera.

I sort of fade into the general atmosphere of what’s going on and you start to forget to some extent that there’s a camera recording you. To whatever extent I can create that environment that’s definitely something I’m trying to cultivate. And with Dr. Lad it was like a bit of a process of just building that…definitely trust is a part of it but just like a general comfort level.

I think part of why maybe he opened up to me in a different way than he does with his students often is because I wasn’t a student. I was coming in from a bit of a different angle. I think there’s a different expectation in the teacher-student relationship. So I think I was maybe coming in like a bit a of a side door that just created a different opening there.

I found it really interesting getting to know his students over the years of being around students who had studied with him for years but knew so little about his personal life from the sort of love story with his wife, Usha, to some sort of like key details of how he became who he is. Things to me that were like sort of foundation parts of his story that very few people knew. Which I found fascinating that people who’d kind of given up their lives to study with him who knew the experience of him but knew so little of his story. So for me, it’s really exciting to be able to share that because his story really is profound. I think very moving and so few people know it which I kind of sensed that a little bit.

I spent many years traveling around meeting all kinds of different yoga teachers and sort of spiritual teachers and while Dr. Lad is very, you know, successful and well known.  In the world of Ayurveda, he’s a legend. He’s not all that well known in the larger sphere, like sort of pantheon of spiritual teachers, and to me, he’s so profound and that the breadth of his wisdom is incredible. He feels a bit like a hidden gem, which is part of what I think is so exciting for me to be able to share him in this way. People who I think will love him know very little about him. I knew much more about Robert Svoboda going into making this film than I did about Dr. Lad. So to me, it was a beautiful process of discovering Dr. Lad and all of the sort of fascinating pieces that brought him where he is and the way he really quietly ushered Ayuverda into the rest of the world outside of India.

RJ: That brings me to two points. One is I don’t want to give away too much of the story because I think one of the things that I enjoyed so much, is exactly what you said…I didn’t know about his personal life so as that unraveled in the film it was amazing to experience it. So I don’t want to talk too much about it. But I do want to say…. one thing…. Dr. Lad’s a little bit of a rebel, you know? I didn’t realize that. You would never think someone who is so focused on the traditional aspect of Ayurveda… knowing a little bit about his life [through this film}… I was like he’s got a little bit of rebel in him.  It brought this whole new light to me about him and it makes sense. It makes so much sense to see that side of his spirit.

JF: I think that’s something that people don’t know about him and that you’re right, absolutely right. It’s not readily apparent. You know, he doesn’t wear it so obviously, but I mean even just like bringing Ayuverda to the US and coming here when nobody knew anything about it to teach,  that’s a pretty bad ass rebel move. Let alone the other things you’re talking about of this story with Usha and some other aspects, which I agree are fun to unfold in the film. Yeah, he’s definitely a rebel and an unexpected one because he doesn’t wear it obviously at all.

RJ: He doesn’t wear it at all.

One of the things I found very interesting about the film., is the subplot with Deepak Chopra. I want to talk a little bit more about that. Was that something that you discovered in the process of making the film? Did it come in the editing process? How did that {part of the }story come about?

JF: That was something that I learned right away when I first was doing my research as we were first approaching Dr. Lad and starting the conversation. I was digging around, reading and learning everything I could about him.  Seeing what the stories were on the internet and that was one I had come across. The sort of intersection with Deepak Chopra and Dr. Lad and Maharishi in the early ’80s. Where it was this, you know, very fascinating opportunity that Dr. Lad passed on. Deepak then picked up. You just have to kind of wonder how differently things could have been for both of those men.  If Dr. Lad had made a different decision and how poetic and perfect it is the choices that each of them made.

RJ: Yeah, I agree. I heard about Dr. Lad much later {in my journey}. I started my journey with Ayuverda, my formal journey with Ayuverda in 2009.  I went to school here in the Bay Area down in Fremont at the Kerala Academy, which is now in Milpitas. One of my teachers there was part of the Maharishi group, Dr. Suhas and he was one of my main teachers. So I was more familiar with that world. I had, of course, heard about Deepak Chopra much earlier, and then through my studies, I started hearing about Dr. Lad, because of his books. And then I finally had an opportunity to go to Albuquerque and study with him, but before that, I had watched his videos for hours and hours.

There’s such a large library of his work.  And it was incredible because, to me, he reminded me of my grandfather and my grandmother, in a way. In our family we would sit down a lot of the times and have these spiritual conversations or what people might have considered woo-woo, I want to get to that part of the film a little bit too. And I would just sit there as a young child, on my grandmother’s lap or have my head on her lap and listen.  When I first started hearing Dr. Lad that’s what Dr. Lad reminded me of and I was like wow, this is what I‘ve been missing from the side of Ayuverda, that I was formally learning. …I’m just so happy you made this film because I think this is the side of Ayuverda that people need to see more and understand that it’s not just about taking baths and it’s not just about self-care.

It’s this profound medical system that’s larger. It’s an environmental science…its so many things and Dr. Lad kind of keeping to the traditional aspect of it as Deepak Chopra says,  and Deepak having a different approach. You know, they’re coming from two different angles but they’re both successful in their own right. I’m just so grateful for Dr. Lad and it’s just beautiful to see.  Especially as Ayuverda grows here, as yoga grows, as meditation grows in the United States to have these two parallel stories and these two different approaches and what that says. And I’m glad that you went there with the film.

JF: In terms of the more esoteric elements?

RJ: Well, in terms of some of the stuff with the Maharishi.

JF: Oh, yeah.

RJ: And it was also interesting to see Dr. Lad’s response to it compared to, and I can’t believe his name is escaping me but…

JF: Len Blank

RJ: Yeah. I just love how you put that story together and how you showed the different personalities and the different perspectives.  It shows Dr. Lad’s spirit even more, in that part of the story. I don’t want to say too much but…

JF: Yeah, I understand. It was definitely a delicate theme to edit, but I think it comes through respectfully and you see just the different elements. I find it a very fascinating moment. It’s hard not to talk about it…sort of talk about it… without talking about it.

RJ: Yeah, exactly. We’ll move on.

JF: Okay.

Trailer: The Doctor From India

 

RJ: I also wanted to talk about, you know, some of the “woo-woo” stuff. People might use that word woo-woo, but the spiritual aspect. Talk to me about that and why you decided to keep it in the film and how do you think audiences are going to perceive that?

JF: I had a variety of thoughts on how to approach the like more esoteric, the woo-woo, so to speak, kind of element. One approach would be to kind of keep them out so that it doesn’t alienate a certain audience. But one of the things that was really fascinating to me, from my own experience right away with Dr. Lad, the first time I met Dr. Lad, he told me that I should get a white sapphire stone in a gold setting to wear on my right index finger. I didn’t know anything about crystals. I never wear jewelry. I don’t think I’d ever had my astrology chart read in any real significant way before. It was all stuff I pretty much had zero interest in. As soon as the opportunity came for him to read my chart, I was instantly intrigued.

After seeing him speak and just getting the feel of him, I didn’t feel like this was somebody who’s into hogwash. And as soon as he told me to wear this ring I felt like the ghost of it on my finger, like it was missing. It was like a very tangible sensation. Within a very short amount of time he had expanded my possibility of like all right, maybe there’s something to this stuff that I’d always kind of dismissed. And then being around his students, I saw that same kind of thing with so many people, that his deep belief expands the idea of what’s possible for people around him. So when he decides that there’s something really powerful about wearing these gemstones and you see his hands like beautifully blinged out in all of these rings, I think for people it’s like all right.

Some people probably dismiss it and may not be open, but for me, I found it very intriguing and part of how I see my job as a filmmaker and what I’m trying to do is to give the experience of this person.  As clearly and potently as I can. There’s always going to be an element of interpretation where it’s coming through my particular lens. I’m making all of these choices of where to point the camera and what to include and what to cut out, but it’s all coming through this intention of really presenting the experience of him as potently and as clearly as I can. So a big part of that to him is his idea of how the world works is that there are pieces that don’t fit into necessarily the typical mechanical Western scientific belief.

I think that’s important and it felt important to share that and portray that as unobtrusively as possible. So I try not to draw too much attention to it, while also not shying away from it. Like you see him at one moment in the film helping somebody pick out a stone and it just kind of happens in the flow of this other stuff that’s happening, which is how it feels around him.

In the clinic that he has in India where he goes every night, first of all, the schedule that man keeps is unbelievable. He just wore me out trying to chase him around. He starts at seven in the morning and finishes at ten at night and doesn’t really stop.  He kind of runs that way throughout most of the year. But anyway, he does this clinic from I think it’s six to nine p.m. every night and you never know who’s going to roll in and people are coming in with different things and families.

The gem guy comes through and starts giving people rings. It’s kind of a fun, wild atmosphere, that happens.  The moment the woman is asking Dr. Lad about which stone, it’s just kind of in the flow of a typical night there. So it felt like a nice way to just kind of introduce it without dwelling on it or talking about it or trying to explain it because as soon as I would even think about trying to explain a lot of these things, it’s beyond the scope of the film by far. So it’s just you kind of see it moving through his reality. I was trying to weave that stuff in.

RJ: And then did you end up getting a white sapphire? Do you mind me asking?

JF: I do. I’ve been wearing it for several years now. I tried to get it in New York and went to probably 15 different jewelry shops, Indian jewelry shops in Jackson Heights and two of them had any idea of what I was talking about. One told me they could get me one for thirty dollars and another one told me they could get me one for two thousand dollars. So I realized I had no idea of what I was doing and thirty dollars didn’t seem right and two thousand dollars didn’t seem right. So when I got to India, was filming with Dr. Lad for the first time I told him you suggested I get this when I first met you,  and I couldn’t figure out how to do it in New York. So he {Dr.Lad} sets me up, has the guy come.

He {Dr.Lad} picks out the stone for me and days later I was walking through the city with him and he said did you ever pick up your ring? And they {jewelers} had told me to come back on Sunday night at six p.m. to pick up the ring, and we’d {Dr.Lad} spent the day together and been all over the place.  I hadn’t told him anything about when they told me to pick it up or anything. I had no idea where we were. He said “did you ever pick up your ring?“. Then I looked at the clock and it was like 6:02 on a Sunday night. It was like the moment I was supposed to pick it up. Actually, they told me it’d be ready right now {Jeremy say to Dr. Lad}. He said, “oh, beautiful!” We were right in front of the jewelry shop at that moment. It was one of those kinds of like magical moments that tend to happen with him {Dr.Lad}.

RJ: ….Yeah… I had heard about the amount of work he does when he goes to India, but to see it on film… it’s a lot of hours and the service he provides. I mean he truly lives his life this way and you can see it in all aspects. It’s not about money for him. It’s not about fame. It’s just about healing. It really comes through in the film and it’s so lovely to see that and I’m so excited for people to see this aspect of him, you know.

JF: Yeah. It’s incredible to me just how humbly he goes about doing the work that he’s doing. The first scene of the film you see him coming into his clinic at night. You drive by other… and maybe I should have included this in the film, in some way just to show the contrast for people who don’t understand,  but you go by a typical Ayuverda place in India and often there’s like a big neon photo of the doctor out front and the whole thing. Dr. Lad’s… it’s this old funky sign, up these narrow stairs. You see him setting up the whole thing and running it by himself, so humble. And everything he’s doing in the evening clinic is by donation. In the morning clinic where people come, he’s treating them all for free and giving them all free medicine, these are villagers who don’t have much access to medical care and this is what he calls his vacation.

He spent the past year in India sort of on vacation where he works, you know, from…he leaves his house I think at seven or eight in the morning and gets home about ten at night.  Working the whole day, teaching, treating people, and he’s continually trying to expand the offerings of what’s available there and he’ll spend more time teaching in India. It’s amazing. There were several times he kind of had to, like, put me to bed, take a nap because I was just worn out. He was still going, a man twice my age, very humbling for me.

RJ: It’s like we use the word work but for him, it’s seva. It’s just service. It’s like that’s what you do.

JF: Yeah.

RJ: And when he picked up the phone I was so surprised. I love that you put that in the film. It’s so different than the experience that you get here when you go to Albuquerque. I mean it’s not just feasible to do…it’s two different worlds, to do what he does in India, to do it here. But I love that he picked up the phone. I just was like oh, my, Dr. Lad. There was another moment in the film where you are in his house and you’re walking in the dark and he’s opening the lights to every room.  There was this cute moment, just like a really sweet moment, where he looks at you and it’s almost like he’s looking out for you too. I just thought that was so sweet. It’s like here you are making a film about him and he still has your back and is like telling you to come. It was almost like he was saying come. It’s okay to come. I don’t know, what he was saying,  but I just thought it was so sweet.

JF: Oh, yeah, he was so sweet with us the whole time in the process of making it. It was incredible. Yeah, and I loved that moment too. Then one of my favorite things was having tea with him at his home and driving around for hours in the car.

RJ: How many hours of footage did you end up having?

JF: Oh, god, I couldn’t even begin to calculate – a lot.

RJ: Was there something…what didn’t you include? Is there something you can share with us that maybe you didn’t include?

JF: Well, there was so much. There are so many stories of his life and it was kind of just, for me, a process of finding the essence of how to bring through the experience of what it’s like to be with him. He talks about the speaker coming through. There are these moments when he kind of gets overtaken by like this inspiration or however you want to understand it. To me, what I was trying to do with the film was bring that feeling of being with Dr. Lad in those magical moments and to capture that somehow. There’s a very delicate flow to build that throughout the film. So there are so many stories.  I would have loved to have shared,  but to tell a story takes a long time, you know, most stories.

So it was kind of really picking and choosing the moments that would help build that sort of space. There were many other stories of Vimalananda. You mentioned the son with the fever. Those are my personal favorite stories, just kind of magical ones. And I’d read Robert Svoboda’s books about Vimalananda long before I had any contact with Dr. Lad. So that was one of the things I was particularly excited about, learning more about Vimalananda, so hearing Dr. Lad tell some of those stories. I also spent a time with Robert Svoboda and Dr. Lad where they were both telling Vimalananda stories together which was amazing that I would have loved to have included more of in the film, but it’s like a really delicate flow trying to build and the movie already ended up being…I was kind of imaging it in about the 80-minute range and it ended up being in the 90-minute range.  Which felt nice but I didn’t want to push it any farther than that.

RJ: And that’s one of the things I also loved about the film was the pace of the film. You know…there was a poetic kind of energy about it.  Very similar to how Dr. Lad is and his journey coming here. I really felt that in the pace of the film. It kind of mirrored Dr. Lad’s life to me. It’s almost like that energy is in the energy of your story and the pace of the story.

JF: Beautiful. That was something I was working really hard to craft and there were some up and down moments where I wasn’t sure that it was really coming through. The music, I think, really helped the pace a lot. There was a woman who did the score, Rachel Grimes, incredibly talented, somebody I’ve been a huge fan of for a very long time. So I was excited that she agreed to do the score. She wasn’t familiar with Dr. Lad when I approached her but after a while, she watched some footage. I think she did some research on her own. She really connected with him and I feel like she really helped build the pace and the music, I think, it is just gorgeous. It really helps weave you through.  Kind of brings you through and kind of bring the subtle emotions through, just a real spirit to it.

Between the music and the cinematography, the guy who shot a lot of the film with me, Jimmy Ferguson, I also think just did a beautiful job…from the start I really wanted to have this kind of a feeling of just floating through his world with him, very intimate. When he’s with patients, the camera just kind of like floating gently about. And it was all, to kind of build that atmosphere, and that feeling of being with him, and real intimacy. I think between Dr. Lad’s just kind of presence and the openness with the look and the music, you just kind of get swept into his world what he’s working towards.

RJ: Yeah, I agree. And it’ll be interesting to hear from people who don’t know Dr. Lad and to hear their perspective and how they feel after the film. Has Dr. Lad seen the film?

JF: He has, yeah. I sent a cut to him. He’s seen a few edits along the way. I showed him the first cut a while ago but when I got to the point where I was pretty sure I was done, before I went into getting the sound mix and the color correction, I sent a cut for him and Wynn to watch. Wynn runs the Ayurvedic Institute with Dr. Lad. He’s been working with him a long time. So I sent an edit for the two of them to watch and they were planning on calling, we had an appointment for them to call me at a certain point when they were done watching it. So I was pretty nervously waiting by the phone hoping he would feel good about what I’d done. I got a phone call. It was Dr. Lad and Wynn and his kids and a whole house full of people. They were all really excited. Dr. Lad said “exquisite. It’s elegant. It is divine”. Those were the three words he used. That was a nice moment for me.

RJ: Wow! I bet. That’s amazing. From the time you started not knowing anything about Dr. Lad really,  to when you finished the film, I know we’ve talked a lot about things that you discovered about Dr. Lad, but was there anything that kind of took you by surprise?

JF: I mean, one thing was the humility and just kind of endless fountain of what I was getting from him continually surprised me. He’s just absolutely a hundred percent committed to what he’s doing. And.. whatever most people would call personal life is completely woven in with the work he does.  In a way that I hadn’t experienced really with anyone else.

They told a story of him. At one point people insisted that he go on a vacation and they bought him a trip to Hawaii. He was there for a couple days and was like I’m ready to come home and go back to work now. He wants to be with people and teach and treat and heal and help. That’s the air he breathes and what he does. So that was pretty striking to me to just see and feel that in somebody so profoundly.

RJ: Very selfless kind of energy and it seems like that’s where he feels the most fulfilled. If he’s going on vacation, it’s like he’s choosing to come back and do what he loves to do. It seems like,  that it’s not work for him. That in itself his life is a vacation, you know. It’s like he just feels…probably…I don’t know. I’m assuming just from the story that you shared.  That’s amazing. I hope that I can one day feel that in my life.

Just a couple more things. One is how can audiences see this film? I know you have a screening coming up in Philadelphia.

JF: I think it’s April 4 {2018}. I don’t have a date in front of me but I believe that’s what it is, at the Ritz Theater. Yeah, there’s a bunch of screenings that are starting to come through. The film got picked up for distribution by Zeitgeist Films who I worked with on my last film, One Track Heart, which is really exciting. They’re wonderful. They do great work. They’re very well respected in the film industry and it gives the film a real beautiful platform to move throughout the US. So they’re starting to book screenings all over the country. We’re going to my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, in April, on April 12, I think, for a screening which is exciting for me. I think we might have a screening in Nashville possibly at that time.

It’s playing in Jacksonville, Florida, at a film festival at the end of March. We’ve got a little tour of the Southwest lined up in May where we fly to Sedona showing the film for two nights and then going to Albuquerque on…let me look at my calendar here…Albuquerque on May 11 where Dr. Lad and I will talk after the film.

RJ: Oh, my god.I’m going to come for that.

JF: Yeah, come on. Then on Saturday, the next night, May 12, in Santa Fe Dr. Lad and I will go to Santa Fe and show the film there. I’m really excited for that. It’s a beautiful tour of the Southwest, going to Sedona, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, sharing the film with the whole community out in New Mexico. And there are a bunch more screenings lining up. We’re working on getting dates set for New York, LA, the Bay area. There’s probably a bunch of other places I’m forgetting right now but as soon as the details are set, we’re trying to get up on Facebook as much as we can and Zeitgeist has a website, zeitgeistfilms.com. They have a page for the “Doctor From India” where they’re putting all the screenings up.

And we’re working on more countries. We got distribution in Germany. I think that we’re going to have a screening or two in Cologne when Dr. Lad is in Germany teaching this July. So he’ll be there for that. We’re doing everything we can to bring it out and it feels important to try to get as much of a theatrical experience for people as possible. For me, nothing compares to seeing a film in community with other people on a big screen with a good sound system. It’s such an immersive experience. It’s not possible watching it on your laptop. So whatever extent we’re able to make that possible, I plan to get as much of that as we can because it’s such a different experience to share with a group and see it in the ideal environment where you can really get swept up into the subtleties.

As much as we can get it in theaters, we’re working to do that. Anybody who wants to organize a screening in their town, Nancy and Emily from Zeitgeist have been great working with people. You know, Larry, the screening in Philadelphia was organized by Larry so it was him reaching out to them and helping put it together is how that came about. So if people are interested in trying to arrange something in their town, it’s possible.

RJ: I’m definitely up for that. I’m waiting to hear back from them and I’d love to support any way that I can here in Oakland or the Bay area and help with that.

JF: Fantastic.

RJ: So I just want to say thank you so much for making this film and documenting Dr. Lad’s journey and showing his beautiful soul. I think this film is just such a gift for us, today, but I think it’s also going to be a gift for generations to come. I want to wish you continued success in your future endeavors.

JF: Thank you so much and thank you for taking the time in reaching out to chat and help us share the film and getting the word out. It’s a big part of helping us to bring the film to people, what you’re doing. So it’s greatly appreciated. Thank you.

RJ: Thank you.

For information on screenings, visit zeitgeistfilms.com or the film’s Facebook page.

 


 

Ep.4 The Doctor From India, Director, Jeremy Frindel

Episode 4. In Conversation with Filmmaker Jeremy Frindel On The Doctor From India

We chit-chat with Jeremy Frindel, director of the 2012 documentary, One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das, about his new film, The Doctor From India. A poetic documentary that brings new light to Ayurveda and captures the accomplishments of a doctor and healer with a humanitarian spirit, Ayurveda Physician, and Educator, Dr. Vasant Lad, BAM&S, MASc.

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For information on screenings, visit zeitgeistfilms.com or the film’s Facebook page.


Read the interview and watch the trailer

 

7 Tips to Prevent Spring Allergies & Boost Digestion

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Daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth are popping up in backyards, street beds and random corners of neighborhoods. With their sparks of color, these flowering bulbs are a reminder that spring is upon us—and so is pollen! From the lens of Ayurveda, the body’s response to the seasonal shift can be indicative of the diet and lifestyle choices made in the prior season. What we did or did not do, ate or did not eat, or drank or did not drink in the winter can play a role in how the immune system will respond in the spring.

Ayurveda & Spring 

Ayurveda refers to spring as kapha season. Kapha translates to “stick together”. Giving us insight into the qualities of this dosha—cold, sticky, heavy, slow and wet. After a dry winter season, kapha qualities bring balance to the environment. An increase in rainfall adds moisture to the air and soil. While more sun hours transforms snow into water and warms-up the earth. Inspiring hibernating bulbs to bloom.

As the season shifts from winter to spring, the body, mind, and emotions begin responding to the new season.  If there is an over accumulation of kapha qualities in the body—cold, sticky, heavy, slow or wet, during the winter season, it can lead to kapha imbalances in the spring. Such as water retention, congestion, dry sinuses, weak digestion, heaviness and/ or a feeling of lethargy—imbalances that create stagnation in the body and mind.

Digestion & Winter & Good Fat

Spring imbalances in the body can often stem from improper digestion and dietary choices during the winter season. If a dish was not prepared appropriately or balancing for an individual’s constitution it can be challenging for the body to digest. Leading to ama or toxins, which can create stagnation in the body.  In the winter, one key ingredient is omega-rich fats. Adding healthy oils to the diet can aid in counterbalancing winter’s dry qualities. Incorporating good fat into each meal also helps balance drying or mucous promoting foods. Such as dairy, grains or raw greens, which can further promote dryness, cold, and stagnation in the body, if not prepared for the season.

Consuming sufficient healthy omega-rich oils in the winter is also helpful in protecting the intestinal walls, sinuses, and lungs. Providing a lubricating shield from spring’s pollen. In doing so, it can help prevent digestive issues, excess mucous production, colds, congestion—allergic responses during the seasonal shift from winter to spring. Combined with movement, a seasonal winter diet based on one’s constitution fosters in-season balance while preparing the body for the next season, spring.

Living Seasonally 

One of the key principles of Ayurveda is aligning our diets, activities, and routines to the season. Harnessing the circadian rhythm and letting Mother Nature guide our seasonal choices. Living with the season’s clock helps to optimize our energy for a better quality of life. While prepping our body with antidotes, like seasonal foods and activities, to stay healthy in the current season and the season to come. Here are some tips on how to foster stronger immunity in the spring and prep the body for the summer.

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Sesame Honey Ladoos (Balls)

honey-sesame-balls-chit-chaat-chaiRemember the sesame brittle candies wrapped in clear twisted plastic..often found at the check-out counter? These sesame honey balls from Divya Alter’s cookbook, What to Eat for How You Feel remind me of them. But without the sticky fingers and teeth.

Since the beginning of winter, I’ve been wanting to make sesame “candies” from scratch. They’re the perfect, nourishing winter treat. Rich in immunity-boosting nutrients, healthy fat, anti-oxidants, and minerals. With a warming energy to balance with the cold season. Sometimes, it’s hard to wrap my mind around how a yummy “candy” can also be nutritious.

Traditionally, sesame “candies” are made in the cold season. Often in the form of a laddu (ball) or as brittle (I love the diamond-shaped versions). Instead of honey or refined sugarcane, South Asian recipes most often call for jaggery, an unrefined sweetener that comes from sugarcane. It’s often given to kids melted on a chapati with ghee for their iron and mineral content.  A snack after my own heart. Jaggery is also used in nuts and seeds based spiced treats made specifically for women, post childbirth. To foster strengthen, nourish and re-build immunity or ojas—kapha qualities.

The process to make sesame brittle with jaggery requires some fast working hands and temperature regulation. What’s nice about Divya’s recipe is that neither is required. Aside from the texture, and gooey factor, these sesame honey balls taste very similar to the sesame candies/brittle, I love so much. Without comprising the nutrients. Yes and Yes.

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Instead of jaggery, Divya’s recipe calls for raw honey.  Like jaggery, honey is also warming and considered to be a cold season food. Along with it’s immune boosting nutrients, honey’s drying qualities can help prevent mucus and colds. A recommended sweetener for kapha dosha, Ayurveda also considers honey to be medicinal. Combined with ginger, turmeric, and other heating spices, it can further support kapha imbalances, like congestion. By counterbalancing the cold, wet, moist and sticky qualities of phlegm and mucus.

Finding new ways to get raw, unheated honey into my diet throughout the winter season is always rewarding. Although, I am not beneath eating a couple spoonfuls straight from the jar. It’s nice to have a variety of seasonal options. These sesame honey balls were this seasons find. A treat, snack or dessert, they do the body-mind good. Generating internal warmth, boosting immunity to prep for the seasonal shift, giving skin that summer glow, and helping to ground restless vata dosha. Not to mention the dose of healthy fat, antioxidants, minerals and immune-boosting nutrients.

Basically, a sweet, nourishing, balanced, and delicious food-based, sattva vitamin—made, especially for the winter season. When eaten in moderation…(reminder to self). Now on to make my next batch.

Happy eating. Happy digesting.


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Nourish the Body & Mind, Sesame Love

Chit-Chaat-Chai-Sesame-SeedsYou say sesame seeds, and I say my nana (maternal grandfather) and his blazer pocket.  The three are forever synonymous in my mind.  They go together like sesame seeds melded together with honey— remember the little rectangular “candies” wrapped in rice paper and twisted in clear plastic. They were always stashed in my Nana’s navy blazer. Each one slightly tacky and perfectly gooey from traveling on his day-long adventures.

Even into my adult years, out came the little one bite wonders from his navy blazer. The treat never grew old. Just gooier and gooier between my teeth. When I formally started studying Ayurveda, sesame seeds took on a whole new light. What was once associated with “Nana candy”, was now seen as nourishing and detoxifying food for the body and mind. In class, if we weren’t talking about how to cook with them we were talking about using their oil in treatments for the skin, mouth, throat, nose, and ears.

I quickly learned how revered these tiny seeds were in Ayurveda. Touted for their not only for their minerals but also their guna.  An energetic vibration or what today’s physics would consider as the phenomena of matter, according to Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom by Acharya ShunyaA food’s guna is one the integral nutrients an Ayurveda counselor, practitioner or doctor considers when making dietary recommendations. Similar to how a dietitian would assess the calorie and fat count of food.

Out of the three gunas: sattva, rajas, and tamas, sesame seeds are inherently sattva. Sattva represents balance, a stabilizing force that evokes contentment, bliss, lightness and does not overstimulate the body or mind. In the context of dietary choices, sattva foods are said to foster mental clarity, love, compassion, patience, and bring internal peace. They are considered to be rich in prana—life force, easily digestible, sharpen the intellect and have a calming, purifying effect on the mind.

“PURITY OF MIND DEPENDS ON THE PURITY OF FOOD.” – SWAMI SIVANANDA

Yoga philosophy and Ayurveda speak to the effect the diet, (what we take in through our sense of taste), has on the attitude, thoughts, emotions, and intellect. As Swami Sivananda says, “purity of the mind depends on the purity of food”. Based on the mind-body connection, sattva foods like sesame seeds are revered. In quantities appropriate for the season or individual dosha (imbalance/constitution). Diets primarily consisting of sattva foods are the preferred choice for yogis, rishis, and strict followers of Ayurveda. Who tend to refrain from foods that are overstimulating to the mind and body—tamasic and rajasic foods like meat, onions, and garlic, for example. Read More

5 Steps To Create New Year’s Resolutions That Last The Year

New-Years-Resolution-Chit-Chaat-ChaiI love the end of the year because it provides a benchmark for the progress we’ve made during the past 12 months and reignites our motivation to set new goals for the upcoming year. One of the things that have always frustrated me once I’ve created new intentions has been the lack of discussion around how resolutions are going once January passes. Nobody talks about how they are doing with their intended goals in April or what changes they needed to make, if any, in the middle of the summer. This idea of self-improvement and the spirit of personal growth that comes with the beginning of a new year stays stuck there, at the start of the year.

My best guess as to why this occurs has to do with people either setting unrealistic expectations of themselves or not properly mapping out how they will reach their goal(s), both which lead to messy approaches and disappointing outcomes.

After accomplishing my one New Year’s Resolution that I had set out for myself in 2015-to meditate every day, I can say that it’s a lot of hard work, which requires persistence, patience, faith, and motivation. But I have been able to maintain that one goal for 2.5 years now, so it’s absolutely possible!

Below are 5 steps I believe will help anyone stick to their New Year’s Resolutions. Read More

Shredded Carrot & Lentil Salad

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I think what I appreciate most about Indian/Pakistani salads is their similarity to a slaw.  They can be eaten as is,  a side, added to a wrap or the final topping on a bowl. Complimenting a meal or a bite, similar to a chutney or condiment. While retaining a hearty, crunchy freshness like a slaw.

Since they last a few days in the fridge without wilting or losing the crunch factor, they can easily be made ahead. A handy convenience when time is of the essence. Salad-slaws can be a quick way to add a missing taste, quality or vegetable to a meal when applying Ayurveda food guidelines to eating.  Need a sweet, sour, astringent or bitter taste? Or something a little dry (aka crunchy) or light? Depending on the type of slaw, several missing bases can be covered at once.

If I haven’t already said enough about why slaw-salads are awesome, here is one more thing. Slaw type salads aide and support digestion. A light fermentation process takes place from the salt and lemon or lime “dressing”.  Adding a tangy, and not sharp vinegar flavor, which can be too harsh and acidic for some. Just enough sour to moisten the mouth and increase the flow of saliva. Enhancing the secretion of digestive enzymes, and stimulating metabolism. In doing so, the sour taste also helps to expel excess vata that can sometimes create stagnation in the body. While energizing the mind and aiding concentration.

This recipe comes via Chitra Agarwal’s new cookbook, Vibrant India (read more about her book here).roften served on special occasions.  Happy Cooking! Happy Eating! Happy Digesting!


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Green Bean & Coconut Stir-Fry

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Quick and easy with a flavorful aromatic punch pretty much sums up this string bean coconut stir-fry recipe from Chitra Agrawal’s new cookbook Vibrant India (read more here).  Any dish with shredded coconut always makes my eyes shine.  The chewy goodness sweetly balances the spicy flavor profile of this Karnatakan dish.  Adding a layer of complexity to a fairly simple dish.  The use of coconut is one of the things I appreciate most about cuisine from the Southern part of India. When I came across this recipe in Vibrant India, I knew it was one of the first ones I wanted to try. Read More

Roasted Butternut Squash & Lentil Stew

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The days when I craved butternut squash soup were long ago. A time when the sweetness did not overwhelm my taste buds and the heavy soup felt light.  An era I did not think would return.  Until I came across this Roasted Butternut Squash & Lentil Stew recipe in Vibrant India. A cookbook filled with Chitra Agarwal’s family’s recipes from the southern Indian state of Karnataka (click here to read my review).

The combination of sweet and spicy ingredients immediately appealed to my current taste preference. Which is currently lingering between autumn and winter. When vata dosha is still center stage and kapha dosha begins to introduce itself.  A time when the grounding, earthy nourishment from the sweet taste is still integral to Ayurveda’s seasonal diet. While the pungent taste needs to take a step forward.  To counterbalance the start of the cold and wet season with its warming and drying qualities.

A take on a traditional family recipe, Chitra, author of Vibrant India, blends butternut squash with red lentils.  Then spices it up with with a traditional spice blend from Karnataka known as huli. Creating a creamy, soupy-stew style dal that is slightly sweet and spicy.  Huli is similar to sambar powder, a spice blend commonly used in South Indian dishes. Sambar is also the name of the lentil soup served with dosas and idli. Consisting of common spices used across South Asia with the addition of ground lentils. Read More

Cooking with Vibrant India

Vibrant-India-Rumin-Chit-Chaat-ChaiLiving in a country where South Asian food tends to be associated with Northern Indian cuisine, Chitra Agrawal’s cookbook, Vibrant India brings a refreshing change. State-specific South Asian cookbooks are a rare find. Coming across one with a personal narrative and captures the cuisine from the south-western Indian state of Karnataka, suggests we are entering into an exciting time for South Asian cookbooks.

Filled with every day to special occasion dishes, Vibrant India connects food with family memories, traditions, and comfort. Recipes passed down from generations, rooted in sattvic dietary customs and reflective of a second-generation American of Karnataka descent. It’s family’s cookbook of sorts.  One that is now publicly available to the DIY foodie, the traditional enthusiast and/or those seeking to diversify their South Asian recipe box beyond chicken tikka masala and palak paneer. Read More

Digest Better: Engaging the 5 Senses with Each Bite

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In a couple weeks, here in the U.S., it will we will be time for the Fall Harvest Feast. A holiday that brings people together to share a meal, laugh, and reconnect with loved ones. It’s also a time to recognize and be grateful for all the gifts we have in our lives. While it can be a joyous day,  it can also be one of overindulgence. A day in which we tend to please our emotions and often tune out the needs of our body. Transforming active, joyous energy to lethargy.

How do we walk away from the table feeling mentally and emotionally happy while our body still feels energetic?  With room to digest the nourishment it just received.

One practice is connecting the mind and the emotions with the body through actively engaging the five senses. Using our senses to direct our mind and emotions towards love and appreciation. If we do this prior to taking the first bite, it can help bring us into the moment. Focusing our attention towards the gift of a meal and helping to prevent mindless eating.

The practice also helps prepares the body by releasing digestive juices prior to the first bite. Helping the nutrients from the joy of the day and our food digest, assimilate and absorb.

Here some tips on how to activate the sense of smell, sight, touch, sound, and taste to help bring us into the moment.

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5 Dishes to Spice Up Your Fall Harvest Feast

Looking to add a little spice to your Fall Harvest Feast this month? Here are five delicious sides (and 1 appetizer) that also happen to be vegan, dairy and gluten-free.

Happy Eating! Happy Digesting!

1. Smokin’ Sweet Cranberry Chipotle Chutney It’s amazing what a little chipotle, cumin, cinnamon, garlic and orange does to cranberry sauce. Click here for the recipe.

Chiptole Cranberry Chutney

2. It’s a Rose-Mary Citrus Party Entice those fingers to grab some pre-meal fruit. Thinly sliced citrus makes keeps it easy and clean for the chef and guests.  A  light, hydrating snack that leaves room for the main course and sides. Click here for the recipe.

Rose-Mary Citrus Platter

3. 5 Spiced Yams & Rainbow Chard Spice up yams and greens with three tasty digestive aides cumin, fennel and ginger.  A variation of the popular 5 spices and a veggieClick here for the recipe.

5 Spices w/Yams & Rainbow Chard #chitchaatchai

4. Corn in a Roasted Poblano Coconut Curry  Take the corn off the cob and this recipe can easily convert to a vegan, dairy-free creamed corn or corn dressed in a spicy coconut based sauce.  Click here for the recipe.

Corn in a Roasted Poblano Coconut Sauce - Chit.Chaat.Chai

5. Roasted Squash & Yams with Sweet Spices & a Tahini Lime Dressing This side will treat every taste the heart desires, sweet, salty, sour pungent. It’s a party in your mouth. Greek yogurt can be substituted with a vegan yogurt. Click here for the recipe.

chit-chaat-chai ayurvedic roasted squash and yam with tahini dressing