Please join us on Sunday July 8th 1-3pm in Oakland for the second ever....

MODERN AYURVEDA SALON FOR WOMEN 
a monthly gathering of women learning, sharing, and supporting each other to live an Ayurvedic lifestyle. We will talk about the big picture principles of Ayurveda and discover ways to incorporate them into everyday life. 

This month we will explore the concept of Regularity from various angles: the theoretical, historical, experiential, and practical. We will talk about why Ayurveda emphasizes the idea of daily practice and seasonal routines and the importance of providing your body with familiar and regular input in terms of food and exercise and sleep schedules. Creating regularity in your life will help you tune your body to the patterns of nature and decrease the stress of modern life on your body.

Bring your challenges to creating regular schedules in your life and we will brainstorm how to incorporate patterns into your life so that your body doesn't need to work so hard to keep you healthy!

Riquelle Small: energy healer & coach will be joining us to explore the concept of regularity of practice for self care and share some tools & tips.

Adrienne Coen: CMT with a specialization in ayurvedic styles (among other things) will be on hand to keep us playful and inspired. 

We have 2 upcoming dates at Square One Yoga in Temescal, Oakland:

  • July 8th 1-3pm 
  • August 12th 1-3pm

Suggested donation of $10. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

 

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How, after all, can you be healthy if the people around you are not?

Have you been frustrated by nobody understanding your Ayurvedic diet or practices?
Are your friends Palio, or Vegan or doing  a low FODMAP diet and find it easy(er) to get recipes, tips and support.
But you just really feel drawn to Ayurveda?

Have you been frustrated when you pick up a book or article on Ayurveda and find its suggestions opaque and impracticable?

Ayurveda, with all it's quirks and ancient practices, doesn't come with much of a community of online followers and guides. And it is hard to learn a new way of relating to the world on your own! 

What better way to deepen your understanding and practice of Ayurveda than to come together with other women (sorry guys-- just us for now) to share experiences and learn from one another? 

Please join me and some esteemed friends for a...

MODERN AYURVEDA SALON FOR WOMEN 
a monthly gathering of women learning, sharing, and supporting each other to live an Ayurvedic lifestyle. We will talk about the big picture principles of Ayurveda and discover ways to incorporate them into everyday life. 

Each month we will focus on one principal and explore it from various angles: the theoretical, historical, experiential, and practical. We will talk and share recipes, learn new breathing techniques and cooking tips, and even do 'homework' to explore concepts and solidify our understanding.
Let's play with Ayurveda together as we learn how to practice in a suitable Modern Way!

We have 2 upcoming dates at Square One Yoga in Temescal, Oakland:

  • June 10th 1-3pm
  • July 8th 1-3pm 

Suggested donation of $10. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

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There is no doubt that the modern women (and increasingly the modern man!) is pressured by media, advertising and society to fit an idealized beauty that is achievable only with products, products and more products! Those products are crammed full of un- and under- regulated chemicals. The average American woman puts 168 chemicals on her skin every day

Even if you are a 'health nut' about your skin care regime too you may want to do a little research. One of my favorite allies in guarding against the perils of beauty products (and champions of a chemical-free life) is Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database of products. See how your beauty products score: www.ewg.org/skindeep


If you are still looking for great presents for your favorite adherent to Ayurveda (or perhaps want to tilt a friend in the direction of following ayurveda) here is my pick for the season.
Ayurveda requires dedication and conscientiousness; but it shouldn't be grueling. Here are a.few suggestions that make Ayurvedic living easier via technology and in one instance lovely fragrances.

 


Programmable, Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker / Slow Cooker

I got one of these a few weeks ago and I have barely used the stove-top since then. It makes nearly immediate breakfast cereals, delicious meat and veggie stocks, beans in a flash ... I even cooked a whole spaghetti squash in it in under 10 minutes. It is stainless so easy to clean and can be set to start times cooking cycles while you are at work. I truly believe everyone should have one!

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Magical Milk Frother

A daily cup of milk is so important in Ayurveda: make it easy w
ith this milk frother. It is quick (brings milk to scalding point with 3 frothing cycles) and easy to clean. Perfect for Spiced Milk on a chilly night!

 

Give the gift of a Quiet Mind

The App-sphere is certainly full of all sorts of nonsense and fluff. But there are also some gems out there thatactually help make us better people rather than just more distracted and distractable. One of the most fuss-free ways to incorporate more mental clarity into your day is HeadSpace the app that is actually a meditation training program with hours of high quality meditation guidance and even specific programs for things like working on your health or your relationships.

Make everything Smell Sweeter

Mat Mist is a delightful way to bring Pitta-balancing fragrance into your life and your exercise routine. These mists are designed for yoga mats and workout gear-- but are so nice you will want to use them in your car and home too! Order a subscription and have a seasonal scent sent to your door every 4 months!
    

Have a friend who is on the precipice of new vision for their life?

Perhaps what she (or he) needs is a Journeying Workshop with Shaman and healer Heather O'Connor. I work with Heather myself and find her support to be invaluable.
Heather's grounded guidance is an elegant introduction to developing your own vision.

Heather has 2 workshops coming up on Oakland in Late January.

 

Find more info here...


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Ayurveda is a plan for self-cultivation. It is a set of guidelines about how to live well and in the end how to die well too. 

Recently my mom succumbed to a sudden illness. For years she had been saying that if she got sick she would refuse the poisons and machinery of modern medicine, refuse the prolonging of the inevitable. She was preparing my sister and I for the choice that she made -- to allow the natural course of things. 

My mother was an expert knitter, spinner, water-colorist, dressage rider, cook. She dabbled in cello and sarcasm and half a dozen other arts.  Mostly she was a master gardener. She loved the fertility she found in the Central Coast after a life in the cultural brutality of the Midwest. When she first moved to California her gardens were dense and lush; like they had been in the moist Midwest. With time her attitude towards gardening morphed;  if it thrives encourage it, if it does not let it go. Her garden was a mix of the carefully cultivated and upstart volunteer plants growing where they chose. She had become more a facilitator than an imperialist. There are tomatoes growing with the impatiens, onions in all the flower pots, roses and herbs together. Especially in these years of drought the garden took on a sort of zen cacophony.

This is how she lived and how she died. With an ear to the rhythms of nature and what that implies for us. 
 

The pomegranate tree in the front yard was fruiting in early fall as my mother passed. Persephone descends to the underworld for the dark months of the year with only 6 pomegranate seeds to eat. In Persephone's absence fall comes, all the land goes barren, humans starve. Persephone is divided between her love for her mother and her love for the King of the Underworld. A deal is struck and in the end she cycles between Hades and her mother Demeter. Summer and winter mirror her movements. 
This has always been a favorite myth of mine. There is death, love, mystery, longing and reunion, the promise of rebirth and the inevitability of natural cycles. It is a core myth of western civilization and it teaches that these things are the stuff of life; not just the fun easy bits. It is the knowledge of nature and it's patterns and the ability to live well within them that civilizes us. 

I am fortunate to have been cultivated in such a garden.


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I imagine that most of my readers  are liberal in your politics and social concerns. I am lefter than left in most things. But there are some areas of life where conservation is key. One is with our bodies; we hope to conserve our health and our youthfulness. We conserve the essence of the body; Ojas. Much of Ayurvedic learning is related to this conservation. Carefulness prevents the natural erosion that happens with time and use.

If you live in the West we are also conserving water now too. It is a similar idea: preserve what we have (however little that is) so that we don't have to go with out entirely.

But in this how and un-seasonally dry weather how do we preserve our bodies?

The heat and the dryness desiccate our bodies. Luckily there are a few things that we can do to stabilize our bodies even in this tough climate... 

  • Do abhyunga (oil self massage) every time you shower - especially if you have cut back on showers! Make a blend of sesame and coconut oil with a few drops of cooling essential oils like: Vetiver, Rose, Cilantro, Fennel

  • If you are not showering at least put a few drops of oil on the top of your head, soles of your feet, and dip a q-tip in oil and use to clean out ears.

  • To help your skin resist wrinkling with the dryness: soak 1 T of rinsed white rice overnight in a glass of water. In the morning sip the cool rice-infused water. 

  • Stay away from drying foods like chickpeas, papadum, and popcorn. And have plenty of Ghee!

  • Boil the water you drink so your body can use it more efficiently.



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Bedtime Milk

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup water
  • Pinch turmeric
  • few rose petals
  • few threads of saffron
  • 1 cardamom pod, crushed
  • 1/5 tsp maple syrup or another healthy sweetener of your choice

Put saffron, turmeric, cardamom, rose petals, water and milk into a small pan. While it is cool and let the herbs soak in the milk and water for a few minutes. This helps the saffron release it's essence into the milk. Then put the pan onto the stove and bring to a boil quickly. Remove pan from heat to let boiling subside. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil again; remove from heat. Do this 3 times. Add sweetener. Drink 30 minutes before bed.

 

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We are all affected by stress. We may not be running from wild beasts regularly but the pernicious aspects of stress are everywhere. Modern-day stress can be related to the concept of chintta, translated as over-worked mind or worry. Even in the relatively calm environment of India hundreds of years ago the grinding effects of stress, mental-overwork and uncertainty were blamed for weak digestion, convulsions, paralysis, tremors (Parkinson's), anemia, heart problems, skin dryness, sexual and reproductive weakness and, worst of all, the diminished ability to love (and feel love!).

So what can we do to balance it's effects?! One of the easiest (and most delicious) ways is a cup of warm milk daily. Milk's soft, cool, soothing, Sattva (calm centering) inducing, and Ojas (vitality)- supporting qualities directly counter the corrosive effects of stress. Think of the deep calm seen in the eyes of a happy cow!

Read more here about the benefits of milk-- and how to healthily drink it!

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Milk is a precious food. But some special guidelines are required for healthy use, to preserve your digestive vigor, and even correct a developing milk intolerance so that you can benefit from it's many gifts:

  • Fresh, organic, unpasteurized, un-homogenized whole milk is best. Organic aw milk is usually the best we can get (unless you have a neighbor with a Jersey). All commercial processes denature milk and make it more difficult to digest. Avoid ultra-pasteurization like the plague it is.
  • Drink milk warm, after simmering. Raw milk is harder to digest and has more lactose (which some people have issues with). You can add water to your milk when boiling to make it lighter to digest.
  • Add a pinch of ginger, clove, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg etc. These spices give your Agni (digestive fire) the extra umph it needs to digest efficiently.
  • Let milk be a meal by itself or a between-meal snack: 
    • A cup of warm spiced milk is a great breakfast for people who are not too hungry in the morning.
    • When it is too late for dinner but you don't want to go to bed  hungry have a cup of hot milk with nutmeg or a few strands of saffron for a restful nights sleep.
  • Milk and food combining:
    • Avoid milk with salt. Ayurveda says this is a very damaging food combination. This means cooking with milk, cheese, yogurt etc should be avoided (see below for exceptions). Don't add salt to your oatmeal if you have it with cream. Cream soups are out, and cream cheese bagels are asking for trouble.
    • Avoid fish and milk as is compromises blood and brain tissues. Alas Cullen Skink & Finnian Haddie are not Ayurvedically appropriate.
    • Avoid milk with anything sour. This is why fruit and milk combinations are problematic for many.
    • Have milk with grains: cream on oatmeal or farina, rice pudding, cocoa thickened with barley flour are delicious, properly food-combined occasional treats.

 

 

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Dark. Cold. Wet.
I'm sitting in a cafe with a hot cup of cocoa at the moment.

 

Maintaining balance in Winter, especially through the holidays, can be a challenge.

How do we enjoy ourselves, nourish our souls, and not overdo it at the same time?

 

  • Body-wise: Protect yourself against the elements by doing Abhyunga (warm oil massage followed by steam or a hot bath. You can do this by yourself or have a professional or loved-one do it for you!). Stay bundled in woolens and take advantage of the fashionable-ness of hats and scarves this season by keeping your head covered. Nothing causes vata-caused aches and pains and miseries like cold!
  • Food-wise: Rich stews and soups will help keep your tissues nourished. Hot cereals and stewed fruits with spices make perfect breakfasts. Have ghee everyday in food or just a half teaspoon melted in water or warm milk when you wake up.
  • Treat-wise: Hot tea with milk and spices is a good indulgent choice (steer clear of that phlegm inducing Egg Nog). Skip the triple Chestnut Caramel latte too.
  • Spice-wise: Garlic is reputed to be the best medicine for those suffering from symptoms due to cold including stiffness and pain in the joints. Vaghbat (one of the classic writers of ayurveda) tells us that garlic sprouted up from the amruta that dropped onto the soil when the demon Rahu was slain in his attempt to steal immortality. This is why the Brahmans don't eat it; it comes from a demon. But for the rest of us warriors, especially those who eat meat and those who work with their bodies, Garlic is essential during the cold months. 
  • Guilt-wise: Don't make yourself feel bad about what you eat in the next weeks. Guilt will surely backfire. Just stick to one easy rule: if it is fresh and made with love eat it!
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If you know anything about Ayurveda (or chinese medicine) you know that cooking your food is of the essence digestively. But the repertoire of American cooking lacks cooked (or at least hot) beverages that are satiating liquid meals. Luckily other cultures have caught on to the convenience and benefits of these ‘fast food’ meals.

Below I have included raw, cooked, warm and not-too-cold recipes, and recipes with and without milk products. If you have any digestive disorders avoid the raw recipe (walnut shake) or toast the nuts before you use them. The ‘lightest’ of these smoothie-stand-in’s is Yusha.  Yusha is not a smoothie at all but a light savory soup. It is easy to make over-night in a crock pot then take with you in a thermos for whenever you get hungry. It is light, delicious, nutritious and perfect for replacing a meal on the run!

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Walnut Shake

  • ½C walnuts soaked overnight

  • 3 large Dates

  • 1T honey

  • 1 pinch each: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom powder
    few drops of Vanilla

  • 1 ½C water

Pulse all ingredients in a blender for 2-3 minutes.

There are many variations of this easy drink to try. A splash of rose water is delightful, different types of nuts or seeds can be used as long as they are soaked (avoid cashews and peanuts as they are very heating and heavy). A pinch of salt will bring out the flavors. I might be interesting to try a savory version too.

 

Takra or Seasoned Buttermilk

Takra is typically served after lunch to counter the symptoms of IBS and related digestive disorders by increasing assimilation of nutrients and reducing post-meal discomfort. But a mid morning sweet takra (savory is also good) is much like a lassi: nourishing, digestion improving and light to digest.

  • 1C Whole Milk Yogurt

  • 3C Water

  • splash of rose water

  • 1 t raw honey

  • Season with a pinch or 2: Ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace etc

Whisk Water & Yogurt vigorously until a bubbly foam appears--3 minutes is ideal. This whisking is essential to transforming the yogurt (that is heavy, heating and phlemy) into the light digestive qualities of Takra. Don’t skip it!  Add salt and spices to your liking.

 

Sahlab

Sahlab is a delightful hot breakfast (and dessert) of the middle east. When visiting Palestine I was often in a cue of children outside the elementary school waiting while a street vender ladled steaming styrofoam cups of  sahlab out of a giant mobile cauldron, sprinkling each cup with chopped nuts and spices. Originally the taste and thickening agent came from regional orchid root bulbs. Now we use cornstarch, but rice flour would also be a good choice.

This is a drinkable version, but can be made thicker so it can be enjoyed with a spoon.

(4 serves)

  • 4 cups milk

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (or fine rice flour)

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 teaspoons rose water (or vanilla)

Toppings:

  • ground cinnamon

  • unsweetened dried shredded coconut

  • 2 tablespoons pistachio nuts or almonds; chopped fine

Mix the cornstarch with 1/2 cup of the milk.

Bring the remaining milk and sugar to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

Add the cornstarch mixture and the rose water, stir to loosen up any starch that settled on the bottom.

Cook on low heat until it comes to a boil, stirring constantly.

Serve in individual cups. Scatter chopped pistachios over the surface of each cup; sprinkle with cinnamon and coconut.

 

 

Muhallabieh

This pudding is a favorite of Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, Palestinian, and Egyptian children. I have reduced the sugar to make a liquid breakfast cereal suitable for a thermos. Rice may be purchased already ground or crushed at home with a mortar and pestle or electric blender.

  • 4c whole milk

  • 1/4c rice: ground (or rice cereal)

  • 3/4c water

  • 1/4c sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ma'ez zahr (orange blossom essence)

  • 1/4c chopped toasted almonds, pine nuts or pistachios

Mix rice with water and add to milk which has been brought to a boil.

Stir and cook until thickened and then add sugar.

Continue cooking and stirring until mixture coats the spoon.

Add flavorings and boil a few minutes longer.

Pour into individual serving dishes and decorate with chopped nuts.

 

Suff; Ethiopian Sunflower Seed drink

This drink is nourishing, filling, and refreshing. Traditionally consumed during Lent or fasting days Suff makes a great between-meal snack or meal replacer.  Several beverages based on seeds (sunflower, flax and sesame)  are made in Ethiopia. You can use this recipe with any of these seeds.

Some recipes call for fresh ginger to be added but I like it with  a pinch of cinnamon and just a bit of honey.

  • 1\2 cup sunflower seeds

  • honey (as required) or sugar (as desired)

  • 3 cups water

Rinse and drain seeds (this is not necessary if you are using sesame or flax seeds).

Roast the seeds in a dry pan till they smell toasty.

Grind seeds until smooth in a blender or food processor with a little water.

Add the rest of the water, blend until very smooth.

Add honey and spices.

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To reiterate the reasons for avoiding smoothies (as they are usually made):

  • Cold: indigestible and damaging to the digestive fire

  • Raw: indigestible and create fodder for parasites

  • Terrible food combinations (fruit with milk or yogurt, fruit with veggies etc, protein powder and other desiccated supplements)  cause digestive confusion and poor absorption. If you persist they will contribute to dysfunction in the blood and marrow  which can translate as fatigue, lethargy, sensitivity to cold. etc

  • Despite the ‘nutrients’ in smoothies you will not get the benefits when you consume food raw, cold (esp frozen!), and in poorly combined forms. Smoothies produce ama (indigestible waste) in most people (want proof: check the tongues of people who you see in Jamba Juice for thick white coatings!).

If you are an Ayurvedic adherent you have heard of the perils of smoothies. There are a number of reasons that a person who wants a long, happy and healthy life will eschew smoothies. Yet smoothies are easy to make, tasty and satisfying, convenient to carry with you, and a delivery system for all sorts of nutrition supplements. Liquid breakfasts are ideal for those of us who are not hungry enough for a meal before we leave the house but wish to avoid the temptations of a midmorning scone. Luckily there are ‘smoothie replacements’ that do not offend the rules of Ayurveda and will supply you with the benefits and convenience that smoothies do.

See my next post for recipes!


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I love it when the modern science backs up the ancient science of Ayurveda.

Here Neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel explains how we would not have evolved into the ever-so-advanced species that we are without having discovered cooking. Without the technology of cooking we would have to spend a full half of our time chewing food. Not an efficient use to time for a smart ape. We are primates but we are not monkeys and this is one of the clearest explanations I have heard of how we became human.


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