Absence & Ayurveda

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Please excuse the absence. The Baking Bird has been out and about, enjoying the spring time, busy as a bee (err, bird). Things are happenin’ left and right, not much baking in the kitchen. It’s going to be pretty quite around here baking and cooking wise for about the next month or so. That being said, I want to discuss something else that I love, also health, mind, and body related: Ayurveda.

Ayurveda entered into my life a little over a year ago. I had been suffering from insomnia, anxiety, and other personal health issues, and nothing was doing the trick. I had tried everything. And I do mean everything. Off and on, I sporadically encountered articles in yoga and health magazines, discussing the “six tastes” (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent). Depending on your “dosha” (discussed shortly), a certain balance of these tastes is tailored to each unique constitution based on its element and what it physiologically does in the body. Being intrigued by the philosophy and method and wanting to know more, I purchased an Ayurvedic Encyclopedia at a bookstore one day. From there, my inquisitiveness grew and it became more appealing to me day by day as I was suffering from what I knew could only be healed from within my own self, my own willpower, not by some magic sleeping or anxiety pill or other magic trick. Having practicing yoga for quite a few years now, I strongly believe in the power of the mind/body connection and how certain poses, if practiced, can help whatever ails inside. Yoga and Ayurveda really go hand-in-hand. They are the pathway to higher awareness, vitality, and optimal health. 
I have to admit, it took me a while to really understand what it was all about. My passion for the medicine has grown out of my curiosity and motivation for self healing. Connecting and listening to my body has taken a LOT of practice. But with a few tips and gathered information, it became clear how intuitive it all really is. I have to say that I’ve been doing a whole hell of a lot better (although I cannot completely give Ayurveda full credit for that). There is still so much to learn (I am excited for an upcoming 3 week class! yay for formal instruction!!). Still growing, still making mistakes, still not 100%, or even 99%, but it definitely has helped. I truly believe in this, and that’s why I want to share it with everyone I know! I’d love to go to school to become a certified Ayurvedic practitioner. I intend to do it at some point. One of these days…
With that being said, I went to a book signing for the author of this Ayurvedic cookbook Eat, Taste, Heal a few weeks ago and was thoroughly astounded and deeply moved by the author’s story — it reinforced my assumptions and previous Ayurvedic knowledge from before. If you’re somewhat familiar with Ayurveda (“the science of life”, a system of ancient, traditional medicine that took root in India 5,000 plus years ago), then I’d highly recommend checking this book out. Even if you don’t know anything about Ayurveda, I’d recommend giving it a glance. It incorporates modern Western medicine principles and contemporary international cooking into the healing properties of Ayurveda. There are two parts to the book. Part one not only covers basic Ayurvedic concepts, how to buy, prepare, and store vibrant food, but also ways in which we can appreciate and connect more to what we eat (ABC’s: ambiance, blessing, and consumption), and the rhythms of nature and seasons of life. Yoga, breathing, and meditation techniques are also included, information about the seven chakras (something else I’ve really been getting into lately), and how to treat food as medicine to heal, cleanse, and cure. Part two is the cookbook. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and beverages recipes for each dosha and ways to slightly modify each recipe to your primary dosha. The photographs and recipes are absolutely beautiful. Mainly vegetarian, with some chicken and fish recipes scattered throughout. Here are some samples. I am in love with this book. And I can’t believe it’s been out for over four years! I had no idea it existed until when I attended the book signing. 
I love the wisdom of Ayurveda because it’s so intuitive. It’s the nature of life. Based on five elements–space, air, fire, water, and earth–Ayurveda observes these within the human body, given that all organic and inorganic substances consist of these five elements. There are 3 main “doshas” (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha), biological energies, that govern all of our physical and mental processes. Vata is composed of space and air, Pitta of fire and water, and Kapha of earth and water. Every cell in the body consists of these three doshas, but everyone has a varying proportion of these that contributes to one’s individual nature and differences. 
Here is an excerpt from page 25: 
Doshas are dynamic energies, constantly changing due to our actions, thoughts, emotions, foods we eat, the seasons, and other sensory inputs. Living to fulfill our individual natures, we naturally make lifestyle and dietary decisions to foster balance with our doshas. When we go against our intrinsic natures, unhealthy patterns emerge that can lead to physical and mental imbalances. It gives one the power to recognize that the power of self-healing can be accessed from within. If the proportion of doshas in your current start are close to your birth constitution of doshas, then your health will be vibrant. Divergence between these states, however, indicates a state of imbalance. Increased or aggravated doshic state leads to the greatest number of imbalances. They can arise from many influences, including a dosha-aggravating diet, or generally carrying too much stress in your life. Restoration of balance can be initiated once one begins to understand their unique constitutional make-up and how to harmonize one’s internal environment and its needs with the external world.” 
Again, intuitive. Like increases like, opposites create balance. Ayurveda offers specific recommendations for every individual–general lifestyle changes to the treatment of disease. It is truly a system of individualized health care and preventative medicine and I believe it is the direction we should all be headed into. 
To attain balance, one should always pay the greatest attention to one’s primary dosha. Here is a quiz to figure out your “dosha”, if you are so inclined…  

And here’s an extra little recipe, which happens to be the first thing I’ve made from the book thus far. A refreshing yogurt-based drink, also known as a “lassi”, mixed with mint (instead of the commonly used mango). I am going to be making this a lot once the warm summer days start rolling in and the mint starts uncontrollably growing like weeds in our garden. It’s pretty much out of this world (and really easy to make, too!).
Mint & Cinnamon Lassi (Pitta) Serves 3
2 1/2 cups filtered water1/2 cup organic plain yogurt3/4 cup raw organic sugar, such as Sucanat (I used raw agave nectar and it was really sweet… I would recommend cutting down on the amount of sugar and adjusting it to taste…)20 fresh mint leaves1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for garnish
Put the water, yogurt, sugar, and mint leaves in a blender and blend until frothy. Pour into tall glasses and garnish each serving with a dusting of cinnamon powder.
Vata: also recommendedKapha: recommended in moderation with less sugar

Here are a few more links and books I’d recommend if you are interested:
So there’s a little bit about Ayurveda there for you. I’d like to start posting more recipes and information related to this once I start cooking and baking more and increasing my knowledge.
It really all comes down to this simple truth: food is life. 
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