Cozy Up With Ashawaganda Hot Chocolate

As we head into Fall and add on the layers to keep warm, we can cozy up with our loved ones over this nourishing variation of hot chocolate. In a previous post I talked about reducing qualities that leave us feeling untethered or ungrounded, cold and light and nature the opposite qualities such as heavy, warm and stable.. We want to decrease the stimulants like alcohol and caffeine and increase adaptogens like tulsi and ashwaganda. This root is sometimes known as Indian ginseng and is used for its restorative benefits, strengthening the immune system and apparently supporting sexual potency! Ashwaganada has a strong heating quality making it perfect for cold weather. I found it at my local Bulk Barn if you’re wondering where you can buy it.

ASHWAGANDHA HOT CHOCOLATE

This recipe was shared with me from my Ayurvedic teacher Mona Warner… It’s so yummy!

Ingredients: (makes 2 servings)

  • 1 tsp of ashwagandha
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder (I use 2 tbsp…  I love chocolate)
  • 2 cups milk
  • Maple syrup (or your sweetener of preference) to sweeten

Mix all the ingredients in a small sauce pan. Warm on medium and whisk to dissolve the powders into the milk. No need to boil.

When lightly steaming, remove from heat and put in 2 cups or if you’re like me, 1 big mug. I also like to add a cinnamon stick and freshly grated nutmeg to garnish cause I’m fancy like that. Enjoy!

Transitioning into Fall

As we begin to transition from Summer to Fall I bet you start to notice little differences in your life. You might feel colder, your skin might get dry, or maybe you feel like have more to do and take on in your life. You might notice other changes like the amount of sunlight and the slightly earthy smell of Autumn.  For me, I feel an increase in stress, my mood starts to shift, I feel I need to eat differently and bundle up on cool days. I see a lot of people coming down with colds and busier  schedules with school and work adds on stress.

The more we can begin to listen to and hear the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) signals our body is telling us, we can choose to make choices that better support us and nourish us through times of transition. That might mean being consistent with your exercise routine, changing something in your diet, going to bed early and getting enough rest or finding the right teacher to guide you.

In Ayurveda the Fall is Vata season which is governed by qualities (gunas) that are dry, light, cold, rough, mobile, subtle and clear. These qualities show up in our environment, physical body, thoughts, behaviours, etc. You might experience cold as having cold hands and feet. Or rough might show up as dry, flakey skin. Mobile might show up in scattered thoughts and not being able to settle down in the evenings. When we feel balanced we embody qualities that are stable, warm, calm, grounded, soothed, nourished, peaceful and slow. Notice these qualities are the opposite of the first set.

To find a balance you don’t want more of the same. For example, if you feel cold, drinking a glass of ice cold water won’t feel nourishing. You would choose a hot tea perhaps instead or put on a pair of wooly socks. In yoga we might explore slower movement and grounding asanas like “cat/cow” and “legs up the wall” to cultivate feelings of stable and groundedness. Soft, gentle breathing or alternate nostril breathing will help calm the body and mind. Meditation and Yoga Nidra are also useful for balancing nervous and anxious (mobile) energy and generate a felt sense of peace.

Small changes can have profound effects on how you feel and how you are with a situation (like a confrontation at work). I have a tendency to have a rough/mobile mind and emotions. For me, mobility shows up as a busy mind, restlessness, anxiety, and feeling stuck in a rut. This triggers the rougher qualities like anger and irritation. The other day I was conversing with someone via e-mail and I noticed a flare of up irritation and then anger over what ended up being a misunderstanding. This was a signal for me that I was out of balance and I needed to switch gears and sit in meditation for while.  The point is, if you don’t like how you feel or how you are acting/reacting to a situation – you have the power to change it. Do something different in order to get a different outcome. If you can identify a quality of what it is you want to change, consider what the opposite quality is and see if you can play with that.

If you are interested in learning more about these qualities and how you can bring more balance to your life, let’s chat! I love yoga therapy because we can impact the body, mind, emotions and spirit through movement, breath, meditation and developing a deeper awareness of yoga philosophy and Ayurveda and it has a ripple effect to all the other areas!

Part 2: Ayurvedic Self Care for Cold and Flu Season

Perhaps you’ve started to integrate some Ayurvedic self-care practices into your daily routine from Part 1 and you’re ready to add some more. Today I will share some more practices that you can build into your  evening routine for sleep hygiene and better health.

Do you find that you have a long hectic day at work and by the time you get the kids to bed all you want to do is enjoy a glass of wine and turn on Netflix? I hear ya. Even though alcohol and numbing our minds to the screen gives us immediate gratification, the effects it has on our sleep quality might not be worth it long term. Our bodies are designed to process toxins and restore our system over the course of the night so we can wake feeling rested and energized. Unfortunately for many of us, we have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, and wake up feeling tired and foggy. Luckily there are a few things that we can start to incorporate into our evening routine.

Ayurvedic science says that our mid-day lunch should be the largest meal of the day followed by a light walk to aid digestion. Many cultures today already do this. In the evenings, a light supper is recommended and an evening walk will help to ensure that our food is fully digested before we go to bed. This is important because we don’t want our body to have to use up all its energy to digest our food while we sleep. This takes away from the restorative functions we need for good health. So maybe start with a light, healthy dinner and a short walk. A pre-bed routine will help with ease-ful sleep. It is recommended to turn off screens at least one hour before bed to help the nervous system prepare for sleep.

If you have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, consider these ideas to help you sleep more restoratively, deeply and easily.

  1. Set a consistent bedtime. If you have an irregular morning schedule, go to bed 8 hours before you have to get up. Some people need more or less sleep time. Keep track of how many hours you sleep and if it feels it’s not enough, or too much adjust accordingly.
  2. Have a bed time routine. This may include other items from this list. It might include reading a book, gentle yoga, chatting with family member, washing your face, brushing your teeth or a self oil massage before you go to bed.
  3. Bedroom is only for sleep and sex (that means no TV or work). That way your body/brain can fall asleep easier.
  4. Minimize screen time before bed. Whether it is your tv, phone or other device, it provides more stimuli and can set your nervous system on high alert. It will take a longer time for your nervous system to begin to settle into the rest/digest system.
  5. Keep your bedroom dark for sleep (invest in an eye-mask and earplugs if you need to)
  6. Avoid alcohol and heavy food. As I mentioned earlier, your body has to put a lot of effort into digestion, which it shouldn’t have to do while you sleep.
  7. Enjoy a cup of warm spiced milk (nut milk is okay too!). This can aid in digestion and set the nervous system at ease.
  8. Indulge in a self foot massage with warm oil. This can help to ground and settle out any erratic energies.

A few yoga postures that I help me prepare for sleep include child’s pose, cat/cow, and legs up the wall. If I’m having a particularly hard time falling asleep I’ll listen to a Yoga Nidra recording.  Usually the hardest one to implement is the one we need to do the most. Let me know what works for you and if I can support you in any way.

In Part 3 I will share a Digestive Reset Program that I will be participating in this Fall so stay tuned!

Happy Exploring!

Source: Mona Warner, Ayurvedic counsellor, Janati Yoga

 

Part 1: Ayurvedic Self-Care for Cold and Flu Season

This blog is the first of a 3 part series on Ayurvedic self-care practices you can build into your routine for better health. In part 1 you will find morning self-care practices you can start building in your daily routine. Part 2 will discuss evening routines for a better sleep. Part 3 will have details for digestive reset program that I am participating in this Fall and I will invite you to join me.

This year it felt like Mother Nature flipped a switch and the weather changed from the hot humid summer to a cool brisk Fall. When the seasons change we are at risk for lowered immune function. I see people all around me getting colds already.

As a student and later as I began my first career as a classroom teacher I would get sinus infections like clockwork as the seasons changed. It wasn’t until I began a regular yoga practice that my nervous system started to become better regulated and my immune system became stronger and the infections stopped.

That is not to say I haven’t periodically come down with the flu or felt under the weather. As I delve deeper into my yoga therapy studies for the C-IAYT certification, I have started some new routines based on Ayurvedic science. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga that developed thousands years ago. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depends on the balance between mind, body and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. This is a proactive approach that we can assimilate into our routines which becomes an ongoing self-care practice or lifestyle, rather than an antidote you receive in order to fix a problem. As a part of my daily routine I have started to implement some new practices. As I begin to find ease in my routine I will continue to add more and more.

Why is a daily routine so important? Without going too deeply into it, our doshas, or qualities that are inherently in us, influence our body-minds and environments in a particular way throughout the day. When we can align with the natural rhythms of the day and the natural rhythms of our body, we promote optimal health. Starting with our morning routine is a great way to begin because it sets the stage for how our day unfolds.

Our bodies naturally work to clear out excess toxins while we sleep. This is why having a full nights sleep is so important. These toxins find their way into our colon and skin which is why personal hygiene needs to be taken care in the morning. First thing when you wake up drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon, followed by elimination. My friend Shelly Prosko, a physio/yoga therapist designed a toilet mediation which I will share in a separate post.

Here are a few things you can build into your morning routine (choose 1 or 2 things then add more later). The key is to be able to create more ease and not feel overwhelmed by a to do list of things.

  1. For your Mouth:
    • Gargle: use sea salt and warm water for a sore throat or to clear the throat of potential infections. To reduce soreness or dryness use sesame oil. To reduce inflammation of the oral tissue use milk.
    • Scrape your tongue with tongue scraper or spoon: it removes accumulations from the tongue and stimulates the fire quality (that we need for energy and digestion). Rinse the mouth after to clear any residue.
    • Brush teeth: astringent, bitter or pungent tooth powder or paste are used to keep the gum tissue firm.
    • Oil pulling: the state of the mouth is thought to reflect the state of the entire gastrointestinal tract. Lubrication is of the utmost importance for a well-functioning digestive system, especially for elimination. Take tablespoon of oil (sesame for fall/winter, coconut for summer) and swish it in the mouth for 2 to 10 minutes. When I started 30 seconds was the most I could handle. It helps to strengthen gums, teeth and tongue. Reduces dryness of the lips and tongue and helps to promote elimination.
  2. For your Eyes:
    • To freshen the eyes, rinse with cool clean water or organic rose water (hydrosol).
  3. For your Nose:
    • Neti: this is my favourite part of my morning routine. This is a technique used to clean the nasal passages using sea salt, water and a neti pot. It is great to clear excess mucus from the nasal passages and sinuses. It reduces the build-up of allergens, dust and other debris in the nasal passages and promotes clear and easy nasal breathing.
    • Nasal Oleation: oiling the nasal passages helps keep them lubricated and nourished and prevents dryness. It is especially important with environmental sensitivities like animal dander and pollen. Use 2-4 drops of plain oil like sesame or coconut in your palm. Rub your pinky finger in the oil and gently swirl in your nostrils.
  4. For your Skin:
    • Dry brush: using a raw silk glove or a brush specifically designed for the body, gently brush the skin to remove any dry skin and promote lymphatic circulation. Depending on your need, it may be done daily, weekly or monthly. Brush gently over your face and genitals. Long strokes over the long bones, and circle strokes over the joints.
    • Self oil massage: a technique used to nourish and protect the skin, harmonizes the flow of energy and promotes circulation and soothes the nervous system. Depending on your need, oil massage may be done daily, weekly or monthly. Use sesame, sweet almond or jojoba for Fall/Winter. Use similar strokes to the dry brushing. Sit and breathe for a few minutes while the oil is absorbed by the skin. The skin is a very important organ of digestion therefore using organic cold pressed oil is recommended. From an Ayurvedic view, you would only put on your skin what you would put in your mouth.
    • Shower or Bath: after self oiling, a bath or shower is taken to remove excess oil before getting dressed. They are also invigorating, refreshing and release negative energy. Soap can be used for the arm pits and groin area. The remainder of the body is simply rinsed – unless there is dirt of course. Too much soap removes the natural oils that maintain the health and strength of the skin.
    • Sweat: the skin benefits from sweating daily. A little perspiration beneath the arms and at the low back – about 50% of one’s capacity. This can be done by going for a brisk walk or visiting a sauna. The intention is to liquefy any toxins and allow it to release through the open pores.
  5. For your Ears:
    • To keep the auditory passages from drying, we put a few drops of oil (sesame or coconut) into the ears by either putting oil on the pinky fingers and rotating them around the aperture or using a dropper to put 2-3 drops of oil into the ear canals. You can also oil the outer architecture of the ears if you like.

I invite you to pick one or two things to incorporate into your daily routine this week and let me know how it goes. Stay tuned for my next post on evening routines and bed time hygiene.

Happy exploring!

Source: Mona Warner, Ayurvedic counsellor, Janati Yoga

Recipe of the Month – Badshah Kitchari

The days are getting shorter and evenings are getting colder and I’m stockpiling blankets for the winter. As we spend more time indoors we begin to crave those comfort foods we know and love. One of my favourites is a dish called Kitchari. It’s warm, delicious and healthy! There are many variations on this dish but traditional kitchari is made of rice and lentils.  My friend from Nepal taught me how to make a yummy Nepalese kitchari while I was living in Hong Kong and this has become my go to meal when I want something easy to make.  What I love about kitchari is you can make it your own by adding your favourite vegetables and even meat if you wish. The recipe I want to share with you today was inspired by British Indian kedgeree along with Egyptian kushari. “Badshah kitchari” means “the kitchari of kings.” My husband made it for dinner last night and I encourage you to try it out.

FullSizeRenderRecipe serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cups basmati rice
  • 1/4 cups split mung beans (moong dal) (or yellow split peas or red lentils if these are easier to find)
  • 3 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter
  • 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped (optional)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (or water)
  • your choice of vegetables (e.g. carrots, broccoli, spinach, etc) chopped
  • cashews + almonds (optional garnish)
To Make:

Combine rice and lentils and rinse well. Allow to soak in a bowl of cold water for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.

Using a wide-bottomed frying pan, melt ghee on medium heat. When ghee starts to foam, add cinnamon stick, cloves and cumin. Stir for 2 minutes (smell the goodness!). Add onions and cook for 8-10 minutes, until soft.

Add green chilli (optional) and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add turmeric and salt.

Drain rice and lentils and add these to the pan. Pour in the vegetable stock (add vegetables)
and bring to boil. Put lid on pan and turn head down to simmer.

Cook until water is absorbed, which should be around 25 minutes. Leave it to rest for 5 minutes with lid on, then fluff with a fork.

Serve in bowls and garnish with chopped cashews and almonds.

 

Enjoy. Recipe from the book “Made in India” by Meera Sodha