WHAT IS AYURVEDA?
What is Ayurveda? We get asked this question a lot and to get to the root of it in an interactive way, we recently hosted an Intro to Ayurveda Lecture at Amanda's physical therapy clinic and invited Los Angeles-based Ayurvedic Physician, Dr. Jay to lead the discussion. Dr. Jay is an incredible man. He makes what can seem like an overwhelming topic feel very accessible and really relatable, so we are forever grateful to be able to learn from him! If you didn't make the event, we're happy to pass on the wisdom that was shared and provide the seasonal summer recipes that were sampled!
Ayurveda is loosely translated as the "knowledge of life." In Sanskrit, Ayur=life, and veda=science or knowledge. This holistic system originated in India 5,000 years ago and is known for recognizing that our environment, body, mind and spirit all interact in dynamic ways. One of the basic premises of Ayurveda is that everything that exists in the universe (macrocosm) also exists in the internal cosmos of the human body (microcosm). According to Ayurveda, when we observe the world around us and tune into how things operate on a large scale, we are better able to understand how certain experiences influence our bodies (which can be considered a map of the world on a much smaller scale).
If you pay attention to nature, you notice that throughout the year it cycles through seasons. Each season varies in weather, ecology, and hours of daylight. Through this observation you understand that nature does not behave the same way all the time and using Ayurvedic principles you can conclude that neither do our bodies. A meal or health routine that brought you wellness in the winter may not feel so appropriate in the summer. A great analogy that Dr. Jay shared was, "As we cycle through the seasons, our clothing changes...lighter and airier in the summer...warmer and heavier in the winter. Just as our clothes change, so must our food." Ayurvedic wisdom encourages us to eat with the seasons because as nature continuously provides a variety of foods throughout the year, we naturally consume a wide range of nutrients to fuel our body. The simple act of eating seasonal foods has made a big impact on our lives.
At the most finite level our bodies are made of cells...that are made up of molecules...that are made up of atoms. Food is important because it is the very substance that provides nourishment to every cell in our bodies...literally since we were in the womb! Your own embryonic development relied heavily on the food that your mom ate and even after you were born, you continuously rely on food for your growth and survival. If you are deprived of proper nourishment, your body will have difficulty healing, repairing, and regenerating. This intimate connection with food is why Ayurveda places such a big emphasis on digestion (agni).
Because Ayurveda deals with both the body AND mind, digestion goes beyond food. This intricate science also asks you to consider how you are "digesting" all aspects of your life. How are you processing your relationships? experiences? memories? It's fascinating how deep this system goes!
We were originally introduced to this amazing holistic medical system during our 200-hour yoga teacher training program. Ayurveda is often referred to as the "sister science of yoga." Which may lead you to ask, how is Yoga tied into all of this? According to Dr.Jay, who obtained his Ayurvedic training in India, "Yoga is a philosophy that was established before Ayurveda."
Here in the west, when we think of yoga, we may automatically envision a bunch of people doing their bodies good by lying on mats and getting in an hour's worth of stretching, but believe it or not, these physical poses (asanas), although amazing for the physical body, were originally done to develop the mind. Doing physical yoga poses is just ONE of eight "branches" that make up the yogic philosophy.
Yoga can help you mentally manage excess vibrations (thoughts), therefore it is known to heal the MIND. Ayurveda came about via observation and meditation and has the potential to balance the BODY.
Dr. Jay explains that the ancient Sages of India saw plagues and diseases wipe out their people and they became interested in how they could alleviate human suffering. A deep state of meditation revealed the body of information that is now known as Ayurveda.
There is an 8 limbed path in yoga, and similarly, there came to be 8 branches of therapeutics in Ayurveda. When we start pondering questions like, Who are we? Yoga and Ayurveda, together, explain that we are conscious beings. When we ask, "Why are we here?" These ancient philosophies say that it is to evolve to a higher consciousness. Through this lens, the Mind and Body are our instruments to access higher consciousness and the two tools we have available to prepare the Mind and Body are Yoga and Ayurveda.
Ayurveda looks at the world and sees that it is made up of 3 primary elements: wind (vata), fire (pitta), and water (kapha). These elements (known as doshas) are the building blocks for how the world and body are understood. Vata/Wind energy is responsible for movement...in the body, think nerve impulses and breath. Pitta/Fire energy is responsible for transformation...think digestion and hormone regulation. Kapha/Water energy is responsible for nourishment...think lubrication for your joints and the maintenance of a healthy gut lining. When you start assigning the qualities of wind, fire, and water to different situations, overtime, it starts to become intuitive how you can balance out disease in the body or shift mental states in the mind.
To better understand how we can integrate these concepts in our day-to-day, at our lecture we focused on serving foods that complement the current season: Summer. Summer exhibits Pitta/Fire qualities, which are: oily, sharp, hot, light, moving, liquid, and acidic. Too much heat/fire in the summer (in the form of excessive exercise, too much time in the sun without relief from the shade, spicy foods, and over-scheduled days) can physically cause inflammation and mentally leave you feeling burnt out. To help balance ourselves, we turn to foods that have cooling and hydrating qualities. Think about this... a heavy, hot stew that may have hit the spot in the dead of winter isn't what you crave during the warm, possibly humid days of summer. Rather, in the summertime, your body has an affinity towards light and refreshing foods that have a high water content to keep you hydrated. Nature, being a step ahead, provides you with the likes of: cooling cucumbers, hydrating watermelons, juicy berries and peaches, and ripe tomatoes.
As the seasons keep cycling through, keep your eye out for what foods are in season and start to cultivate a deeper understanding of how these foods affect your body and mind...this is how you can implement "Ayurveda 101" into your life! Below we pass on the summer recipes and Ayurvedic resources that were shared at our event...Enjoy!
WATERMELON, CUCUMBER, MINT JUICE
- 1 organic watermelon, sliced, rind removed
- 1-2 organic cucumbers, cut in spears
- fresh sprigs mint
Pass watermelon slices and cucumber spears through a juicer and serve with a few springs of mint. If Ayurveda is making you feel especially inspired in the kitchen, play around with this watermelon drink recipe, which uses Ayurvedic spices such as cardamom and coriander.
RAW VEGAN AVOCADO KEY LIME TART
Since this pie is raw it required no baking, and thus kept our kitchens cool. In the United States, key limes are at their peak of freshness in the summer (June-August), which is why key lime pie has gained a reputation as being a refreshing summer treat.
The IWR Soulful Travel Tribe was introduced to an upgraded variation on the traditional key lime pie in Mexico at our 2015 Tulum Retreat ! Our chef, Claire Ragozzino of Vidya, made this gluten-free, dairy-free delicacy and silenced the crowd. Ever since, we've been playing with different variations. This is our favorite take on it so far....
MACADAMIA NUT CRUST (adapted from detoxinstas key lime tartlets)
- 3/4 C macadamia nuts + 1/4 C walnuts
- 2 T coconut oil, melted
- 1 T pure maple syrup (organic, grade B)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of sea salt
DIRECTIONS FOR CRUST:
- Pulse nuts in a food processor until a fine powder is formed. (Don't overdo this step as you don’t want it to become a nut butter.)
- Add coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt, and pulse again.
- We loved making the easy to serve tartlets. To do drop a heaping spoonful of dough into the bottom of 6-8 baking cup liners. Use your fingers to press the crusts down firmly, and place the pan in the freezer to set.
- We also made a pie too. To make the pie crust we doubled this recipe. We used one batch to cover the bottom of a 9 inch pan and used the second batch to press up against the edges. After, place in the freezer to set.
- To make similar raw crust using almonds- check out Claire's Coconut Macaroon Crust recipe here.
VIDYA'S AVOCADO KEY LIME FILLING
- 2 avocados
- 1 cup coconut butter (You can purchase a jar of this at most health foods stores. The key lime tart we served had coconut butter made from scratch. If you have patience (20 extra minutes worth of patience to be exact), it's pretty simple to make. Check out this recipe for an exact how-to).
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- ½ cup key lime juice (if you can't find key limes, regular limes will also do the trick)
- ¾ cup raw honey
- 4 tsp vanilla paste
DIRECTIONS FOR FILLING:
- Blend all the ingredients until creamy. HELPFUL SIDE NOTE: An 8 C Vitamix blender was used to make this recipe. You probably need at least a 6 C blender to make this successfully all at once. If working with a smaller blender, work in smaller batches. We started by making our coconut butter in the blender and once that was creamy, we added the remaining ingredients.
- Pour filling into prepared pie crust (or baking cups if making tartlets). Shake and swirl pan around to spread filling evenly. Use the back of a spoon to smooth it over.
- Store in freezer 4-6 hours, or until the filling is firm.
If this knowledge fascinates you, check out IWR's event page to get in the know about our signature Ayurveda, Alignment + Yoga Retreat offerings! Early Bird pricing on our Fall Malibu 2015 retreat ends on July 4, 2015!
Other links + resources that were mentioned at our Intro to Ayurveda Lecture...
- Seasonal, Ayurvedic-inspired recipes by Claire Ragozzino of Vidya, IWR's Malibu Fall 2015 Chef
- Let's all be healthy- link to buy Ayurvedic spices
- Determine your dosha quiz
- Book: 3 Season Diet by John Doulliard
- Books by David Dr. Frawley
- Book + Website: Eat, Taste, Heal
- Ayurvedic daily routine
- Video: Short 14 min documentary on how surgical methods that are still relevant and used in practice today were first documented in ancient Ayurvedic texts (note: viewer beware, this video has surgical scenes)