|| श्री दिग्विजयपठ्ठाभिरामो विजयते || || हरिः सर्वोत्तमः वायुः जीवोत्तमः ||
|| श्री दिग्विजयपठ्ठाभिरामो विजयते || || हरिः सर्वोत्तमः वायुः जीवोत्तमः ||
Every recipe calls for a careful selection of spices - be it a dish or a beverage. Although myriad dishes can be concocted by a chef's artistic choice of spices, there is a meticulous approach to the use of spices when viewed through the Ayurvedic lens. A targeted choice of ingredients can make a dish stand out not just gastronomically but can confer health benefits alongside as well. Every spice (or any matter in the universe for that matter) has its own intrinsic property, and it is these attributes that matter while handpicking spices for a recipe. For e.g., some ingredients are known to carry drying effect while others are known to carry lubricating property. While some may impart heating effect, others may bring about cooling action. Nonetheless, every ingredient can be put to good use if one understands its attributes along with the knowledge of its appropriate use. For instance, an herb with cooling effect can be made a star ingredient during summer, and a spice with warming quality can prove therapeutic during winters.
Conceivably, a scrupulous examination of attributes of all herbs and ingredients can seem daunting even to a healer. Which is why, here is a selection of winter spice blends handpicked for your recipes. They are easy to make and store well in air-tight containers. Simply mix the powder form of the spices and store. Alternatively, roast the whole spices and grind them into a fine powder. The ground spices are best used within a couple of weeks for best results. Sprinkle them on top of your desserts, toss them into batter, sauté them along with veggies, use them in rice or pasta dishes, steep them in herbal teas or flavor milk beverages. Yup, they are that versatile! So here are two warming blends for this winter.
Cinnamon blend - ideal for dessert recipes and beverages
1 tbsp. cinnamon powder
1 tsp. nutmeg powder
1 tsp. ginger powder
Savory blend - ideal for soups, pasta or rice dishes
1 tbsp. ground black pepper
3 bay leaves ground into coarse powder
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
Note: The above proportions are suggested for the purpose of assembling blends only. However, the exact measure of spice blend you will need to add depends on the individual recipe.
Try them out in your recipes for a warming touch this season.
Tis the season. With most of North America now having experienced its first snowfall, winter is clearly here even if it is to officially begin in a couple of weeks. It is time to break out the winter clothes and time for that UCS to make its appearance.
Just like every season change invariably involves a closet shuffle, so does our diet and seasonal protocols. So let us check out some of the pointers from Ayurveda to help keep us warm and healthy this season.
During Hemanta (early winter), the digestive strength of people (read healthy individuals) is strong. Hence, in this period one should consume rich food.
One should consume food predominant with sweet, sour and salt tastes. So do not feel overly guilty over indulgences in desserts this season. If your appetite is healthy and strong, go right ahead and feed that sweet tooth.
As the nights are longer, it is normal to feel hungry early in the morning. Therefore, do not delay your morning meal. Help yourself to a healthy, wholesome meal bright and early in the morning. How early? Well, best to listen to our gut clock. It should start ticking right after sunrise if not sooner.
Incorporate abhyanga/oil massages in your morning schedule. Use vata-balancing oils like warm sesame oil. Mild body massage with warming oils should be done. Wash off excess oil with mild astringent bathing powder (read flours made from pulses) and hot/warm water.
Include wheat flour, black lentils (goes by urad in Indian stores), sugar (of cane), milk products, oils and fats liberally in the diet.
Keep yourself warm. Exposure to sunlight and fire should be resorted to, judiciously. Think of that charming fireplace!
Foot wear should be worn always. Keep your extremities warm. Put those mitts, toques, beanies and booties to good use. One may also wear socks to keep feet warm while sleeping.
And finally, do not forget to exercise. Physical exercise generates body heat to overcome the chill outside. So instead of turning up the heater in the house, step on that treadmill.
Reference: Compiled from Ashtanga Hridaya Sutrasthan
And to further help you beat those winter blues, here are some top warming spices to use liberally during winter:
1. Ginger. Known by names such as vishvabheshaja, which means universal medicine, and mahaushada (great medicine), ginger is my personal favorite and a go-to spice during winter months. Both fresh and dry ginger are warming and useful, although slightly different in properties. Ginger in useful in treating cold, cough, constipation, hemorrhoids, bloating, liver diseases, colicky pain, relieves vomiting, earache, hiccups, strengthens digestive strength, and acts as a cardiac tonic. So say yes to those gingerbread cookies!
2. Turmeric. Known as haridra, turmeric is excellent for improving blood circulation by unclogging blocks in the minute channels. By clarifying channels, it also helps in assimilation of nutrients in all cells and tissues. Result? well-nourished replenished tissues and improved ojas. It has special affinity towards liver and correcting its function. And this is why it is hailed as a top herb for detox and correcting skin ailments. Remember not to go overboard though as it can be very heating and drying in excess.
3. Black pepper. Known as maricha, black pepper is very useful in treating obesity, productive cough, cardiac disorders, respiratory disorders, intestinal worms etc. It also has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-depressant properties among others. So a perfect spice to use during winters. Contraindicated in individuals with gastritis/ulcers.
On that note, warm wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season!
The purpose of this blog is to shed some light on some of the basic do's and don'ts to bolster immune system. One of the most frequently asked questions asked is - what should I eat to boost my immune system. Well, guess what? We are living in an age of overabundance and we are all overeating. To add some magic potion to our already rich lifestyle is not the intent of this blog. Consider this as a page out of a book called dinacharya or daily routine. These some of the most basic of rules that should be adhered to, and according to the texts violating these rules amounts to ill health - guaranteed. Best of all, it costs us nothing to implement these simple hacks. It does require willingness to commit and discipline to follow-through, however. So without further ado, here comes...
1. Wake up before sunrise, ideally about an hour or two before sunrise called Aruṇōdaya kāla. Waking up early revvs up our metabolism and burns off excess fat or toxins circulating in our body. This is a must. It is not optional. Sleeping after sunrise amounts to offending Sun who provides life energy to all living beings.
2. Do not consume anything at twilight hours. These are hours at the intersection of day and night (dusk), and night and day(dawn) known as sandhya kāla. These are sacred times of the day dedicated for meditation and contemplation activities. Our body is not capable of digesting food at an optimal level at these hours. Eating at these hours leads to āma/toxins which sets off the disease process. Even if you are taking prescription meds, avoid taking them during these hours. In fact, one should avoid sex, sleep, study and recapitulation at the twilight hours. These time periods lasts for about 2-3 hours after sunrise and 2-3 hours around sunset. If that seems like a long stretch then at a bare minimum avoid consuming anything 25 mins before and after sunrise-sunset times. Ideally, the hour when sun is at its peak on the horizon known as madhyāhna kāla is also considered sacred and not ideal for consuming meals. So begs the question what is the ideal time for consuming one's meal in a day. That ideal time is known as sangava kāla which operates roughly between 10 a.m. and noon - subject to minor change based on seasons. If for some reason we are unable to eat during this time then the next best time window to eat meals is between 2pm and 4pm. Do not eat at both times. Pick one of the two time windows and stick to it regularly.
3. Do not eat during night time or rātri kāla. This period roughly operates for about 7-8 hours and varies depending on season and geographic location. Typically, it operates between 10 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. Currently, for Toronto it is between 10:20 pm and 4:45 a.m. and for say for Bangalore, India it is between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.
4. To the extent possible limit your meals to one meal between sunrise and sundown. If you are starting out to make this a habit then do it at least on Sundays. For those of us in the northern locations like in Canada this can be tough during summer months given long days and brief nights. However, it is doable in other seasons. Replace fruits for second meals until you get the hang of it.
5. Exercise should be done compulsorily by those with good bodily strength and those who consume rich food from December to May (avoid exercise during hot summer months and rainy/windy season). Ideal time for exercise is during mornings and evenings. Avoid exercise between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
6. Main regular meal-times. It is important to have a daily schedule, especially eating and sleeping. Stick to a schedule religiously.
7. Do not eat/drink while standing up. Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position while partaking meals. Drinking while standing amounts to drinking intoxicants say the texts.
8. Some other days when food should not be consumed are: a) on 11th lunar days b) during eclipses.
9. And, lights out at the onset of rātri kāla/night. Go to bed two hours or so after sundown. For those living closer to equator, 9pm is the ideal time and for those further up north about 10pm. Our body repairs itself the most between 10pm and 2 a.m. and we lose this incredible benefit if we do not get our snooze at this hour. Hence the term beauty sleep. But beauty sleep can offer age-defying benefits only if it is done during rātri kāla, not if it is done at other times. Going to bed on time is as important as getting up early.
rāmō rājamaṇiḥ sadā vijayatē rāmaṃ ramēśaṃ bhajērāmēṇābhihatā niśācharachamū rāmāya tasmai namaḥ ।rāmānnāsti parāyaṇaṃ parataraṃ rāmasya dāsōsmyahaṃrāmē chittalayaḥ sadā bhavatu mē bhō rāma māmuddhara ||
The second line of the verse implies that Lord Rama slays all those who are niśāchara i.e, those who stay awake at night. Sage Viswāmitra's words, not mine! If we do not wish to die an untimely death then we should not keep vigil at night. So all the night owls, please take note. Remember pulling that all-nighter to get your report out in time at work or at school? Well, it will not come to save us when a pandemic hits or otherwise!
On that note, may Lord Rāma offer his healing touch to all those who are suffering and those in pain. Prayers for all those who are hurting and grieving.
We laud all the front-line health workers who are doing their best to help people in distress and they should be lauded, no doubt. But IMHO, there are many silent warriors of yester years who showed us the path to avoid ill-health altogether. Their contribution is timeless and priceless. Yes, we may have found vaccine and some drugs. But taking 10 steps back and putting two steps forward is not progress! From Ashwini Kumaras to all the sages and illumined minds of Vedic India, you are indeed the true warriors. My humble obeisances to all those who have contributed to preserving the timeless tradition of Ayurveda.
Simple hacks for building immunity
Today marks the auspicious occasion of Dhanvantari Trayodashi aka Dhanvantari Jayanti, the day of manifestation of Lord Dhanvantari, the promulgator of Āyurveda, primordial healer and physician. According to the ancient texts, Lord Dhanvantari appeared from the ocean on this day during what is popularly known as Samudra Manthan i.e. the churning of the ocean by the demigods and the demons. He appeared with a pot of elixir/nectar of immortality (amrit) due to which He is also referred to as Amritakalashahastā.
Dhanvantari Jayanti and its observance is not just dedicated to Ayurvedic practitioners, it bears significance for the entire world community and those who seek well-being. Most ancient texts of Āyurveda dedicate at least a chapter or two in commemoration of Lord Dhanvantari and narrate the origin of Āyurveda, even when the authors remain nameless with utmost humility in an effort to honor the tradition, a divine tradition (daivī sampradaya). What comes through clearly through the narration in each of the texts is that the tradition of Āyurveda was intended for universal good and well-being. The tradition of Āyurveda continued uninterrupted for hundreds of years in the Indian sub-continent and its knowledge spread far and wide across various parts of the world transmuting into different healing practices through the silk route.
But the pure tradition of Āyurveda and its knowledge was able to survive only under the aegis and patronage of select kings of India after the practice was willfully oppressed and condemned by the British as heretic and heathen during their colonial rule.
Here is the brief glimpse into the early origin of Āyurveda which has stood the test of time for the benefit of humanity as narrated in one of the texts.
एकदा देवराजस्य दृष्टिर्निपतिता भुवि | तत्र तेन नरा दृष्टा व्याधिभिर्भुशपीडिताः ||
तादृष्ट्वा ह्रुदयं तस्य दयया परिपीडितम् | दयाऽऽद्रेह्रुदयः शक्रो धन्वन्तरिमुवाच ||
धन्वन्तरे ! सुरश्रेष्ट ! भगवन् ! किञ्चिदुच्यते । योग्यो भवति भूतानामुपकारपरो भव ॥
उपकाराय लोकानां केन किं न कृतं पुरा | त्रैलोक्याधिपतिर्विष्णुरभून्मत्स्यादिरूपवान् ||
तस्मात्त्वं पृथिवीं याहि काशीमध्ये नृपो भव । प्रतीकाराय रोगाणामायुर्वेदं प्रकाशय ॥
इत्युक्त्वा सुरशार्दूलः सर्वभूतहितेप्सया । समस्तमायुषौ वेदं धन्वन्तरिमुपादिशत् ॥
अधीत्य चायुषो वेदमिन्द्राद्धन्वन्तरिः पुरा । आगत्य पृथिवीं काश्यां जातो बाहुजवेश्मनि ॥
नाम्ना तु सोऽभवत्खयातो दिवोदास इति क्षितौ । बाल एव विरक्तोऽभूञ्चचार सुमहत्त्पः ॥
यत्नेन महता ब्र्ह्मा तं काश्यामकरोन्नृपम् । ततो धन्वन्तरिलोकैः काशीराजोऽभिधीयते ॥
हिताय देहिनां स्वीया संहिता विहिताऽमुना । अथ विध्यार्थिनो लोकान्संहितां तामपाठयत् ॥
Once, Indra (lord of demigods) took a look at this world and saw the people suffering greatly from diseases, this sight made his mind filled with compassion and he addressed Dhanvantari thus, “You Dhanvantari, the best of gods, the worshipful, let me speak a few words, you are the best person to help the people of the world; Vishnu, the Lord of the three worlds did help the people by your fish incarnation etc., in the past. So go to the world of men, become a king in Kāśī (kingdom/city), propagate āyurveda in order to destroy diseases.” With these words the lion king of gods, desirous of the welfare of all living beings, taught the entire science of life.
Dhanvantari came to this world and took birth in the house of the king named Divodāsa. When he was still a boy, he became an ascetic and worshipped Brahma by hard penance. Pleased with it, Brahma made him the king of Kāśī then he became reputed as Dhanvantari the kāśīrāja (king of the kingdom of Kāśī). He composed a treatise of his own for the benefit of the people and taught it to his disciples also.
Later, sage Vishwamitra through his divine powers learned about Lord Dhanvantari’s appearance as kāśīrāja and prompts his son Suśruta to go to Dhanvantari and learn Ayurveda. Complying his father’s request Suśruta went to Kāśī along with a hundred sons of other sages who were eager to study with him. Suśruta was the first among them to compose a text which became well-known as Suśruta samhitā.
Reference: Bhāvaprakāśa, translated by Prof. K.R. Srikantha Murthy
This story is a reminder that the disease burden of the world is not a new phenomenon as the current pandemic would have some of us believe. The cycle of life on this planet is eternal. So too is the cycle of disease and healing. This story is a reminder that the divine powers are always working to uplift humanity even as we falter. It is yet another clear demonstration of the unbounded compassion of the Divine.
On the occasion of the upcoming festival of lights Deepavāli, let us pray for the light of wisdom to enter our lives to dispel all darkness and ignorance that shrouds our being. It is the ignorance that leads us to our downfall, and it is the light of wisdom that leads us to the truth and goodness. And Deepavāli is an observance to remind us all that goodness always trumps evil. And in that spirit, wishing all those who celebrate a joyous and meaningful Deepavāli.