Ayurveda Meal Prep – Healthy Eating for Spring Cleaning

A cooking class wIth Mary, Katelynn and Sean

Tired of the “what do I eat to feel good” dilemma???

On Saturday, May 12th from 1-3pm Katelynn will open her home kitchen for a very special afternoon Ayurvedic cooking class. In this intimate session, we’ll prepare (and of course eat!) a palete pleasing medicinal meal appropriate for the spring season.

You’ll leave with practical, easy food prep tips and techniques to get you started on a path to healthy eating.

Let thy medicine be thy food

Price: $25, includes a hearty Ayurvedic lunch

Location: 20 St. James Court, Philadelphia 19106

Register: Online here. 

Limited space!

 

Step Away From the Allergy Meds

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Zyrtec. Allegra. Claritin. Take away my suffering.

Is it just me, or does it seem like EVERYONE is on allergy medications these days? Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin have become household names – the holy trinity of seasonal allergy survival.   If you are a consumer, you may already know that these medications offer nothing more than symptom relief, and no cure for the allergy plague which returns again every season forcing us to buy more pills.  I’ll spare you more of why we shouldn’t support the manufacturers of these medications.  You’re all smart. You made it to an Ayurveda blog, after all.  Then I started thinking what would happen if we HAD a cure – no more allergy medications? Wait – then what would happen to all the allergy medication?  We could disrupt a market. That’d be pretty radical.

If you’ve lived in or visited the northeastern US during the “high allergy season,” which happens every spring and fall, then you know that the complaints are coming in as I write.  You might be reaching for a tissue now.  Eyes are itching, noses are running and it’s about time we explore an Ayurvedic perspective of what exactly is going on here.  I’m about to get all pathophysiological here, so I don’t mind if you skip to the treatments at the end…

First, we have to consider three very important Ayurvedic principles that apply to the immune system, which becomes confused in an allergic response ::

In sanskrit English translation (approximately)
Tejas Cellular transformation (cellular metabolism – mitochondrial ATP production)
Smruti Cellular memory (antigen recognition, or immune response)
Prana Cellular communication (present in DNA synthesis and  immune response)

We already know the importance of nutrition in maintaining tissue health. But how do the cells of our immune system get their nutrition? I’m so glad you asked! It just so happens that the cells of our immune system congregate within the lymph tissues or nodes.  Lymph nodes live in the groin, axillae, small intestine, and neck – but are actually found in nearly every inch of the body.  The nodes are nourished by the lymph vessels.  

Think of the lymph vessels as superhighways delivering nutrition to immune system cells hanging out in the lymph nodes. Now think of a big traffic jam on the interstate. 

When the tissues: like the stomach, small intestine, liver, are putting out high levels of toxicity (from poor diet and lifestyle practices), our vessels become blocked.  This traffic along the lymphatic vessel network prevents nutrition from getting in and toxins from getting out of the immune system. The lymph vessels are not able to properly carry out their OTHER crucial function: to carry non blood fluid waste from the tissues and eventually dump it into the venous system for further

This image shows how closely the lymph system – shown in blue – works with major organs – like our stomach.

purification at the level of the heart where it forms our most vital essential fluid: ojas (another lecture on that later, I promise).  It’s a downstream effect.

The immune system is our greatest expression of self.

Specialized immune system cells distinguish self versus non-self – and it stages its attacks accordingly.  Malnourished cells of the immune system lose their smruti (memory) of what is self vs non-self and start attacking inappropriately. Tejas (cellular metabolism) is usually in a heightened, overactive state, enhancing normal responses.  Prana, communication, is no longer free.  Imagine rogue cells of the immune system acting in a state of emergency chemical warfare releasing all those chemicals that cause runny nose, itchy eyes, swollen lymph, fatigue, excess mucous production…

 Restoring order:

You guessed it…the deeper the tissue level, the more we have to work to restore order.  Although we know each individual may have a unique pathophysiological process, I’ve put together a list of generally tri-doshic (for all metabolic types) dinacharya (self care) items to not only ease symptoms, but also to address the root cause.  Remember, I always say there’s an ideal, then there’s reality.  You’ll find your balance somewhere in the middle by incorporating what works for you.  Enjoy these tips and tricks.  Be patient, natural remedies take longer to be effective because they last longer.

  • Use nasya (nasal) oil every 2-3 hours during a flare up. I personally love Usha Lad’s recipe for nasya. Keeping the nasal passageways lubricated adds an extra layer of protection – stopping allergens before they enter your body.  For some allergy sufferers, nasya oil has been a real game changer. DIY best alternative to medicated nasya is to use melted ghee or sesame oil.  Click here for a tutorial on how to use this remedy. 
  • Sip hot water.  It doesn’t get much simpler than this. All day. At least 1.5 liters.  Avoid iced beverages.
  • Do a few sun salutations (or at least cat cow) every morning.  Lymph vessels and nodes are only
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    Use nasya oil once a day throughout the year, and every 2-3 hours during times of allergy flare ups.

    stimulated and flushed by muscular contraction.  My teacher recommends doing as many as your age. I say…divide your age by three. 

  • Avoid self criticism and practice self forgiveness.  One theory popular amongst the naturopaths is that deep seated self hate causes self to attack self (aka, the immune response).  Be conscious of all the times throughout a day when you find yourself in a pattern of negative self talk. Noticing is the first step of changing.  Incorporate this intention in your daily meditation and reflection.  
  • Sleep during the dark hours.  Many restorative metabolic functions ONLY happen at night – including drainage of the glymphatic system which is the newly discovered drainage network in the brain, aka command central for vital unconscious bodily functions (including immune reactions).  A new discovery for the allopaths, yes, but ancient science of Ayurveda tells us the importance of maintaining proper flow of prana through the brain.    
  • Take pippali pepper longum . Some herbal preparations are unfortunately only available in India.  I’ve found this Banyan Bronchial Support to be the closest thing to medicinal herbal wine, which is the best way to take pippali.  Pippali works by soothing inflammation.  
  • Do self oil massage at least once a week.  There is honestly nothing better for allergies than this practice, which works by massaging the lymph vessels and nodes, and thereby flushing our immune system.  Just try it.  Here’s my blog post with instructions
  • For itchy eyes, carry a spray bottle of rose water with you.  It’s all natural, won’t irritate contact lenses, and the rose has cooling, soothing properties.  Use it as needed.  Be sure to get a 100% pure formula with no additives!  My go to is the Heritage brand
  • Take seasonally appropriate foods and avoid eating heavy foods before sleep.  Consult any reputable Ayurvedic cookbook or your local Ayurvedic practitioner for this one.
  • Use ghee.  In all that you cook. Liberal amounts.  This supreme nectar of mother cow has anti-inflammatory properties that help to sooth allergy symptoms.  It withstands high heat and can be used in any recipe as a substitute for any oil.
  • Keep loving, nurturing company.  Just because.

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 12.52.30 PMAbout the author: Katelynn Ingersoll, BSN, RN is a practitioner of Ayurveda, yoga studio owner, and non-profit founder.  You can find her at her spot in center city Philadelphia where she teaches workshops, sees clients, and practices yoga.  For questions, or to schedule a consultation contact her at 610.462.1352 or email halfmoonayurveda@gmail.com.

 

References

Benveniste, H., Lee, H., Volkow, N. (2017). The glymphatic pathway: waste removal from the CNS via cerebrospinal fluid transport.  The Neuroscientist 1-12.  DOI 10.1177/1073858417691030.

Ivker, Rob. Interviewed by John Dulliard. The Life Spa Podcast Library Episode 37. 14 November, 2016.  https://lifespa.com/episode-37-sinus-survival-dr-rav-ivker/

Lad, Vasant (2012).  Textbook of Ayurveda Volume Three:  General Principles of Management and Treatment. Albuquerque, NM: The Ayurvedic Press.

 

 

The Science of Taste : Astringent

Astringent taste is cooling and drying. It’s the perfect combination for summer!

Astringent taste causes mucous membranes to contract and dry up, causing a peculiar drying sensation in your mouth and a therapeutic effect on over active secretions like excess gastric juices in the stomach.

More astringent foods to add to your diet this summer are:

  • pomegranate
  • parsley
  • chickpeas
  • coriander
  • corn
  • millet
  • potatoes

Click here for a full Ayurvedic summer protocol. 

Katelynn Ingersoll, founder and lead Ayurvedic practitioner at Half Moon Ayurveda completed her Ayurvedic studies program at the Ayurvedic Institute in 2012 under Dr. Vasant Lad. She has continued to study extensively with Dr. Lad and other leaders in the field in clinical and apprenticeship settings. She sees clients one on one for diet and lifestyle consultations, Ayurvedic massages and treatments, and guided cleanses.

Schedule an Ayurvedic treatment or consultation today with Katelynn and experience the wisdom of Ayurveda for yourself. Kickstart healing. She has limited appointments in June and is looking forward to hearing from you.

Whatever you do, do not seasonal cleanse

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Cleansing is NOT about starvation or deprivation, which can cause anxiety and distress.

With so much hype out there about seasonal cleansing and detoxification, the concept behind all the gimmicks can get lost.  The notion of seasonal cleansing fits in well with our “enjoy now, be healthy on Monday” culture.  Sometimes Monday never comes, and sometimes our body lets us know loud and clear that Monday has arrived and it is time to start new healthy habits.  Generally, the latter will happen as we enter the change of seasons. Let us find out why and take a moment to explore seasonal cleansing on a deep level.  First and foremost, we MUST understand that we are NOT separate from our environmental climate.  This not only includes the climate outside, but also the climate of our interpersonal relationships, our work, and our home life.  During the change of season, we experience a drastic change in our physical environment.  In Ayurveda we have a special name for the juncture of one season to the next and that is rtu sandhi.  Rtu sandhi is a joint where two seasons come together. In one season, we experience excessive heat, humidity, and sun, and in the next we experience excessive dry and cold.   It is after one season’s extremes and before the next season’s extremes when we experience low immunity and our physical habitual tendencies will “flare up,” like rashes, urticaria, allergies, congestion.  Usually, our bodies are never given the seasonal cleaning they need in order to recover from one season, and strengthen and prepare for the next.  It’s easy to see why we want to do seasonal cleansing during this time so we can adapt to the changing climate.

Ayurveda  recomends that we pause and reflect during
Rtu-Sandhi, the juncture of two seasons

What about the climate of our work, social life, and interpersonal relationships? How do the ever changing life circumstances affect the physical body?  Remember….we are NOT separate from our environment on any level.  We are constantly bombarded

Consider your personal relationships and what effect they have on your well being.

Consider your personal relationships and what effect they have on your well being.

with excessive demands, emotions (good and bad), time constraints, commitments, and decisions and often times we move through our days, weeks, months, and years as if we are unaffected by these things. We never give our energetic (mental, emotional, and spiritual) bodies the necessary nurturing to recover from life’s experiences and strengthen and prepare for the next one. Are you with me?

What we are trying to share here is that every day we experience seasonal changes! Maybe at home with our loved ones, it’s as if we are having a picnic on a spring day but once we interact with our temperamental boss at work, it’s as if now we are in the extreme heat of the summer.  Think of all the physical, emotional and mental stress and experiences we have in one single day and how they might affect us energetically.  Then imagine waking up and doing the same thing over and over again without taking time to rest and mentally cleanse.  Imagine your mind as the mirror over your bathroom sink. Each splash of water is a life experience.  Eventually, you need to clean the mirror or else you will no longer be able to see yourself.  Now imagine you keep your mirror clean daily.

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Thanks to Ayurveda and yoga, every day can bring cleansing and new experiences.

The more you work to clean your mirror, the stronger you are and the more easily you move through all the experiences that life hands you. Sure you are still going to have splashes of water daily which will appear temporarily, but you will clean it again in the morning so you can see yourself clearly everyday.  Your new clarity of self perception can allow you to explore your vast possibilities and accept your limitations.

The good news is that we have a toolbelt full of powerful tools thanks to Ayurveda and yoga.  If we access our tools daily, then we should be able to handle all the seasonal changes and stresses life throws our way.  Things like our daily yoga practice and our daily Ayurvedic routines like oil pulling, abyhanga, and eating fresh prepared, vegetarian, simple foods will strengthen our immune systems and build up our tolerance to stress.  With repetition over time, these daily practices make us bulletproof.  We can then see that there might not be a need for a formal cleansing.

STILL…a good tuneup is good every now and then, and our tried and true seasonal cleanse program promises to be personalized with as much or as little “austerity” as you prefer, gentle, and effective.  We’ve been leading group and solo cleanses every season for over five years.  If you ARE interested in seasonal Ayurvedic cleansing, please email me at katelynn@bikramphilly.com.

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Upcoming Ayurvedic Workshops With Special Guest Presenter!

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Balancing Your Hot Yoga Practice

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We don’t need to enumerate the benefits of a hot yoga practice at a hot yoga studio! But you might be surprised to learn that without finding ways to balance this fiery, detoxifying practice, hot yoga practitioners can end up depleted and overheated physically, mentally, and emotionally. Come learn how to maximize Bikram yoga’s ability to detoxify while keeping your liver, the body’s major organ of detoxification, happy. With a few Ayurvedic tricks, you can stay cool, calm, and balanced no matter how high the thermostat gets.


Daily Detox

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It seems like everyone is on a cleanse these days, but do we even know what exactly we are cleansing? And how do we know the cleanse we have chosen is safe and effective? Ayurveda has been in the “business” of eliminating toxins for over 5,000 years, and as a living tradition, Ayurveda is sublimely equipped to help us reduce our modern toxic loads. Come learn about the toxins that bombard us daily (from the air we breathe, the food we eat, the news we read, to the cell phones we carry in our pockets) and simple ways that we can detoxify our bodies, minds, hearts, and lives without undertaking elaborate, expensive, and sometimes dangerous cleanses.


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About The Presenter

Suzanne Lang was born with the desire to be a healer. She aced the pre-medical program at Dartmouth College, but finding the Western approach to medicine troubling, Suzanne abandoned her dream of becoming a physician and became a professor. After years of searching, she found her healing home in Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of healthcare. Suzanne is a certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant through the American Institute of Vedic Studies. She is trained in pulse diagnosis and marma therapy through her guru, Vaidya Mishra, with whom she continues to study as an advanced practitioner. Suzanne is also a 200 hour certified vinyasa yoga teacher with additional yin yoga training. To schedule a consultation with Suzanne, e-mail her at zannelangayurveda@gmail.com.

 

The Ayurvedic Concept of Digestion

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So just why is our digestion such an important topic for students of Ayurveda?

Let us discuss now the profound concept of agni according to Ayrveda. Agni is transformation of matter into pure consciousness. Agni is happening all around us and in every cell in our body. This transformation manifests as digestion or metabolism in our physical bodies. There are over 40 different types of agni happening in our bodies at all times. The main agni of course happens in the stomach and is known as jathara agni. There is agni happening in the main organs including the thyroid, liver, and pancreas metabolizing sugars, protiens, and fats. Sense perception is a function of the agni of the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue. Cellularly, agni is our immune system protecting us by keeping foreign troublemakers out and letting the good guys in. We can say that physically, all we are is a result of our agni.

The sanskrit word agni means fire, so we can think of agni as if it were a fire transforming our food into nutrients and minerals our body needs to stay healthy.  This fire can burn too strong causing tissue depletion or weakness. We can think of all the qualities of an out of control fire and how those qualities can manifest in the body. We may see skin rashes, acid indigestion, hair loss, anger, or irritability.   The overactive agni literally burns the bodily tissue. The fire can be too weak causing diseases of excess. Sluggish thyroid, obesity, glaucoma, lethargy, and deep states of depression are all symptoms resulting from low agni.

When agni is in balance, toxins are burned and removed from the body efficiently through the malas (sweat, urine, feces), we maintain healthy tissue production, and the immune system can properly defend. The body can harmoniously sustain homeostasis, like the perfect symphony it is rather than a cacophony of imbalanced agni. A sharp mind, lusterous skin, daily healthy bowel movements, white sclera, a pink tongue, a balanced appetite, even a pleasant mood are all signs of heallthy agni.

We can directly affect the agni happening at a cellular level and in the deep tissues by maintaining our jathara agni (the one in our stomach). Remember, it is the main agni in our body. How can we pamper our prescious, fragile, and oh so important jathara agni? In Ayurveda we say that like increases like. So let’s think of the qualities of agni by conjuring up an image of a fire. A fire is bright, hot, spreading, and light. To increase the fire in our stomachs we eat foods with similar qualities. Foods that are light, like soups, salads, or (our favorite) kitcheree will feed your fire. Use this simple recipe for ginger pickle thirty minutes before a meal to kindle agni.  Warm or at least room temperature beverages will kindle your fire while an iced drink will put it out.  Once we understand the concept of agni and begin to eat and live in a way that promotes a robust agni, we begin to experience a healthy body and mind from the inside out.

 

The Truth About Melons

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Summer’s in full swing here in the north eastern United States and there’s nothing like hitting the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning for the freshest, tastiest and most nutritious produce for your picnic spread.  It’s also the one time we can get local in season melons. All kinds of melons become available this time of year: water melons, sugar babies, cantaloupes, honey dews….mmm.  Not only are they packed with all sorts of vitamins and minerals like vitamin A and magnesium; but they’re also powerful skin tonifiers, and have a mild laxative effect; just to sing a small praise to the glories of melons.

In Ayurveda we know that improper food combining leads to improper digestion, which can in turn lead to doshic imbalance.  We fully support eating your melons especially when they’re in season.  However, be careful to avoid mixing them with other foods.  This may come as a surprise to some, so please let us explain. When we eat melons, the stomach secretes enzymes to digest the fruit, which takes only about one hour.  This is fairly quick compared to other foods like grains which take up to 6 hours to digest.  When we mix fruits and grains, the enzymes focus on the sugars in the fruits and the poor grains are left all alone in the stomach with no enzymes to help them digest.  Undigested or fruit leads to fermentation, presenting itself as sharp pains in the side body torso region, or a burning sensations.

The moral of the story is to eat your fruits alone on an empty stomach (we suggest eating only one fruit at a time), wait at least one hour, and then take other foods. This will lead to good digestion which can allow your body to happily reap all the powerful benefits of eating the fruits.

 

 

Ayurvedic Diet :: a simple thing we complicate

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That’s what we do in the west, right? We analyze, categorize, synthesize, and essentially complicate things. Upon learning a little bit about Ayurveda, right away we focus so much on wanting to know exactly what our main dosha is and how we can meticulously avoid eating foods which may aggravate that dosha. So much so that we become scared out of eating at all and maybe even become put off by Ayurveda. Here’s a few things you need to know when considering an Ayurvedic diet: You WILL need to learn how to cook. There’s no getting around this one. Sorry. In the Ayurvedic scriptures a few foods are listed that are safe for ALL doshas to take EVERY day. They are: yellow and green mung beans, rice, millet, wheat, milk, greens, ghee, honey, barley, turmeric, ginger, cumin. These should constitute the staples of your Ayurvedic diet. Learn how to prepare these foods and rotate them so you don’t get bored. As for vegetables, stick to what is in season and locally available. The energetics of foods are altered when they are refrigerated and shipped in a dark truck driven across the country anyway. So, in winter time, when you think those blueberries are going to give you that super nutritious boost…you might want to wait until August when they are available locally. Fruits should only be taken alone, with no other foods, especially milk or other animal products. Fact is, most of us don’t have the digestive capacity to absorb acidic, sour substances like fruits when mixed with other foods. As for timing, the more time in between meals (without snacking!) allowing for digestion to happen, the better. This may vary depending on the strength of your digestive fire. 4-6 hours is a general guideline. Also, the less food taken after the sun has set, and your digestive fire settles down for the night, the better. While there are plenty of other dietary tips to eating an Ayurvedic diet, this should get you started. Some of these guidelines may seem contradictory to your current dietary habits. Remember that these are time tested principles based on the oldest system of health still practiced today. This is not a fad “lose your belly fat in one weekend” diet from the latest edition of Shape magazine (no offense, we love Shape magazine). Health and longevity start with proper diet and lifestyle choices. So do yourself a favor. For the most part (without being too extreme, because Ayurveda also frowns upon that) eat to live instead of living to eat.