What’s special about a ‘Mysore-style’ class? Well, as a beginner, you get a great deal of individual attention from the teacher, who guides you through each step of each posture. Your first class will last about 30 minutes as you learn the Sun Salutations and finish with a relaxing breathing technique.
The Indian science of Ayurveda suggests that all life is subject to a set of natural forces and that maintaining good health depends on keeping those forces in balance. How they effect you personally depends on your individual constitution (dosha), and all foods possess predictable energetic properties that, when you eat them, interact with your dosha and effect your health – some positively and some negatively. The challenge for the Ayurvedic cook who is preparing food for several people of different doshas is to create the most positive energetic outcome for everyone, despite their differences. When the cook does this successfully, the food is called Sattvic.
This can all sound pretty esoteric, I know! Luckily, centuries of Ayurvedic experience and study have led to some basic principles that, if followed carefully, maximize the chances that what you eat will support your health.
The Ashtanga Yoga method is a fantastic way to start yoga. On your first day, the teacher will work with you one-on-one, guiding you through the basics of each of the beginning postures. Through simple instructions you and the teacher will learn how each posture fits your unique body – whether you are flexible, stiff or some combination of both! You will probably wind up sweating at least a little, and the next day you might wake up with a few sore muscles. But, if you and the teacher approach your first class carefully, it will be the good kind of soreness – the kind that means you have activated parts of your body that have been in cold storage for a while.
In your next few classes, the teacher will probably ask you to demonstrate what you learned the first day. We will help you recall anything that you have forgotten, of course! But from the earliest stage of your new yoga practice, we ask you to engage your mind by remembering the sequence of postures. For some, this is the most challenging part of their first Ashtanga classes. But with repetition and time, the sequence becomes natural, and the consistency of the routine gives you a profound way of connecting with yourself both physically and mentally. Before you know it, you have a yoga practice that you can take with you anywhere – because it’s yours.
The consistency of the Ashtanga practice also gives the teacher the chance to become familiar with your body. After a few classes, when we see that you remember what we have taught you before, and when we can tell that you have found some stability and comfort in those postures, we will start teaching you more. The teacher’s job is to observe you and to help you to connect more deeply with your body and mind – to cultivate a more peaceful relationship with yourself – through your experience of Ashtanga Yoga.
So, do not be afraid to try your first class! Do be sure to let your teacher know about any chronic physical conditions or recent injuries you might have before you get started.
Padhmasree Sankara and her family operate a vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Singapore’s Little India. The restaurant, Sri Lakshmi Narasimha, serves some of the healthiest food available in a city considered one of the world’s culinary capitals. Sri Lakshmi’s approach to cooking is rooted in Brahmin culinary traditions of Tamil Nadu, in southern India.
The food at Sri Lakshmi is low in oil, high in whole grains, legumes and the vegetables of the region, and rich with the healing spices and loving spirit that Ayurveda considers key factors in making food not just fuel, but medicine. The Sankara’s have operated the restaurant for more than 11 years, making changes to the menu as the market opens to the insights Ayurveda brings to eating healthfully. For instance, the restaurant recently eliminated menu items made using garlic and onion, with one exception – the Andhra Meal. They prepare this meal using equipment that never touches ingredients for the other menu items.
To maintain the energetic balance of your body it is important to eat food that is easy to digest. This includes observing a vegetarian diet, but it also means eating moderately sized portions. This is especially true for your evening meal, when the body’s digestive fire has already naturally slowed down.
Pick something light to eat, and try to have it by 6pm – your sleep will improve if your body has finished digesting before you go to bed. If you eat later, eat less! You can eat more for breakfast but still do not over do it because your stomach has shrunk in size over night. Your digestive fire is at its peak mid-day so lunch should be your biggest meal. Follow some simple guidelines, eat in harmony with your body’s natural processes, and you will start to feel the benefits.
Please meet two of my favorite people. Emily studied under Dr. Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and apprenticed with Dr. Ramadas, Chief Physician at the Vaidyagrama-Ayurveda Healing Village in Tamil Nadu. Prakash is from the Indian state of Maharashtra. He grew up in a family that observed traditional Ayurvedic food practices on a daily basis, and has more than 20 years experience working as an Ayurvedic chef in India, Australia and the United States. Today, Emily and Prakash co-direct Agni Ayurveda in Santa Fe, providing Ayurvedic therapy services, consultations and an innovative sattvic food service.
I have known Prakash since 2003 when I opened Albuquerque’s first Bikram Yoga studio. Emily and I have known each other for less than a year, but already I feel grateful to be connected to her generous spirit and perceptive mind. Together, the three of us share a vision of making the healing practices and wisdom of Ayurveda and yoga more accessible to those not yet immersed in it as deeply as we are.
Ideas that we have discussed include:
- online cooking classes
- building a network of food carts, cafes, or restaurants serving sattvic food
- in-person half-day or day-long classes in sattvic cooking
- cooking retreats designed to make you feel confident that you can prepare sattvic food for yourself and your loved ones, with daily morning yoga practice and access to Ayurvedic healing therapies and consultations.
Do you find any of these ideas interesting?
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I look forward to hearing from you!
This time of year the vegetables at Portland’s farmers markets are gloriously colorful. It is hard to know which ones not to get, because they all look so nice and probably taste great as well. Ayurveda teaches us, though, that not everything that looks and tastes good to us is good for our overall health.
Depending on your Ayurvedic dosha – or constitutional type – there are certain foods you should favor in your diet, and others that you should definitely avoid. And very often the foods you crave most might be the ones you should avoid first.
For instance, I love the flavor of tomatoes. Not the tasteless ones that feel like watery, semi-solid mush in your mouth. I mean the ones that are juicy, sweet and tart all at once, and that if you add just a pinch of salt make a tasty snack on their own. The tomatoes I saw at this weekend’s PSU farmers market looked delicious!
But tomatoes and most citrus fruits aggravate my dominant pitta dosha – which often expresses as skin problems – especially as the weather warms up. So I eat them very rarely, and I use them only sparingly in the sattvic food that I cook for others because by definition sattvic food should be balancing for people of all doshas. That is what makes makes sattvic food energetically healing.
Learning what foods Ayurveda recommends you avoid, understanding that it is worth avoiding them even if they appeal to your senses, and then choosing not to eat those foods is part of tapas. Tapas is the yogic practice of acting with positive self-discipline even when it seems hard or feels unnatural. Repeatedly making hard, conscientious decisions can help you to cultivate new, healthier behaviors and expand your understanding of your Self.
As Ashtanga Yoga master Sharath Jois says, “By practicing tapas, impurities are destroyed, and the body and sense organs will gain spiritual power.”
Give me a shout if you are going to the farmers market this weekend. I hope to see you there!
At Simply Sattvic we cook nutritious, plant-based meals based on the principles of Ayurveda. Each delivery you receive includes food for two meals – one lunch, and one dinner. You get fragrant basmati rice, hearty dal soup and tasty chutney to eat for both meals. I also prepare for you two veggie dishes, each one featuring 2-3 vegetables. One of the veggie dishes will usually include a bean. I cook your food every morning, right before delivery.
Check back often for news and updates and each weeks new healthy, delicious menu. Please take a moment and sign up for blog updates below.