Raw Food Focus

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Raw Food Focus

In the past few years, raw food has become very popular.  People sometimes think that it is healthier than cooked food because heating destroys some nutrients.

What often happens is that when people hear this, they get excited about eating mostly raw foods.  At first they feel great.  They can’t say enough about the energy and vitality they feel.  Several authors are quite famous for writing books during this phase of their journey, singing the praises of a raw food diet, claiming it enhances weight loss or cures disease.

However, before a year has passed, these same authors have sometimes recanted their previous enthusiasm.  Most people on a raw food diet eventually crash.  Their energy drops and no matter how much great quality, local, organic, raw food they eat, their raw food diet isn’t supporting their health anymore.  They report such issues as dry skin, poor memory, low energy, and constant hunger (or no hunger). If they persist with their raw food diet despite their body’s signals of the growing problem, they may develop disease.

Why Don’t the Benefits of Raw Diets Continue?

According the Ayurveda, raw foods do not stoke the digestive fires of our agni.  Without strong digestion, the food we eat (no matter how wonderful the quality) simply isn’t being digested, so the nutrients can’t be absorbed into our bodies to support vital health. Without nutrients, over time, our bodies begin to shut down.

It’s true that  some nutrients are destroyed in the cooking process, especially if the cooking process is long (as in stewing fruit or reducing a sauce).  But remember, if digestion isn’t strong, the nutrients won’t get absorbed into the blood stream anyway!

The fact is, eating primarily raw food over time will eventually shut down agni (digestive fire) and allow ama (undigested matter) to be created.  This ama sticks around, creating blockages.  Ayurveda says that ama is the foundation of disease.  Therefore, stoking our digestive fire is the first and most important thing we do to promote health.

How To Stoke Digestive Fire (“Agni”)

Digestion is ignited by such things as heating food and drinks, using digestive spices in cooking, chewing thoroughly, and allowing at least 4 hours between meals (which means eliminating snacking).  This allows the previous meal to be completely digested and all ama to be burned away, so the body is fully ready for the next meal.  When we experience true hunger we know our previous meal has been fully digested.

How To Know If Agni Is Strong

We know digestion is strong when we experience things like an uncoated tongue, no mucous, and a great memory.  We awaken in the morning bright and alert, have a bowel movement first thing (it’s the consistency of a ripe banana, and it floats).  Our body feels light and flexible and maintains its best weight effortlessly.  We have mental sharpness and physical energy–both of which last throughout the day.

If the above describes you, go ahead and eat a little raw food occasionally.

It’s a matter of paying attention to our bodies’ signals.  When we have true hunger, we eat a heated, appropriately spiced meal in a calm and quiet place.  We chew thoroughly at least 30 times (the digestive process begins in the mouth–food should be almost liquid by the time we swallow).  We fill our stomachs 1/2 with food, 1/4 with liquid, and leave 1/4 empty so that there’s room for the digestive process (some say 1/3-1/3-1/3). Then we get busy with our life purpose and eat again only when we experience true hunger (as opposed to a craving or a habit).

If we start to see evidence of ama as described above, we reduce the cold, raw foods and ramp up the strategies for kick-starting our digestion.  We could add chewing a piece of ginger while we cook our meal, or drinking a warm cup of lemon or ginger water about half an hour before eating (especially helpful before breakfast).

Balance is a Constant Dance of Adjustment

The word dosha is usually translated as “mind/body constitution” but more accurately it is translated as “that which goes out of balance”.   Balance is not a place where we “arrive” for once and for all.  We continually adjust in response to sensitively paying attention to the signals given by our body/mind.

Next Step:

Go to the category “Ayurveda” at marciarandalldebard.com (see right side bar) and learn more about applying Ayurvedic principles to your personal circumstances.

And

Leave a comment, below:  What is your experience with raw foods?  How did you work with the transition from a primarily raw food diet to a warm, cooked diet?

 

Bandhas 101

Bandhas 101

Bhujangasana--Cobra Pose

Bandhas 101

Bandha means “lock” or “bind” or “close” in Sanskrit. Yogis say, “If you master the locks, you master the practice”.

Where Your Mind Goes, Your Energy Follows

In yoga, we recognize a physiological body, a mental/emotional connection, a spiritual aspect, and an energy body.  Bandhas exist in the energy body.  Bandhas (tied to breath) play an important role in the cleansing processes of yoga. Engaging our bandhas  (together with the use of breath energy) helps reduce waste matter by directing agni (digestive fire) to places of stuck energy or ama (undigested matter). Engaging bandhas also brings the yoga practice more deeply into the body–making yoga asana (poses) a sort of “energy body practice”.   Engaging the lower two bandhas creates an inner corset of support for the yoga postures.  On a purely physiological level, working with bandhas can help regulate the metabolic, digestive, sexual, and hormonal systems, in addition to building stronger, flatter abdominal muscles.Read more: Bandhas 101

Yes — Ayurveda Allows Meat

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Yes — Ayurveda Allows Meat

People often assume that Ayurveda is a vegetarian philosophy.  It’s not.  Hindus are vegetarians.  Hindus practice Ayurveda.  Therefore people mistakenly connect the two.  The fact is, Ayurveda is based on the Vedas. It is not “Hindu”; the Vedas predate Hinduism by almost 1,000 years.  By the time Hinduism evolved into a religion, Vedic philosophy was an established part of Indian culture, so Hinduism adopted Vedic practices (because they work).

Vedic philosophy includes Ayurveda, Yoga, Meditation, Vasthu, and Jyotisha.  They synchronize perfectly.  And, each stands solidly on its own.

None of them requires vegetarianism; in fact, no food is off limits in Ayurveda.

Your Meat Depends Upon Your Dosha

If you’ve signed up to receive the “Breathe, Balance, and Be Well” newsletter, you’ve received a 100-question Body/Mind Constitution Analysis (aka “Dosha Quiz”) and you know your dosha. Read more: Yes — Ayurveda Allows Meat

Basic Chair Yoga Practice

Bhujangasana--Cobra Pose

Basic Chair Yoga Practice

Perhaps you want to do yoga, but your knees are a bit stiff, or a hip injury prevents you from getting up and down from the floor.  Or maybe you’d like to do a practice in your chair at the office.

There’s yoga for that!

Here is a simple, basic practice.  By the time you have finished, your oxygen, blood, and lymph will be flowing, you will have stretched your muscles, activated your synovial and vestibular fluid, and massaged your organs.  You will have sharpened your mind and refreshed your attitude.

You’ll need a sturdy chair without arms that does not roll, tip or swivel.

As you follow my directions, listen attentively to your body.  There may be movements that you’ll need to modify or skip altogether.  Always stay tuned to your body’s needs and the fact that they change from day to day.

Warm Up Synovial Fluid

Most of our joints have synovial fluid, which becomes viscous when we are sedentary.  By moving our joints gently, this fluid liquifies so that it can lubricate joints. Read more: Basic Chair Yoga Practice

Quick Ayurvedic Self-Massage

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Quick Ayurvedic Self-Massage

The benefits of Ayurvedic Self-Massage (“Self-Abhyanga”) are similar to the benefits that are available from other massage practices, whether they are performed by a massage therapist or ourselves.  The advantages of massage performed by a professional therapist is that we can completely relax and receive the massage, and also that a skilled, intuitive therapist can work with places we cannot reach on ourselves.  The advantage of self-massage is that we can experience massage more often.  Even when time is limited, we can do a quick daily Ayurvedic massage as a regular part of our daily routine.

It would be lovely to have an hour a day for self-massage and showering, but it may not be possible every day.  While we can give ourselves a full body self-abhyanga in 15 or 20 minutes, there will be days when even that isn’t practical.  The most important parts of self-massage are the feet, the head/ears, and the navel.

Start with the Feet

Massaging the feet relieves roughness, fatigue, clogged blood vessels, and insensitivity to touch.  It increases foot strength, improves eyesight, promotes sound sleep, and has an aphrodisiac effect.Read more: Quick Ayurvedic Self-Massage