Ayurveda: Kitchari

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In my last post I went through a little bit of what Ayurveda is and why it is important to me! Before continuing to read this blog, please go back and take a look at my post Ayurveda, if you haven’t already!

This post will be about an Ayurvedic dish called Kitchari, its benefits and a how-to-cook!

Kitchari is a dish made with basmati rice and split yellow mung dal beans used in Ayurveda to help cleanse the digestive system because Ayurveda holds the belief that over all physical & mental health starts with a healthy gut! The rice and beans together make a very easy to digest meal and the combined use of many spices gives it a flavour like most Indian food (aka delicious)! This dish can be used as simply a part of a balanced diet or you can use it to cleanse; eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 2-5 days. I figure that any cleanse where you’re actually allowed to eat something is pretty awesome and honestly a lot healthier than the ones where you pretty much starve yourself.

A couple reasons why eating Kitchari for breakfast, lunch & dinner is so great for our health:

  • By eating a meal that is so simple and easy for the body to digest we give our organs a much needed break. I mean think about it! Our digestive systems works pretty damn hard digesting 3 different meals a day, plus snacks and whatever else. And everyday we eat something different than the day before! So by eating Kitchari for every meal even just for a few days, it is like sending out digestive system on vacation, & everyone likes vacation time!
  • It is so so easy to make & lets be honest, sometimes we need a mental break from the kitchen as well.
  • The split mung dal beans are high in protein and the combination of the bean and rice provides us with the 10 essential amino acids. And because we are receiving enough protein our blood sugar stays stable and therefore we can remain in a good mood!
  • Because our bodies are not being strained by low blood sugar and its side effects, the body can focus on eliminating toxins and burning fat. Kitchari is also excellent for de-aging of our cells!
  • When the body becomes stressed (for example from low blood sugar caused by strenuous cleansing) it will automatically start to store fat as a survival mechanism. And I am pretty sure that is the opposite of what most people want as they start to cleanse…fat storage. By making life easy on the body (by nourishing it with an easy to digest, well balanced meal) the body is instead able to burn fat! Now that’s better!
  • Kitchari not only cleanses the digestive system but can also heal any damage we have caused to out intestines from lack of a proper diet and stress.
  • It is said that when the metabolism is working to its best and the intestines are healthy it becomes easier to reach a state of deep peace. Therefor Kitchari is also great for spirituality.

And if that wasn’t enough to convince you…Kitchari is a one pot, no mess kind of meal! This is the recipe from my second pot and it was damn good! I added a few things and took some things out. Honestly you can customize this dish pretty much to your liking!

You’ll need

  • 1.5 cups split yellow mung dal beans (washed). You can find these in your local Indian or Asian grocery store.
  • 1-cup white basmati rice
  • 1-tablespoon coconut butter (or Ghee, but I couldn’t find that)
  • 1-teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1-teaspoon fennel seeds (which I omitted because I do not like fennel)
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chia seeds
  • 3 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 3 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Half of a sweet potato cubed
  • 1 carrot cubed
  • 1 zucchini cubed (it is possible to add any seasonal vegetable that strikes your fancy! But I really enjoyed the zucchini)
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro garnish
  • Avocado garnish (optional)

 

Melt coconut oil is large pot.

Add mustard seeds and chia seeds and brown until they pop.

Add in all other spices. Stir to combine and let cook for a few minutes on low heat.

Add in vegetables (here carrot and sweet potato) cook for 2 minutes.

Add 4 cups of water, 2 cups of coconut milk, cardamom pods and bay leaves. Bring to a boil.

Once boiling add in rice and beans and reduce heat to low.

Let cook 10 to 15 minutes or until rice and beans become soft but there is still juice left in the pot.

Combine in zucchini (or any other veggie that doesn’t take long to cook)

Turn off burner, add salt to taste, place lid on pot and wait patiently for about 5 more minutes or until most of the water and coconut milk as cooked into the mixture.

You do not want to over cook this. I did on my first try and although it still tasted delicious it was a little too mushy for my liking.

Garnish with cilantro and enjoy an extremely health, comforting, cleansing, nourishing and detoxifying meal! (Or a few of them if you decide to cleanse 😉 )

 

Hope you enjoyed the read and will give Kitchari a shot!

 

Namaste, Katy

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Ayurveda

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What is Ayurveda? Ayurveda is an ancient Indian medicine that, instead of focusing on fixing problems/diseases once they have already occurred (like western medicine does) Ayurveda focuses on prevention of problems/diseases before they occur in the body. I think that may just be the most well thought out system in the world! Take care of yourself and don’t become sick. It couldn’t be more obvious right?

I’ve just recently started to dive into Ayurveda. I only know the basics but I am already hooked. Simple things like enjoying a hot cup of water or tea first thing in the morning to help activate your digestive system, self massage at night to release toxins and of course practicing yoga have already made a difference in my over all well being. And it only makes sense. This ancient form of medicine has been in use for over 5000 years so obviously something is working!

One of the main focuses of Ayurveda is that overall good health starts with good digestive health which I believe 100% because I’ve experience both bad and good digestive health and I’m telling you, your body & mind feels so much better when things are running smoothly down there! Because if there is build up of waste in your intestines that for some reason or another isn’t passing though, your body cannot absorb all of the nutrients from the food you consume.

I want to give you a look into my current health situation so you can understand why starting an Ayurvedic diet, focused on good intestinal/digestive health is important to me.

Last year I found out that I have a gluten allergy after quite the process. It started in March 2016. I became very ill with sharp stomach pain, fever and cold sweats. I thought I simply had the flu so I laid in bed for a few days but when my illness got worse on day 4, I mean when I went from being constipated to having diarrhea I knew something much more serious was happening.

But actually this story begins before this occurrence. In September 2015 I made the move from Canada to Switzerland to be with my boyfriend. Everything was going swimmingly until I realized some months later that I hadn’t had a really good poop since I left Canada. I can only attribute this to living in a new place. Different food, different water, things my body wasn’t used to, and not really being in tune with my body. Anyway I would drink a big, strong cup of Italian coffee every morning and hope for the best. The best did not come.

So back to March 2016. I went to a local physician who examined me and told me to go to the hospital immediately because he believed that I had a burst appendix. Awesome. So off I went to the Krankenhaus (Sickhouse when directly translated from German!) and after a very, very long day of being hooked up to machines and tubes and getting an ultrasound and a CAT scan they figured that my appendix was fine but rather I had an infection in my intestine (hello not pooping for 4 months…)

I was sent home with a prescription for 2 WEEKS of antibiotics. 2 weeks! Do you know what 2 weeks of antibiotics will do to you? Not nice stuff. The side efforts were astronomical.

Anyway during and after this time I kept on eating and drinking all the things I usually ate and drank like sandwiches being number one, but of course pizza and pasta and most importantly beer. Gluten city. One Saturday night in April of 2016, just 2 days before I flew home to Canada I got pretty tipsy on beer. Just good old-fashioned beer. Guess what…sick again. Body aches and pains, diarrhea, everything just like the first time. Flying across the world in this condition was not optimal but I wasn’t the sickest one on the plane (a lady puked on me), what a ride!

Anyway before I left Switzerland my boyfriend pointed out the fact that when I drank beer I would have awful hangovers that didn’t happen when I drank only wine or something else. He thought that I might have a gluten allergy.

So back home in Canada my BFF picked me up from the airport at 11pm and we went straight to the emergency room. The Dr. put me back on the same antibiotics for another 2 weeks (kill me) and off I went. Next day I visited my family physician and told him I thought it was gluten. I got a blood test and a few days later we found out for sure that I am indeed allergic to gluten (the ironic thing is that I grew up on a grain farm in middle of nowhere Canada, strange huh?)

But how allergic you ask? Just an allergy or full on celiac? This answer I don’t even know.

Of course after the blood test results came back I began immediately with a GF diet (which isn’t hard by the way if you’re thinking about trying it). For the reason that I was flying back to Zürich in a few weeks I did all I could to get in to see the gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy as soon as possible, which actually worked. Usually people wait months to see a specialist in Canada (free Health Care means waiting) but there was a cancellation and I was in! Because we didn’t have the normal amount of time to prepare for the procedure I was unaware that to really be clear if someone has celiac disease or not from a colonoscopy the patient has to be ON a gluten diet! I had been eating GF for about 2.5 weeks by now and feeling good, but the results of the colonoscopy came back indefinable. I may or may not have celiac disease. A year later I still don’t know for sure. So I stick to my GF diet because I feel better than I have in my entire life! Actually health.

Even going back to being a teenager and young(er) adult I was often very sick. I would have a cold for up to 3 months at a time or just get sick 3-5 times a year. I would also get cold soars about 3 times a year. Now that I keep my intestines healthy by sticking to my gluten free diet I have only been sick once in the last year (common spring cold, can’t really avoid it) and I have had no cold soars at all! Proof right there that good digestive health leads to over all good health!

So to begin my Ayurvedic diet I am starting with the classic Ayurvedic dish called Kitchari. It is actually a cleanse so I will be eating this dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner for at least a few days (we will see how long I can keep it up, hopefully make it a week)!

Seeing as this post is already quite long I will write back tomorrow with more information on Kitchari! Its benefits, recipe and so on!

Thanks for the read 🙂

Namaste, Katy

My first Class as the Teacher

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My beautiful first class ❤

Yesterday I held my very first ever real life YOGA CLASS! It was very exciting for me 🙂

The last few weeks I have been preparing for my first real class by teaching my friend / neighbor (the only reason I put neighbor in there is to demonstrate how easy and convenient it is to teach her!) I walk across the street every morning and we practice either on her sunny balcony or when the sun decides not to shine, we practice in her living room. She wasn’t really a yoga person, she had tried a few classes but never got the feel for it. Now I believe she is hooked! She’s always telling me how much more energy she has and how good she feels, which of course gives me this fuzzy warm feeling inside. I am so happy that I get to help her on her yoga journey everyday but I have to say, there really is something special about having a whole room full of people to lead and help through their practice!

We did a typical Hatha yoga class. Starting with Pranayama (the Full Yogic Breath) moving into the warm up, Sun Salutations, standing sequence and a seated stretching sequence before Savasana. Very simple but perfect because 5 out of the 6 students in my class are new to yoga. I had some great feedback and even a student who has moved around other commitments to come back to class next week 🙂

I am honestly just thrilled that I have the ability and know how to help even just a few people become more centered, calm and fit! I want to thank Powerqi Zürich for providing me with the space I need to do what I love! And of course THANK YOU TO MY CLASS! I love you guys 🙂 see you next week!

 

Yoga & Creativity

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I always wanted to be an artist, or even just someone creative. I’ve enjoyed drawing my whole life & am pretty ok at it but I never thought that made me an artist. I wanted to be a person who’s full of cool ideas and actually goes out and makes them happen. Sometimes I have the ideas & sometimes I don’t, which is ok. The problem was that even when I had a great idea for a painting, drawing or project I often would only think about it until another idea came into my head & I never actually ended up doing anything with the first idea. That was really a shame because I often had enough time but never the drive to follow through with an idea.

Since making yoga a daily part of my life my creativity has skyrocketed! There is never really a time when I’m at a loss of ideas or a time when I’m not actually working on something. Which is incredible because as of right now I have all of the time in the world!

I am living in Zürich with my Fiancée. The wedding is in May which means until then I am not able to work. I have all day everyday to do anything I want but this isn’t the first time I’ve been in Switzerland with everyday free as a bird.

I know when you read this you’re thinking “Oh if only I had so much free time I would do this and that, and I could travel here and see this”. It truly does sound like a dreamy lifestyle but I’m telling you after a few weeks of no work & all play you’ll be dying to get back to the office, especially if you’re someone like me who has ideas but not enough drive or knowhow (aka creativity) to follow through with them.

I had many problems in the past with all of my free time in Zürich. I would sleep late, wander around the city then come home and cook dinner and wait for my boyfriend to come home from work like a little golden retriever puppy, demanding love and attention. This was so extremely unsatisfying & mind numbing but I honestly felt like I couldn’t do anything else. I didn’t speak the language here and I didn’t have the drive to do much besides sleep late & cook. I felt pretty much completely useless.

Fast forward to today. A few years wiser & with a 200 hour Yoga teacher training under my belt. Ever single day I have something to do. I’m meeting people & talking about ideas. I’m painting & going to the local Museum to draw. I’m planning my wedding & having a damn good time doing it! (My sister-in-law is making my dress so I was able to design it myself which was amazing). I’m writing which is something I’ve never done before. I’m giving my neighbour yoga lessons in exchange for lunch & after just a few lessons I am absolutely thrilled to notice a difference in the openness of her body. Plus she keeps telling me she feels great! On top of all of this I have my own personal Asana, Pranayama & Meditation practice. Everyday of my life since my YTT at Marina Yoga has been full of love & a real want to do something great and show the world what I can do, which I’ve honestly never had before.

I feel so much more confident and I think that is one of the reasons why my creative levels have risen. I’m no longer terrified about what other people are going to say or think about me because I know that what they say and think doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am doing things that make me happy and my daily yoga practice has really helped me embrace the things that make me happy.

So if getting into shape, calming your mind, unwinding, de-stressing, and just generally doing something great for your body isn’t enough of a reason to practice yoga than practice to spark your creativity! Practice yoga to find what makes you happy and practice yoga so you can find the confidence to actually go out & DO what makes you happy! Practice yoga to find out who you are.

 

Namaste, Katy

Energetic Pranyama

I’m sitting on the train and lacking all energy. Why is it always the night before a big day that you can’t sleep? I just can’t seem to slow my mind down and shut off while in bed when I know that I have 8 million things to do and places to go in the morning. So what should I do now that it is already morning and I am terribly tired?

Well chocolate is helping me gain back some energy levels but that may not be the best solution (although the most delicious!). So in between nibbles of chocolate I’m practicing a combination of two very energizing Pranyama breathing exercises. Ujjayi and Surya Bhedana.

Ujjayi is also known as breath of fire, ocean breath or Darth Vader breath because it sounds like all of those things! By constricting the back of our throats and directing the breath there while inhaling and exhaling through the nose, we can warm up our breath before it even enters the body, so that it enters the lungs already full of energy. We use a full yogic breath while practicing ujjayi and most other pranyama breathing exercises (see previous post for full yogic breath). This warm, hissing breath is used before energetic and fast paced yoga classes. The actual sound of the breath allows us to stay focused on our breathing, helping our minds not to wander. By simply using this technique as I sit here I can feel an immediate awakening and warming effect. Pretty incredible I thought.

Surya Bhedana is also very powerful as it awakens our Yang side. Everyone’s heard of Yin and Yang but do we know what it means? Well Yin and Yang are the 2 sides of everything that have polar opposite energy. Let’s make a chart…

Yin                           Yang

Left                          Right

Inner                       Outer

Feminine               Masculine

Moon                       Sun

Passive                    Aggressive

So you see the difference. By practicing right nostril breathing we awaken the more active side of all of us, the Yang. We simply take out right hand in Mrigi mudra (placing our index and middle fingers at the base of our thumb) closing our left nostril with our ring finger and we inhale through the right nostril. After a full yogic inhale we close our right nostril with our thumb and exhale through the left. Repeat by inhaling again through the right nostril and continue on this way for 5 to 10 full rounds. It is the inhale through the right nostril that activates the Yang and starts to give our bodies this active energy.

Give these two breathing methods a try the next time you’re feeling low on energy and let me know what subtle energy differences you feel!

My day is looking up and I hope yours is too,

Namaste, Katy.

Conscious Breath: Full Yogic Breathing

Have you ever forgotten how to breathe? Have you ever found yourself suddenly gasping for air or feeling light-headed? I know I have.

As a child (especially while playing) I found myself randomly panting and gulping down air as fast as possible. I think this occurred because I would get excited about something, hold my breath and then suddenly Ahhhhh need air!

Breathing comes to us naturally but if you can believe it, most of us breathe incorrectly. In this day and age most people are running around from one task to the next. We can barely find time to sit down and eat a proper meal never mind find time to slow down and take some deep breaths, which is not so surprisingly, very important to our health.

Longer breaths = Longer life! It’s a simple concept that we can easily see in nature but somehow still overlook. Take the Tortoise for example. They move very slowly and this movement coincides with their long, slow breaths. A tortoise is said to live anywhere from 175-225 years. Incredible! A Hummingbird on the other hand has a total lifespan of around only 5 years. Just think about how fast they move, how much energy they use, and how hard that would be on their little bodies.

The exact same principle applies to humans as well! Those who run and rush through life often are shallow breathers, meaning they breath using only the upper lungs. Unfortunately these are the ones who are more often becoming sick with any number of diseases at an early age. Those people who can find just a few minutes everyday to slow down and breath properly tend to live long, health, disease free lives. When I say “breath properly” I mean they breath with their abdomen and entire lung capacity.

Try it now. First a shallow breath using only the upper part of your lungs and slight rise of the collarbones…not so relaxing right. The inhales and exhales are equally as short because there is just no space for a long smooth breath. Breathing this way tends to make us feel anxious, often sending us into Fight or Flight mode.

Now try a deep breath beginning by expanding the stomach, moving up through the lower lungs to reach the upper lungs and collar bones. Now exhale by lowering the collar bones as the air leaves your lungs and push all of the air out by contracting your stomach muscles.

How did that feel? Much more satisfying right! This is known as A Full Yogic Breath. This simple deep breathing practice has so many positive side effects including calming our nervous systems and steading our minds. By focusing on our breath in such a way we are able to feel a connection between mind, body and spirit. Seriously just close your eyes for 5 minute everyday and breath deeply. I bet you’ll notice an immediate sensation of calm and best of all when we practice this for just a few minutes everyday it will start to become a part of your everyday routine without even noticing!

Hope this read and 5 minute a day breathing practice has helped bring a little bit of calm into your busy life.

Namaste, Katy.

New to it All: the Yamas of Yoga pt. 5

Good Morning Monday. Hope you all had a great weekend 🙂

Today we will talk about the very last of the 5 Yamas, which is Aparigraha: Non-Possessiveness. But what were the first 4 Yamas again?

Review:

The Yamas are 5 basic ethical principles to live by. Things we can do everyday to improve our happiness and the happiness of the people around us.

– The first principle, Ahimsa, is Non-Violence. It means more than just not being cruel to those around us. It means we should always be considerate of those around us. Those around us and actually every little thing on this earth including ourselves!

– The second principle, Satya, is Truthfulness. Speak your truth with good intentions. Be honest with yourself about how you feel, you are allowed to feel however it is that you do. When we are first honest with ourselves it becomes easier to speak our truth to the world.

– The third principle, Asteya, is Non-Stealing. This means of course to never take something that doesn’t belong to you. But that “something” does not just mean a physical possession. That “something” also means time, moments, energy etc.

– The fourth principle, Brahmacharya, is Moderation and Use of Energy. Meaning that we should moderate the enjoyable things in our lives, because too much of anything isn’t good. This way we can save our energy and use it on our path to enlightenment.

Aparigraha: Non-Possessiveness. Take only what you need. Take only what you’ve earned. Share what you have! Similar to Brahmacharya we need to learn how to rid this need for possessions by keeping our senses in check. Our society is constantly telling us that we need more and more to remain happy. That is just some rich person in a tall tower trying to get richer by brainwashing us into buying their crap.

The truth is we need less to be happy. Minimalism is key! If something you have in your home doesn’t give you an obvious feeling of joy, its just clutter, so get rid of it.

This is a very hard thing to learn how to do because we are used to having so much. Believe me once you start to declutter your home, your office and your life in general you will begin to feel lighter. Your mind will automatically declutter as your surroundings become more peaceful and turn into a space that you can truly feel happy in. Living with only necessities can really help one find a sense of freedom in their lives.

Aparigraha also implies that it is important to be non-possessive not only of objects but also people and moments and thoughts and energies and traditions and pretty much everything in life because nothing ever stays the same.

So often when things change we become crippled by emotions of sadness or fear of this change. If we begin by practicing detachment from outside stimuli we never have to go through the difficult process of dealing with the changes. We can simply feel grateful that we had the opportunity to experience that thing even though it is now gone.

As I mentioned above practicing detachment by living a minimalistic lifestyle is not easy at first, but it is so worth it!

Well as a first time blogger I had great time writing about the Yamas of Yoga. I sure hoped you enjoyed the read! Any comments or helpful tips would be very much appreciated!

I hope you all have a great start to your week 🙂

Namaste, Katy.