VPK Quarantine: How to gracefully bunker down with your loved ones

It stands to reason that if you truly want to know someone, be it your spouse, sidekick, or progeny, a 2 week quarantine is a fabulous way to immerse yourself in their idiosyncrasies. With the advent of Spring 2020, the entire world was catapulted into a tailspin fueled by uncertainty, fear, and sheer panic. No doubt, the Coronavirus is a force to be reckoned with. 

We heard whispers of said virus, but it wasn’t until last week that COVID-19 had us batten down the hatches at record speeds. CVS looked like a Black Friday circus as customers clamored for Purel and the highly coveted 60-pack of Charmin Ultra Soft Toilet Paper. Comestibles? Check. Water? Check. Cadbury Mini-Eggs? Double check. 

So here we are, with our beloveds – – but what if in larger doses they drive us absolutely bananas? Breathe, Ayurveda can provide some insight on how to skillfully, and lovingly, handle each family member during times of stress. By recognizing their innate constitutional makeup, one is given an intuitive map to what makes them tick. 

Ayurveda recognizes that everyone has a distinct genetic blueprint that manifests as a configuration of the 5 elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Together these elements coalesce to form the 3 doshas, or biological humors. 

Vāta Dosha = Air & Ether

Pitta Dosha = Fire & Water

Kapha Dosha = Water & Earth

Not sure which category you, or your family members, fall in? Here’s an archetype run down:

Vāta

Vāta people have a predominance of ether and air. Like the wind, they move quickly, talk fast and flutter from idea to idea. These are the social butterflies, the artist, the dancers and dream makers. You can easily spot one by their long, lean build, namely in their legs. Vātas are known for being enthusiastic and the team cheerleaders. When met with a challenge, they may quickly erupt, but then promptly forget and move on. 

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Willowy vātas couldn’t gain weight if they tried. Their frames are on the slight side and they are ruled by their senses. With the skin being the largest organ, sense organ and otherwise, vāta people can be overstimulated by excessive touch or sensory stimulation. These are the people that come home from a trip to NYC with their eye twitching due an overload of the sense organs. Flashing lights, honking taxis, street food smells, people everywhere…vāta goes haywire and needs to detach from the world for a spell in order to recharge. 

Lacking an abundance of  the earth and water elements, vātas do not have the same level of sustaining endurance that kaphas possess. Vāta types are known to keep pushing even when their gas tank reads E, further depleting themselves and requiring more R&R.

Without a heavy helping of the fire element, Vātas tend to run cold and have weak digestion. In times of stress they may lose their appetite and tend towards gas, bloating and constipation. Vātas can become untethered and spiral into a panicked thought vortex, especially at 2am. Emotionally, out of balance vāta shows up as insomnia, anxiety, irrational fears and mania. 

Pitta

Pitta folks are full of passion and drive, thanks to a good helping of the fire element. Pittas are often Type A’s that love to make lists and feel immense satisfaction as they check all the boxes. They are organized, direct, phenomenal leaders, sharp , witty and goal oriented. Wicked competitive, these are the folks that play Uno for blood.

Physically, pittas are square in the middle between vāta and kapha. Not too thin, not too muscular. They have sensitive skin that burns easily in the sun, or turns to a smattering of freckles. The sense organ that dominates pitta is sight. Fire folks are hyper sensitive to light, and can be spotted sporting a pair of Ray Bans while grocery shopping. They require black out curtains to sleep and an eye mask! 

With their radiant fiery minds, pittas are dedicated scholars and want to know how everything works. They are opinionated and love parlaying in intellectual debates. In fact, their minds are so robust that the fire goes to their head and often renders their hair thin, prematurely grey, or bald, and even their eyesight can be hindered (eyes are a fire organ according to Ayurvedic A&P). 

Pittas LOVE to be right and can have a hard time admitting defeat, or saying “I’m sorry”. They are not going to wax poetic or constantly tell you how much they love you – those words of affirmation would more likely come from a vāta or kapha type, respectively. Pitta’s love language is through action and protecting the fox hole. 

 When the fire gets too high, pitta can spread like a brushfire. They are quick to anger and will smolder until they decide they are done being angry, which can take some time.  They can become extremely impatient, snarky, acerbic, dictatorial and thus, prone to acid reflux and inflammation.

Kapha

Kaphas are the epitome of the love nugget.  Made up of earth and water, Kaphas are the most stable and grounded of all three doshas. They are calm and steady, rarely flustered. Steadfast, they will assuredly maintain the peace during times of chaos.

 Kaphas love to love. They are humanitarians with massive hearts. Brimming with compassion, kaphas are often the teachers, nurses or health care-providers.  

Crafted with mostly earth and water, kapha types have solid, curvy, and muscular frames. Everything about them is luscious and thick. Imagine lustrous Pantene Pro V hair, gleaming healthy white smiles with wide Disney princess eyes…ahh! 

Kaphas are all about potential energy, and live to bank energy. This can show up as excess weight, holding onto relationships that no longer serve, or hoarding nostalgic possessions. Public Service Announcement – No shame in holding onto that wardrobe from 25 years ago, so long as it brings happiness and is still being utilized. However,  if it triggers a negative emotion, toss it!

Jimmy-Bean and Curly, the needy dog

Kaphas are creatures of habit and are perfectly content with routine;  really, they were built for the quarantine life. The earth and water aspect of their constitution keeps them rooted in habits, good or bad. They will drive the same way to work every day, eat the same breakfast for years, while being punctual and predictable. 

Out of balance, Kaphas can become lethargic couch potatoes. This can lead to depression, lack of motivation, weight gain and allergies. 

Do any of these Archetypes resonate with you, or remind you of a family member? Know that it is quite common to be dual-doshic, or for some even tri-doshic. Meaning you may resonate with both vāta and pitta, or kapha and pitta. 

Before we get into ways to cope, here are 2 key concepts related to the VPK emotional profiles:

Under Stress:

Vāta = Flight

Pitta = Fight

Kapha = Freeze 

How to relate, treat:

Treat Vāta like a flower

Treat Pitta like a friend/spouse 

Treat Kapha like their cheerleader or coach

What to expect if you’re quarantined with a Vāta, Pitta or Kapha

+ Self-Soothing for VPK

Vata – The ethereal aspects of vata dosha bestows them with oodles of creativity. Their thinking, and talking, is often expansive and excessive. Vatas are yippers and may often miss words because they are so excited about what they have to say. To quell this nervous chatter, focus their attention with something calming and artistic. 

Perhaps dust off the mandala coloring books. Throw on some soothing music, or a funny movie, and they could be enraptured with doodling for hours. 

Knitting is often recommended for smokers in lieu of reaching for a cigarette, another nervous habit, I imagine it would be a great success for a twitchy vata. Arm knitting is still trending, perhaps your vāta loved one could construct an arm-knitted blanket. Double win as the heavy, warm material will help ground their nervous system. 

That being said, vātas also need to off-gas their nervous energy through movement. This could be done easily through a family dance party, going for gentle walks in nature, or following an online yoga class.

Vāta Self-Soothing:

Brunch!
  • Color
  • Knit
  • Dance party
  • Start an indoor garden
  • Restorative yoga
  • Yoga nidra
  • Japa mantra
  • Walking meditation 
  • Soothing breath practices like: Dirgha or Nadi Shodhana
  • Creative cooking – Chopped style
  • Get outside, or observe nature from your window
  • Read: cozy up on the couch with chamomile tea and a pet and/or blanket
  • Foot massage – especially at night for sound sleep
  • Warm cooked foods – helps keep you regular,  for breakfast try oatmeal with a scoop of flax and a generous sprinkle of ground cinnamon 
  • Play an instrument
  • Play catch with a family member, or the wall
  • Creative writing
  • Journal 
  • Make your own Tik Tok videos
  • Put on a family performance of your favorite play or musical
  • Have a mug of ojas milk in the afternoon
  • Beading
  • Take warm Epsom salt baths scented with lavender 
  • Take virtual tours of museums
  • Learn about your favorite artist, writers, musicians
  • Maintain faith, trust and hope

Pitta- To be honest, pitta is probably the most irate about being locked up. “But I still have the Chicago Marathon in the fall! How am I supposed to keep up with my training?!” Pittas need to move, and challenge, their bodies while staying mentally astute. Pittas like to distract themselves through work. These are the folks that are “up and at em” with the power washer at 7am.

Pitta often finds purpose through their occupation, as a result, there may be an identity crisis brewing with looming lay-offs. In addition, these fire gods/goddesses have supercharged digestion, meaning, don’t let these folks get hungry…or even worse, hangry. Keep your pitta family members well fed, and I’m not talking salad, I’m talking dense foods that will take time to burn off.

Pittas are rigid and like schedules. Create a daily schedule with your pitta child, in fact, all benefit from a consistent daily routine. Come up with jobs, goals, or projects. Have you always wanted to learn how to play the piano, or master Hozier’s masterpiece Shrike on the guitar? Now is the time to carpe diem!

Paint those cabinets, tighten all the screws in your house. You get the point…and pitta, don’t forget to be soft and embrace those around you. Tell them you love them and appreciate their existence. 

Pitta Self-Soothing:

Ayurvedic Mocktails
  • House Work
  • Neglected projects
  • Research your favorite topics
  • Learn a new skill 
  • Chess, Checkers, Scrabble – remember it’s just a game
  • Cool showers
  • Rose water spritz to the eyes
  • Moderate yoga
  • Box Breath, Nadi Shodhana or Shitali pranayama
  • Endurance based trainings – plyometrics perhaps
  • Metta meditation
  • Start a website
  • Start an Etsy page
  • Try making your own fermented foods – just don’t eat too much, they aggravate the fire
  • Practice gratitude 
  • Read inspiring works
  • Photography, graphic design
  • Draft up plans for your dream house, job, dress
  • Write- Put your brilliance to paper
  • Play Legos on the floor with your kiddos
  • Check out all the free online classes offered by Universities
  • Organize an effort to help those in need 
  • Cook – FYI America’s Test Kitchen is right up your alley 
  • LAUGH!! Watch all the comedians, shows, performances that make you chortle
  • Give until it hurts, and then give more 

Kapha- As previously mentioned, kaphas are the most suited to shelter-in-place. If you, or your spouse, are a kapha, you may be relishing the extra time home with the family. Homeschooling? No problemo, you’ve totally got this with your saint-like patience. Since you already have a deep nesting instinct, why not embrace that quality? Cozy up the house, perhaps even rearrange – your vāta pal can help you pick out new paint colors.

Kaphas express their fondness through affectionate touch and food. Spouse, friend, kid, cat, dog, or plant, doesn’t matter, go snuggle and take care of them. Get out the Crock-Pot and make a massive batch of vegan chili. Better yet, sweetness soothes anxious vātas and agitated pittas, so why not whip up a batch of your famous gooey, chocolate brownies? 

Basically, let your love light shine. Nest and give yourself permission to read and be earthy. Your grounded energy is contagious, the world could deeply benefit from more kapha right about now.  

Kapha Self-Soothing:

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com
  • Bake 
  • Cook family style: freeze, disperse, or share a meal with your loved ones
  • Knit face masks for your vāta friends, or pitta entrepreneurs
  • Read a good novel
  • Escape into a Hallmark movie- rumor has it Hallmark is re-running their Christmas movies all month long!
  • Tend to your plants – perhaps it’s time to get a bonsai tree, those need lots of care
  • Reorganize your pantry
  • Clean out your closet! 
  • Spring cleaning all around
  • Rake the yard
  • Pilates
  • Get the blood flowing with some vigorous yoga
  • Subscribe to an online workout that lights you up
  • Dance like nobody’s watching
  • Sing, sing, sing
  • Reach out to loved ones via FaceTime, Zoom, Skype
  • Snail-mail: Write your grandchildren, nieces, nephews, children, or friends letters
  • Bhakti Yoga- Listen and sing with Krishna Das
  • Vinyasa yoga
  • Stimulating breaths like Dirgha or even Bhastrika if you want some extra juice 
  • Gratitude circle
  • Game night! Even if it’s over Skype
  • Puzzles! Kaphas have the patience for even the 1000+ piece puzzles
  • Stay in community through technology- sign up for an online meditation course, cooking course, sky’s the limit
  • Worship – Some churches, synagogues, mosques, meditation centers are now offering their services online
  • Stay seated in yourself, so others can mirror your stability 

Alas, there is your laundry list to keep your VPK self, or comrades happy during lockdown. In closing, never forget the following:

Keep good company
  1. Food, and spices, are your medicine
  2. Breath and fear cannot coexist, so breathe deep
  3. This too shall pass

Hari Om

Lung Support Tea

Springtime can be rough for those with a little more earth and water in their constitution. If you’re a mucus factory, or have an overactive immune system that manifests as seasonal allergies, or even seasonal asthma, below is a recipe to make your lungs happy. 

With the advent of spring the earth begins to melt, the moisture returns to the air and things get sticky, including your lungs. An overproduction of mucus is the result of excess water and earth building in the body, which is basically inevitable in damp, cool New England. To remedy this, one needs to bring in more heating, circulating and drying substances (cue the dry red wine, no seriously) or Lung Support Tea.

 Pippali, or Indian long pepper (piper longum), is in the Piperaceae family and can be easily found on the world wide web, or any Indian grocery store. In Ayurvedic materia medica, pippali is highly revered for its ability to support and rejuvenate lung tissue. Ground mustard is heating and circulating, perfect for breaking up mucus. Honey, while sweet, is astringent, its heating properties work to scrape and purify the channels of the body – basically getting rid of any goo that accumulated during the winter. 

Lung Support Tea 

Combine the following in 1 cup of hot water

  • ¼ tsp of ground pippali
  • ¼ tsp ground mustard powder 
  • 1 tsp of raw honey

Cheers to healthy lungs and unconstricted airways!

Don’t Panic: Essential oils saved us once, surely, they can save us again!

Make Your Own Super-Charged (and historical) Hand Sanitizer

Hand-sanitizer?! A year ago, you couldn’t pay me to put that stuff on my skin. I would watch in wonder as I witnessed colleagues and Ayurvedic cohorts dousing their hands and feet (after yoga) with the stuff. Laden with a whole slew of seemingly inimical ingredients, I scoffed at the goop. That is, until flu season 2020 hit! Holy smokes, I went down hard, and I mean hard! I was at a point where I was contemplating taking a medical leave. I felt like every bone in my body was broken, old injuries came back to haunt in the wee hours. I’m now a convert and carry hand sanitizer in my work bag, my purse, and wash my hands like Jack Nicholson’s character in As Good as it Gets. But, and there’s a big but, I’m still a Vermont hippie at heart and the Purrell variety makes me shudder. Thus, I favor the natural products, or even better the DIY version.

Essential oils to the collective rescue! doTERRA and Young Living have a similar essential oil blend that works valiantly to ward off pesky bugs. On Guard is doTERRA’s variety and is marriage of virus fighting wild orange, clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary oil.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Young Living manufactures Thieves Oil, a mythically potent and powerful formula dating back to 1413! For those history buffs, this is the era of the Bubonic (Black) Plague. Legend has it that while the Black Plague was running rampant throughout France, wiping out citizens and doctors, 4 grave robbers were caught stealing from numerous plague victims. Despite their intimate contact with the plague, namely from pick-pocketing the corpses, these men did not fall ill. Intrigued by their robust immune systems, the prevailing judge questioned the thieves about their secret. You see, the men were unemployed perfume and spice merchants, out of work due to the closure of the seaports. Together these men brewed a formula that when applied to the hands, temples, ears, feet and a mask over their nose and mouth, rendered them invincible to the Bubonic Plague. A lucrative endeavor, until they got caught.

Due to the disclosure of their treasured formulation, the judge agreed not to burn the men alive, which was common practice in the 1400’s, rather they were hung for their crimes. I know, bleak but fascinating. With the formula in hand, the judge bestowed this powerful armor to the remaining doctors. From that day forward, whenever treating a patient with the Black Plague, the doctors would sprinkle Thieves oil on their hands, feet, temples, ears and insert a cloth infused with the oil into a creepy beak-like mask.

Save for the citrus variety, Thieves has an almost identical profile as doTERRA’s On Guard – clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus and rosemary. Bottom line, the essential oils work, and either brand is a stellar choice.

You have a few options here:

Option 1, you can douse yourself with On Guard, or Thieves, before leaving the house each morning, though not ideal if you work in a scent-free environment.

Option 2, you can craft your own On Guard/Thieves hand sanitizer, hipster style.

DIY Hand Sanitizer

·15 ml spray bottle

· 15 ml rubbing alcohol – or any grain alcohol with an alcohol percentage 60% and up.

· 25 drops of doTERRA’s On Guard oil or Young Living Thieves Essential Oil

Blend and carry this spray with you as your protective shield.

PS. Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. In lieu of singing the alphabet, or Happy Birthday, I chant this Metta mantra:

May all beings be happy.

May all beings be healthy.

May all beings be free from fear.

May all beings lives unfold with ease and grace.

Om shanti, shanti, shanti

Stay robust, eat your plants, sleep, exercise, and love one another.

Sometimes You Have to Eat Meat…

Sometimes you have to eat meat. Some days you wake up speckled with ghastly bruises, like you’d been thrashing around in a Lamb of God mosh pit all night. Other mornings, you feel like each leg weighs 10 stones. Anemia, low red blood cell count, everlasting fatigue, ugh. 

I love animals, I did my best. I abstained from eating them for 23 years. At age 15, I declared myself a vegetarian, much to my Midwestern family’s chagrin. My spicy, Scorpio, RN aunt berated me, saying I would have to get iron injections in my ass. My mom looked panicked, but I reassured her it was just a fleeting whim (wink). Truth is, I had always felt eating animals was wrong. At age 4, or 5, I questioned this common practice. 

Young Lolo: Why do we eat chickens? I don’t want to eat them.

Older Brother: But Lauren, if we didn’t eat chickens they would pile up to the sky! 

Lolo: Okay

Keep in mind that this is the same brother that told me if I ate my Brussels’s sprouts quick enough a Cabbage Patch Kid would pop out. At this point, I figure I am owed a minimum of 5 dozen of those doughy, baby powder scented dolls. 

In the end it was the fetal pig dissection junior year of high school that officially turned me off of meat. The harsh truth is that most of us have no idea what meat really looks like. It comes all neat(ish) and tidy at the supermarket. As a suburban 15 year old, it was beyond illuminating to see a small corpse lying on my dissection tray. His fragile eyelashes never able to bat away dust motes! My heart ached. 

When I confronted the bio teacher about the inhumanity of all of this, he curtly told me that these fetal pigs were aborted from the mama pig before she was rendered into hot dogs. Basically, if you eat hot dogs, then shut the f**k up. Side note, said bio teacher did not go down in the 1996 annals as my favorite teacher, hiss. While he was brusque, and frankly a wanker, it was the awakening I needed to take a definitive stance on eating animals. I became a vegetarian.

Fast forward, 22 years later I was living outside of Burlington as the R.A./Cook/Shirodhara(er)/Sloth Yoga Teacher/Assistant/Gardener at the Ayurvedic Center of Vermont. Each morning, I stumbled out of bed and made a fresh cauldron of kitchari. For those that are unfamiliar, kitchari is one of the panaceas of Ayurveda. Composed of equal parts split mung beans, white basmati rice, all the spices under the sun and, of course, ghee. This is a simple, easy to digest mush, that allows digestion to take a pause while it tends to detoxing, repairing the tissues, etc. The grub can be used for the convalescing, heck, it’s even used as baby food in India, as it’s a complete protein brimming with amino acids.  

Clients coming for panchakarma are put on a mono-diet of kitchari one week prior to their arrival, for the duration of their stay, as well as for 3-4 days after they returned home. Needless to say, since I lived and cooked at the center, I ate a boat load of this golden slop. My boss would quip, “I can’t give you health insurance, but I can give you kitchari.” Honestly, I love the stuff, it’s like home base to me. Think of kitchari as the American equivalent of chicken noodle soup. 

After roughly 2 months of eating kitchari for 15 out of 21 meals per week, I started to crave meat. WHAT?! I know, my sentiments exactly. Like I said, I had been a vegetarian for 22 years and suddenly I was craving meat. The client(s) would arrive on a Sunday, and the kitchari would commence after a weekend hiatus. Come Thursday night I would start fantasizing about hauling ass over to The Farmhouse Tap & Grill for a juicy burger. I pushed these cravings aside and reached for chocolate, or sleeping excessively. 

And then I started to dream about eating meat. I would startle awake equal parts horrified and guilty. What was happening to me? I’m a vegetarian, dammit!

Fast forward to the following fall. I moved to the Berkshires and was establishing myself with a new allopathic doctor. He ran some blood work and reached out 2 days later, you know it’s never good when the doctor calls himself. He wanted to let me know that my panels came back and that I was basically malnourished. Hypocalcemia, anemia, low white blood count, low Vitamin D (but heck, who doesn’t have low Vitamin D in New England?!), and freakishly low blood pressure. An aside on low B.P., why doesn’t any doctor question this? Instead of saying, “oh wow, great B.P., I wish mine was this low. Must be all that yoga!” 

Malnourished?! But I ate kitchari for a year! I do all the right things. I drink nettle tea, I eat my greens, I combine my proteins, exercise, and sleep like it’s my job… Oh wait, did I mention that kitchari is a cleansing food? Mung beans, the primary ingredient, are known to be like little Pac-Man in the blood stream, chomping up nitrogen and putting the abode into detox mode. As one of my beloved teachers says, if you don’t have ama (toxins) to purge and you insist on cleansing, the body starts to break down healthy tissues. Duh, and cue the light bulb. 

Oops, just straight up oops. Oops and sorry body. God, I had spent so many years depleting myself, burning precious tissue and ojas (our vital immunity). I was rundown and my body was screaming for help. It was even trying to run an intervention through my subconscious mind via corpulent meat laden dreams.

Here were my options: 

  1. Take prescription iron supplements that were cherry red
  2. Eat meat

Obviously a devout vegetarian went for option 1, but washed the time-release red coating off of each pill. Who wants that red dye in their system?  Another duh, and ouch. The lack of time-release coating hurt my stomach fiercely. It felt like there were a dozen knives being twisted in my small intestine, not to mention regularity became a struggle. 

Why do I do such dumb things? I suppose so you don’t have to.You can learn from my errors.

And moving on to option 2. I’ll admit it, there were copious tears as I drove to Guido’s for a pound of organic, grass-fed ground beef. I blessed the shit out of that cow and gave so much thanks for its life. I pounded papaya enzymes to ease digestion. For years I had heard those urban legends of people not eating meat for years and their body stops producing the enzyme to break down the flesh. Thus, papaya enzymes for good measure.

I ate the meat…and loved it. Sure, I felt remorse and guilt, but knew that ahimsa (or non-violence) also meant non-violence towards myself. I needed to rebuild my tissues so that I could be a fully functioning, positively contributing member of society. 

Out of solidarity my Ayurveda cohorts joined me for $5 burger night the following Wednesday (where I coincidentally met my love, Tyler, karma works in mysterious ways). I had committed to eating red meat 1x a week for the next 5 weeks. The burger went down with ease, but the bacon was passed on. Pork still felt wrong (fetal pig samskara?) and less medicinal. 

My pale coloring changed almost immediately and I was embarrassed to admit that I had been chronically tired for 2 decades. My mother later told me that I was anemic as a baby. In Ayurveda, this preexisting condition would be labeled as a khavaigunya- or an area of weakness in the body. In times of chaos, the khavaigunya is the first place to become compromised and show signs of distress.

I ate red meat through that first Berkshire winter and felt human. I skipped the 2nd and most of the 3rd winter, because I’m arrogant, and felt this overriding guilt for the souls lost for my consumption. However, Saturday I felt the urge again and made some red sauce with ground beef. My Sicilian bf was psyched, to say the least. I swear he was Garfield the cat in his last life. 

I ate meat all weekend, and am starting to get my strength back again.

Ayurveda teaches to honor your body’s cravings. This flesh vehicle is incredibly intuitive and wise. It has the infinite wisdom of self-healing.  If we are in a somewhat balanced state, the body will have healthy cravings. Meaning, my body was craving meat because it was low in iron. Just like pregnant women, deficient in trace minerals such as zinc, experience Pica and chew a handful of earth to meet their nutritional needs.

Moral of the story? Let thy body be your teacher and listen, truly listen. If it wants bitter dark chocolate, do it, it’s abundant in iron.

If you crave wheat and you’re trying to go all GF/Paleo, heed that call. The brain operates almost solely on carbs, and many of our indigenous diets were chock full of wheat. 

Honor your Ancestor’s diet. Honor your own inner wisdom. Honor every living soul and morsel of food that graces your dinner plate. 

Hari Om

Spice it Up, Sweetie

Looking to add a bit more spice into your diet? Please do! As my friend always says, Ayurveda teaches one to turn their “spice cabinet, into their medicine cabinet.” Admittedly, I roll my eyes every single time I hear her utter this phrase, but it’s 100% true. Spices are our friends, and possibly saviors. They are chock full of medicinal benefits and super charge the taste of our food. For all things sweet, try the Sweet Heat Spice blend. Comprised of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger, this blend is bound to please even the toughest customer.

Cinnamon, or twak in Sanskrit, is loaded with many healing properties. It has gained popularity lately as it is thought to help regulate blood sugar, great for those who struggle with diabetes. Along with ginger, cinnamon is often referred to as the universal medicine. It helps to boost circulation and is a phenomenal addition during the cold and flu season as it is an expectorant (that is, it clears mucus from the airways) and diaphoretic (it increases perspiration). This spice relieves muscle tension, say after a day of hard exercise. Cinnamon is stimulating, strengthens the heart, and increases digestive fire. Finally, despite being heating, cinnamon is Tri doshic, or good for all body types.

Cardamom, or ela in Sanskrit, is one of the safest digestive stimulates. Like cinnamon, cardamom also enkindles the digestive fire. It can help to stimulate the mind and alleviate depression. Cardamom is a wonderful spice to use if you have an upset stomach.  Finally, cardamom can remove excess heaviness (or Kapha) from the lungs and stomach.

The lovely rhizome ginger is the final addition to complete this sweet spice mix. Ginger is phenomenal at warding off cold and flus. It is often used for indigestion as well as nausea (many pregnant women resort to this gem to combat morning sickness). In addition, ginger can help relieve gas and cramps, including menstrual cramps. It is said that ginger can be a powerful medicine for heart disease. And because of its stimulating action, you may find that ginger helps relieve headaches. Like the other two spices, ginger also stimulates digestion and increases the digestive fire.

The lists of benefits go on and on. So why not add a little bit of this spice mix to your diet? Shake up a batch, and have it on hand when the mood strikes. It’s good for cinnamon toast, cereals, or even ice cream. Coming down with a cold? Steep 1 teaspoon of this blend in a cup of hot water and sip to reignite your digestive fire.

Here’s how to make it!

Sweet Heat Spice Mix

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 cup ginger powder
  • 2 T ground cardamom

Instructions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a small bowl until well blended.
  2. Pour the contents into a small mason jar, or spice jar.
  3. Keep handy, I leave a shaker on my stove. The sky’s the limit with this blend, add it to any sweet, or savory dish.

Vata/Kapha Transition Breakfast

If you live in the northern half of the United States, you may find yourself in some weird limbo between winter and spring. Weather oscillating from fiercely windy and cold, to epic blue skies and blissfully warm days. I don’t know about you, but my body is a little confused, as is my wardrobe.

In Ayurveda, this transition period is called the sandhi, or joint, between Vata and Kapha season. Vata season is late-fall and early winter and is defined by the cold, light, dry, mobile qualities that prevail. Spring is an earthy, muddy time of year. Spring is cool, dense, heavy, stable and sticky – think of the mud that cakes your shoes after going on a jaunt with your pup. It is recommended that one eats in a manner that balances the qualities outside – with opposites. In the winter, it’s beneficial to steady the cold, light, dry qualities with warm, heavy, unctuous, and dense foods. As the snow melts and spring begins, the diet shifts dramatically to light, dry, astringent, and heating foods.  You may notice that the only quality that is similar between Winter and Spring is cool – thus a cooked, heating, well spiced diet is in order.

Gosh, how do I balance the two diametrically opposing seasons during this sandhi?! Transition from winter to spring with Apple Cranberry Crisp. Apples are harvested in the fall and store well all winter. When baked, or stewed, with some oil and spices they work to lubricate the body as well as ground the nervous system. Wheat and oats are also gathered in the fall and are best consumed in the winter. Both wheat and oats possess heavy, warming, lubricating, building qualities that work as an antidote to those bone chilling nights. Pair this with whole fresh cranberries, a kapha superfood, and you’ve got a hybrid breakfast.

 Cranberries are astringent superstars. Astringent foods basically suck the moisture out of your mouth when eaten- think unripe bananas, black tea, pomegranate seeds, spinach, etc. In the spring, we want to increase the astringent, bitter, and pungent tastes to help balance the excess moisture that is being released in the environment, and in-turn, in our body.  In this crisp, the oil, sugar and extra fiber are all derived from the beloved coconut. The lighter quality of the coconut oil/sugar/fiber (say compared to butter, brown sugar and oats respectively) coalesce to counter some of the heaviness of the wheat and oats. Finally, a heaping of cinnamon is a boon for balancing blood sugar, increasing circulation and helps keep our digestive fire, and immunity robust.  Breakfast is served, New England style!

Apple-Cranberry Crisp

Serves 4-6

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Blend in a deep baking dish:

·         5 apples- unpeeled and chopped

·         1 cup of whole fresh cranberries

·         Juice of 1/2 lemon

·         1-2 tsp ground cinnamon

Crumb, blend in a medium bowl:

·         1 cup rolled oats

·         1 cup einkorn flour (or almond flour)

·         1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

·         3 Tablespoons coconut sugar

·         1/4 tsp Himalayan salt

·         1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

Add crumb atop the prepared apples. Sprinkle with an additional 1/4 tsp of salt. Bake covered, or with foil, at 375 degrees for 50 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, until the crumb is golden brown.

Hello Spring!!

The How and Why of Tongue Scraping

Are you a devout tongue scraper? This ancient practice has been gaining a lot of attention as of late. The dental care aisles are brimming with various tools to clean the gunk off your tongue. So what’s this all about? Overnight, as the body processes everything that was ingested that day, toxins (or ama) will begin to form. This can be seen as a coating on the tongue in the morning. If the ama is more of the kapha variety, it will appear as a thick white coating. Similarly, pitta ama tends to be more yellow, whereas vata ama is brown.  It is important that you scrape the coating off first thing rather than risk reabsorbing the toxins that your body worked so hard to expel. 

Tongue scraping, or Jihwa Prakshalana, is a traditional part of Ayurvedic self-care and also a great way to check in with your body each morning. Notice the color of the coating as well as the quantity. The amount can be a good indication as to whether or not your body was able to digest the food you consumed the previous day. For example, I notice that when I eat heavier foods such as pizza, ice cream or peanut butter, I tend to have a thicker coating in the morning.  These toxins are thought to cause obstructions in respiration as well as foul smelling breath. This coating can interfere with our ability to taste, clouding this sense organ and even creating unhealthy cravings. Finally, the tongue is a roadmap of the entire body with each section corresponding to a different organ. When we scrape the tongue, it is similar to giving our internal organs a gentle massage. The back area of the tongue corresponds with the colon, so by scraping that area, peristalsis is stimulated, perfect first thing in the morning.

How To Tongue Scrape

Upon waking, before drinking water, scrape your tongue. Let this be the first thing you do. Obtain either a stainless steel or copper tongue scraper. Plastic tongue scrapers exist, but I am not a fan as they are harder to keep sanitary.  Stick your tongue out and allow the tongue to be loose and heavy. Work the tongue scraper back to front about 5-7 times, gently milking the tongue and removing any ama, rinsing the scraper after each round. Once this process is complete follow this with brushing, flossing and a large glass of warm or room temperature water. Drinking warm water first thing provides a gentle flush for the GI tract and the kidneys, and also stimulates peristalsis.

I can guarantee that once you start a regular practice of tongue scraping you will be hooked. Continue with this practice for a few weeks.  There is no doubt you will notice a significant difference. Your mouth will feel fresher and your taste buds more alive. Personally, I cannot imagine even leaving the house before scraping. 

Om Agni (Nectar)

Let’s hear it for Thanksgiving! As you can probably tell, I’m a fan. A holiday that is focused around feasting, celebrating gratitude, community and love, oh yes. With all the merriment comes plenty of opportunities to over indulge. From mounds of buttery mashed potatoes, decadent turkey, tart cranberries, herby stuffing, pumpkin pie and more, the digestive system can take quite a hit. To prep for this culinary affair, the staff with the Kripalu School of Ayurveda (KSA) like to come prepared with a secret weapon, agni nectar. 

Agni is your digestive fire, something that needs to be tended and lauded in order for proper digestion, assimilation and optimal health. Agni nectar is an ambrosial tonic one can consume pre-gorge to help stoke the digestive fire. Composed of ginger, lemon and honey, this trifecta  serves as a mini, delicious, flame thrower on the agni. KSA highly recommends you whip up a batch of this prior to hitting your loved one’s homes. Share the wealth, about 20 minutes prior to eating down a shot of agni nectar and no doubt you will digest with more ease and grace. 

Agni Nectar

Ingredients: 

Photo by David Hablützel on Pexels.com

• 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

• 1/2 cup raw honey

• 1/4 cup freshly chopped ginger

• 1/4 cup water

Method: 

  1. Mix the lemon juice and honey together in a Mason jar or a small bowl with a lid. 
  2. In a blender, or food processor, pulse ginger and water into a fine pulp.
  3.  Strain ginger/water mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the honey and lemon mixture. Mix well. 
  4. Take 1 ounce before meals as a digestive aid. Store nectar in the refrigerator.

Dating for your Dosha

Single and ready to mingle? For those of you dabbling in the dating world, let me tell you from experience, it’s rough out there. There’s Tinder, OK Cupid, Plenty of Fish, Match…with so many opportunities to meet your person, it should be simple, right? Hmm, not so much. However, there is hope. What if I told you there is a way that you could better understand what makes your partner tick? That there are tools to clearly translate your partner’s idiosyncrasies and proclivities? Behold, I give you the language of Ayurveda and the 3 doshas. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the 3 doshas, or biological humors, I will quickly get you up to speed. Ayurveda defines 3 archetypes based on the 5 elements (ether, air, fire, water, earth). We are all made up of the 5 elements, thus we all have all 3 doshas present in our physical and mental body. However, the proportions of doshas and qualities vary from person to person, making us all unique. Here’s a run-down of Vāta, Pitta and Kapha:

Vātas

Vāta people have a predominance of ether and air. Like the wind, they move quickly, talk fast and flutter from idea to idea. These are the social butterflies, the woo girls/boys, the artistic folk, the dancers and dreamers. Due to the lack of fire element, Vātas tend to run on the colder side with a weaker digestive system. With no earth element, Vātas can easily  become ungrounded . Out of balance vāta shows up as insomnia, constipation, anxiety, irrational fears and mania.

Pittas

Pitta folks are full of passion and drive, thanks to a good helping of the fire element. Pittas are often Type A’s that love to get stuff done. They are organized, direct, phenomenal leaders, sharp , witty and goal oriented. These are the folks running the Boston Marathon ever y year and keeping detailed running logs, did I mention they are competitive?  When the fires of pitta get too high, they are quick to anger, impatient, snarky, prone to acid reflux and inflammation.

Kaphas

Kaphas are cuddly love-bugs. Made up of earth and water, Kaphas are the most stable and grounded of all 3 doshas. They are calm and steady, rarely flustered. Kaphas are creatures of habit and are perfectly content eating the same breakfast every day for their entire life. They have big hearts and are full of love, compassion and are often the teachers, nurses or care-providers.  Out of balance, Kaphas can become lethargic couch potatoes. This can lead to depression, lack of motivation, weight gain and allergies. 

Now that you have a bit of information, let’s explore how VPK are in relationships. 

What to expect if you’re dating a Vāta 

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Excitement, spontaneity, change: With that extra helping of ether and air, Vātas are prone towards being like the wind. Plans come and go, they forget to call you back, lots of last minute changes, it’s all good.

Zest for life: Vatas are often oozing with creativity, so if you want to wow them, get adventurous with the dates. Try rock climbing, hitting an outdoor dance theater, sky’s the limit with Vatas.

Loquacious: There will never be a lull in the conversation with vāta’s enthusiasm, they can talk a blue streak.  Skip the movie theater, or venues that do not allow for discourse, opting for a picnic or walk by the water so that you can get to know each other. 

Inconsistent energy: Lacking more of the gross, stable elements, Vāta’s energy levels tend to wax and wane. Knowing this, whittle down the 5 hour hike and bring lots of sustenance, they are like little squirrels. 

Hypersensitive nervous systems: Vātas tend to be a bit more sensitive than Pitta and Kapha types. Loud noises, flashing lights, too much stimulus may all be too overwhelming for them. While hitting the clubs may be fun on occasion, be sure to antidote it with a warming ginger bath or an oil massage.

Light sleepers: Again, due to the fact that they are made up of the more ethereal elements, Vātas tend to be light sleepers. Perhaps they fall asleep and then are up buzzing around from 2-4am. Do not take this personally, rather help them create a bed time ritual that keeps them on track. Ear plugs, eye pillows, lavender, sleep machine are all great gifts for your Vāta bae. 

Cold hands, cold feet: With limited circulation, Vātas are the types that stick their ice cold hands on your lower back to warm them up. Be aware of outdoor excursions when it’s cold. Perhaps sit be a crackling fire and sip on mulled cider post snowshoe.

Anxiety: When out of balance Vātas can become  nervous nellies. Their eyes may start twitching as they become insecure and constantly question if they did something wrong. These emotions can be pacified with words of loving affirmation and reassurance that all is well.

Fickleness: In the beginning you may find that you have to make a hard sell for a  vāta type to go out with you. These are the social butterflies, they are thinkers and may become a bit distracted. Hold steady and persist. 

What to expect if you’re dating a Pitta

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Punctuality: Your pitta date will be on time, if not 10 minutes early. They have little patience for people that are not mindful of the clock. Prone to changing plans? Forget about it! 

Opinions: With a whip-smart intellect, Pittas like to engage in friendly bantering and debating. Perhaps taking them to see a highly controversial movie will spark a lively conversation. 

Hunger: Feed these people! With an abundance of the fire element, pittas tend to have incredibly sharp digestive fires. If your pitta date starts to get a bit cranky, get them some ice cream to cool down and feed that fire. 

Communication: Pittas are clear and direct with their language. Expect them to let you know exactly what’s on their mind. If out of balance, this may not have the sugar coating you crave, but forgive them, it’s just the Pitta talking.

Sun Sensitivity: Grab the SPF, because if you’re dating a Pitta, more than likely they have a tendency to look like a lobster after 20 minutes in the sun. Keep aloe vera gel, coconut water and cilantro on hand for these steamy days.  

Intelligence: Wildly intelligent, Pittas thrive on being surrounded by people with equally impressive minds. Though they can be set in their intellectual ways, on occasion you may have to outsmart them so that they see your perspective. 

Night Life: So as to not overheat during the dog days of summer, it may be better to engage in more cooling activities that involve shade and water. I highly recommend moon-bathing with your honey. Stretch out on a grass knoll and stare at the stars and moons to calm down the senses and mind. Better yet, full moon paddle boarding! Water and moon, so romantic.

Competition: Pittas love to compete, and are often pretty good at anything they set their mind to. If you’re looking for a running or gym partner, Pittas is your gal/guy. They can be extremely motivational and dedicated coaches. However, keep an eye on this competitive streak, for what may seem like a friendly pick up game of football could turn into WW3. 

Passion: Romance and sparks flying. These folks are ruled by fire and if there is chemistry, you will surely know it. These are the Romeo’s, the Mr. Darcy’s of the dating world…oh my! 

What to expect if you’re dating a Kapha

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Attentiveness: Kaphas have a tendency to be phenomenal listeners. They listen from the heart and make direct and compassionate eye contact. Know that they will be there when the going gets rough, and will be your rock through the good and bad. 

Slow Convos: Kaphas are known to speak on the slower side, whereas vatas are lightning fast yippers and pittas are clipped and to the point. Be patient with sweet kapha, and give them time and space to tell their life story. 

Comfort: They love their creature comforts. These are the folks that are loaded up with the coziest couches, mountains of pillows and fluffy slippers. Kaphas can easily get sucked into the sofa, so you may need to motivate them to get up and at em. Inspire them to try new things out of their comfort zone, hitting up a new restaurant or going somewhere exotic for vacation. Change is good for Kapha!

Good eats: Kaphas love their food, be prepared to dig in and be pampered with the most decadent bites. 

Slow and steady wins the race: Kaphas can seem to move at glacial pace, but this can be a life saver for those that live their life on fast-forward. Kaphas can help ground you. If you have a tendency towards spazziness, grab a kapha to anchor your racing thoughts. 

Go with the flow: It takes a lot to rattle a kapha. Plans get changed, flights get canceled, no biggie. While not speedy, their unflustered approach to life would make a Kapha a top notch partner on The Amazing Race

Freeze: When the going gets rough, Kaphas freeze. If you have the tendency to argue, know that kapha will probably not engage. They have a inclination to freeze and go inward when threatened. Make amends with a hug, words of affirmation or a slab of coconut cake. 

Commitment: Looking for a long distance relationship, or LDR as the hip kids say? Kapha is your dosha then, these folks are built for commitment and monogamy. Due to their slowness in nature, it may take a while for a kapha to reveal their true feelings. However, once that love has developed, it will be steadfast and loyal.

Consistency: Consistent energy and dependability. If your Kapha boo starts calling you at 7pm, this may easily become a habit. It is rare that a Kapha will act erratically, or in an unpredictable manner. If they say they will text you, you can bet your bottom dollar they will. 

Now what?

So now what? Should I date a Vāta, Pitta, or Kapha? That is totally up to you. I have not heard a consensus on VPK dating. Should a Vāta date a Vāta, or is it better to date a Kapha to balance you out? This can really go either way. Dr. Scott Blossom, a faculty member with the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, suggests that you date someone with the same constitution as you. This way you will have similar energy levels and habits and it’s more familiar. Other sources say to date the opposite to seek balance. Knowing the propensities and characteristics of the 3 doshas may help you navigate the waters of dating.  In the end, it really comes down to personal preference and chemistry. Happy dating!

Kitchari- The Savior of Ayurveda

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be they food.
– Hippocrates

Holy smokes the holidays are here! I don’t know about you, but I am still feeling like a stuffed animal post-Thanksgiving fiesta. Fine, I admit it, I may have snarfed down the majority of the rosemary brown sugar walnuts I made as a “gift”. Bottom line, I feel less than stellar. My energy level is low, my brain feels like it is shrouded in thick muslin and my pants…well, I’m sure you can guess how those are fitting. Sigh.

I can’t let these hedonistic adventures get me down, it’s part of life and heck, I’m American. I find solace in remembering that this delicious dish, called kitchari, has got my back. Kitchari is kind of the Indian equivalent of chicken noodle soup. In India, kitchari is often used as a tonic for children, to aid woman postpartum, and for convalescence or any other debilitated condition.

What’s so great about this stuff? Composed of equal parts basmati rice and split mung beans, kitchari is one of the crowning gems of Ayurveda. Both basmati and mung are balancing and extremely easy to digest. The simplicity of this dish makes it deeply cleansing and the cornerstone of Ayurvedic detoxification regimens. Mung beans pack a powerful punch, containing all 8 essential amino acids. They are loaded with protein, iron, B vitamins and trace minerals. This wee bean produces little gas and is considered tri-doshic and can be eaten year round.

For you environmentalist out there, I would be remiss if I did not mention that as a crop, mung helps absorbs tons of nitrogen from the atmosphere annually. Now think about the effect mung beans have inside your body- namely on excess nitrates (from too many hot dogs) and nitrites. I had one teacher describe the mung as little PAC-MAN chomping away at the nitrogen. This is a good thing. Too much nitrogen in the blood can cause many health risks, including vitamin deficiencies, thyroid issues as well as cancer. Get that shit out of there.

What’s more, kitchari is said to:

  • Help with chronic indigestion
  • Boost the memory
  • Rebuild and soothe the intestinal lining, thereby allowing the digestive tract to get some rest.
  • Ghee, often added to kitchari, contains butyric acid which bolsters the health of the colon and intestinal walls.
  • Turmeric (what gives kitchari the beautiful golden color) mends the villi lining the intestines as well as soothes inflammation in the gut.

Whenever I am feeling like I overdid it during the weekend, I make a pot of kitchari and eat it for all three meals to make amends. It’s my way of extending an olive branch to my body. I’m sorry for binging on popcorn and wine the other night…here, have some kitchari. One Ayurvedic doctor suggests that once a week you dedicate a day to eating just kitchari. This gives the system a chance to reset and relax while making necessary repairs required to keep chugging merrily along. Whether you want to just give it a try or would like to do a 5 day kitchari cleanse, I say give it a shot and see how you feel. Post holidays, this dish is a life saver.

One Pot Kitchari 
Serves: 3-4
Ingredients:                                                                                                                                          

  • ½ cup organic yellow split dahl
  • ½ cup organic white basmati rice
  • 5 cups of water
  • 2 inch knob of ginger root- peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 inch knob of turmeric root- peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 ½ tsp of curry powder or garam masala
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • Seasonal vegetables – beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, bok choy, kale, Swiss chard, etc.
  • 1 Tablespoon ghee
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
    • Additional Toppings- Cilantro, fresh lime and shredded coconut

Method:

  1. Combine rice and dhal in a large stainless steel pot. Rinse with cold water, drain and repeat twice more.
  2. Add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil, scrape off foam that rises to the surface.
  3. Once the rice/dahl is boiling, reduce to medium heat and add ginger root, turmeric root and coconut, simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add any root vegetables (beets, carrots, parsnips) and spices
  5. Allow kitchari to sustain at a low boil for about 25 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot frequently to prevent sticking. Add more water as needed.
  6. Add any softer vegetables such as zucchini, summer squash, green beans, chard stems or kale stems and allow to cook for 5 more minutes.
  7. Turn off heat and add ghee, salt and any greens.
  8. Top with fresh lime juice, cilantro and a sprinkle of coconut.