Wellness, Naturally: Balancing Pitta in Winter
In Ayurveda, there are three types of energy, including pitta. Pitta is a building block of the world, and can be found in everything and everyone. It’s closely related to digestion and intelligence, and is regarded as “fire energy.” Pitta individuals are typically athletic and tend to gain weight evenly. The pitta individual is typically success-oriented, energetic, quick witted and has a great capacity for achieving balance. However, an excess of pitta can overheat the body and mind.
Signs of pitta imbalance
There are typical manifestations of pitta imbalance that can signal as an imbalance of the mind and body. These manifestations include anger, irritability, overall discontent, acid indigestion, heartburn, inflammation and heartburn. Pitta can become imbalanced when one doesn’t get enough rest or eats spicy foods.
Here are three easy ways to bring pitta back into balance.
1. Drink a cool glass of milk. Milk cools the fiery energy of pitta.
2. Stay hydrated. Make sure to drink lots of water throughout the day.
3. Take regular breaks. When pitta is high, there is a tendency to focus and dive in. This can be useful, but it must be balanced with occasional breaks. This will help refresh your spirits and keep you cool and relaxed. This way you can work without letting the work overwhelm you.
Understanding how to feed your fire
If you have a pitta constitution, it’s wise to avoid pungent, salty and sour foods. Reduce sour fruits like grapefruits, and stick to sweeter fruits like mangoes, pineapples, grapes and melons. Avoid veggies like tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers. Instead, favor veggies like cucumbers, green beans, potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli.
Pitta individuals should use seasonings that are cooling and soothing. These include clove, cilantro, cardamom and fennel. Hot seasonings, such as cumin and mustard seed, should be used sparingly. And if you’re a non-vegetarian, chicken and turkey are better than beef and seafood. Dairy can help balance the heat of pitta and should include things like butter and milk.
Keep your cool
Balancing Pitta also includes lifestyle. Allow for some free time every day, so you can balance rest and activity. Don’t skip meals and wait till you’re famished. Spend time in nature. Take a stroll in the woods and keep plants and fresh flowers at home. Most of all, make sure to laugh a lot every day. You may even want to consider performing a daily massage with cooler oils like coconut. Take in some aromatherapy with mint, lavender or sandalwood.
At the Art of Living Retreat Center, we provide guidance on how to keep your pitta in balance. We offer a sense of connection, inner peace and rejuvenation. Nestled on scenic mountaintop in the Blue Ridge Mountains, our center is the ideal location for Ayurveda and personal transformation. Everyone is cared for like family.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Walking the Path: Going With the Flow in March
Going With the Flow
March tends to be that time of year that is like a line from the movie Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.” It can come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, or serve up any number of weather combinations in between.
Because the weather can be so unpredictable at this time of year, things are not black and white in terms of our Ayurvedic daily routine. We need to go with the flow and be comfortable in the grey areas, too. Some days may find us walking around in hats, scarves, and gloves, deep in thought, and other days may find us driving around with the sunroof open, jamming to our favourite songs on the radio without a care in the world.
Flexing Your Ayurvedic Muscles
If you’ve been practicing Ayurveda for a while, March provides you with the perfect opportunity to ‘flex your Ayurvedic muscles’, and see how you fare with attempting to go with the flow. When you observe how you are feeling and do a little bit of calibrating, you can take the ‘March Madness’ weather in stride, and remain in balance.
If Ayurveda is new to you, this can be a tricky time of year to navigate. Perhaps you have just gotten used to your winter routine, and now Mother Nature is throwing you all sorts of curve balls from one day to the next. Never fear, Ayurveda is here! Here are some tips to support you during this transitional time of year.
Ayurveda in March
If you’ve been using sesame oil for your winter oil massage (abhyanga), and it seems a bit heavy right now, you may want to explore siwtching to an oil like apricot kernel that still pacifies winter qualities (vata), but also has the ability to appease the spring qualities (kapha). Apricot kernel oil is smooth, light, and supports healthy functioning of the circulatory, lymphatic, muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems. Its redolence is lovely, too! You can also stick with your current oil, but alternate oiling one day and dry brushing the next.
If you live in an area where you are receiving more rain, or a good deal of snow is melting, you may want to get cooking with a variety of grains that are slightly heating and naturally diuretic, such as barley and millet. The warming and astringent quality of these grains will support your body’s ability to let go of any excess water or dampness that it might otherwise retain at this time of year.
On a personal note, I always get outside all year round for a walk or run, but this year I found myself not getting out as much as usual. I noticed that I felt disconnected and sad sometimes, without any particular reason. As soon as I got back outside, I felt re-energized, reconnected, and it really elevated my sense of happiness. Getting out in nature is a simple act, but has profound results. Try to notice whether you got outside enough this winter, and how it may have affected your overall mood and energy level.
Practicing Ayurvedic principles doesn’t have to be all or nothing – a few simple steps can make a big difference in our health and happiness. We don’t call it Ayurve-duh for nothing!
– Diana Bellofatto
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Ayurvedic Recipes: Sauteed Asparagus with Slivered Almonds
Asparagus is known for its antiseptic, diuretic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also very low calorie – 10 calories per 100 grams. It’s low in fat and cholesterol, and high in fibre, folates, B vitamin complex, and vitamins K and E.
This makes it a great food for March, where vata season is turning into kapha. It helps decrease water retention, weight gain, improves overall immunity, and increases elimination. Besides the above, asparagus is also good for both women’s and men’s reproductive health, for skin, hair, nails, beauty, and strength. Making the recipe with ghee helps to stimulate the digestive fire, or agni, and the almonds and sesame seeds provide protein and omega fatty acids – the good fat that the body needs for immunity and endurance.
Sauteed Asparagus with Slivered Almonds
Prep time: n/a
Cooking time: 11 minutes
1 tsp ghee
1 bunch asaparagus
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Heat ghee in pan. Add asparagus and saute until tender (about 10 minutes). Add slivered almonds and cook for 1 more minute. Season with black pepper, salt, maple syrup, and lemon juice.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Ayurveda Recipe: Chai Tea
Chai originated in India and the folklore surrounding the tea dates back between 5000 and 9000 years ago. Some say the reigning king created the recipe for Ayurvedic healing. The first Chai tea recipes varied in preparation and taste depending on the region, it was only in the 1930’s when black tea was introduced to the recipe. Here we share a spiced turmeric Chai tea recipe that is warming, nourishing and calming.
1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Turmeric Powder
Fresh Ginger (grate as finely and as much as you desire)
1 Teaspoon of Cardamom pods
1/4 Teaspoon of Cinnamon powder or stick
A few Cloves (optional)
Pinch of Nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of Fennel Seeds
2 Cups of Rice Milk (or Almond milk or simply water)
Pour the milk (or water) into your pot, add the spices and allow to boil, cool down, strain, then serve. Delicious.
Some of the health benefits:
Ginger: Aids digestion, improves circulation, boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation.
Cardamom: Aids digestion and supports the immune system, helps detoxify the body and improve circulation.
Cinnamon: Contains digestive properties and has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant effects.
Fennel: A source of antioxidants, Vitamin C, potassium and fibre.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
The Pungent Taste: Spicing It Up With Ayurveda
In this blog we are heating things up with pungent, the hottest of Ayurveda’s six tastes.
Think spicy. Pungent spices like chili peppers and wasabi titillate the taste buds while heating up the body — and the mind. The pungent taste is found in the following:
• Peppers (green and red, habaneros, jalapenos)
• Pungent Spices (tumeric, cayenne, sage, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, peppercorn)
• Mustard Seeds
Pungent and the Doshas
Pungent increases Vata and Pitta and decreases Kapha.
The most heat producing of all the rasas (tastes), pungent improves appetite, clears the sinuses and stimulates blood circulation. A pungent spice, like a cayenne pepper, will taste hot and stay hot from start to finish. It is sure to balance wet, heavy kapha, but it can be too hot and dry for vata, especially when taken in excess or paired with too many other drying foods. Vata does best when the pungent taste is combined with sour, sweet, or salty foods. Too much spicy can quickly aggravate pitta (and vata) in the form of excessive dryness and inflammation.
Recipe For Pungent
Need to boost your metabolism? Feed your inner fire today with the pungent taste. Try this amazing pungent soup, ideal for an Ayurvedic detox:
Spicy Mung Dhal Soup
(Makes 5 generous portions)
400g (1 lb.) mung beans (whole green or split green) *Sweet*
2 quarts water
½ tsp. turmeric powder *Pungent*
2 pinch asafoetida *Pungent*
lime or lemon juice *Sour*
fresh root ginger *Pungent*
2-3 cloves garlic *Pungent*
an inch of fresh root ginger *Pungent*
1 tsp. cumin seeds *Pungent*
1 tsp. coriander seeds *Pungent*
rock salt *Salty*
Wash the mung beans and soak for at least four hours or overnight. Heat ghee or olive oil in a pan and add teaspoon of turmeric and 2 pinches asafoetida (to prevent gas). Sauté for a few seconds then add the beans, fresh water and fresh root ginger. For one part soaked mung you need about four parts of water. Simmer for 30-40 minutes adding more water if necessary, until beans are soft. In a pressure cooker this takes 8 minutes once the vessel has come to pressure. You can then turn off the heat and leave the pot to cool for a further 10 minutes before opening it. Once the beans are cooked, heat ghee or olive oil in another pan, add 2-3 cloves chopped garlic (if you wish) and sauté lightly for a minute until soft. Add chopped fresh root ginger, then one teaspoon of cumin and coriander seeds plus any other herbs or spices (except chillies) eg: cardamom, black pepper, cumin seeds and briefly sauté. Add these sautéed spices plus some rock salt into the beans and simmer for a further few minutes.
Serve soup warm with a squeeze of lime juice and some fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped.
Ayurveda teaches that combining the six tastes helps us to feel satisfied and to ensure that all major food groups and nutrients are represented. As you eat your food mindfully, become aware of the spices of life — including the heating taste of pungent.
Review Question: What are two spices that fall into Ayurveda’s pungent category?
Comments? Please share with us your favorite pungent spice in the comment box below.
If you want to download our cheat sheet to finding harmony in the kitchen with the principles of Ayurveda, you can download it here.
Ayurveda Recipe: Sesame Cookies
As we ease into fall and the leaves begin to change we naturally move into a different rhythm and explore other ways to spend time. Getting creative in the kitchen can be a wonderful way to ground and nurture yourself. Read on for a delicious ayurvedic sesame cookie recipe, perfect for dunking in those warming teas as you snuggle on the couch.
Sesame is a special seed, it contains an unusual trio of tastes: bitter, pungent, and sweet. Its naturally balanced composition of heating, cooling, and building qualities makes it a tonic for increasing strength and immunity.
1 cup sesame tahini
1/4 cup almond flour
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp Everyday Sweet Spice Mix
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg, whisked
2 tsp sesame seeds, plus extra for decoration
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lightly greasing with ghee or coconut oil or else lining with parchment paper.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix the ingredients together in the order listed. If the batter is too runny to shape, put it in the fridge for 5–10 minutes (but batter that’s a little runny bakes nicely). Shape batter into tablespoon-size balls or drop with a spoon onto the prepared cookie sheets. Leave a few inches between the balls, as they will puff up when they bake. Lightly press down on the balls with a fork. Sprinkle tops with extra sesame seeds. Bake for 10–12 minutes, until they are firm enough to touch without your finger sticking.
Let them cool completely before removing from baking sheets and serving. Puffs will be soft when you eat them. Yum!
Source: The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook
How Ayurveda Helped Me Love My Body
Like many young women, I grew up idolizing images of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and the Spice Girls, all of whom graced magazine covers with size 2 bodies and gave off the impression to five year old girls that it was normal to wear belly shirts everyday.
Mixed Messages and Me
Now, I have never been a size two, and never will be. In fact, I think the closest I have ever come to a size two was on the day of my birth. As an athletic kid, I grew up with more brawn than slim. Because of this, as a young girl being fed a one-size-fits-all image by the mainstream media of what “attractive” women look like, I failed to develop an appreciation for my natural body-type. As I moved into my teenage years, my poor-body image, along with the mixed messages from the media about what I “should” and “shouldn’t” eat (Fat is Bad! Eat as many Avocados as you want! Eat cabbage soup for a month!), I developed a very distorted understanding of what my body truly needed in order to be healthy. The worst part was, I loved to eat! And the more I deprived myself in order to look a certain way, the unhappier I felt.
After years of confusion and dissatisfaction with my body, I received a pulse reading from Dr. Lokesh, a globally renowned Ayurveda and Pulse assessment expert, when he visited my hometown of Chicago. And after years of feeling that I wasn’t the person I was supposed to be, I was suddenly reminded who I truly am.
I sat down beside Dr. Lokesh, and he immediately asked for my wrists, skipping over the nervous chitchat played out at the usual doctor’s office visit. After a few minutes of his listening to my pulse, he announced that, out of the three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha), I had a predominantly Pitta constitution, along with a little Kapha. What did this mean? According to Dr. Lokesh,
“Pittas are intelligent, focused, attractive, and leaders. You also have strong digestion, but because of that you often think you can eat anything. You also have a strong appetite – never skip a meal. And don’t get seconds, as you have the tendency to overeat.”
And the Kapha?
“Kaphas have a strong build and stamina. Kapha people are patient, strong, and loyal. However, you can get lazy and have a sweet tooth. Stay away from sweets and overeating to avoid weight gain and diabetes.”
All of my body-image “shoulds” were wiped away within the span of 15 minutes as I learned the reality of my constitution and what I need in terms of food, herbs, and lifestyle to experience optimal health.
Recognizing my Strengths
Learning about my constitution through pulse reading has helped me to identify my strengths, rather than weaknesses. For example, while I may not be a top candidate for the spot of fifth Spice Girl, I am blessed with a strong stamina and athletic build, which allows me to be a top competitor in sports, and will allow me to stay active late into life. Those competitive traits, when balanced, also support my natural leadership skills and focus.
Besides providing me emergency body-image relief, pulse readings with Dr. Lokesh have often unearthed the non-physical aspects of my life that may be affecting my health. As Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to health, incorporating body, mind, and spirit into each evaluation, guidance provided by Dr. Lokesh has helped me transition out of a dead-end job, identify how romantic relationships affect my health, and develop trust.
For those interested in receiving a pulse reading for the first time, remember that pulse assessments are not a replacement for western medicine, but rather are a strong complement, and can provide basic insights into food and lifestyle often overlooked in the pharmaceutical-dominated medical industry. Whether you are new to Ayurveda or are a pulse-diagnosis pro, I invite you to take advantage of Dr. Lokesh’s United States tour and listen in to what your pulse has to say!
Written by Lucia Whalen
Editor’s Note: Thank you for sharing your life-changing experience with us Lucia.
If you’re interested to learn about your body type, register for a free telephone consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner – click here
Yoga and Ayurveda
The benefits of Yoga and AYURVEDA
- Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences from the ancient wellness tradition of India. Ayurveda is a science for keeping the body in balance through right diet, exercise, meditation and herbs. In Ayurveda there are three doshas:
Vata dosha which is made up of ether and air
Pitta dosha which is made up of fire and water
Kapha dosha which is made up of earth and water
To have optimal health these doshas are balanced, particularly your predominant dosha is balanced.
When vata is imbalanced there can be anxiety, fear, depression, worry, insomnia. If pitta is out of balance we may have poor digestion, poor elimination, poor detoxification. When kapha is out of balance we may feel lethargic, tired, lacking energy and enthusiasm. So how do yoga and Ayurveda work together to help us stay in balance?
How does yoga helps the doshas?
To reduce vata we practice in a quiet, grounded and systematic way. The balance between strength and flexibility is critical for a positive experience of the vata dosha. Being still is the vata challenge and reward. Vata wants to move; vata loves vinyasa flow. Vata needs quiet, calm, slow, deep breathing to balance that element and not imbalance the other elements. Great postures are forward bending poses.
Pitta energy presses forward in an impulsive manner. Excess pitta is reduced by practicing in an effortless, non goal oriented way, working at about 75% of our capacity. We hold postures for longer periods to reduce pitta. We slow down. Pitta has a tendency to work the breath too hard. Working effortlessly and softly while being strong is pitta’s work. Forward bends and twists are very effective in reducing excess pitta and bringing up low pitta.
Kaphas have a tendency to be a little lazy or lax. “I don’t really want to do this kinda thing.” The challenge for kapha is to keep the level of effort needed to reduce their dosha. Kaphas benefit from standing poses, headstands, inverted poses and back bends. Headstands and handstands are especially good for reducing kapha. Downward dog is a good posture to reduce kapha if someone is on the heavy side and not a regular practitioner.
Sometimes what we resist the most in our yoga practice is what we need to balance our dosha. Vata people really like vinyasa flow but it can increase vata. Pitta people like a challenge and work very hard in yoga when they should be working less. Kapha people are hard to get to yoga. They may be drawn to a gentle class or a restorative class when a moderate class may serve them better.
Working together, yoga and Ayurveda can strengthen our system and bring us into much needed balance, despite the obstacles we may face in daily life. Discover the benefits of yoga through the Art of Living Retreat Center’s yoga retreats.
Thank you for joining us! If you are interested in learning more about your body type and how Ayurveda is relevant to your lifestyle, try a free Ayurvedic consultation over the phone at the link below.
Developed from a talk given by Kim Rossi on Yoga and Ayurveda. Thank you for joining us.
Know Yourself by Knowing Your Ayurvedic Body Type
KNOW YOUR TYPE:
Your Ayurvedic body type, or constitution, is at the heart of Ayurveda’s approach to well-being. Knowing your constitution allows you to maximize your quality of life, health and happiness by following the recommendations for food and lifestyle for each constitution.
An Ayurvedic pulse diagnosis with an expert is the best way to recognize one’s constitution.
I’ve spoken about the general characteristics of each body type to help familiarize readers with general tendencies. So read on to acquaint yourself with the main constitutions and the self-discovery that is the joy of Ayurveda.
THE GOOD LIFE (for your type):
Ayurveda means the science of longevity; it is the science of how to live a long, healthy life. “Ayu” is the life span we spend with the body. The spirit is immortal — it can be with the body or without it, but the union of body, mind and spirit — how long that combination stays, that time span is called ayu. How to live that time happily and in good health is the knowledge of Ayurveda. So how do we live this way?
In this respect, Ayurveda says there are four aspects:
- What is good for the body
- What is unhealthy
- What makes us happy
- What makes us sad
It is like driving a car in that once you know the rules of the road, you can drive safely. And it is the same with life also, once you know these four aspects.
For that we need to know the body and mind. The body is made of five elements, space, air, fire water and earth. Physiologically, these elements function as three bio-dynamic forces, called vata, pitta and kapha. These are called variously dhatus, substances, dosha, or prakriti, our natural constitution. What is the importance of knowing you Ayurvedic body type?
Those who are born with more of the space and air element have a vata constitution. Generally, a vata person will be very thin, more talkative, restless; they typically have a lower body weight, dry skin, brittle nails, thin hair, and small, slightly sunken eyes. While walking, their joints may make sounds. In terms of climate, they tend to prefer warm or hot weather, while they may have trouble tolerating the cold. They have a hard time gaining weight, so they tend to be thin with a low weight.
Next are pitta people, those who are born with hotter constitutions, containing more of the fire element. A pitta person is generally active, good looking, a perfectionist, dynamic, intelligent and also short tempered. They may have leadership qualities, a moderate build, a smart personality, a sharp nose, and their eyes will also be sharp, sometimes offset with a slight pinkish tint. Due to the unfortunate ease with which a pitta person gets imbalanced, hair loss and early greying are common. They are generally slightly warm to the touch with rosy lips and pink nails with a slight curve.
Kapha indicates a preponderance of the water and earth element. People with this kapha constitution are generally cool, calm, lazy, cheerful, stocky (if not overweight). If assigned a task, they never complete the task in time. Actually, Ayurveda says that because a kapha person is the least bothered, happiest type of person on the whole planet, the best constitution is kapha. They’re cheerful all the time! Other qualities include a thick build, thick, dark hair, big eyes with white around, and prominent, shiny, white teeth. The skin may also be thick, moist, and a little cool to the touch. As a personality type, while they tend to accumulate stuff, they also have a sharing streak that moves them to service for society.
These are the three main Ayurvedic body types, though mixes also appear — pitta-kapha, pitta-vata, vata-kapha and saamya, one whose constitution contains all of the five elements in equal ratios.
Constitution is what we are born with. When we eat the proper food and follow the lifestyle that suits our Ayurvedic body type, we have better chances of staying fit, healthy and happy for a long time.
We’ll continue in following posts with more detail on each constitution and some tips for each type to keep your body in balance. To talk with an Ayurvedic practitioner about your body type, you can select a free consultation via telephone at the link below.