The holidays are quickly approaching! And that means we are most likely indulging in eating large heavy meals that we wouldn’t do in everyday life. Below are a few simple tips that you can do to help your mind and body handle eating all of these rich and decadent foods!
Also, I want to be clear that I feel any food made by a friend and family member with love is completely appropriate for you to be eating on these rare occasions! These are just some ideas that will help you digest these meals better, resulting in better digestion, which will make you feel better overall and enjoy your time with family and friends.
Get some movement in! Get some exercise in the morning, and take a short walk after eating your large meal.
Drink herbal tea throughout the day and especially 30 minutes before you eat. Some good choices are CCF tea, fresh ginger tea and chamomile tea.
It’s November, and we are deep into the fall season. According to Ayurveda, this time of year we feel the effects of ether and air elements. Ether (or space) lacks structure and form. Ether is the changeable quality we see in nature at this time of year. Air element also reigns at this time of year – think of air as movement. Think of the movement of the air with a cool breeze and leaves blowing in the wind.
The qualities these elements express are dry, cold, light and mobile – its a changeable energy that is very ungrounded. These qualities describe the energy of vata dosha in Ayurveda, as fall and early winter are the vata times of year. You might notice feelings of vata imbalance at this time of year like dry skin, cold hands and feet, and feeling erratic in your mind.
How you care for yourself during this season will directly reflect on your body’s health through the winter. In Ayurveda, we use opposite qualities to heal any imbalances. At this time of year you want to bring in the qualities of warm, moistening, heavy and grounding. One of the easiest ways to manifest these qualities is to practice an Ayurvedic self-oil massage called abhyanga.
Abhyanga is a simple form of self-massage with oil. The word for oil in Sanskrit, the language of Ayurveda, is sneha. An additional way to translate sneha is love or affection. Abhyanga is a great way to nourish your body and show it some love! There are many benefits to doing a self-oil massage every day – it balances and calms your nervous system (and mind), nourishes and moisturizes your skin, stimulates your immune system, detoxifies by activating your lymphatic system, lubricates your joints, and gives your skin a radiant glow – to name just a few!
How to practice Abhyanga self-oil massage:
Pick your oil of choice. Generally, sesame oil is therapeutic for vata skin, coconut oil for pitta skin, and sunflower oil for kapha skin. If you don’t know your doshic makeup, try sesame oil in the fall and winter, coconut oil in the summer, sunflower oil in the spring. Mahanarayan oil is a great oil to use if you have aching joints and muscle pain. Source cold-pressed, organic oils. I purchase my oils from Banyan Botanicals.
Warm your oil. I either do this by rubbing small amounts of oil together in my hands to warm before applying, or by putting the oil in a small glass jar that I let sit in a skinful of hot water for a few minutes. (It’s recommended to start with 1/4 cup of oil, and as you do this more you’ll learn how much quantity you really need).
Remove all clothing and jewelry. I recommend that you stand on an old towel.
Start at the soles of your feet and work towards the crown of your head (or opposite – crown to feet). Gently start to massage the oil onto your skin – everywhere. On your arms and legs, use long stroking motion, on your joints circular motion. On the belly, massage the oil clockwise if you are looking down to stimulate digestion. If you are washing your hair that day, massage the crown of your head.
If you have the time, leave the oil on for 15-20 minutes. If you don’t have that amount of time, leave the oil on at least 5 minutes. I usually use this time to continue to massage my joints and any places on my body that I experience tension like my low back and neck.
Rub off any excess oil with your old towel and take a shower. The steam of the shower causes the pores to open, allowing the oil to penetrate deeper into the skin. You do not need to soap off the oil.
Abhyanga can be practiced either in the morning, or in the evening – whenever you typically take a shower.
Try practicing abhyanga daily and see how you feel. It is such a nourishing and healing gift you can give to yourself everyday. Enjoy!
Kitchari is a comforting, nourishing meal commonly used in Ayurveda. It’s used as a healing food – you could say it’s the chicken soup of Ayurveda. It’s base is basmati rice and split mung beans, with spices to aid digestion. It’s commonly eaten during an Ayurvedic cleanse at the turning of the fall and spring seasons. It kindles your digestive fire, improving your digestive strength. I commonly eat it for lunch, as it’s simple to make, it’s got a good mix of protein, fats and carbs, and its yummy! My favorite way to make kitchari is using the instant pot – it’s so easy this way!
Gather: 1 cup white basmati rice 1/2 cups split mung beans (also called yellow mung dal) 1 tablespoon kitchari spice mix* 2 tablespoons ghee 5-6 cups water 1-2 cups chopped vegetables of your choice Salt to taste A few pinches of fresh ground black pepper
Make: Optional: Soak rice and mung beans overnight, then drain and rinse before cooking.
Add the split mung beans and spice mix to your instant pot along with 2 cups of water. Cook on manual setting for 20 minutes. Let it release naturally after cooking for 5-10 minutes. (I often do this step in the morning, then set the IP on a timer to cook a few hours later if I’m making this for lunch).
Add to the instant pot all of the other ingredients. The amount of water varies by how thick you want your kitchari. I usually add 3 additional cups of water here for a thicker stew-like kitchari. If you like soupier kitchari, add the additional cup of water. Vegetables I like using are carrots, zucchini, butternut squash, green beans, beets and cauliflower. Cook on the rice setting (just hit the rice button on the Instant Pot). Enjoy!
Optional: top with fresh cilantro like I did in this photo
Join me for a seasonal Ayurvedic cleanse this fall! Ayurvedic cleanses provide a physical, mental and emotional reset. Detoxing has been practiced at seasonal transitions for thousands of years, and plays an important role in your overall well-being.
The Ayurvedic approach doesn’t involve juice, spicy lemonade, fasting and depriving yourself of solid food. Instead, it focuses on cooking and eating warm, nourishing and comforting foods and teas that encourage a gentle release of toxins built-up over time. It also includes self-care practices that promote both cleansing and rejuvenation. You’ll notice a renewed sense of balance, inner-peace and calmness as you move through the cleanse.
This guided cleanse includes:
Four live group calls over Zoom for support and instructions
Handouts for each phase of the cleanse (preparation, active cleanse, rejuvenation)
Recipes (one per each phase)
Option to schedule an individual Ayurvedic consultation with me to discuss your specific health and wellness goals at a discounted rate.
The cleanse will last 25 days and starts September 12, 2020. The Zoom call schedule is below. We are following the cleanse from the book “The 25 Day Ayurveda Cleanse” by Kerry Harling. It is recommended that you also purchase that book for more recipes, day by day cleanse schedule and shopping lists.
Investment: $40 *Also recommended that you purchase “The 25 Day Ayurveda Cleanse” by Kerry Harling
Zoom Dates (all times MST): Introduction, Precleanse, and Preparation: 9/9/20 (Wed) 7 pm Active Cleanse Preparation: 9/16/20 (Wed) 7 pm Active Cleanse Check-in: 9/25 (Fri) 10 am Post Cleanse: 9/30/20 (Wed) 7 pm (give yourself an hour for each call, though they may run shorter
Cleanse Dates: September 12 – October 6th. Note that you are not actively cleansing the entire length of this time frame – this includes a pre and post cleanse.
To register: E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org letting me know you’re in! Then submit your $40 investment (see options below). Optional, but highly recommended, purchase Kerry Harling’s book “The 25 Day Ayurveda Cleanse.”
1. Send your $40 investment via Paypal. Use the following e-mail address: email@example.com
2. Send your $40 investment via Venmo. This is my Venmo account name: @Corinne-Bernardo
3. Send your $40 investment via Cash App. This is my name on Cash app: $coribernardo
I prefer to eat a cooked breakfast, as it’s easier to digest in the morning. Most of the year I turn to oatmeal for my warm breakfast. As we move into late spring and summer, oatmeal begins to feel too heavy. That’s when I turn to amaranth porridge.
Amaranth is a gluten-free grain that has a nutty taste. It’s a lighter grain, but is still satisfying. It’s high in iron, calcium and magnesium. In Ayurveda, amaranth is good to balance kapha, as it’s dry and light. It also balances Pitta, as it’s cooling and sweet, as it has an affinity for soothing the eyes. Vata types can balance the dryness of amaranth by adding some oils to their porridge, like coconut oil or ghee.
Gather: 1/2 cup amaranth 1 cup of water A few pinches of cinnamon 1 tbsp ground flax seed 1 tbsp hemp seeds 1 tsp coconut butter or ghee Optional: top with oat milk and serve with fresh fruit
Make: Bring the water, amaranth and cinnamon to a boil. Turn heat down so the porridge is simmering, and partially cover. Stir occasionally. Cook about 20 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed.
Stir in the flax seed and hemp seeds. Top with coconut oil or ghee. I also like to pour some oat milk over top to make it more porridgy and creamy. Optional: serve with fruit of your choice.
Have you been thinking of trying yoga, or recommitting to a yoga practice? Here are some reasons to roll out your mat and give it a try! Yoga is an ancient practice that brings together body and mind. As it’s practiced today, yoga incorporates breath work, poses and meditation that have many benefits to your mental and physical health. Most people of all ages and fitness levels can do the most basic yoga poses and stretches.
Relieve Stress and Anxiety
The practice of yoga eases stress and promotes calm and relaxation. This is what led me to the practice of yoga almost 20 years ago. The practice of yoga is known to lower cortisol levels-cortisol being your primary stress hormone. At the same time, yoga triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, your rest and digest response, which helps both mind and body relax. This rest and digest response also helps you sleep better, another benefit of yoga!
Improve Flexibility and Balance
This is why most people add yoga to their fitness routine – improved flexibility and balance. Yoga poses stretch your muscles and increase your range of motion. Balancing poses help with balance, but also focus and coordination. Many professional athletes are even adding yoga to their training these days to improve their performance.
It takes a lot of strength to hold your body in some yoga poses! Strong muscles protect you from conditions like back pain and arthritis. When you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility, helping you to prevent injuries. Increasing strength may also help you improve your posture, and prevent posture-related issues like back and neck problems.
All kinds of other Health Benefits…
Including (and I’m probably missing some) – improved respiration and lung health (through breathwork), balanced metabolism, weight reduction, heart health, bone health, boosts immunity, helps with high blood pressure, helps you sleep better, improves digestion, eases pain, and best of all…
Yoga makes you happier!
Studies have found that a consistent yoga practice improves depression by increasing serotonin levels (the happiness hormone), GABA levels (associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety) and decreasing levels of cortisol (stress hormone). And you’ll learn how to regulate the breath through breathwork, which is key in terms of lowering stress and bringing your mind to the present moment – both of which make you feel happier.
This is the ultimate soup for fall! The sweet taste of the butternut squash and carrots nourishes, while the spices provide warmth and help with digestion. It’s delicious. And, bonus, you’re house smells amazing when your cooking it.
Makes 4-5 servings
2 tsp ghee (sub coconut oil for plant-based version) 1 onion, chopped 2 carrots, peeled and chopped 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp ginger 1/2 tsp turmeric 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp clove 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1” pieces 3 cups of water 1/4 tsp black pepper 1 cup coconut milk
Melt the ghee in a large soup pan on medium heat. Add the onion, and saute until soft and translucent. Stir in the carrots, cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and all of the other spices and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the butternut squash, stir for a minute, then add water. Bring to boil, then simmer, covered for 25 minutes. Remove lid, simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Turn off heat, and let soup cool slightly (about 5-10 minutes). Add the salt, pepper and coconut milk. Use an immersion blender to blend, or blend in a blender in batches.
As I write this, we have fully transitioned into the fall season. Temperatures have dropped. The air has become dry and windy. The sound of blowing leaves fills the air. The colors of nature have shifted from green to brown. The days are getting shorter. You also might have noticed that your schedule has become more busy and hectic, and you might be experiencing more anxiety. You might feel more spacey in your mind. In your body, you might notice symptoms like constipation, dry skin, cold extremities, cracking joints and dehydration.
In Ayurveda, autumn is known as vata season. Vata carries the characterics you notice in fall – cold, dry and mobile. In Ayurveda, opposites balance. So in the fall, you want to focus on qualities like warm, oily (opposite of dry in Ayurveda), and stability/groundedness. Below are some tips on how to do this to navigate your way through the fall season gracefully.
Focus on eating nourishing, grounding, well-cooked, well-spiced and well-oiled food. Include sweet, sour and salty tastes. Foods that are warm and liquid, like oatmeal, stews and soups are great for vata season. Eat meals at regular times every day. Stay hydrated by drinking Ayurvedic Gatorade (instructions below) and warm herbal teas. Reduce your intake of raw and dry foods like salads, cold smoothies, crackers, rice cakes and popcorn.
Well-oiled food – olive oil, coconut oil, ghee
Well-spiced food – pretty much all spices! I especially like, cinnamon, cumin, astofida (hing), ginger, garlic and turmeric
Sweet taste – root veggies, like sweet potatoes; winter squash, like butternut squash; and cooked grains, like basmati rice and quinoa
Salty taste – add pink Himalayan salt or mineral salt to your food
Sour taste – add a dash of lemon or lime juice to your meals; cook your oatmeal with dried raisins or dried cranberries
Healthy fats – all nuts and seeds
Ayurvedic Gatorade – to warm water, add a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of pink Himalayan or mineral salt
Think relaxing and grounding. Vata season is associated with the air element. When you imagine the air element, think more of movement, like the movement of the wind – what is called mobile quality. The opposite of mobile is stable and grounded. This is the time of year to consider slowing down, and to get a good night’s sleep.
Keep a consistent sleep schedule, getting 7-8 hours of sleep. This means getting up and going to bed at the same time everyday.
Do grounding practices like meditation, restorative and yin yoga
Stay warm, layer up, protect your head and hands on chilly days
Try to get 10-20 minutes of natural sunlight every day
When I was in India a few years ago, I visited an Ayurvedic doctor who recommended drinking CCF tea. I had never heard of CCF tea before – it’s an Ayurvedic digestive tea made up of cumin, coriander and fennel seeds (recipe below). I’ve been drinking it almost daily for over a year, and its made a big difference in my digestion, my eating patterns (less cravings and snacking) and the quality of my skin. CCF tea helps to strengthen digestion and metabolism, and has a gentle detoxification effect. In fact, its included in most Ayurvedic cleanses and purifies the blood. It’s also helpful for proper nutrient absorption, having a clear mind, healthy urination and weight loss. Personally, I notice I have better digestion, fewer cravings for snacks and a clearer complexion from drinking CCF tea. Plus, I like the taste, and enjoy having a warm beverage to sip on throughout the day.
You can buy premade CCF tea mix, but it’s cheap and easy to make your own. Make a large batch to keep on hand for everyday use. I usually make about a quart of CCF tea daily, keep it in a large insulated water bottle, and sip it throughout the day. Locally in Colorado, I buy the seeds at Natural Grocers. You can also order them online from Mountain Rose Herbs. During the summer, you can also enjoy this tea lukewarm (never ice cold!).
I use a french press to make CCF tea. Boil about a quart and a half of water, add to the french press along with the seeds. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy at warm temperature. If you don’t own a french press, bring the seeds and water to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, strain and drink. Optional, add honey to sweeten.
To make a large batch, mix about 1/2 cup of all of the seeds, then use a few teaspoons to make your daily brew.
I have dealt with sleeping issues all of my adult life. And, judging from the amount of times I’ve given advice to people on how to sleep better, a lot of you have sleep issues as well. Recently, I’ve decided to really delve into this issue and make some changes to my lifestyle to address it. I’m studying to become an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, so I thought I’d turn to Ayurveda for some ideas. This blog is a list of things I’ve tried and incorporated into my life that have really worked for me to have a solid night’s sleep. Get ready, this is a long post!
My type of insomnia looks like this: I easily fall asleep, but around 4 am I wake up, and am unable to get back to sleep even though I am so tired. I can get away with this for one or two nights, but the cumulative effect of not getting a full night’s sleep after a few days, weeks and months really starts to take its toll on my energy and overall well being. In Ayurveda, this is considered a disturbance of vata dosha. I’ll be writing more about Ayurveda and doshas in the weeks to come if your not familiar. But basically, vata dosha is related to the elements of ether and air and overall needs calming and grounding.
Ok, so here’s the list of what I do to ensure a full night’s sleep…
In Ayurveda, keeping a daily routine, or dinacharya, is huge. This means getting up at the same time every day, eating at the same time, getting to bed at the same time. This way your body is conditioned to times of waking up and going to sleep every day, which will result in better sleep. Additionally, eating meals around the same time every day will help you have better digestion. This was hard for me to do at first, especially as I don’t have a regular work schedule. In Ayurveda school, we learn that the mind loves freedom, and the body loves routine.
Generally, you should be waking with the sun at sunrise, then getting to bed in time to get you 7-8 hours of sleep.
Light and Early Dinner
I used to eat dinner on the later side, around 7:30 to 8 pm, or even later. On nights that I would eat that late, I would always wake up the next morning feeling groggier than normal. That is because when my body was supposed to be doing detoxifying processes while I slept, it was still digesting my late meal. Now I aim to have eaten dinner by 7 pm. Also, consider making lunch is the biggest meal of your day, and eat a lighter dinner. Some light dinner ideas I enjoy are basmati rice/ quinoa with steamed or sauteed veggies, or a homemade soup.
Create a Night Time Routine
Now, I’ve always been a big believer in having a good morning routine. Until I saw an Ayurvedic practitioner, it didn’t really occur to me to have a night time routine as well. Here is what my night time routine for awesome sleep looks like:
No electronics 2 hours before bed – this is usually when I read a book
5 minutes of nadi shodhan (alternate nostril breath) followed by 15 minutes of meditation. I use Insight Timer for meditation and practice a mantra based meditation.
I do a brain dump every night – I simply make a list of things I want to remember for the following day. I keep a small journal on my bed side table for this.
Keep your bedroom clean and tidy. Create a calming environment. Get rid of any lights in your bedroom, use black tape on top of any electronics that have a light that doesn’t turn off, like an electric toothbrush, air conditioner, etc. I got rid of my clock radio with a digital display. Obviously, no TV in the bedroom!
Use a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillowcase at night, or diffuse lavender oil.
Drink a spiced milk or a calming tea – I like good ole chamomile tea. There are a lot of herbal teas on the market now for calming or good sleep, find one you like.
Right before bed, rub some sesame oil on your feet. This is a great grounding practice. I have one old pair of socks that I’ll put on right after this so I don’t ruin my sheets.
Cut Out Caffeine
Now, I know this is going to bum out you coffee and tea lovers. If you are drinking coffee and tea daily and having any kind of sleep problem, you should try cutting out caffeine completely. Even that early morning cup of coffee may be affecting your sleep that night. And, if you are waking up in the morning craving the stimulation of a cup of coffee, that is a sign you didn’t get the best quality sleep. I quit drinking coffee about a year ago and I notice I actually have MORE energy in the morning without it. Here are some tips on how to quit drinking coffee if you are addicted to it (which I was!)
You can use calming herbs to support deep sleep. Lavender essential oil is great for this, I use a few drops on my pillowcase, or you can diffuse the oil in your bedroom. Chamomile tea is a good calming tea to drink before bed. Nutmeg is also a sedative herb, try making the nutmeg milk recipe below.
Spiced Milk Recipe
1 cup almond milk (or any milk)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom
1 tsp coconut oil
Optional: honey to taste
Bring all ingredients except for honey to boil, then simmer for a few minutes. Take off heat, let cool for a minute or two before stirring in honey.