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December 28, 2008

Ideal weight or average weight?

I hope you all had a really wonderful and peaceful Christmas and that none of you are worrying about the extra kilo's that may have appeared as a result!

I've been reading a little about the 'obesity epidemic'
. This is based on the inherently flawed Body Mass Index (BMI). I became interested in the BMI when my mother got onto one of those Wii computer games and was told she was overweight. I was so surprised, because she is the healthiest 50-something I know. She eats well and walks plenty and she certainly doesn't look overweight. The BMI also put my seven year old second-cousin in the overweight range, which I also thought was outrageous because he's seven! He still has all his puppy fat!

So I began looking into what the BMI actually means. It's based on a statistical tool invented by a Belgian mathmetician in the 1800's. The tool was never intended to be an indication of health.

Furthermore, in 1998 the US government adopted the World Health Organisation's BMI figures, which are actually based on world wide average weights, not ideal weights for optimum health or longevity. The world averages include significant numbers of malnourished people in Africa and Asia, who are in no way representative of the ideal weight we should all be striving for.

So, before you start that post Christmas crash diet-don't! Chances are that you are perfect the way you are. On the other hand, if you want to start eating more vegetables and wholegrains for health and vitality-by all means do it.

December 22, 2008

Let sleeping dogs die?

A couple of years ago, whilst sleeping in India, at 5am there was a knock at the door. My husband answered it and there was a young Swedish man there. He explained he had found a dog who had been hit by a car and was in a very bad way, and he wanted my husband's help to put him out of his misery.

My husband did help, but after that night we decided emphatically that we didn't believe in putting animals down. Suffering is part of life, a big part, and a part we can learn from if we only take the time to go through it. I'm not really sure how much conciousness animals have of these things, but who am I to take that opportunity for growth and spiritual development away from anything or anyone?

But, as always, when I decide to believe in something emphatically, the universe throws up a situation which reminds me I'm really not sure of anything after all.

Last week, after months of agonising over the decision, we put our old family dog down. She was 18 yrs old, and had been blind and arthritic for nearly two years. We put it off for a long time, because we wanted to make sure we didn't just put her down for our own convenience, we wanted her to actually be ready. But it went on for years and she just wouldn't let go. She could barely walk by the end of it, and the final straw was a bed sore that couldn't heal due to lack of circulation. She stopped drinking and I was faced with the decision all over again.

We decided to have her killed.

Many of my friends have been saying it's not killing, it's euthanasia, but euthanasia requires consent and how on earth can we have the consent of a creature who doesn't speak? It is killing, and I'm not really sure I did make the right decision.

So I prayed that I made the right decision, and I prayed for her soul, and I prayed for some opportunity to repay my karmic debt to the animal kingdom.

Then yesterday I went to the river for a swim and found literally 70 or 80 fish beached on the sand and the rocks. They were still flapping and gasping for air. I didn't really know what to do, most of them looked long gone, and they are a kind of fish with poison in their scales so you can't touch them.

But one was just on the edge of the water and the waves were lapping up against him. My husband took of his shoe and pushed him into the water. For a moment it looked pretty sad, but once the fish caught his breath he swam off. So I took off my shoe too and we started flicking all the fish back into the water. It took us about half an hour and only about two thirds of them survived. A few more were stuck in between crevices in the rocks so we had to leave them.

I have no idea how they got there. Maybe a fisherman caught them and left them because they aren't eating fish, but I can't imagine how you could catch that many fish. My other thought is that the whole school became disorientated and somehow beached themselves, but I don't know enough about fish to know if this actually happens.

Either way I am grateful for the opportunity to offer life to some little animals. And I am sorry for the lives I have taken, whether or not it was the right thing to do.

December 14, 2008


Of course things are always a bit hectic at this time of year. I'm struggling to get to my blog for the first time. I am very happy to be home, spending lots of time with my family and friends, and at the beach and the river. It's such a beautiful part of the world. I feel very blessed to have been born here.

I thought I would take a moment to pay homage to the simple things. Last week someone made the best comment I have ever recieved on my blog. They wrote that after years of constipation the simple Ayurvedic recommendation to drink warm water first thing in the morning has changed their life. The constipation is gone.

Another example of the simple but powerful nature of Ayurveda is a friend who has hiccoughs every day. He has attacks that last hours and finds it very upsetting. I advised him to add a pinch of asafoetida to every meal and for a week now he hasn't even hiccoughed once!

I shouldn't really be surprised by these events anymore, but even after experiencing the power of Ayurveda time and time again I am surprised all over again every time.

I just feel so blessed to have access to this knowledge, and so priviledged to be able to share it with other people. So in the silly season, take a second out for the simple things. They really are the best! And, in keeping with the season, give thanks for what we have.

December 08, 2008

What should we be teaching in schools?

I've been watching Jamie Oliver's new show about teaching people how to cook. He's found a whole town called Rotheram (but don't fool yourself, it's not the only one of it's kind) who can't cook. My main criticism of his approach is that he's teaching people who live on welfare payments to cook salmon. I think he could have started with some simpler, cheaper, more accessable recipes. But he's still doing a great thing.

Meanwhile I've been reading my sister's thesis on environmental education, and how in Australian curriculum there is no room to learn about the environment. Her research shows the value of teaching children to be stewards of their environment and how naturally they want to help their environment, at least until adults intervene.

It becomes apparant that we aren't learning how to live any more. We graduate from school being able to read and write and do maths, but we don't learn how to brake bread or recycle or shop frugally or grow carrots or get stains out of the carpet. We are taught how to make money, but we aren't taught any living skills at school.

The best thing I learned at school was actually Physics. Whilst almost failing for years, I really loved learning about the world I live in and how it all interacts. If I had my time again I would study human biology too. Those subjects aside, the things I do everyday were learnt from my parents, and I've totally forgotten how to do long division!

December 01, 2008

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

As usual, Sunday is baking day. We go to a meditation group every Sunday evening, and everyone brings some food to be blessed and shared. Today I made a Deepak Chopra recipe from The Chopra Centre Cookbook, with some alterations. He uses low fat vanilla flavoured soy milk, and canola oil, neither of which are particularly well regarded in Ayurveda, so a few substitutions later and here it is...not too sweet, and pretty healthy, a good breakfast muffin.

One overflowing cup finely chopped pumpkin
2 cups atta flour
1/2 cup grated jaggary (or dark brown sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped dates
1 cup unhomogonised milk
2 Tbs ghee
1/4 cup maple syrup


Preheat your oven to 180' and grease a muffin tin.

Put the pumpkin into a pan with a tight fitting lid, and cover the bottom of the pan with water (just a tablespoon or two). Cook the pumpkin with the lid on till it's soft and the water has evaporated, but you may need to add a dash more if it starts sticking before it's cooked. Mash it with a fork. You should get about 3/4 cup of pumpkin mash.

Mix the pumpkin mash with all the wet ingredients while it's still hot. This will help combine everything.

Mix the dry ingredients well in a separate bowl, then mix the wet and dry together as briefly as possible. Put into muffin tins and bake for twenty to twenty five minutes. best served hot, and they won't keep very well.

November 24, 2008

Physical health and the personality

Dr Robert Svoboda (whom I highly recommend) points out that people with multiple personalities can be allergic to something if they eat it when one personality is present, and not when another personality is present. This effect of the personality extends to the physical realm in such things as being right or left handed, wether the eyes squint and even the curvature of the lens.

Ther are many cases reported where if one personality is drunk, when another personality enters the body they are instantly and totally sober. Different personalities react differently to drugs and medication, and, in the case of women, can even menstruate many times in a month depending on which personality is present.

So what's this got to do with anything? It simply demonstrates the physical effect of the things that are not physical.

Unfortunately since we are not fully conscious of these things we can't fully control them. But being aware that your personality (however many of them there are!) has such a big impact on your physical body can be very useful in Ayurveda. Fear, for example, causes diarrhea, and even fear of diarrhea can cause diarrhea itself. So if we can detach ourselves a little from our fear perhaps we can become a little healthier and stronger.

I believe meditation is the key to becoming more aware of the personality and ego, our attachments, desires, karma and our emotions. Emotions are, afterall, just chemical reactions in the brain. And the brain wave patterns are triggered (as demonstrated by people with multiple personalities) by our personalities. A little awareness of this human condition of being controlled by our personality can actually improve our health.

I'm not suggesting we can all cure ourselves, because that would imply that it's your fault if you are sick, but it certainly won't do any harm to practice a little detachment.

Just what I've been thinking about. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

November 17, 2008


I'm safely and happily settled back home now. The Nullarbor was a great experience, made much more fun for my travelling companions, my husband, my sister and my brother-in-law. It was crazy weather, we had a dust storm and a hail storm and intense heat. But what struck me most was how isolated many Australians are. There was one roadhouse that exists in it's own time zone, which I suspect is central standard time without daylight savings. He lives a days drive from the nearest shop. And the most incredible thing is that there are much more isolated places in Northern WA and central Australia.

We were driving a massive van, with plenty of room in the back for playing...

But not enough for our dancing, so, whilst we stopped to fill up the water supplies...

But mostly we were just driving, on very long, very straight, very flat road...

I've started my new job managing community development projects, which is going very well. Just thought I'd remind you that I'll only be posting once a week on Mondays for now.

November 10, 2008

Kichadee Fast

If you feel like doing an internal spring clean I thought I'd type up my own variation of a fast, which is really more like a mono-diet, cause I'm not of the weight and strength to withstand anything stronger. Whilst this is a very mild fast, make sure your blood pressure is stable, and only fast at a time when you can allow yourself to rest. Fasting should include some level of withdrawal from all wordly things, not just food, so take a break from a busy schedule too.

Kicharee (also spelled kichadi and kidgedee and... in true Indian fashion) forms the backbone of an Ayurvedic diet. I don't know of an illness that can not benefit from kichadee. Basically it's mung dahl and basmati cooked together with various seasonings. Choose seasonings to balance you dosha.

I haven't included a standard recipe for kicharee, because if you aren't familiar with Ayurvedic cooking you might find this fast difficult! If you don't know how to make kicharee, look up some recipes and get to know how to make it and how you like it before trying this out.

It begins with a watery mung dahl soup, and becomes more solid as the week progresses. Each day is the same as the last with something added or taken away. You can aid your body with cleansing by taking triphla as appropriate.

You can eat as much as you feel like, but as always, over or under eating is discouraged, your stomach should be about a third full. Small regular meals are generally advised, especially for Vata. If you need to eat alot you might need to cook a second (or even third) batch to get you through the day. If you go out take your food with you in a thermos.

To help you stay well hydrated, you can also drink:
  • Warm water
  • Rice tea (cook rice in plenty of water and drink the warm liquid only)
  • A little hot water with lemon, jaggary and himalayan rock salt (not for pitta)
Even for a time after you break your fast, especially avoid:
  • coffee, alcohol, cigarettes etc
  • refined sugar, refined wheat
  • processed foods
  • cold food
Day One
Eat normally, but lightly. Eat Kichadee for dinner around six and have an early night.

Day Two
Cook one cup of hulled mung dahl with eight cups of water and a teaspoon of Himalayan rock salt. When the dahl is completely disintegrated add some cumin powder, tumeric powder and coriander leaves. Add some more water if it is not soupy. Eat as frequently as you need.

Day Three
Same again, but fry the cumin in a little ghee before adding, and use a little less water.

Day Four
Use a little less water again, add a little more ghee and you can add some more spices if you like as appropriate for your dosha.

Day Five
Add 1/2 cup of white basmati rice to your dahl and cook together. You can add more rice if you need more sustenence, or less rice if you are getting a little constipated.

Day Six
Break your fast at lunchtime with a little butternut pumpkin, zucchini and one chappati. Eat your day five meal again for dinner and then slowly introduce your normal diet over the next few days.

If you want a longer fast you can sustain day four or five for a few days and then continue chronologically. I hope this isn't too vague, it's written for people with some knowledge and experience of Ayurveda and Ayurvedic cooking, rather than a total beginner. Let me know if you have any questions.

November 03, 2008

Shatavari: "she who posesses 100 husbands"

I recently had a question about Shatavari and it's effect on the liver. To be honest, I don't know much of it's uses for the liver, but as you can imagine from the meaning of it's name (above) it's pretty good for the ladies!

Being sweet and bitter it has a cooling effect, making it more beneficial for Vata and Pitta, and less for Kapha. Given it's cooling nature I imagine shatavari might benefit hot liver conditions including hyperacidity and jaundice.

But Shatavari's most prized use is as a rejuvinative for the female reproductive system. It is a tonic and demulcent, meaning it is soothing, lubricating and nourishing. Shatavari actually regulates female hormones, so it is beneficial for women at all stages of life including puberty and menopause, and can regulate difficult menstrual cycles. It promotes fertility and eases PMS for Vata and Pitta.

Other conditions treated by shatavari include laryngitis, underweight, AIDS and fevers that have caused dehydration. It also promotes hair growth, and can be used externally for stiff joints. It is sattvic and cleanses the blood, it is perfectly safe for children and reduces inflammation.

Shatavari is not not recommended in cases of high ama or mucous.

October 27, 2008

ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!

Super excited today cause I'm driving across the Nullarbor, the longest straight road in the world. Nullarbor means no trees, which is silly, cause there are definitely trees. My husband, his brother and my sister and I are all driving together in a big deluxe campervan. Can't wait. It's a long drive so we just bought six new CD's (there was a sale!) to keep us occupied.

We'll arrive in Fremantle on Friday or Saturday depending on if we see anything exciting on the way or not. Wish us luck!

I'm pretty scared of driving to be honest, so I pray for a safe and happy journey for us all, and most importantly peace of mind. I don't want to be a stress head.

October 20, 2008

What's milk?

Not so long ago dairies were fined for "watering"their milk . These days milk is so modified that it is almost transparent, and we are brainwashed into paying MORE for it. These milks are often reconstituted from powder, with vitamins or proteins or the latest fad added.

I'm sure you've all read about the scare in china where milk was contaminated with melamine in order to make it's protein content appear higher. Which brings me to nutrition panels. I always read ingredients, never nutrition panels. If there is an ingredient listed that I don't recognise, there's a safe bet it's not really food and I won't buy it. I really worry about our modern approach to nutrition were a food is simply to sum of it's parts (ie proteins, carbohydrates, fat, fibre). I prefer to think that food, as it naturally occurs, is perfect and full of prana, in a way that cannot be replicated in a lab.

Personally I always buy full fat milk, with nothing added. It is unhomogonised, biodynamic and organic, but costs the same as brand name low fat milk. Low fat and skim milk have synthetic vitamin A and D added because the naturally occurring vitamins are removed with the fat, but Ayurveda teaches that synthetic vitamins are not as easily absorbed by the body and lack the ability to give life in the way that natural, real, whole food does.

If you are worried about fat, you can still buy full fat milk, and just mix it half and half with water. Or better still, buy your milk unhomogonised and you'll be able to skim the fat off the top yourself and feed it to the vata person in your family.

More on milk here.

October 13, 2008


In Sanskrit the word for oil also means love. That's how important oil massage is.

In an ideal world I would practice abhyanga daily, self massage of a very oily variety. But the truth is it happens once a week, or less in winter. Partly because of the mess it makes, and mostly because of the cold. Maybe when I move to Freo (in just a few weeks!) I will be warm enough to do it more often. Not sure what to do about the mess, except to remember it really is worth it.

Abhayanga moves quickly up my list of priorities when my body is under pressure, for example when I have a rash or my weight is low. It is especially important in times of great change, when pregnant and breastfeeding, in old age and when emotional or stressed.

Choose an oil that works for you. There are many specially formulated oils on the market with herbs and oil blends appropriate for specific conditions. I just use sesame oil because it is the simplest, unless I have a rash, in which case my doctor gives me a disgusting brown sludge with neem in it, which works a treat.

Sesame oil is warm and lubricating and has the rare quality of penetrating all seven tissues. In cases of high Pitta (acne, rash, redness, itching, burning) coconut oil is better, because it is cooling. For oily skin, blocked pores, white or black heads you may prefer to use mustard oil, or simply dry brush your skin instead. Massage is excellent for Kapha because it is stimulating, or you could try exfoliating your whole body with a paste of besan flour and water. Choose organic oil if you can afford it.

Curing the oil helps it to penetrate deeper and also makes it wash off easier (from you, your clothes and your towels!) To cure your oil pour it into a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat. Sprinkle a few drops of water on top of the oil and when the water evaporates the oil is ready. Let it cool and then pour into an appropriate container. Cure about a months worth at a time, use cured oil within six months.

Some like to store their oil in plastic shampoo bottle. This has the advantage of being easy to warm up before use by placing whole bottle (with the lid tightly closed) in hot water for a few minutes. It also makes for convenient for application by choosing a squeezy bottle with top that limits the flow. Others prefer to store oil in dark coloured glass or stainless steel because plastic can leech into the oil and affect the quality. Whatever you choose make sure it is stored in a cool dark place away from direct sunlight.

Now for the messy bit. It is, of course, best to do oil massage daily. But I completely understand if modern life gets the better of you! It's best done in the morning, and must be on an empty stomach. You will actually 'digest' some of the oil so it is important that you don't overload your digestive system.

First warm up some oil, it depends on how much skin you have and how oily you like it, but about half a cup should be plenty. If you use a plastic bottle to store your oil place it hot water for a few minutes. Alternatively pour the oil into a small bowl and place the bowl in a shallow saucepan of water and heat it up like a double boiler. However you warm your oil it should be just warmer than you are, so don't let it get too hot and keep testing it with your finger until it is warm to touch.

You'll need to have a few old towels and cothes handy that you don't mind ruining. Buy a few from the opshop and chuck them out when they are ruined. Sit on an old towel on the floor and make sure the air is warm to your skin. Take off all your clothes.

There are many different methods for applying the oil. But I believe that the oil itself is the important bit, rather than the massage, so just slather it on. As a general rule start with your scalp, and end with your feet. Use your palms (not your fingers) to work in clockwise circular motions and strokes towards the heart. You don't need to apply to much pressure, but just make sure you cover every centremetre of your body with oil.

How long to leave the oil on varies depending on who you ask. Anywhere from ten minutes to an hour. Your skin will have absorbed as much as it can by then so any oil left on your skin may block pores or attract dirt. I tend to leave oil on for about half an hour. You can put on a baggy old tshirt and socks and do the dishes or prepare breakfast for after your shower. Or you can take this time to do some yoga (in the nude if your game!). Or you can just lie out on a towel and enjoy soaking in the love.

To wash it off I stand in the shower and rub mung flour over my body and then have a warm (not hot) shower or, better still, a bath with epsom salts (after washing off the mung dahl in the shower!). It's OK to leave a thin film of oil on your skin. Don't use a harsh soap or very hot water or you will dry out your skin. You can give the mung flour a miss and just give your skin a good rub with a flannel if you prefer-just remember, anything that touches the oil will be ruined!

If you've oiled your scalp (which is very beneficial, but again, I understand if you don't) it may take a couple of washes to get the oil out.

Finally dry yourself off with another daggy old towel and your done.

You may like pour a bit of vinegar and bicarb down your drains every now and then to prevent sticky residue. And please don't be a dufus and burn yourself or start a fire whilst curing or warming your oil!

October 09, 2008

Coconut Slice

Dear oh dear, I have been slack. I think I have to be honest and say my posting frequency is dropping to once a week. So here it is, my (late) weekly installment. In the future I'll try and post on Monday's, just for regularity.

This is such a simple recipe which I love making on Sunday's to take to work. Coconut and jaggary is simply one of my favourite combinations. It can easily be adapted by adding a handful of crushed nuts or a dash of vanilla essence.

I'm no good at photo's, which is a shame cause this recipe looks rather nice.

Mix 1 cup of atta (or wholemeal) flour with a pinch of salt and sugar and half a cup of melted ghee. Press into the bottom of a baking tray and bake for twenty minutes at 170'C.

Meanwhile grate one cup of jaggary and mix with one cup of coconut milk till dissolved. Stir in 3 cups of dessicated coconut. Pour over pastry base and bake for a further hour at 150'C.

Let it cool completely before cutting in the tray and removing piece by piece.

October 01, 2008

The daily grind

I've been working full time lately which is why I haven't been online so much. It's a strange world, working fulltime. I'm not sure it really suits me, but I'm adjusting rather well, and it's good to see how the other half live. And I certainly could do with the cash!

Spending so many years at home (either because of sickness or working from home) means lunch has become our main meal of the day. I don't feel satisfied if I just have a sandwich or something cold or leftovers. I need a round, fresh meal to get me through my working day.Of course this takes a bit of effort.

Our favourite lunches use only one pot to cook. For example we cook rice and vegetables together with ghee and spices, then mix in almonds or ricotta at the end. Vegetables in coconut milk is another favourite, which we eat with bean thread noodles, which just require a soak in boiling water. Or soup, whatever vegies we have in the house boiled with spices and pureed.

I'm keeping up strong routines, I wake up at 6am every day, wash and dress and meditate for an hour from 6.30 to 7.30. Then it's time to cook breakfast and lunch. I always have porridge with milk and black sesame for breakfast, but we have something different for lunch each day, with my husband and I taking turns to cook. A relaxed breakfast to catch up and express our thanks and wishes from 8 till 8.30, and then I walk to work to start at 9am.

It requires some effort at the other end of the day. Every night I soak oats and wash and chop vegetables for the next days lunch. On Sundays we do some of our weekly sadhana's, like grinding seeds, roasting almonds, baking biscuits or making ghee.

This routine keeps me sane and healthy and grounded in a more hectic schedule. Rather than feeling tied down, I feel like these habits mean I get a lot done without really having to think about it.

September 27, 2008

National Student Leadership Forum

Well, I can't lie, not even when it would be polite.

The forum was difficult. I faced some quite fierce arguments about God, and I don't like arguing about God. I believe that all religions are the work of one God, which some may not even like to call God, but I can't think of a better word. It is difficult to express my beliefs, particularly in an analytical environment, for it reduces something that to my mind is perfect, to the realm of words, which are imperfect.

So I stumbled and stuttered and feel I utterly misrepresented my God, and have learned a valuable lesson. Babaji has always told us not to share our faith too publicly, and now I know why. For a start, I don't feel I can do my God justice with words, and second, it just seems to cause fights.

And to be even more honest, I didn't expect a leadership forum to be quite so evangelically and fundamentally Christian. In that regard I feel quite mislead myself, as none of the advertising of the forum suggested this would be such a singularly religious forum.

But I did learn from some inspiring speakers, uncle Bob Randall, Kevin Rudd and David Busseau to be specific. And came across a wonderful quote:
"A leader is a dealer in hope."
Napoleon Bonaparte.

September 25, 2008

I want...

The truth is we all want something, anything, or we wouldn't be here. It is our desire that separates us from the Divine. But there's no use trying to pretend we don't want things, cause no one, certainly not God, believes us. Like at an Alcoholic's Anonymous meeting we must raise our hand and say "I want..." For it is better the devil you know.

Once we acknowledge our wants we can harness that energy for the forces of good. I asked a friend once what she wanted to eat, she said "oh anything, I'm not fussy." Whilst it is generally considered good not to be fussy, it is a dangerous game. Maybe it's the fact that we just eat 'anything' that has gotten us into this great, fat, processed, refined, fast food mess. Maybe if we payed a little more attention to what we wanted we might actually eat more broccoli and less hamburgers, because we would know what our body truly and deeply wants rather than just eating what's in front of us or succumbing to our addictions.

So we must practice owning our wants. For if we want nothing we have nothing to sacrifice in the service of others. Want it, and be prepared to give it up anyway. It may be small things at first. Whilst it may feel strange if we aren't used to it, contrary to popular belief it is not selfish. For if each of us were a little happier we'd pull up the whole world with us. It is our service to the world to be happy!

September 22, 2008


Thought of the day...

There is no end to learning Ayurveda. You should carefully and constantly devote yourself to it's study. Increase your skill by learning from others without jealousy. The wise regard the whole world as their teacher, while the ignorant consider it to be their enemy.


September 17, 2008

Just an update

My husband and I are going to the National Student Leadership Forum at Parliament House tomorrow! We were nominated and sponsored for the work we have done with young people at risk of homelessness, Aboriginal women and for my husbands plan to launch a philanthropic community foundation next year.

I don't yet know exactly what the forum will involve, but I am very excited to be around some inspirational people, and maybe even meet the Prime Minister!

Life is changing very rapidly. I'm now working full time, for the first time since contracting Hep A more than two years ago. I'm moving home to Fremantle in a couple of months to smell the ocean and feel the sun on my bare skin. I'm starting a Bachelor of Health Science next year so I can become a qualified Ayruvedic Consultant.

September 14, 2008

Majja Dhatu-nerves and bone marrow

I had a question a long time ago about bones, and I already wrote about joints, Asthi Dhatu, now it's finally time to write about Majja Dhatu, the bone marrow and nerve tissue.

Majja is oily, and lubricates the body. It fills in hollow spaces in the bones, brain and spinal cord, so as you can imagine by this brief explanation Majja Dhatu is governed by Kapha. Healthy Majja Dhatu gives feelings of contentment and satisfaction, unhealthy Majja Dhatu will cause loneliness and fear of death.

Whilst different tissues correlate to different dosha, they are all somewhat Kapha, due to their substance. Whilst Majja is particularly Kapha, any dosha can enter any dhatu, and excess Kapha in Majja can cause blockages, whilst Pitta and Vata can cause deficiency.

Vata in Majja cause nervous disorders such as headaches and insomnia. Pitta in Majja may lead to sicatica or inflammation. Although Majja is Kapha in nature, excess of Kapha can still lead to problems, such as melancholy, stagnation and depression.

Majja is the second last dhatu, being nourished by Asthi. The nutrients are refined further and payed them forward to Shukra Dhatu (reproductive tissues), the final tissue in the chain.

September 10, 2008

Nuts-raw or cooked?

So I really love nuts, in case you haven't noticed. I eat nuts everyday, but only a small handful at a time. I always loved nuts, but only truly came to appreciate this food when I began to roast them.

When I was younger, before I was devoted to Ayurveda I used to experiment with a few different systems of health, including raw food. My conclusion on raw food is that it's certainly no good for Vata, with Kapha and Pita tolerating it better. It can be useful for particular conditions, or for short term detox or weight loss. But it doesn't work for me.

One of the ideas behind eating food raw is that when you cook it you lose a lot of the enzymes. I have since read, in one of my trillions of Ayurvedic books (sorry I forgot which so I can't credit it!), that when the body digests food these enzymes break down in the body anyway. You may as well let a stove do the work instead of your body.

Besides all of this, nuts taste SO good when they are cooked. And if Ayurveda is all about taste, then cook my nuts I will!

So, how to cook them. I always skin my almonds first, but other nuts are fine as is. I like to do a batch at the begginning of the week so I can take them to work for snacks or add them to stirfries or porridge. Don't make too many, the fresher the better.

There are basically two ways, on the stove or in the oven. For the latter preheat your oven to 200' and then spread you nuts out on a tray and leave them in there for just a few minutes. Watch them carefully. The advantage of the oven is they are more evenly roasted, but it can be a waste of electricity to heat up the whole oven for just a handful of nuts, so do a bigger batch, or cook them before or after your using the oven for something else anyway. It isn't a good idea to ut nuts in at the same time as other food as the moisture might stop them going crunchy.

The stove top method requires constant stirring, but you are less likely to burn them cause you can't walk away and forget about them. You can do a small amount too, just a handful to eat in front of a movie for example. Heat a heavy bottom pan on a medium heat and throw you nuts in. Give them a good shake and stir until they are gently browned. It's hard to get them even on the stove. Some nuts will pop and dance.

Let your nuts cool down before eating them, because this is when they get all crunchy. Here's a few ideas for what to do with your nuts...

September 07, 2008

Factors of health

My best friends been getting terrible colesores, despite eating very well. So it got me thinking that there is no one answer, no single path. There are many ways in which we can heal, or become sick.

The following areas are just my own thoughts, not from any classical text. I have heard doctors try to measure their importance with a percentage or a weighting, but to my mind they are all important. Their strength depends on the patient and the illness and the circumstances.

Of course, everything you eat is of great importance in Ayurveda. The diet should suit your prakruti, virkruti and environmental factors such as the seasons and your lifestyle.

Routine is crucial for me, being Vata. I like to sleep, wake and eat at the same time everyday. Even if I am on holidays or unemployed I still wake up at 6am, eat at 8am, 12pm and 6pm, and sleep agan at 9 or 10pm. It's not a chore, I love it, I find I have a lot more energy, and I get a lot more done. Other lifestyle factors include stress, relationships, where you live and your job. All of these can balance or imbalance your dosha.


Ayurvedic Medicine is extremely powerful, I am constantly surprised by it. Don't self medicate, find a great doctor and visit them regularly, and tell them the truth about your diet, lifestyle etc.


Ayurveda offers wonderful treatments for all sort of conditions. For example massage (oil for Vata, dry for Kapha), Panch karma for serious detox, or Shirodhara for rejuvination.

The mind is the most powerful tool of all. If you believe in your cure it is more likely to come, like the placebo effect. Faith, prayer, meditation, visualisation are all very useful tools towards health.

The truth is is, the physical body is impermenant. For all our best efforts we will die, so to some degree health is random. Just do what you can, but if it doesn't work out, don't blame yourself or your doctor or God, just accept that we were born and we will die. Make the best of the bit in the middle.

September 03, 2008

Something we can learn from cows

I read an article in the newspaper recently about cows.It caught my eye because cows are, of course, very sacred in India. The Veda's have always observed and admired and learned from them, and now that we have satellite imaging, modern scientists are taking a closer look at cows too.

"European scientists who studied satellite images of cows around the world have discovered that these animals tend to align themselves with Earth's north-south magnetic fields while they graze or rest.

Farmers have found that cattle stand perpendicular to the sun to heat up their bodies on cold, sunny days, or stand parallel to the wind during winter days with particularly strong winds, the scientists noted."

It makes perfect sense of course, and matches wonderfully with Vedic Architectural concepts too. According to Sthapatya-Veda we ought to align our beds and slope our home's roof and plant trees in particular places. It's all based on factors such as the rotation of the earth, gravitational pull, wind and magnetic fields, which amazingly they wrote about thousands of years ago.

I wonder if humans would naturally align ourselves with the earths natural forces if there wasn't so much interference. We can learn a lot just from observing nature.

NB-I just found out that cow is a gender specific term referring to a female of the species. We use the term cow more generally because the term cattle, which is plural, has no singular form, and refers more to livestock then bovines in general. So really I should say 'cows and bulls' align themselves with the earth. What a funny thing words are!

August 30, 2008

Not touched by human hands

My sister pointed out something very strange in the supermarket. This seems to happen a lot, supermarkets are just getting stranger and stranger!

She saw loaf of bread with the words:
Not touched by human hands.
As an advertisement, as though that was a good thing. As though the human hand might dirty the bread and make it unfit for consumption. As though mechanical "hands" would do a lot better job of it!

In Ayurveda the process of kneading dough is a beautiful Sadhana, a service which enriches the life the person giving as well as the quality of the food itself, and therefore the person who eats the food. In the book Like Water for Chocolate (which you must read if you love food or books or both) a woman cries into the wedding cake batter and all the guests become miserable when they eat it.

These days extra yeast and sugar minimise the kneading process and rising time, preservatives make it last longer and mould inhibitors stop it going mouldy. Added gluten, canola oil, synthetic vitamins, emulsifiers... and it hardly resembles bread at all. At least not the way bread is made at home, or prior to the industrial revolution.

Let's put some love back into our diet and stop being so clinical about food. Touch it, taste it, love it, we ought not pay for a machine to do everything for us!

August 27, 2008


Ayurveda includes six tastes as an important part of every diet. All people need all tastes, but in different amounts according to dosha. But no matter what your dosha sweet taste (present in all fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates) should make up the bulk of your diet (not in the form of refined sugars!)

Second most important is salty taste. This is an unusual taste because all others are available in a wide variety of foods. Salty taste pretty much only comes from salt, though it can be found in trace amounts in some foods such as amla and seaweed.

Salty taste is made up of fire and water. This of course makes it most beneficial to Vata and less so for Kapha and Pita, both already having strong fire or water elements. When you put salt on the tongue saliva instantly comes. These secretions are preparing your body for digestion. the same thing will happen in your digestive system. Salt will encourage the secretion of digestive acids.

Salt plays another important role in helping us to taste all taste. Water is required in order to taste anything at all, so by eating salt, which induces water, our enjoyment of food is increased. Flavours are released and satisfaction is felt. The right amount of salt can help both in term of weight gain and weight loss, helping us to feel satisfied when full, or enjoy more food when it is needed. Without salt Vata can react and food feels heavy and unsatisfied, food tastes bland and cravings continue.

Now I'm not saying anyone should go overboard. The important thing to remember is that all tastes should be included in every meal (spices are the key) so your meal should never taste so salty that it numbs your taste buds to the other flavours. And remember to use Himalayan Rock Salt which is most friendly to all dosha.

August 24, 2008

A story about finding peace

Many people arrive in India only to get on the next airplane out of there. Whilst it is undeniable, India is difficult, there is a certain art to being in India that requires enormous resrve of values and faith. Here is a wonderful little story Maya Tiwari tells. It's similiar to the concept of being the lotus in the mud.

"In India, the homeland of this exsquisite art of life, one learns quickly to trust the infinite wisdom of the Lord and eventually the self. Amid the chaos of erratic activity and the cacophany of mind-boggling noises, stupendous calm and gusto combined exist in the humans who live there. As one taxi driver said, "There are only four essentials to living: good horn, good brakes, good nerves and good luck." Put another way, the horn signifies our intentions; the brakes are our ability to stop and contemplate; nerves are the essential fibres of our courage and choices, and finally, luck is simply the grace of the Lord."
Ayurveda: Secrets of Healing, Maya Tiwari.

August 20, 2008

Finding an Ayurvedic doctor

The relationship between the patient and the doctor is a very important one if healing is to occur. This has been lost in modernity with fifteen minute appointments with doctors who may know nothing about you and may never see you again.

My guru, Babaji, advises that when choosing a guru one would be wise not to trust any yogi blindly. Before we surrender ourselves to the Guru it is sensible to question that Guru's motivation. If they are asking for money, or seeking fame, or some other selfish and worldly gain, it is unlikely they are deserving of your unwavering trust and devotion.

Similarly when choosing an Ayurvedic doctor, especially for panch karma, the patient would be wise to question the doctors motivation. Take a trusted and healthy friend with you to see the doctor for their opinion. Don't fall prey to advertising or hype.

Babaji says "No individual should claim, "I can heal," real Yogis and saints do not claim, only pray to the Divine. It is only the Divine that can heal."

Listen carefully to their diagnosis and treatment plan, take notes to help remember and don't be embarrassed to ask lots of questions. Especially ask about possible emotional and physical effects of treatment, both good and bad.

Once you choose your doctor with this sort of vigilance, then surrender to them. Trust everything they say. Trust your body and it's ability to heal, and pray for grace and love and openness. Trust the healing process and all that it brings up. Faith is one of the most healing energies there is. But blind faith can be very dangerous.

August 17, 2008

More about bathing

My dad grew up in the coal mining district of Chesterfield, England. In those days the English washed once a week. We heard a story of one family with 9 children, and they all used to bathe in the same water, starting with the least dirty person and ending with the dirtiest. The father, being a coal miner was of course, the dirtiest, and was washed last, even after the dog!!!

Things may have changed for some of us since then, but when I was in Kathmandu the water was only turned on for an hour a day. That's when you washed (yourself, your clothes, the dishes), flushed the toilet and filled a bucket of water for later. In some African tribes, where water is even more scarce, they wash in smoke from the fire.

Bathing is an interesting thing. Everyone, every where in the world does it and we all do it differently. Here's a little something about Ayurveda's views on bathing.
"Soap is not meant for use on the body except when it is really grimy, and even then, as modern medicine agrees, it should never be used on the mucous membranes...

Bathing is prohibited within an hour after eating, and when one is suffering from accute diarrhoea, abdominal distention, chronic cold, indigestion and most acute illnesses. The yogis always advise cold water for bathing, while Ayurveda suggests hot water, except on the head, where only warm water should be used lest it weaken the sense organs."
Ayurveda; Life, Health and Longevity, Robert Svoboda.

Bathing should be done before meditation, prayers or sex. If you want to avoid soap you can use beans. It can also be useful to bathe with salts, oils or essential oils depending on your condition.

August 14, 2008

Four components of health

We live in what Lindsay Wagner describes as a "make it easy, make it quick and make it something someone else can do for me" society. When we are sick we want a doctor to cure us with minimal disruption to our lifestyle.

But an illness can be used as a warning sign that something in our lives isn't right. My husband doesn't drink coffee and someone once asked him "What do you do when your tired?" He laughed and says he goes to sleep. Strange isn't it, that sleeping when your tired is such an unusual thing!!

We would be wise to take responsibility for our own bodies. According to Charaka, to successfully cure any illness, the patient is one of four essential components. These four pillars of restoring health are:
  • doctor
  • remedy
  • carer
  • patient
The doctor tops the list because an incompetent doctor will stifle all of the best efforts of the remaining three, and even progress the illness further. A doctor must be skilled, experienced and knowledgeable, as well as pure in intention.

The remedy will be appropriate to the illness, the patient and the environment. It will utilise multiple avenues (diet, medicine, panch karma etc), be readily available and excellent quality.

The carer will be pure, kind and compassionate, as well as having a strong understanding of Ayurveda and the skill to put it into practice effectively.

And last, but certainly not least, the patient, who must be courageous and faithful. An ideal patient is able to describe their symptoms accurately, and will follow the doctors instructions precisely.

August 09, 2008

Astringent-Did the fox taste the rabbit?

"And although he told her that for the French the preparation and eating of good food was an expression of a national trait, she discovered that for this too he suffered in vocabulary...It was as though he had travelled only the familiar, his experience of taste truncated by the absence of words to describe it...

Did the fox taste the rabbit, she wondered, having no word for its brawn?"

The Grasshopper Shoe, Carolyn Leach-Paholski
Astringent is the sixth taste. Six tastes? That's right, sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter...and astringent. Kashaya is a word to describe a taste for which we have no direct translation in English. The word astringent, which is traditionally used to describe the tannins in wine, or the a constricting medicine, takes on a broader meaning when used in relation to Ayurveda.

It's a hard taste to describe because it rarely exists alone, but it's most easily described as a sensation. It's a dry, puckering unpleasant tightness in your mouth. Bite into an unripe banana for the closest approximation. Strong black tea also gives a close feeling of astringency, but the most astringent food I know of is a little fruit native to Australia called lilly pilly.

Astringent taste consists of earth and air. It is light, dry and cooling. Astringent is less nutritive and more medicinal. Whilst all dosha's require all tastes, astringent is the most beneficial to Pitta, then Kapha, and only in tiny amounts for Vata, as it aggravates this dosha.

Astringent is the sixth taste, rather than the first because it needs to be consumed in the smallest amounts. In excess it will damage the colon. But it is difficult to overdose on astringent taste from food alone, it is usually the result of improper use of medicinal herbs.

Astringency, as you might imagine from the reaction in your mouth, contracts amd tightens the tissues. It is useful in cases of diarrhea and bleeding as it constricts and binds.

It's easy to get all the astringency you need by just adding a pinch of turmeric to your daily meals.

August 07, 2008

Apple Snacks

I saw something in the supermarket recently which rather upset me. Which is why I tend to shop at the markets instead.

I think it was called "Apple Snacks." It was in the refrigerated vegie section. It was a big plastic bag with a number of individual portioned plastic bags inside it. Each portioned contained simply small cut up wedges of apples.

Now maybe I'm wrong but I always thought apples already came in their own perfect, portion controlled, individual wrappers. Where did the need for all the plastic and refrigeration come from? Is it really that hard to cut up an apple? Is it really that hard to get your kids to eat fruit?

There are so many things wrong with this picture that I won't even begin. I'll just say what is the world coming to?!

August 04, 2008

Happy Birthday!

It's my birthday, a quarter of a century under my belt! But more relevantly it's Ayurwhats first birthday. A year since I started blogging. I want to take a moment to express my appreciation to you, the people who read what I write.

When I first started blogging it was simply a way of focussing my learning, I never expected anyone else to be interested. But it's a real thrill for me to know other people out there share my passion. It really motivates and inspires me. I'm really happy when you comment, ask a question, disagree with me, anything...

I've recently added a subscription button top right, just in case you are interested. Happy Birthday me!

July 27, 2008


This week I'm entering Sunita's Think Spice... event hosted by Aparna at My Diverse Kitchen, where you can read more about nutmeg. You can have a look at my recipe entry here. I also thought I'd write a little about nutmeg from an Ayurvedic point of view.

Nutmeg has three tastes: sweet, astringent and pungent. It's heating post digestive affect imbalances Pitta, but makes it very useful for Vata and Kapha.

It is especially useful for nervine conditions and as a sedative. Nutmeg is an expectorant, aphrodisiac and can expel parasites. It is also a stimulant and carmitive, aiding absorbtion in the colon.

Do not use in cases of high pitta. Only use a pinch or two of nutmeg at a time.

A little nutmeg with warm milk can help lower blood pressure and insomnia. Add some ghee to this drink for excessive Panch Karma and exhaustion. Since nutmeg aids absorbtion in the colon it can be useful for malabsorbtion, food allergies, anorexia or when recovering from diarrhea. Nutmeg with peeled, stewed apple can stop diarrhea, or for babies use a pinch of nutmeg with mashed banana or warm milk.

Neurosis, anxiety and other general Vata nerve disorders will be eased by the addition of nutmeg to the diet. Small amounts of powdered nutmeg can also be applied externally for insomnia, athritis and headaches. Nutmeg is particularly beneficial where Vata disorders are combined with congested Kapha.

Culinary uses
The part of nutmeg we are all familiar with is the fruit of the plant, and not a nut at all. For the best quality and potency use the whole fruit, rather than buying powdered nutmeg. You can grate it fresh yourself on a special nutmeg grater or mill, often made of porcelain. I just use the fine side of my regular metal grater.

Whilst some of us are more familiar with nutmeg in fruit cake or rice pudding, in Italy it is classically paired with ricotta, pasta or vegetables.

I remember in high school some of the naughty girls used to bring nutmeg sandwhiches for lunch, claiming that nutmeg is a drug. It's unlikely any of them ever got "high" though, since it takes more than four teaspoons of nutmeg to experience hallucinations many hours later, and with unpleasant side effects.

Still this spice, like all spices, ought to be treated with respect.

July 25, 2008

Ravioli Nudi

That's right nudi, without clothing. But how does ravioli get to be naked?

This is very traditional Florentine recipe, more than 600 years old. Ravioli Nudi is kind of like the filling of ravioli without the pasta, which means it's a lot simpler to make.

My variation on the theme is without eggs and parmesan, not so traditional, but still very tasty. Although it takes some time it's a very easy recipe, but I suspect it would take many years of practice to perfect the art.

This is my first entry to one of Sunita's Think Spice, Think... events, hosted by Aparna at My Diverse Kitchen. This weeks spice is nutmeg, which instantly makes me think of Italian food, and ricotta, one of my favourite ingredients. I'll post more about nutmeg here.

Before you start
  • I don't believe scales (the bathroom kind or the kitchen kind!) so my measurements are very rough. You'll have to use your intuition and a bit of common sense, but don't worry, I'll talk you through it.
  • The ricotta for this recipe should be really dry. If the ricotta is quite moist drain in a cheesecloth or a fine sieve overnight, and then measure out the 2 cups.
  • The time consuming bit of this recipe is rolling them out, enlist a helper (kids can do this easily) or allow yourself between half and hour or an hour to roll them.
  • Start your water boiling early, it can take a long time. Be ready to serve them as soon as they are cooked, they will start to go hard as they cool.
  • The amount of flour depends on the moisture in the ricotta and spinach, you may need a litle more or a little less. Make your dough as wet as you can handle it it.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)

Around 8 large handfuls of fresh spinach (3 cups cooked and pureed)
2 cups ricotta (roughly 300 grams)
5 cups atta flour
nutmeg to taste
salt to taste (quite a lot to make up for the lack of parmesan, or it will be very bland)


Place your spinach in a big pot and cover with a tight lid. Put on a low heat for a few minutes, stirring every now and then. When it is wilted remove it from the heat. It will lose some water, drain and reserve this liquid.

Put the spinach leaves in a blender and puree (or you can chop it finely by hand). Put into a large mixing bowl with the ricotta and mash it all together. Add nutmeg and healthy dash of salt.

Next add about 4 cups of flour and work it into a dough with your hands. Add half a cup of flour at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. This dough will be sticky, but just dry enough that it holds together, if it is too dry, the ravioli nudi will be hard and dense. If it too wet the ravioli will fall apart when you cook them.

Flour your benchtop and wet your hands. Roll teaspoons of the dough in flour to coat them. You may need to wash your hands a few more times throughout the rolling process as the dough will be very sticky.

Add them one at a time to the boiling water. Once the water comes off the boil don't add any more, wait for that batch to float to the top and stay there (about five minutes) and then remove with a slotted spoon. Then cook the next batch.

Serve hot with olive oil, sage butter, more nutmeg, parmesan or fresh herbs. Don't drown these in sauce, they are good enough to eat alone. These are quite heavy to digest, don't overeat and serve with a side of vegetables.

Vata and Pitta can enjoy this recipe without any problems, but it may be too heavy for Kapha.

But what about the reserved spinach liquid? Save it as stock for soup, dahl or sauce, or just drink it! Don't throw it down the sink, what a waste of nutrients.

July 22, 2008

If it's in a bowl I'll eat it

I'm not a winter person, not by an stretch of the imagination, but one of the few pleasures of a winters day is a big steaming bowl of soup. Serve it with a spoon and I'll love it! My soup of the day is green. There's no recipe strictly speaking, you've just got to feel the love.

Start by roughly chopping your vegies, anything green: celery is a must, zucchini, beans, brocolli, green capsicum, spinach, brussel sprouts, leek...whatever you've got. Plus chop an onion and a potato. Fry spices of your choice in ghee (mine are cumin, ginger and coriander), then before they burn add your onion, followed by all the other vegies. Throw a couple of handfuls of mung beans for oomph and a healthy dash of salt. Cover with water, cover with a lid and simmer till soft. Puree, add more water if needed and serve it piping hot.

The potato makes it's unbelievably creamy, I could eat it every day. In fact I have been, and will until my husband gets bored and intervenes, though I suspect he's quite happy with green soup for awhile.

Vata go for zucchini and spinach
Most variations on this theme will suit Pita
Kapha might enjoy spices with a bit more kick, like some black pepper

July 19, 2008

Subtypes of Pitta

Pitta governs fire and metabolism. Not simply digestion of food, but knowledge, emotion and sensory assimilation too. No sub dosha works alone, for example your eye colour is a result of the combined work of alochaka and ranjaka.

Pachaka Pitta
Pachaka pitta is the function of bile and acid located in the gastrointestinal tract from the stomach to the small intestines. Pachaka regulates the temperature of digestion of food, distinguishing the essence from the waste. Imbalance can lead to poor or irregular digestion, heartburn, ulcers or malabsorbtion.

Ranjaka Pitta
Once pachaka has broken down the food, ranjaka forms it into the tissues, primarily the blood. Toxins, wether a result of polluted food, water and air, or inadequate pachaka function, will especially imbalance ranjaka pitta. Imbalanced ranjaka can lead to blood disorders including anemia, high or low cholesterol or blood pressure, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Alochaka Pitta
Alochaka pitta lives in the eyes, absorbing images and colours. It plays some role in all the senses and our emotional response. Nearly all eye disorders (except cataracts for example) are a result of imbalanced alochaka.

Sadhaka Pitta
Sadhaka is located throughout the nervous system, especially the brain and heart. It processes ideas and experiences and governs expression, ambition, intelligence and self esteem. Imbalanced sadhaka may cause heart attack, delusions, confusion or a lack of appreciation and will.

Bhrajaka Pitta
Bhrajaka pitta lives just under the skin, governing it's complexion, temperature and lustre. It processes sensations of touch, temperature and pain. Bhrajaka transforms loving touch into healing and absorbs anything on the skin including sunlight, oils or pollution. Imbalanced bhrajaka may cause seasonal affective disorder, acne, eczema, psoriasis and all sorts of skin disorders.

Find out about the sub types of Vata here.

July 17, 2008

How happiness works

I am fortunate to have spent the last week in London with my Guru, Shivarudra Balayogi. Having just begun my own collection of stories on this blog I have discovered he has just released a DVD in which he narrates the stories he learned from his Guru. I love stories and learn much better this way than through scriptures or lectures so I am very happy.

One of the many stories he told to us in London was about happiness, a simple story which he heard as a child. He said when God created the world (metaphorically speaking!) God gave happiness into everyones hand. He said "This happiness will only work when you give it to someone else." Everyone gave their happiness to each other and the world was peaceful and harmonious until one day one person decided to keep his happiness for himself. Then the happiness stopped working.

A variation on the story of Pandora's box. I tend to think great truths appear across all religions and cultures and communities, just couched in different language. The truth is that serving others is the only way to happiness.

July 15, 2008

Restaurants for vegetarians

Whenever I eat in restaurants I spend most of my time tasting all the flavours and planning how I can replicate it at home, or worse analysing the meal and how I would cook it differently. It's a habit that I got from my father, and whilst I may not be the funnest person to eat out with it makes me better cook, saves me a lot of money and means when I do taste good food I can truly appreciate it. If I have to eat out I dream of going to a restaurant where the flavours are so subtle, so complex, so delicious that I can't work out how to cook it myself and wouldn't want to change a thing.

I've been toying with the idea of going to somewhere a bit classy, but classy restaurants serve meat, and vego restaurants aren't classy. Don't get me wrong, there are some fabulous vegetarian restaurants, but they tend to be of the lunch bar or cafe genre, with hearty cheap meals like vegie burgers, big plates of noodles or curry and rice. And why do they always smother everything with garlic? I've been lamenting the lack of posh nosh for vegetarians.

Then I came across this article which echoes my sentiments exactly. It gives some food for thought and some ideas of where to begin my gastronomic vegetarian adventures.

July 12, 2008

A story about praying

I will retell this story word for word because I can, since it was written rather than verbal. It comes from Elizabeth Gilberts book "Eat, Pray, Love".
"There's a wonderful old Italian joke about a poor man who goes to church every day and prays before the statue of a great saint, begging "Dear saint-please, please, please...give me the grace to win the lottery." This lament goes on for months. Finally the exasperated statue comes to life, looks down at the begging man and says in weary disgust, "My son-please, please, a ticket"."
The moral of the story, prayer is very powerful, but you have to hold up your end of the bargain!

July 10, 2008


We spent a few months in Cambodia living with my brother-in-law. We thought we had an arrangement with the coconut seller to bring his wares past our place every three days, but in truth he came whenever he felt like it, sometimes daily, then not for a week! And for all my months of effort, I could never pronounce the Khmer word for coconut "dong", even when I was pointing at one they still couldn't work out what I was asking for!

I was extremely thin at the time, and attribute most of my healthy and much-needed weight gain to drinking coconut water daily.

Qualities of coconut

Coconut is cool, oily and sweet, it is very high in water (and more nutritious than water itself!) This water is in a very pure form, having been distilled through the root system of the tree, and is full of prana. Coconut is a very nourishing and life supporting food, and in Cambodia they talk of a man who lived for a year on coconut water alone. Coconut is sattvic. Best for Pitta and very good for Vata when care is taken to strengthen agni simultaneously.

Coconut flesh, or meat, is hard and heavy, a bit more difficult to digest than the water. The older the coconut, the rougher the flesh.

Coconut water is what spills out when you crack open a coconut, it's transparent, not milky. Only drink the water from fresh young green coconuts, by the time they are brown the water is no good. Coconut water is liquid and smooth. Drink it at room temperature, not too cold, and be careful not to overdose. It may extinguish agni altogether.

Coconut milk is what you get when you soak or boil the grated flesh in water, and then strain it, kind of like making tea. You can make it with dessicated, but fresh is best of course. Canned coconut milk is of a dubious nature, but I love it and use it anyway!

Coconut oil is used in Ayurveda mostly externally, though it is good for cooking too. Oil applied to the head eases anxiety, insomnia and hair loss. It also helps with Pitta relieving thirst, rashes, burns and burning sensations.

Dessicated coconut is what most of us outside the tropical world have to settle for. The grated dried flesh is rough and should be taken it in smaller amounts or it will be heavy to digest. Drying food is a preferable way of preserving to freezing or canning.
It can be soaked prior to use.

July 07, 2008

Long Pepper

I've been toying for awhile about whether or not to write this post. You see, long pepper is a wonderful spice, as a flavour and as a medicine, but it's awfully hard to find. I don't want to tempt you if you'll never be able to buy it anywhere. I'm yet to find a stockist online, but recently found a shop in Melbourne (Peter Watson, Fitzroy) which stocks it amongst their small but incredible spice range.

Long pepper, pipalli in Sanskrit, was once a common culinary spice, though it was often confused for other species of pepper. Before the introduction of chilli to Europe long pepper was the spiciest spice out. It is sweeter and hotter than black pepper. If you give it a bash in your mortar and pestle you will see it is made up of lots of tiny round black fruits.

You may recognise long pepper from the sickly sweet smell it gives to chyawanprash. (Don't be decieved by the smell though because it packs quite a punch!) It is also one of the three ingredients of Trikatu, alongside black pepper and ginger powder, a combination which is many times more heating than the sum of it's parts.

Long pepper is a powerful medicine for Kapha. It's firey nature make it excellent for burning ama, but over use can be very reducing. It is too volatile and potent for Vata in large amounts, and too hot for Pitta. Long pepper is an aphrodisiac, digestive, emetic and carmitive. It is used for the Kapha version of many ills including depression, asthma and cancer, due to it's highly stimulating nature.

In the kitchen you can try adding it to chai, in very small amounts, or you may find it in the Morrocan spice mix ras el hanout. If you are lucky enough to have a supplier and are feeling quite extravagant try this long pepper and chocolate pudding.

July 03, 2008

Why cook for your own wedding?

So this is a little belated (5 months!) but my brother in law just announced his wedding date in Cambodia, so wedding fever begins again!

I just thought I would share with you our wedding menu, nearly entirely cooked by family and friends on the morning of the wedding. I'm still impressed by them all, especially considering we had nearly 200 guests.

  • Samosa and murukku (made by a friend)
Mains (served on banana leaves):
  • Mung dahl (what else?) with potatoes (made by the groom)
  • Green bean thoren (made by a friend)
  • Gajar Subji (made by me)
  • Basmati rice (made by many rice cookers borrowed from friends and nieghbours)
  • Pappadums (fried by the grooms oldest mates)
All the food worked very well, we had a minor disaster with the rice cookers (never trust a machine!) but I didn't even find out about that till afterwards.

Cooking for our own wedding was a part of the big day which I would never forego. Having all the woman over at my house grating carrots and peeling potatoes was a great sadhana, and gave the wedding such a timeless, community feel. Sigh, it makes me happy just to think of it.

July 01, 2008

The second step

I heard a proverb in India: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans". And chances are, even if you had every intention of taking The First Step last month, life has probably gotten in the way. But don't give up, just soldier on, because that's what life is about. If you are ready for The Second Step to living an Ayurvedic lifestyle, here's it is, just another two simple things...

1. Warm Up
Everything you put in your body should be body temperature or above. Don't take food or drinks straight from the fridge. Don't eat raw food, not even salad, except for fruit, which still shouldn't be fridgy. Though Pitta can tolerate raw foods well when detoxing. Drink your water at body temperature or, better still, warm. This is because cold food interupts agni, the digestive fire.

2. Simplify
Many Ayurvedic doctors and authors don't even follow the food combination rules, so I'm not asking you to. I am suggesting that if you simplify your food choices your digestion will thank you. Just eat one source of protein, one of carbohydrates and a couple of vegetables per meal. Wait a few hours before eating again, and give your body a long break from food overnight. You can make up for variety by adding spices to your life. I heard a proverb in India: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans". And chances are, even if you had every intention of taking The First Step last month, life has probably gotten in the way. But don't give up, just soldier on, because that's what life is about. If you are ready for The Second Step to living an Ayurvedic lifestyle, here's it is, just another two simple things...

June 28, 2008


I have always loved cloves, but became even more enchanted by them when I learned they are actually tiny dried flower buds! These blue flowers originated in the Spice Islands and have been popular around the world in Europe, Asia and the Middle East for at least a couple of thousand years. The expensive little flowers have been used in everything from cigarettes to incence to sterilising surgical tools.

Ayurvedically speaking they are hot, oily and light, stoking the fire in your body. It follows then that they raise Pitta and lower Kapha and Vata. They speed things up, working on the digestion, circulation and metabolism.

Cloves are a natural painkiller and renowned for managing toothache. Hold a whole clove in your mouth against the offending tooth and it will be numbed. This will also help cover bad breath. For indigestion the essential oil can diluted and used topically, or a tea can be made from the spice. Cloves induce sweating and are used to break fevers and relieve sore and tense muscles like deep heat. Cloves are also antibacterial, antiseptic and sedative.

Cloves smell wonderful too. You can throw some cloves and orange peel on the fire or on top of the heater or oven in winter to fight off the cold. 

Cloves are commonly used in cooking. Boil one clove with your tea or coffee, or fry them in ghee before making dahl. Whole cloves are best cooked in dishes for a while to soften them, and can then be eaten whole. If you want to use cloves for a short cooking time grind them first.

But be warned; cloves are very powerful so treat them with respect. Clove oil should not be applied neat on the skin or in cases of rash, sensitive or broken skin. Cloves taste very strong and can damage the kidneys in excess. Avoid cloves in cases of hot pitta conditions.

June 25, 2008

Subtypes of vata

Vata governs movement and air. Each subtype has a seat, or physical location in the body, and is responsible for certain physiological functions. But it's not quite as simple as that, because each dosha and subdosha has emotional, spiritual and psychological role to play, and they do not strictly fit within our ideas of physical limitations. They all interact and many functions are the result of a few sub dosha working together. If one is imbalanced, others will soon follow.

Vata Prana
Prana is the primary seat of Vata and indeed of all life. It means something like air, energy or life force. It is located between the bellybutton and the crown of the head moving downwards. Prana is internal and reflective, it receives and absorbs information, energy and substance. Prana governs inhalation, thought, learning, swallowing and creativity. Imbalanced prana may cause insomnia, anxiety or shortness of breath.

Vata Udana
Udana moves from the bellybutton up, governing expression. Udana governs change and transformation, giving us will power and the ability grow. Udana is responsible for speaking, burping, sneezing, and hiccoughs. Imbalanced Udana may cause tiredness, earache or a sore throat.

Vata Apana
Apana moves from the bellybutton downwards governing expulsion. Apana expels waste in the form of faeces and urine, but also pushes reproductive movement including semen and is responsible for child birth. It can also expel thoughts and emotions which are are negative or no longer useful. Imbalanced Apana can cause constipation or diarrhea, lower back pain or mentrual problems.

Vata Samana
Samana moves in a clockwise direction towards the bellybutton. It pushes food through the GI tract. Samana aids digestion of all substances including assimilation of thoughts or experiences, absorbing air in the lungs and all sensory intake. Imbalanced Samana may cause variable digestion, cramps and malnutrition or allergies.

Vata Vyana
Vyana moves clockwise away from the bellybutton. Vyana circulates blood, energy, warmth and information around the body. It moves other subdosha around the body to help them do their jobs. Vyana governs the rhythm of the heart and perspiration. Imbalanced Vyana may cause dry skin, dizziness, nervousness, pins and needles or intolerance to heat and cold.

Find out about the subtypes of Pitta here.

June 22, 2008

Oiling the nose and ears

Every morning I end my cleaning routine by dipping my little finger in some sesame oil and gently rubbing it inside my nostrils and ears. I love it, but D hates it and skips this part of the routine. So try it and see what you think.

This practice balances and calms the mind and brings peace and clarity to the senses. It is very soothing and can help in cases of anxiety. This daily routine is esecially useful for counteracting the effects of air conditioning, travel, exposure to germs and dehydration. Oiling the nose stimulates hair growth and discourages premature grey hairs. The oil also acts as a safegaurd, adding an extra layer of protection from germs, dust and bacteria.

Warm oil is best and sesame suits all doshas, unless Pitta is especially angry in which case use coconut oil. Oil can be applied regularly throughout plane trips or whilst travelling in less sanitised places. Make sure your nails are not long, and do not to pull hairs from the nose, this will damage the eyes. You'll know if you do because your eyes will start watering!

June 17, 2008

A story about meditation

As always, when repeating the stories of a Yogi, I am bound to do it clumsily. Baba tells this story and it reminds me not to make life too hard for myself, and to keep my meditation intention pure.

There is a man who meditates for many years and God appears before him to grant him a boon. The man asks to walk on water. God tells him he will have to meditate for another few years. The man does so and God returns again, this time instructing the man that if he really wants to be able to walk on water he will have to meditate another few years more, and this time on his head. The man continues to meditate, this time on his head for many years, and finally God returns to grant him his boon.

Later on the man is showing off that he can walk on water. A passerby sees him and asks him how can do this. The man tells his long story expecting the passerby to be very impressed. Instead the passerby laughs at him and says, "There is a boatman just there, if you pay him 2 rupees he will take you across the water!"

June 13, 2008

Cleaning the tongue

The mouth is the most important of all the gateways to the body, and should be the first part of your body you tend to every morning. Whilst in Australia we usually brush our teeth after breakfast, Ayurveda encourages us to clean our mouths before eating. This allows our body to taste food properly, without being clouded by ama (toxins, undigested food).

But more important in liberating the taste buds is cleansing the tongue. This is the organ of taste, and one of the indicaters of the state of our digestion. The gunk on your tongue comes from the inside, deep within the digestive system. The colour, thickness and location of this coating can tell a trained eye a lot about what you've been eating, and more importantly, what you've been digesting.

Scraping this gunk off your tongue from the outside helps clear the channels in order to evacuate more ama, and even helps us breathe more deeply and fully. It also helps prevent smelly breath. A clean tongue can really taste food so your body can tell what to eat, what not to eat, and when you've eaten enough. It is so simple and so effective that we should all be cleaning our tongues every day. Once you start you won't believe you ever felt clean without a clean tongue.

This is another example of how we are finally catching up with Ayurveda, as these days we are able to buy toothbrushes with grooves on the back for scraping the tongue. This is good because it makes it easy to remember to clean the tongue every time we brush our teeth. But traditionally wealthy Kapha and Vata used gold or copper toungue cleaners and Pitta used silver. Stainless steel or bamboo are a more affordable option and can be used by any dosha. You can even use a stainless steel spoon if you just want to try it out.

Upon waking, immediately after brushing the teeth scrape your tongue from back to front four or five times, rinsing and spitting. Don't swallow. Rinse your mouth with cool water.

June 10, 2008

A story about marriage

Amma told this story on her recent visit to Melbourne. It always feels like she's talking directly to me, even though there are hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people in the room. This was no exception, since I was freshly married. I can't promise to tell it with Amma's wit, charm and wisdom, but the story goes a little something like this...

A woodcutter was cutting wood by the stream one day when he dropped his axe in the water. He fell to his knees crying, without his axe he feared that he and his family would starve. He prayed and prayed and an angel appeared before him. She pulled a golden axe out of the stream and said to the man, "Is this your axe?"
"No," he replied.
The Angel pulled another axe out of the water, this second axe was bronze, "Is this your axe?" She asked.
"No," he replied
Finally the Angel pulled a beaten-up, old, wooden axe out of the water, "Is this one your axe?"
"Yes, yes!" The woodcutter replied.

The Angel gave the old axe to the woodcutter. She commended him on his honesty and rewarded him by giving him the gold axe and bronze axe too.

A few days later he returned to the stream with his wife. She slipped and fell in the water. Again the man fell to his knees crying, he prayed and prayed, and again the Angel appeared before him. She pulled Miss Universe out of the stream and said to the woodcutter, "Is this you wife?"
"YES!" He replied.
The Angel was surprised at this response, what had happened to this honest man? She asked the man "Why are you lying this time?"
The man explained that he was simply afraid that if he told the truth, the Angel would then pull Miss Australia out the stream, and finally his wife, and give him all three women.

He said "It is hard enough with just one woman in my life!"

June 07, 2008

Carrots and fennel

This is one of my favourite throw-it-together side dishes. It can turn rice and dahl into a slightly more impressive meal for guests. I made it for our wedding, something lighter for those who don't appreciate oily, spicy food.

To make it more impressive again I made up a fancy name. In Hindi "gajar" just means carrot, and "subji" means vegetable (but is used for cooked vegetable dishes too.) It's not really a traditional Indian dish, just something I made up from the contents of my fridge one day and have been making ever since. I usually try and convince D to grate the carrots!

Gajar Subji

1 Tbsp ghee

3 tsp fennel seeds
2 carrots (grated)

Warm ghee in a wok and fry fennel seeds for a few seconds. Add grated carrots and stir till coated. Add just a tablespoon or two of water and reduce heat. Cover with a tight lid. Stir every five minutes and add just enough water to stop it from sticking. Take off the heat when tender.

Serves four as a side dish. This should suit all dosha's relatively well, but maybe add a bit of ginger and less ghee for Kapha.

June 05, 2008

Goshiki-five colours

I find Japanese food very inspiring. I visited Japan on school exchange when I was 15 and spent more money than I'd ever spent on one meal on a bento box, a totally enchanting lunch. I came home from Japan with a number of bento boxes in which to pack my own lunch and was inspired to take my own lunch for school again. I'd recently become to cool to want to eat brown bread sandwiches in public!

One of the Japanese principles is goshiki, five colours, though there seems to be some discussion over exactly what those five colours are. Some combination of:
  • black
  • white
  • brown
  • red/orange
  • blue/purple
  • green
  • yellow
I know that's seven colours, and I could go on, but I won't because I don't really think that's the point. What I love is bringing an awareness to our food. Eating more colours tends to mean eating more vegies, and by pleasing the eye the food is more satisfying on every level.

So if your ever stuck on what to take for lunch, start with something and work through the colours till you have a whole rainbow in your lunch box!

June 03, 2008


It's winter proper here in Melbourne. The fog has barely lifted by lunchtime and I have the worst cold I've had in years. I don't often get colds because I don't have much Kapha in me.

Colds with congestion are caused by excess water and earth in the body; by exposure to cold weather, changes in the weather, and cooling, heavy or excessive food. It makes complete sense that I have a cold, since it's just turned cold here and I ate gnocchi with creamy sauce for dinner the other night! My agni has all but been extinguished!
  • Mild sweating should be encouraged, dress well, sleep with a heavy blanket, use a hot water bottle or take hot bath.
  • Put a few drops each of eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil and lavender oil in hot water and inhale the vapours, or just let them fill the room.
  • If you are prone to colds take chyawanprash daily to strengthen your immune system.
  • Hot drinks like ginger and honey (don't over heat the honey!) can be sipped all day long.
  • If you feel comfortable bend over and touch your toes, this will bring the energy to your head and clear your sinuses (don't do this on a full stomach or if you feel dizzy)
Spices and spice teas (especially basil, bay leaves, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, long pepper, tumeric and ginger), steamed vegetables, mung dahl, honey.

Dairy (especially cheese and yoghurt), cold foods, cold weather, meat, wheat, sweet fruits, fats, cakes and pastries, sweets in general, sleeping during the day, overeating.

June 02, 2008

Taking life one step at a time

Many of my friends look at my lifestyle and think it would be impossible for them to live Ayurvedically. Certainly if you made the leap all at once it is far too daunting, but it's taken me years to cultivate these habits, diet and routines. Just take it one step at a time.

If you are interested in transitioning to a more Ayurvedic lifestyle start with two simple things:

1.Early to bed, early to rise
The Vedas explain that getting out of bed early is the single most important factor for longevity. Just make the change gradually, get up fifteen minutes earlier each week. Aim to get up just before sunrise, or even earlier if you are comfortable, but take your time making the change.

2. Eat your food
Just eat what you normally eat, don't worry about making any drastic changes to your diet yet, or working out what dosha you are. Simply give your food some attention. Take three meals a day at regular times, sit down, look at it, taste it, enjoy it. Don't eat at your desk or in the car or whilst walking down the street. You can eat a packet of Tim Tams if you really want to, but don't do it by accident whilst your watching TV, savour every mouthful.

Just try it for a month and then I'll post the next step. If you miss a day, or forget, or fall out of routine, don't pack it in, just try again the next day. Life never goes to plan, but just keep trying!

May 30, 2008


All illness, be it physical or mental, is attributed by Ayurveda to "pragyaparadh".

Babaji says the "the mind exists only when it imagines". Unfortunatly it is this mind, this ego, that causes all our suffering. For the ego to exist it must imagine itself to seperate and distinct from the Divine. So when we humans imagine oursleves different from one another, from animals, from nature, from anything, it follows that we become ill.

Pragyaparadh is a trick of the mind, a mistake of the intellect, the foolish thought that we are seperate. This trick, and illness, can be as a result of a lack of intellect (not knowing any better), the choice to ignore what we know (like smoking even when we know it's bad for us) or simply memory loss.

Let us remember this when our human intellect interferes with nature too much, for example by genetically modifying food, or using chemical fertilisers or growing vegetables in an unsuitable climate. We would not be wise to presume that we know better than nature, better than God. It makes sense then, that we are not very healthy.