Yoga is for everyone!
This is just what works for me. I am putting it here because many people ask me about my personal regimen, how I keep slim, strong, and healthy. I am a Vata 60% and Pitta 35% constitution (see my blog entry on Pitta with a Vata Imbalance for a short introduction to Ayurveda).
The regimen below in my view is Vata-pacifying, and would be good for someone who often gets their Vata aggravated. I also happen to have a lot of Pitta, and the diet below is a bit Pitta aggravating, and to be honest I find it difficult to find foods and activities that are both Vata and Pitta pacifying. If anyone has any suggestions, I welcome them.
Before breakfast, upon waking, drink a tall glass of warm
water, then swallow two gel capsules of Flax seed oil. I never drink iced water - it is bad for digestion. It kills your digestive fire, so only room temperature water for me.
Drink some tea. Usually I am not hungry until I have my water, tea, and oil. One should have a bowel movement every day, preferably in the morning, and even better 30 minutes after every meal, so if you do not, then there is a problem - toxic waste builds up in the colon causing gas, bloating, and abdominal fat.
Dill seed tea has been the latest addition to my regimen, and I love it! It is Ayurvedic solution for Vata aggravation number one, and I do believe it works for me - no gas, less anxiety. Just pour some hot water over two spoonfulls of dill seed, let steep, and drink four tablespoons four times a day.
Breakfast: half of a whole wheat bagel with goat cheese or cottage
cheese, and if I am not going to have a second breakfast due to schedule, an
egg. I know that even better would be to have a bowl of oatmeal, but I have childhood trauma related to oatmeal, and can't stand the stuff. Too bad, it is really good for you...
After breakfast – my own Yoga practice.
11:30 am – second breakfast, if I am not teaching that day and have time. A whole wheat waffle with cottage cheese and an egg. On days when I don’t have to go anywhere in the morning, I have two small breakfasts.
1pm – lunch. I make a big pot of soup that lasts me three-four days. Into the soup just before eating I add fresh raw unfiltered oil, such as flax oil or coconut oil. Serve with a slice of whole wheat bread.
Here is a classic recipe:
Pan-fry in some virgin olive oil or ghee onion, leeks, carrots, celery, one small potato finely
diced. When softened, add grated celery
root or beats(or both), Swiss chard, spinach, or some other leafy green or
shredded cabbage. Let soften in the
pan. You can add a ladelful of broth if it begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile bring a pot of water to
boil. If I have a chicken carcass from
the night before, I make chicken broth by boiling the carcass. Take the carcass, if using, out, and dissolve
one package of condensed cream of celery soup (organic, sold at Whole Foods and
other stores), cream of chicken soup or cream of mushroom. Then add the pan-fried
vegetables. Optional: throw in some
barley or small whole-wheat pasta into the soup. Boil gently for 15-20 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before eating. This soup can be made with different
ingredients, like mushrooms, green beans, squash, whatever you have. Makes many bowls of soup to reheat for lunch. Serve with a tablespoon or two of raw, unprocessed oil such as flax or coconut.
Sometimes for lunch I have a sandwich with pesto, turkey, avocado, or
tuna salad. I make my own lunch meat by roasting a turkey breast and then slicing it for sandwiches. So tasty and much better than nitrate-infused stuff sold in stores.
4pm – decaf tea and a square of dark chocolate. Maybe another short Yoga practice, time permitting, to relax if it has been a busy day with some pranayama, or something a bit more if for some reason I didn't do my morning practice.
I am usually very active throughout the day, teaching Yoga, running errands, gardening, walking the dog, seeing my yoga clients, doing all my house cleaning - I believe that scrubbing a shower stall can be wonderful exercise and embrace it as such.
6pm – dinner. Usually it is baked or grilled fish simply seasoned. A bit of lime juice also is great. Salmon, rockfish, flounder, red snapper, mackerel, tuna, pompano, sea bass, halibut – whatever is freshest at the store. I almost never buy farm-raised fish – only wild caught and sustainable. Do not eat catfish! They feed on waste and refuse. Limit your consumption of shrimp and molluscs for those same reasons, but every now and then I love shellfish. Maybe once every couple of months. Once or two times a week I will make chicken (free range organic) or turkey. Once a month I make lamb when I am on my period to keep my iron levels good. I do not eat beef or pork. Don't like the taste, do not approve of the impact on the environment.
I applaud the vegetarian choice, and if I could, I would. I tried to be a vegetarian for ten years before I realized that I was not getting enough protein and nutrition (when I became so thin that it was scary). I don't like beans and tofu, or soy products, and if you are going to be a vegetarian, you better make sure you know how to get enough nutrition. Those veggie burger and tofurky products have way too many ingredients for me to call them food. So I now eat fish and poultry. I feel much better and maintain a healthy weight on.
I eat a bucket of broccoli and French green beans
(haricot vert) every day. My husband makes excellent ranch dressing with kefir, mayo, lime juice, garlic powder, a little sugar. Love, love, love. Cook no more than 4 minutes in boiling water, and then give them a rinse with cold water so they don't overcook, and they come out perfect every time. Or steam. Sometimes I make Swiss chard or kale, brussels sprouts or spinach, which I grow myself in the summer, or make
a salad. Make sure you are consuming your veggies with oil - the nutrients in them are fat soluble.
For side, I can have brown rice, gluten-free pasta, sweet potato, boiled yellow/red potato (usually one small one), butternut squash, asparagus, zucchini or yellow squash (wonderful grilled), quinoa, buckwheat, lentils, gnocci, polenta. Cauliflower is vata-aggravating, but I make it less so with a sprinkling of warming spices: equal parts of cayenne powder, curry powder, and turmeric, with a little salt. This spice mixture is great on eggplant baked in the toaster oven. Generally all veggies need to be cooked for easier digestion. This brings me to some issues I have with diets in general.
Raw foods diet is not suitable for Vata and will cause gas, anxiety, insomnia, and emaciation. It works temporarily for people who are very toxed, have a lot of body fat, etc. But nutritionally I don't see a reason to make it into a lifestyle - cooking food has been humanity's solution for hundreds of thousands of years, and instead I would revise the diet in terms of eliminating processed foods, sugar, wheat, hydrogenated fat, etc. Sustainable long-term changes work much better. Make sure you are getting enough nutrition.
A note on gluten-free: many people I know have gone gluten-free and have reported a marked improvement in well-being! I have tried the gluten-free diet but felt little difference, probably because I eat little gluten anyway. I do notice my belly pooches out when I eat white fluffy bread, so, there might be something to this. I have my bagel and my sandwich (with the fluffy white part diligently scooped out) now and then. However, I did go ahead and reduce the amount of wheat products in my diet further by replacing all whole wheat pasta with brown rice and quinoa pasta. It tastes great, my kids love it too!
Alkaline diet: There is no scientific basis for this whatsoever. The acids in your stomach keep the food a constant acidity level, no matter what you eat. What makes your body less acidic and more alkaline? Breathing. Lengthening the exhale and cultivating a pause after the exhale will balance the ph balance of your gut better than anything else.
I usually do not have dessert, or not much, as I am full after
dinner. Occasionally I will have a
cookie (my husband bakes great cookies), or a spoonful of homemade gelato (my hubby also makes that!), or some
fruit. I need to eat more fruit, like
grapes or berries. Sometimes if the
dinner felt a bit light, I will have some cheese for dessert, and that is my
favorite dessert – cheese! Again, a
little bit, not too much. Sometimes a glass of wine with dinner.
If I stay up later than 10pm, I often have a snack before
bed – some yoghurt, kefir, or cottage cheese. I believe in full fat dairy products!
The above menu gives me about 2000 calories, give
or take. My portions are moderate. Generally, whatever fits into two palms held together - make a bowl with your hands and see how much you can fit in it - that's your serving size. I never eat until I am stuffed. Well... almost never:)
Your first cleanse should take anywhere from 3 months to 6
months to a year. Take Triphala capsules 1000 mg every day with lots of warm water (start with one and then take two), and with every meal take flax oil
capsules or pour oil on your food. Once a month or every two months give yourself an
enema (yes!!!) of warm water and sesame seed oil (Aura Cacia brand sold at Whole Foods) for three-four days. This cleanse is very gentle and therefore takes a long time.
Then after several months of the “Big Cleanse”, do a light cleanse once a month for a week – Triphala, Flax oil in food, oil massage, enema one day, and light diet. For women, it is good to do this during or right after period, when the body is naturally focused on elimination. Give yourself daily oil massage using sesame oil in downward strokes, to detoxify your liver. In spring it is good to take vitamin B complex and drink smoothies made with a little fruit and a lot of dark, leafy greens, or using Amazing Grass green powder.
Then after a while, twice a year for three weeks is probably enough. March and September are best. Since I eat a well-balanced diet (in my humble opinion), I don't need to make any drastic changes while I am on the cleanse, except that I would eliminate alcohol, gluten, and maybe even meat for a few days, and increase the intake of oil.
At some point I went and replaced all my teflon pots and pans with stainless steel and cast iron. My rice/slow cooker is natural unglazed clay. I grow some of my own vegetables. Carrots are so easy to grow! Cabbage grows well here, Swiss Chard is a delight well into the first snow. I have my own strawberries, raspberries, and herbs. Pesto is a staple in our kitchen, and we make enough to freeze and use in winter.
And most importantly, get plenty of sleep, do Yoga, go on long walks, floss after every meal and think happy thoughts!
Here are links to my video blogs about health on the inside and outside:
What are some of your recipes for healthy life?
Mmmmm. We should share soup recipes :) we have similar tastes there!
Yes! Let's share some tried and true, I am always looking for new delicious soup recipes.
I didn't understand about the morning Yoga practice. Right after breakfast? Or you wait an hour or so?
Since my breakfast is usually light, I can do a practice 30 min after eating, but I usually do wait longer if I have time, an hour, like you say. For my own Yoga practice, I usually don't do anything rigorous anyway. I get plenty of that teaching every day.