Asafetida – the spice of the season

asafetidaThe latin name for Asafetida, or hing in Sanskrit, is Ferula fetida. “Fetida” implies smell. Indeed, the powdered spice is very pungent and almost rotten in smell and can be felt from a distance. It is like someone had passed gas. Ironically, this herb actually relieves gas. It is our spice of choice for the seasons of autumn and winter because during these times we tend to create more gas in our bodies.

Ayurvedically, gas is related to the bodily humour of vata. Vata dosha is made of ether and air. These elements give vata its behavioural patterns. Vata creates space and fills it with air. This might be going on just now in your own digestive tract causing discomfort of some degree, especially if you are a vata type, in other words, if your body type is “airy”, light and delicate. I am referring to now because, at this moment, we have moved into vata season. That means that vata energy is dominant in the nature. Nature makes us feel light and airy. Even the sturdiest and most grounded people might be feeling the effects. Problems like light sleep, irregular digestion and joint pains are very common.

When vata energy goes out of balance it starts easily creating upward movement in the body. Air can get trapped in the gut and create bloating. Anxiety is another good example. The sensation is like something was pushing from below, forcing the breath to move to the upper parts of the lungs and become faster and shallower.

Asafetida is a fabulous spice to counteract the upward moving vata. It has an amazing capacity to restore the correct movement, improve the intestinal transit and help elimination. This herb is a wonderful aid for vata kind of constipation (due to dryness) and by suppressing vata it can relieve all kind of symptoms of vata like pain and other nerve related problems.

As mentioned above, the herb is very strong. It is to be used with care. You can use it in your food: a pinch is enough. In fact, it is highly recommended to be used with beans and lentils. Pulses are astringent in quality and can easily cause gas. Asafetida helps to digest them better and this way they become safe to take, even in autumn and winter.

In India, and also outside, hing is often used by those who avoid onion and garlic in their foods as they are too rajasic, or too stimulating for the mind. Hing gives the food that pungency it might miss without those vegetables. Those who want to go on a sattvic diet might want to introduce this spice in their everyday kitchen. I, personally, use hing together with onion and garlic because I can’t really think a life without them.

I have just prepared a new batch of hinguashtaka powder, a mixture of eight herbs with asafetida. If you have problems with digestion and elimination you can order some from me. It tastes disgusting but it works wonders.

Less pain, more gain

No Pain, No GainNo pain no gain. I think Jane Fonda should be put on trial for saying this. Although, I remember reading, she herself has come to agree that it wasn’t a very wise thing to say.

We are extremely fixated by this statement. It is defined even in Wikipedia:

“…an exercise motto that promises greater value rewards for the price of hard and even painful work. Under this conception competitive professionals such as athletes and artists are required to endure pain and pressure to achieve professional excellence.”

Because of this mindset I find it sometimes very challenging in my work to get the message of loving kindness towards our bodies and minds through. Many of us are so conditioned by this line of thinking that the equation of “less is more” sounds ridiculous to them.

Deepak Chopra, for example, is one of the most known proponents of the principle of less effort. More and more people are getting the gist but there is lots of work to do.

Let me put to you the essential facts that are wrong with the above-mentioned motto. Pain is stress. In stress there is hardly no gain. Or, you have to work much, much more if you have pain.

We do, nevertheless, need some stress because it helps us to perform better. The burst of moderate amounts of stress hormones provides us with more energy and can enhance brain functions like memory, momentarily. If stress is at a too high a level or lasts for too long a time the negative effects set in.

So there is good stress and good pain. But how to distinguish between the good and the bad?

Firstly you need to check your thoughts. If you are taken over by negative mindset during a performance you are under some kind of stress. Some seemingly stressful situations can be overcome without problems if your mindset is clear and you feel positive.

I am talking about our intention. When we set up on a challenging task with a clear idea of our motivations the unpleasant things along the way can be overcome with ease. Once we are inspired by what we do and set our intention to achieve something good the hurdles along the way won’t require that much effort to jump over.

Secondly, and this is a very handy thing to remember, is to check your breathing. The way to see if your pain or stress is bad is when your breathing changes towards more laborious one: faster and shallower. Under stress, also, you often start breathing through your mouth. This is especially important to notice during exercise. A safe way to exercise is when breathing flows comfortably through the nose. When we start gasping air through the mouth we are lacking in oxygen and that is a state of stress.

Often in a yoga class you can see people huffing and puffing to get that posture right. It is not right. It is probably painful and uncomfortable. During yoga practice the breath should flow slowly and easily. The postures should be steady and comfortable. If you huff and puff you are not doing yoga, but creating more stress. Some pain in a yoga posture can be pleasant. The stretching of muscles and joints is a liberating feeling. But you have to remember to stop when your breathing changes.

Pain and stress are physical, mental or emotional. Whatever the type, it is still stress. The more pain the more stress. When you go over the threshold of comfort and lose your motivation it is time to stop and change activity or tactics.

When we are relaxed, positive and have the right kind of intention the things at hand become easy to perform. We make better judgements on what is right and wrong, we are more productive and communicate better. If we try to push through with effort and pain everything becomes difficult and nerve-wracking.

The thresholds of pain are individual. You need to work out on a good mental and physical stamina so that you can withstand pains and stresses of life. A mind with clear intentions in a healthy, resilient body with strong resistance and immunity is what we aim for in Ayurveda. It is what nature wants us to be.

Everything is relative. The experience of pain is subjective so it is impossible to measure what is generally an acceptable level of stress or pain. You can only understand it yourself. Take it for granted that if you are not positive about what you are doing and if your breathing changes whilst you perform activities, you are in the bad area of pain. And, there is not much to be gained there.

Five things to remember when doing a detox

detoxFive things to remember when doing a detox

  1. Check out your mindset
    • Before you go on a detox you should understand clearly your motivation. For example, if you are doing a detox with weight loss in mind, because you feel criticized, you are very likely to fail because the reason for your detox comes from the outside. Make sure you are 100% committed to your detox for reasons of better health and clarity of mind. Never go on a detox under pressure
  2. Choose detox according to your needs
    • Everyone is an individual and the kind of detox to go on is to be chosen accordingly. The first thing to understand is whether fasting is needed. Certain body types should not fast, even when detoxing. It is perfectly possible without depriving oneself of food. For example, maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper detox is a very harsh fasting detox and should not be taken on by people with strong, fast or erratic digestive systems and especially not in autumn and winter. Seasons are also to be taken into account.  Juicing is ok in summer but not in winter. When you start your detox is of great importance
  3. Relaxation
    • Your body is the strongest healer and cleanser. It does not do that if it is under stress. Toxins lodge in the fatty tissue. Under stress the first thing the body wants to do is to withhold fat
  4. Do a no 2 every day
    • It is important to eliminate every day, preferably in the morning. If you do not eliminate toxins will start creating inside of you. And that is exactly what you are trying to avoid
  5. Stay positive and motivated
    • If you are struggling with your detox you are under stress. If the occasional feeling of hunger does not bother you too much and you can concentrate on doing things instead of thinking of food you are in a good place. If you are not obsessively pacing around the fridge thinking whether you should open it or not you should consider changing tactics
  6. Sip hot water
    • Sips of hot water make the enzymes thrive. Enzymes are responsible for digestion and metabolism. You want them to work to their best ability to break down the mucous and toxins in your body. Avoid cold water in large quantities at one go. It will slow down the enzyme function and increase mucous

Detox usually requires some strength of mind because you will have to say no to a number of things you might have been used to indulge in. During a cleansing program your mind should stay alert and positive with increased levels of energy. If you start feeling tired, faint, can’t sleep, have mood swings and almost uncontrollable cravings you are not in the right path of clearing out toxins. In the worst case you might even be getting more toxic. If nothing moves inside of you and your mind is feeling negative you have chosen the wrong detox and/or time.

 

6 dangerous toxins in your skin products

toxic_beauty_image_grande_grandeIt is the Organic Beauty week by Soil Association. We are proud to inform you that all the products we offer for beauty in our shop are as organic as you can get.

I will give you here a list of all the nasties our products don’t have. Each one of these is already a pretty mad thing to have in a product you put on your body. Think about having a variety of them in one product and you have a cocktail for…? I won’t say it but do keep away from this stuff.

Six dangerous toxins in your skin care products:

Propylene glycol is used as a skin sensitizer. It causes scaling, hives, burning, itching and blistering. It allows other chemicals to get further into the skin increasing the level of toxins found in the blood. Propylene glycol can be found in body washes, shampoos, hair sprays, toothpastes, baby lotions, colognes, shaving creams, and liquid hand soaps. It is toxic to the immune system.

Parabens are used to stop microbial growth and to extend the shelf life of the product. They will cause skin rashes, and other allergic reactions. They are extremely toxic and an immune system destroyer. Parabens are found in deodorants, perspirants and moisturizers. Paraben is known as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.

Glycerin is found in numerous skin products, especially soaps. It is considered toxic orally in large doses. It can cause hemolysis, hemoglobinuria and renal failure. Glycerin is found in facial cleansers, conditioners, body soaps, hand soaps, bubble baths, bath oils, and after shaves.

Triethanolamine is another immune toxicant found in many products especially skin moisturizers. It is a possible carcinogen, a respiratory toxicant, skin or sense organ toxicant. It is used in facial moisturizers, mascara, styling gel, and tanning oil.

Sodium Laurul Sulfate (SLS) is one of the most common chemicals found in human hygiene products. SLS is a foaming agent used for scrubbing garage floors and cleaning drains. Steam from SLS has been known to cause lung damage and throat cancer. It is easily absorbed by the skin. SLS is found in hand soaps, facial cleansers, moisturizers, shampoos, toothpaste, and anti-aging cream.

Mineral oil is a petroleum by-product; it clogs pores and stops the skin’s ability to get rid of toxins. It causes acne, and other disorders, as well as premature aging. It is found in lip gloss, concealers, foundations, and facial cleansers.

 

 

Nutritional confusion

Dieting confusionI recently sat down with Angie Greaves from Magic Radio and Feeling Fab website to have a proper chat about nutrition. She finally said it in a nutshell: “There is a total nutritional confusion”. I couldn’t agree more. We are so bombarded by the media with all sorts of facts about the good and the bad of our diets that no-one really knows what is right and what is wrong any more.

Let me tell you what is wrong first of all: there is no one piece of advice that is good for everyone. We have to come to an understanding that every one of us in the universe is a uniquely built being and responds differently to every variety of food, food supplements, activities and stressors from the environment. A jog might be beneficial for people with good stamina but not for someone who hasn’t been jogging for a long time. An apple a day might keep the doctor away from someone who doesn’t get an acid attack right after eating it. Different sorts of vitamins of might benefit you or not. It depends how you digest what you take in.

I have a number of clients coming for a health consultation who tell me that there is nothing wrong with their diets and that what they eat is said to be healthy and with a high nutritional content. Still they complain they can’t lose weight, they feel tired or have problems of different sorts, ranging from digestive issues and skin complaints to headaches and sleeplessness, to name a few.

Here lies another core problem behind our dietary confusion. We don’t know anymore how to consume our food. It isn’t enough to know the nutritional contents of your smoothie. If you have it at the wrong time of the day, combined it with the wrong foods and perhaps eaten on the go, you are not likely to get many benefits from it. On the contrary, bloating, gas, cramps and unexplained pains become an unwelcome but familiar presence in your life. When you know all the simple things about correct eating you will be able to enjoy proper tasty food, not have uncontrollable cravings and have your body return to its ideal weight without too much effort.

And what lies behind it? That’s the Feeling Fab that Angie is talking about. When we feel good and relaxed our bodies are able to heal themselves. Most importantly, our minds are able to make decisions on our health that are conducive to stability, wellbeing and happiness. What this means, is that it is all in our minds. And believe it or not, your diet has much to do with your mindset.

Life – Light – Love

Raw Coconut chutney

Coconut chutneyIt’s late summer and to celebrate it here’s the last of my seasons recipes. This brings me back to the days I was studying in India. We always dined at my teacher’s house and ate heavenly. Here’s one recipe from Nani, the grandmother. She shared her recipes gladly and we were eager to learn. Here’s one of them. It’s the good old coconut chutney. Obviously you can have it as a condiment for your meal but in India we often had it as a main with chapatis, freshly made and dripping with home made ghee. Here in London I like to use buckwheat flour to make the flatbread. You can find the recipe in my previous blog post of “Buckwheat flatbread with spinach and ricotta filling”.

Ideally you would use a fresh coconut but I just use the dry grated one and soak it in coconut milk (or cream if I want to be decadent). Mix all ingredients together and let soak for a few hours before enjoying. As for quantities of ingredients, all I can say, play it by ear or by your palate.

Grated coconut soaked in raw coconut milk/cream

Finely chopped fresh green chillies

Salt

Chopped fresh coriander

Curry leaves

Cumin seeds

Garlic

Come and buy come ingredients from our shop like the organic coconut flakes and milk. We also now stock 100% raw coconut milky Rhythm.