Monthly Archives

January 2014

Recipes

The Joys of Fenugreek

January 20, 2014

I guess we’ve come a full circle in terms of appreciating the health benefits of traditional Indian cooking and spices.  From mindlessly eating spicy food, to eschewing spice in favor of bland food to the present when we know that moderation is the key.  Lately we’ve started re-discovering the numerous health benefits of the spices that we’ve been using and consuming for years.  One such spice is methi or fenugreek.  Below are five reasons why methi is good for you and why you should use it in your cooking:

  1. Women need a lot of iron during their period, pregnancy and while they breastfeed. Including methi in your diet ensures that your body constantly has a ready supply of iron.  Chop up methi leaves and use it to make paranthas or chapattis or just make aloo-methi sabji.  Make sure that you cook it using tomatoes or potatoes to enable iron absorption.  Many people have reported that the aches and pains in their joints diminished after regular consumption of methi seeds/leaves.
  2. Methi helps to reduce cholestrol levels so is great for weight management.
  3. The potassium content of methi counteracts the effects of sodium in your body which helps in stabilizing heart rate and blood pressure.  This can lower the risk of heart attacks.
  4. Methi is great for digestion.  It helps to flush out toxins from your system.  It’s great to cure indigestion and constipation.  Try this home remedy for smooth digestion: Leave some methi seeds overnight in a glass of water.  Drink the water the next morning.  Do this consistently for a week and notice the difference.
  5. Methi is great for skin and hair.  Try this:  Grind fresh methi leaves into a paste and use apply on your face.  Do this regularly and your skin will become more clear and supple.  Grind methi seeds and mix them in your mehendi (henna) paste.  This helps keep dandruff at bay and stops the thinning and falling of hair.

These are just a few of the numerous benefits of methi seeds.  If you incorporate methi in your diet, you’re bound to see many more benefits.

If you have any tips about how to use methi seeds, leave me a comment!

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Stretching – Then and Now

January 16, 2014
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@Malaka Spice

 

It’s been close to 10 days here and my routine here is as challenging as ever.  I realize that if it’s your first time here, then it does take a while to adjust and adapt.  The first time I had a 4 hour practice I was incredulous … and didn’t know how to deal with it.  Rather, I didn’t know how to make the most of it.  When I practice at home it’s only for an hour and a half, and by the end of it I’m drained out.  So the first few days here, I was always exhausted.  So much so that I felt I couldn’t give the best in the asanas and always felt sloppy and ungainly throughout the practice.  Mondays and Tuesdays specially, since practice on those days is almost 4 hours long, and by the time I’m done with practice its an ordeal just to walk home.  My fantasies these days centre around buying an apartment next to the institute so that I can crawl home in no time and surface again only for the next class.

However, now I’ve started to get used to the routine.  I’m actually able to make the most of the extended practice sessions.  In fact, 2 hours is just about enough time for a satisfying practice…how I’m going to sustain this when I’m back in Bangalore is the stuff other blog posts are made of.

Yesterday I had my class in the evening (where I’m referred to as ‘Bangalore’, and another

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Milk tea just this once 🙂

girl is called ‘USA’, oh and then there’s ‘Madam China’ in the 6 am session).  It was an amazingly intense session.  The class was fast paced with a focus on stretching the lower body (Janu Sirsasana, Paschimottansana, Baddhakonasana etc).  Finally we did the Upavista Konasana, which is a challenging pose for me.  I slowly made my way down and eased my torso onto the floor.  I remember the days when I started practicing yoga and this pose was a big challenge.  I wouldn’t be able to extend my back and my hip joint was stiff.  As the years went by, I was still pretty reluctant to practice this pose because it didn’t come naturally at all and it was frustrating.  Even now, sometimes I’m able to execute this pose well, and sometimes I feel like lead.

 

Yesterday I was able to ease myself down and placed my forehead on the floor.  I stayed there kind of happy and satisfied with myself.  There’s always an element of pleasant surprise also, because some days your body can extend and some days it just doesn’t.  This reverie lasted until I heard, “BANGALORE!  You’re sleeping!  Extend more!  Walk forward with your hands!!!  That’s it, that’s good.  Trance mein chali gayi thi phir se.”

And I realized that for the most part, this is how I practice.  I arrange myself into a pose and then my mind says, “This is it, you’ve done well.  You’re done.”  And then my pose goes dead, and progress stops.  Or, as the teacher said, I fall asleep.  So when I was told to extend more, I had to push through the limitations of my mind (kind of still the internal dialogue) and discover if I could, in fact, go further.  I realized that I could, and for that little bit of time I experienced new life.  And received a bit of enlightenment.

The Halasana is a pose that we do daily in class.  We use props to ensure that the spine and neck are straight.  The picture is of me doing the Halasana many years ago.  When my internal dialogue was loud and overpowering.  I’m sure it’s improved over the years.  And after this class, I know how to work in this (and in all other asanas).

Halasana (Plough Pose)

How To

  1. Lie down straight on your back making sure your head lies on the floor.
  2. Exhale, bend your legs at the knees and bring your knees close to your chest.
  3. Lift your buttocks off of the floor supporting your back with your hands.
  4. Make sure to plant your elbows firmly on the floor.halasana
  5. Bring your body perpendicular to the floor, until your sternum touches your chin.
  6. Gently extend your legs out behind your head.
  7. Keep your face and neck relaxed.
  8. Practice with your arms stretched out behind and fingers interlocked to relive pain and cramps in fingers, hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders.

Benefits

  • Relieves fatigue.
  • Helps to calm down the mind.
  • Relaxes your eyes and brain.
  • Controls hyper tension.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Lengthens the spine and improves alignment.
  • Reduces insomnia and anxiety.
  • Relieves stress-related headaches and migraines.

Contraindications

  • Don’t practice during menstruation and if you have cervical spondylosis.
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Ayurveda for the Winters

January 12, 2014

Yesterday I took a break to track down the local Ramdev shop here in Jorhat.  I stocked up on my usual goods such as aloe vera and amla juice along with honey.  A new product I found was Patanjali’s Tejus Tailam.  I’ve been meaning to start my daily Abhiyanga routine for this season, but hadn’t really gotten around to it.  Abhiyanga or abhiyangam is an Ayurvedic routine to keep your body healthy during the winters.  This is something that is widely practiced here.  It basically involves massaging your body from head to toe using an Ayurvedic or organic oil and letting the skin absorb this oil for about 10-15 minutes.  It’s great to let a masseuse work on you every once in a while, but a home practice of abhiyanga is something that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine and really reap the benefits.

How To:

  1. Make sure the oil is warm.  You can heat it or just immerse the bottle in some hot water.  Here too, like everywhere else, use your instinct.  Get the oil warm enough to get your skin feeling good.
  2. Next, take some oil in the palm of your hand and work the oil into your soles using your finger tips or your knuckles.  You want to get the circulation going, so be firm instead of gentle.
  3. Work your way up your legs using long straight strokes on limbs and circular strokes on the joints such as knees, elbows etc.  For your stomach, work up from the right side, across, then down the left.
  4. Use circular movements on your face.
  5. You can incorporate a head massage in your daily abhiyanga as well, although for people with long hair, this can be somewhat cumbersome.
  6. Make sure to use lots of oil, your body should get really greasy and slippery.
  7. Let your body soak the oil in for about 15 minutes and then bathe/shower.

Why do this daily?  Benefits?

  1. Great to flush out the toxins that tend to accumulate during the winter season.
  2. Keeps your joints healthy.
  3. Keeps your skin healthy and supple.
  4. By massaging your muscles every day, you decrease the risk of injury during the winter season.  Also, if you have sore muscles due to a workout or injury, abhiyanga massage speeds up the process of recovery.
  5. Because it is so relaxing, it promotes deeper and more restful sleep.  You wake up refreshed and rejuvenated.

Along with this Ayurveda also recommends sleeping at least 8 hours during the winters.  Attune your body to the sun, sleep as soon as you can post sunset and wake up with the sun.

Drink a lot of warm fluids throughout the day, even warming up your water.

For the winter months, avoid raw foods and veggies.  Steam your salads.

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The Horse Pose

January 10, 2014

Ashwasanchalanasana  (Horse Pose/Low Lunge)

How To

  1. In the Padahastasana place your fingers next to your toes so that they are in line with each other.
  2. Lift your right leg off of the floor, take it back and place it on the floor.
  3. Look forward.
  4. Make sure that your left knee is in line with your left ankle.  The knee should NEVER go beyond the level of the ankle.
  5. Look straight ahead.
  6. Repeat on left side.

Variations

If your legs and thighs are a bit stiff, or if you have weak knees and ankles, then place your back knee on the floor.

Benefits

  • Great to strengthen the legs.
  • Relieves stress by opening up the groin region and the hips.
  • Helps in stretching and strengthening the spine.
  • Opens up the chest and enables deeper breathing.
  • Provides a massage to the abdominal organs and stimulates digestion.
  • Corrects curvature of the back.
  • Alleviates symptoms of sciatica.

Contraindications

  • Practice with caution if you have a knee injury.
  • Be cautious if you’ve had a neck injury.  Don’t strain to look forward, look down instead.
  • Practice with caution if pregnant.  If required place the back knee on the floor.
  • Practice with caution if you have a back injury.
  • Do not practice if you have stomach ulcers.
  • Do not practice if you’ve just undergone abdominal surgery.
Also called the Anjaneya asana, the horse pose and the low lunge.

Also called the Anjaneya asana, the horse pose and the low lunge.

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‘Tis Sesame Season

January 7, 2014

Here in Jorhat it’s really really cold.  In Delhi it’s colder still.  While in Bangalore I got phone calls from my mother in law fretting about my health because in Bangalore I wasn’t consuming the sweet goodies that are a staple diet during the winter season in Delhi.  When a yoga friend from Hyderabad asked me about sesame seeds, I thought I’ll gather my thoughts together about this seed and how it benefits us.  Here are the top 5 reasons you should consume sesame seeds during the winter season:

  1. According the Ayurveda, sesame increases body heat.  Which is why it’s used in laddoos and gajak made during the winter season.  However, moderation is the key.  Since most of us haven’t had our doshas examined and determined by a practitioner of ayurveda, it’s best to be safe and moderate the quantity of sesame that you consume, rather than taking a dosage every day (I’m anti anything which seems like ‘medicine’).
  2. Sesame oil is great for hair.  Personally I’ve tried Baidyanath’s Bhringraj oil, and it makes your hair strong and silky.  And conditions it too.  Add to that the heating nature of the seed, and you’ll have a stimulating head massage.  It’s great for a skin massage as well.  A lot of people use it for babies as well!
  3. Another reason for consuming these seeds in moderation is the high fat content.  However, if consumed in moderation these seeds actually help in lowering bad cholesterol, thereby decreasing the chances of heart disease, stroke and heart issues.
  4. In India, a lot of goodies made for expectant mothers contain sesame seeds.  This is because the folic acid in these seeds ensures healthy foetus growth as well as good health for the mother.
  5. Last but not least, sesame seeds are great for bones and therefore prevent osteoporosis.

So, buy the goodies if you’re in the colder parts of India and eat them without guilt.  Add them to salads.  And of course, get the oil and enjoy some invigorating head massages with it.  In fact, since the oil is edible, drizzle it on salads or use it for cooking!

Namaste!

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