Are you sometimes stumped for an easy vegetarian meal? Has your digestion been on the fritz? Do you ever crave a “cleanse” that doesn’t involve green juice or starvation of any kind? If you answered yes to any of these then you should probably meet Ayurveda’s answer to all ailments: the warm, tasty goodness that is Kitchari.
Last night after some gentle Sunday slowga it occurred to me that I was craving a bowl of this stuff. It had been a while, and since we’ve been promising to mix up Mondays with some recipes, I decided to go full-hog and take pics.
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So, what’s Kitchari? It’s a one-pot-stop Indian dish that contains everything you need nutritionally, while also going super easy on your digestive system. Week-long Kitchari cleanses—more accurately mono-diets, where you eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—are a common practice in Ayurveda to prepare the body for the strain of the changing seasons. They’re usually done in the spring or the fall, but Kitchari is recommended anytime you feel like your system needs a little break or extra love.
If you google recipes you’ll see there are all kinds of little variations, but I promise that almost anything goes here with spices as long as you add the fresh fixings (and enough salt) at the end.
2 cups mung beans (the one bean known to be kind to all tummies), 1 cup basmati rice (I used brown this time), 1 tablespoon ghee* (very important!), teaspoon turmeric (anti-inflammatory and amazing), teaspoon fennel powder (I didn’t have any this time), teaspoon asoetifida (a hard-to-find, slightly funky smelling spice that tastes a little like garlic and is known to help digestion). Sometimes I use onions, even though they’re not technically part of the Kitchari recipe—in Ayurveda onions are generally a nono, but man do they add a nice flavor. Last but not least, fresh ginger, lemon or lime, fresh cilantro, and salt and pepper.
*Ghee is clarified butter, and you can find it at Whole Foods and most health food stores. It’s also considered to be a healing ingredient, which is great because it adds a richness and sweetness to everything it touches.
Step by step…
1. Strain your mung beans and in a large pot, melt a tbsp of ghee. Throw in the beans and spices on medium heat and toss them around for a few minutes.
2. Now add your rice and do the same.
3. Cover with 4-6 cups water. You can always add water—or cook water off—later so don’t worry about being exact here. You’ll see in the pic that I also added chopped leaks at this stage—usually I would have done this right at the start but I didn’t realize I had them!
4. Bring everything to a roaring boil and then lower heat to a simmer, keeping the pot covered for 15-20 minutes and then taking the cover off so that some of the water can boil off. It should take about 40 minutes give or take to fully cook, and depending on whether you want this to be a bit soupier or more substantial adjust water accordingly.
5. Season generously with salt and pepper.
6.Finally in your bowl, add another teaspoon or so of ghee, a squeeze of lime (or lemon), fresh cilantro, and freshly chopped or grated ginger. Probably a bit more salt too.
As I mentioned, if you add those to your bowl at the end, as long as you didn’t burn your Kitchari it will taste amazing.
Have you ever tried Kitchari? How do you make yours?
Loving this post from Well+Good (apparently we’re not the only ones on a major ayurvedic kick). Please tells us in the comments 1) what your dosha is (if you know it) and 2) what kind of exercise you do. Let’s see who’s balancing and who may be increasing like with like! We’ll start.
Lots of things explain why you love insanely hot, slow Bikram sequences, while your best friend would rather be running the city streets on a 40-degree day.
But from an Ayurvedic perspective, the workout you’re most drawn to may be the one your body needs the least. (Bummer!)
“Like increases like,” says Ayurvedic expert Monica Bloom, author of the blog, Hey Monica B. “So, if you’re a fiery, competitive person (a Pitta constitution in Ayurveda), you’re going to want to literally race. But that will just add more fire. What you really need is to slow down, to create balance.”
And certain times of year can really set off your dosha. Fall, for example, is Vata season according to Ayurveda, so you may feel more scattered and need some grounding yoga sessions. (And put your iPhone down more often.)
So what types of workouts do you and your dosha need? (You can find out your dosha here.) These are Bloom’s workout recommendations for each dosha:
Monica Bloom, the Ayurvedic expert behind the blog, Hey Monica B.
1. VATA What you’ll want to do: Run, cardio What you should do: Barre, Pilates, restorative yoga, strength training
“Vata people are go, go, go,” says Bloom. So, stop. “They don’t eat a lot and don’t have great endurance, so what’s good for them is a routine that’s not too intense and is grounding.” The concentrated, precise movements of a focused barre class, as opposed to running laps, for instance. Yoga is great for Vatas’ characteristically tight muscles and creaky joints.
2. PITTA What you’ll want to do: Competitive sports, triathlons What you should do: Bike riding, running, swimming, yoga
Pitta people are fiery and competitive, and Bloom says if you’ve ever passed out from exercise, you’re probably one of them. (Most of us are way too lazy to take it that far). “Pittas should do something that’s cooling and that they can enjoy alongside their more competitive sports,” she says. “Riding a bike with the wind in their face or swimming without clocking your time are great options.” Important: Don’t. go. to. hot. yoga. (Spontaneous combustion may occur.)
File this under weird things I learned at the ashram (again), but I’m officially a tongue scrapring convert.
What’s a tongue scraper, pray tell? While many of you may know—I didn’t—it’s a simple device used to remove the bacteria and buildup that likes to set up camp on the tongue. This film, which can go from clear to thick and white, yellow, or even greenish, can also speak volumes about our health. What’s the first thing a doctor, eastern or western, usually asks to see? Exactly.
But when I told Durga, my ayurvedic consultant that I didn’t need to scrape because I brushed my tongue with a toothbrush, she shuddered, explaining that the using the same tool to clean the tongue and teeth was ill advised.
In Ayurveda, the rituals of self maintenance are very clear: there are specific ways to clean the ears, the eyes, the tongue, the nose, and all the pathways, to maintain the body’s balance. And for the tongue, it’s a scraper.
This is the one that I use, though some folks just opt for a spoon, or the plastic ones you can get at the drugstore. If you are going to try tongue scraping, follow the instructions, and by all means, be very gentle with your tongue—the last thing you want to do is hurt the thing.
Onto the benefits…
1. Better breath. While there isn’t a ton of research on tongue scrapers, clinical studies have shown that removing the bacteria, dead cells, food etc from the tongue does significantly help with bad breath. Most professionals suggest brushing the tongue to remove this stuff, the tongue scraper is just a more sophisticated tool for the same purpose.
2. Ayurveda says it removes ama. And ama is the toxic byproduct of improperly digested food. It is believed to lodge itself in the body creating blockages, but often it shows up on the tongue first. So in order to properly digest one’s next meal, you need to remove this so-called sludge from your tongue. Because then, among other things…
3. You’ll taste flavors more effectively. This is one of the most critical points for Ayurveda. Proper digestion begins with proper taste and salivation. It is believed the more you taste, the more consciously you will eat: You will appreciate the food, digest it better, hear your body when it’s full, and so on. It’s one of those simple ayurvedic prescriptions that just makes sense. Take the time, and have a clean tongue, to taste and appreciate your food.
4. It’s good for your teeth. Like tongue brushing, because tongue scraping gets rid of nasty stuff in the mouth, it’s also believed to help with general tooth and gum hygiene and health.
5. Your tongue is a diagnostic tool—so get to know it. Just like your skin, looking at your tongue can tell you a lot about your health. So a daily practice of consciously cleaning it—and not to get gross, but actually seeing what comes off of it as opposed to mindlessly brushing without really looking—puts you in direct contact with this diagnostic organ. For me, this is kind of the most important point. If you see significant change from one day to the other, you may discover which foods don’t agree with you, or maybe you can just catch an imbalance before it gets too out of wack.
How much do you think about tongue health? Is cleaning it part of your daily routine?
Oh man, you guys are going to have to tell me if you get sick of hearing about Ayurveda, k? After the weeklong retreat I just went on, I have little else on the brain. I learned lots of interesting bits and bobs about this ancient practice of truly preventitive healthcare—and ever the envangelist, I probably won’t shut up about it for some time still.
Siobhan and I have both been talking abhyanga lately, the practice of self massage with body-balancing oils. The wonderful Claudia Welch considers it a key prescription for hormone (and life) balance. But we—and some of you—have expressed a bit of a nagging concern over whether we’re doing it right. Do I just rub-a-dub in warm oil and call it abhyanga? Am I getting the benefits? Probably, yes, just taking the time to (lovingly) massage your body with oil is going to do plenty of good—but there’s more to it than that and I have some practical tips for the whole oil-stains-stuff conundrum too.
On the retreat I received a four-handed abhyanga which, as you may have guessed, involved not one, but two massage therapists (and enough oil to deep fry me). If you’ve never had one of these treatments, I suggest you put it on your bucket list. I get regular massages, but having my feet massaged at the same time as my shoulders? An unmatched joy.
Most of us would have to dig quite a bit to find one of these treatments in our respective cities—suggestions anyone?—so the DIY approach is the more practical option for the day to day. Here are some of my personal tips, and a few things I learned from the pros. It helps to know your dosha, which you can figure out here.
1. Do it in the bath if you have one. Just a bit of practical advice, really, because people get concerned about the mess of oil and such. The bath works great: I just lay a towel down (no water of course) and get to work. I use a lot of oil, but not so much that the towel ends up covered or anything. Still, don’t use the towel your mom got you for Christmas.
2. Warm your oil in a pot of almost-boiling water, and then use that water to shave if you want. I usually pour some oil in a measuring cup, or metal cup with a handle (careful though, the heat transmits quickly with those), and set it in a pot of super-hot, almost boiling water to let it warm. Then I take both the cup of oil and the pot of water to the bath. I use the oil for abhyanga, but then if I want to shave my legs with the oil (as many of us do in these parts), instead of running the tap, I use the super hot water to clean the razor. This was inspired by Krystal’s Morning Routine, where she advised to use super hot water when shaving with coconut oil, to get the oil out of the razor.
3. Try a different touch depending on your dosha type, or current state of mind. The basic method is to start at your feet, using long vertical strokes on your limbs/muscles, and small circular rubbing around the joints. So circlecircle ankles, strokestroke shins and calfs, circlecircle knees etc. I’ll get to the tummy in a moment. But when I received the treatment I was surprised at how vigorous some of those strokes were! Here’s what I learned, depending on your dosha and/or state of mind, change up the stroke. Feeling super anxious or ticked off? Go nice and slow. Feeling groggy and lethargic or cold? Get a little more vigorous and really warm up those limbs and joints. Logical enough, I’d just never thought about it.
4. Choose the right oil for your dosha, or just the season. Because Ayurveda is predicated on the notion that “like increases like,” it’s important to choose an oil that counterbalances your natural state. If you’re a warmer-bodied pitta, coconut oil is recommended for its cooling properties. Whereas if you’re a vata, heavier oils like almond and sesame are where it’s at. In all the texts I’ve read corn oil is recommended for the calmer, slower kapa types. But because that doesn’t sound pleasant, I’d suggest that kaphas choose one of the vata or pitta oils (depending on which is more dominant for them) and then add a bit of orange essential oil to it—this is very good for invigorating kaphas. Consider the season too. Example: Cooling coconut can be good for all the doshas in the heat of summer, and so on.
5. Follow your colon when you massage your stomach. That means up the right side, across and down the left in a counterclockwise direction. Ayurveda is very big on elimination. Enough said.
6. Make it a ritual. My bathroom is pretty dark in the morning, so I light a few candles, burn a little sage and try to get a bit Cleopatra-godessy about the whole thing. Like most women, I struggle with loving my body just as it is. I also work a lot, and generally indulge my more masculine/yang side. So abyhanga, for me, is a time to reconnect to that female energy and be nice to my body instead of telling it crappy things about how it looks and feels.
Aside from all the mental/spiritual benefits of this practice, it also happens to be wonderful for the skin and circulation. Have you tried it? What does it look like for you?
I’m not a morning person so much as just a lover of mornings—especially the hours from 6 to 8am.
This is the time when nobody calls; nobody emails; nobody assumes you’re up. Sometimes, I sleep through these magic hours, but most days I pull myself from slumber and cobble together some version of a morning ritual.
On a good day I might manage to sit in meditation as the light is coming up, do some sun salutations or super gentle yoga postures before getting down to business. On a great day though, I’ll enjoy coffee over horoscopes after that practice, and then head to the tub where I throw down a towel for abhyanga, before showering and actually eating breakfast.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty terrible with routine. Silly things like taking vitamins or eating at the same time every day never seem to stick—even though sticking to them is exactly what the doctor would order. At least the ayurvedic one.
While I usually get up at the same time most days—some mornings I can’t restrain myself from jumping right into emails or writing a blog post before catching up on a few other things and then tripping out the door.
I’m jealous of people who are naturally routined, who stick to exercise and eating habits and vitamins. But I’ve accepted that it’s my challenge, and the early morning is what sets the tone for the rest of my day.
Do you have a morning ritual? Do you do it everyday?
As it so happens this week I’m gone off on an ayurvedic yoga retreat where every day I’ll be doing the exact same routine of meditation, yoga, food, lectures—wash, rinse, and repeat. See ya on the other side!