I cannot believe we are already in the third week of the Whole Resolution wellness series. I hope you are enjoying reading the guest interviews and are finding little nuggets of inspiration for living a more holistically nourished life that you can carry with you throughout your week. I know I am!
This series is designed to offer a new component to the whole nourishment puzzle each week so that by the end of the month the combined guest perspectives will have painted a vision of whole wellness. For those of you who have been following along, I apologize for being repetitive. But if you missed the first two weeks of fabulous guest interviews, please check them out here: Week 1 with Milena and Week 2 with Tammy.
Photo credit: Monique Feil
Laura is the co-founder of the Deep Yoga School of Healing Arts along with her husband Bhava Ram, a certified Ayurvedic Healing Practitioner, and the founder of the Institute of Feminine Wisdom, a service organization that advocates women's empowerment.
She is such an accomplished woman that it is difficult to relay in words the positive impact she has made on others’ lives. She harnesses years of experience practicing and teaching yoga and living by the principles of Ayurvedic nutrition and healing for her and her family’s well-being but also with the purpose of helping others in a way that is best summarized on her website, VedaWise: Healing and Wholeness in Body, Mind and Soul through the Sacred Sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda. "Self-affirming, loving, enlightening, exciting self discoveries..."
I am fortunate to have met Laura through the food blogging world. Check out her lovely blog, Food: A Love Story, at http://food-alovestory.com/. Her delicious recipes highlight the healing nature of whole, plant-based foods and her insights about nourishment from food and beyond are one of a kind. But what really drew me in is her genuine, grounded, calming presence and clarity of purpose that shines through in each post which I think is a testament of how she lives her life. I am honored Laura is a part of this wellness series. Through her graceful ease with words she shares her knowledge of, experiences in, and passion for making yoga and Ayurveda accessible in our day-to-day lives to help us achieve optimal strength and vitality. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading Laura’s words of wisdom and insights as much I have.
Ayurveda is not a food system or trend. It is not Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw, Paleo or any system per se. Ayurveda is a science that recognizes each individual is unique and has unique needs. Vegan may work for one person, but not for another. The same is true for Raw, or Paleo, or any nutritional approach. What’s best is what’s best for you. Ayurveda helps you determine that. (Photo Credit: Shannon Hope Jones, Food- A Love Story/Photo Caption Credit: Food -A Love Story)
First let's start with your work in Ayurveda and your personal perspective of this ancient science of healing.
What is your take on Ayurveda? Do you have a particular emphasis on certain areas?
Katie, this is such a big question: probably the reason it has taken me so long to respond with these answers. How to say in a few words "what is my take” on Ayurveda, the oldest and most comprehensive medicine in the world? In a word though, it means balance. In a phrase, Ayurveda is the science of life, of longevity, of living well.
Ayurveda reminds us at the profoundest level that there is this extraordinary nature everywhere around and inside of you seeking to support you in every moment. Align with that power and you have optimal health, optimal ﬂow, optimal ease, greater vitality, sense of purpose, inspired creativity, grace and peace. I wrote a fuller “take” on Ayurveda here, http://food-alovestory.com/ayurveda/
On your blog, "Food: A Love Story”, Ayurveda guides the way you cook and think about food.
What is the connection between Ayurveda and food?
Ayurveda says that if you eat right you will have no use for medicine, but that if you do not eat right, medicine will be of no use. In other words, we are made up of the molecules, the elements, the tastes, the energy and the intelligence that is in our food. Food not only converts to become your living tissue, it nourishes your brain, your heart, your mind, your emotions. Ayurveda is many things - pharmacology, internal medicine, psychology, energy anatomy, rejuvenation therapies, etc. - but its heart is in the kitchen. Your health depends on the choices you make, and the food you choose to eat day after day absolutely determines the quality of your life.
A little more speciﬁcally, Ayurveda says that we are made up of the ﬁve elements of nature: space, air, ﬁre, water, earth. The food we eat delivers to us nature’s intelligence through the six tastes: Sweet, salty, sour, pungent, astringent and bitter. Each taste compromises two of the ﬁve elements to support those same elements within us. For instance, the sweet taste (rice, milk, sweet potato, e.g.) is made up of earth and water. The pungent taste (garlic, onion, jalapeno) is ﬁre and air. Bitter (kale, aloe, turmeric) is air and space. So in any meal we need all six tastes in order to feed all ﬁve elements that make up our mind and bodies. Still, depending on your consititution, circumstances, current health, and the season, you may want to favorite certain "tastes." As an example, in summer when it is hot, we want to eat cooling foods. Sweet, astringent and bitter, with their elements of earth, water, air and space respectively, are cooling. Foods for summer then are rice and greens, or vegetable pasta, big, raw salads, and always light on the seasoning. While in winter, we need warmer foods so we increase our pungent foods and add more spices to our dishes.
You’ve always impressed me Katie with your intuitive knowing of these Ayurvedic principles when it comes to cooking. I like your recipes because, knowingly or not, you consistently include all six tastes, demonstrating that when you have all six tastes in any dish you have delicious ﬂavor and resounding whole body nourishment.
One example is your delicious Miso Sweet Potato soup (http://wholenourishment.blogspot.ch/2013/10/miso-sweet-potato-soup.html) where, added to the obviously sweet taste of the sweet potato, you include miso/sour and salty, harissa/pungent, beans and pumpkin seeds/sweet and astringent, and turmeric/bitter. That is why something so simple can be so addictively good. Your body knows what it needs and when it gets it, especially in our overfed, undernourished cultures, it echoes with a YES that delights your whole being.
(Another is your Goat Cheese Pasta, http://wholenourishment.blogspot.ch/2013/11/herbed-goat-cheese-pasta-with.html)
How do you introduce Ayurveda to newcomers seeking a deeper, more balanced connection in mind, body, and spirit?
Ayurveda’s first principle is that every person is a unique individual. Everyone has a unique path, and a unique set of circumstances. Start with compassion. Begin by listening. Honor yourself. Recognize that you are worthy, good, wise. You are nature, too, and you have all nature’s intelligence and healing power inside of you. Take a breath. Feel how good that feels. That is medicine.
From there, create a victory for yourself by taking one simple step towards health. Once you feel successful, you are empowered and ready to open yourself more fully to the wondrous world around you. Observe nature’s beauty, taste her bounty, touch her magnificence, listen to her song. Look for miracles. Then remember: that same force is inside of you.
You are also a certified yoga instructor.
Did it come naturally transitioning from a personal yoga practice to guiding and instructing others in their yoga practice?
Yes, because I had been practicing already for many years, and really just wanted to share the value, the gifts, the transformative power of Yoga with others. When you offer yourself in service, you surrender to something larger than yourself. Then, when mistakes arise, they are just reminders that even if we can reach up and touch the heels of Heaven, we are still so adorably human. We laugh, we sometimes get silly, we shake it off. That personalizes the practice, and helps people connect. So it is fun, and it is a way for me to stay present, engaged, in service, grateful. Above all, there is nothing more exquisite than being a witness to a devoted Yogi deep in practice. It is absolutely sacred, and profoundly humbling.
What are the misconceptions of yoga you have seen through your experience?
That Yoga is Asana.
Asana is an aspect of Yoga, but Yoga is so much more than Asana.
Yoga is union. It is a path and a reality. It is oneness. It is a way out of darkness. It is the light in your heart. It is a connection to your divine self. It is sacred remembrance. It is life, existence, breath and peace, the stars and the night sky, a bright sun, this green earth, our blue oceans, and ﬁnally once and for all, knowing that you are that. When asked by a devotee, Who am I?, the ancient sage slowly waved his hand all around and replied, "Tat Tvam Asi.” You are that. You are everything, and everything is in you. That may sound poetic, but quantum science now proves it to be true. Best of all, your own experience will validate it.
Are there any recommendations you would offer for taking yoga from occasional participation to a life-long practice?
Do it every day, as soon as you wake up. Do one round of sun salutations, or pick your favorite pose and hold that for ten breaths with concentrated attention on your breathing. Start small. 1 minute is better than none. But do it every day. Consistency is the key that turns Yoga from ordinary to extraordinary. The Yoga Sutras call this "Abhyasa & Vairagya,” stating that consistent action with non-attachment to the outcome will give you success in practice.
You give so much back to help others in your work.
Do you ever reach points of overload, and how do you make a point to recharge at home?
I am very happy in silence, nature and the "solace of open spaces.” But I feel I am alive to be of service. I feel this deep need to help lift people up, to show each beautiful human being the face of god: their own face in the mirror of Heaven. So I am always on the balancing point of those two contradictory, but also complimentary, drives. And clarity of purpose, gratitude, daily meditation, cuddles with my husband, and epsom salt baths help!
Winter is here. Is there a favorite meal or snack you always look forward to, that you find especially nourishing in the cold months?
One thing I love on winter afternoons is a cup of steaming Rooibus Chai. It is sweet, soothing, winter warmth. I haven’t tried it yet, but I love that you posted a recipe for it:
As for meals, we always start with fresh ingredients, but in the winter we usually cook up a dish and season with digestive spices like ginger, mustard, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, basil. That usually means soups, stews, or veggie sautés, garnished with raw greens chopped, pureed or steamed. I love a good curry and recently posted one of my favorites to my blog: http://food-alovestory.com/2014/01/17/fish-mollee/.
Photo Credit: Food:A Love Story
This "Detox Lentil Stew” was a hit recently at a large family gathering, and continues to be one of my favorites, http://food-alovestory.com/2013/01/14/1-day-winter-detox/
If I am having people over, I might serve something like a curried pumpkin ravioli in the winter, (http://food-alovestory.com/2012/11/27/curried-pumpkin-ravioli/), but if I’m on my own and wanting some TLC, I’m more likely to make these yam fries, http://food-alovestory.com/2011/12/13/tis-the-season/
Photo Credit: Food:A Love Story
That is another thing about Ayurveda: Oka Satmya is a term suggesting that foods you were raised on may have a health value for you, even if they aren’t healthy for everybody. In fact, one Ayurvedic master teacher famously said, "The best food to eat is the food your mother makes you,” reminding us that food is an expression of love, and love is one of the most powerful medicines of all.
That is one of the many reasons I called my blog Food-A Love Story!
Finally, Katie, I’d like to thank you for your beautiful blog. You inspire us with your creativity. You keep us healthy with your recipes. You keep us warm with your caring heart. You are a gem. I am so glad we’ve connected.
Do you practice yoga or follow Ayurveda principles? If so, what impact have they made on your personal well-being? What do you think of Laura's recipes? I made the detox lentil stew and loved it - it's also great for a quick but satisfying weeknight dinner. Let us know what you think in the comments below!