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Daily Ablutions while Travelling

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One of my treasured ayurveda teachers, Maya Tiwari, used to take us outside in North Carolina to perform our daily cleansing rituals, “ablutions” she called them. What fine memories I have of our group of sadhakas in the beautiful spring season near Asheville. Even the day we had our propane burner in the living room of our borrowed classroom NOT on enough insulation remains a sweet memory in my mind. Nothing was ever a problem, even a burned carpet. It’s that attitude of “find a way” without stressing that I value most in my teachers, each and every one. There have been so MANY times in my life when things seemed to be falling apart that the “find a way without stressing” motto has served me well.

So, here I am, traveling again, and wanting to share with you some ways that I’ve found to keep the daily ablutions going while on the road. For one thing, traveling can greatly imbalance the vata dosha, so it helps to keep to a routine (once you are over jet lag, if that applies). If jet lag does apply, I find it useful to start using local time for local activities as soon as possible, usually after no more than a day of adjustment. If six am is your usual rise and begin pranayama/meditation time at home, stick to it within a day of arriving in Timbuktu (or wherever).  I consider pranayama and asana two of the basic daily ablutions, by the way–they ARE cleansing practices, after all. Asana and its movements and holdings give the blood and lymph time to regenerate and circulate, and pranayama renews prana (interesting that the spell check wants to turn prana into prank!)

The tools that will make the daily shower more like home for me are the dry brush I use to gently scrub the dead cells off my skin before showering and the small plastic spray bottle that contains the almond, sesame or coconut oil that I use on my skin once it is clean and warm and moist. I give myself time to soak the oil in before gently patting dry with a towel (so the towel does not become oily!) and already, I’m feeling more at home.

Two other practices I would not leave home without involve packing small tools: a plastic neti pot and a plastic tongue scraper. Keeping the nose and tongue clean is so important, especially in allergy seasons and in contaminated cities. Usually I have had no trouble finding sea salt where I am staying to use in the neti pot, but one could pack a bit of that if it looks as though it would be difficult. I use the neti pot in the shower and the tongue scraper after I brush my teeth in the morning.

I’ve heard that a copper tongue scraper is even better than my plastic one, but have not found one for sale. Maybe the next trip to India will be the time to look. Don’t forget to lightly oil the inside of your noise after neti potting, and you are set for the day (or night, depending on when you shower). All in all, this plan of keeping as much to my home “ablution” routine has kept me contented and functional wherever I might be. It took me a long time to fully understand that one could relax and take pleasure in these rituals. My mother was an overwhelmed young woman trying to raise four excellent children as a paragon of virtue in her community. Since we were not all angels, she was often stressed, and I inherited that stress. I value the teaching from ancient and modern ayurvedic sources that emphasizes that we can “find a way and not stress” in the process of finding it!

Written by algarita

September 6, 2015 at 8:06 pm

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Asparagus and Strawberries and Biscuit Shortcake and Cream

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Dear Universe,

It’s been awhile, and after a spring cleanse, the joy of cooking and eating becomes ever more delightful.

The fruits and vegetables of spring beckon, so my plan is to create the absolutely greatest recipe for asparagus soup, pasta, or salad, and create a menu to share with students in this May/June.  After hearing from a friend and student who had a birthday recently and reported feeling older, I’m more and more convinced that this ritual of spring cleansing has amazing powers of renewal.

Cream may not be the best thing in spring–it can provoke kapha which, if left unbalanced, can swing out of balance this time of year.  Yet the cold months and the dryness they bring can benefit from the sweet smoothness of cream with berries, so I’m going to stick with the strawberry shortcake idea. Off to research the asparagus component.


OK, It’s decided, after the 3:45 class on Monday, June 1, we will have a feast of asparagus, feta and quinoa salad followed by homemade strawberry shortcake with local-cow cream whipped. For my vegan friends, I will leave the feta and the cream on the side. But the shortcake will NOT be gluten-free. I cook with organic ingredients whenever possible and invite any of the regulars on Monday to join us on that day.

Come! But let me know you are, please!



Written by algarita

May 22, 2015 at 10:32 pm

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Sensing the Right Time for Pre-Cleanse

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After spending two weeks working in Mexico, teaching yoga and helping with an Iyengar assessment, I found my digestion badly out of balance.

In Ayurveda, this is an important observation NOT to ignore. Of course, it is also busting out spring here in the Austin area (and Queretaro was ahead of us, Monterrey about the same). I’ve always been sensitive to spring pollens. As a child I was pumped full of a medicine I think was called chlortrimeton, don’t know if it is even made anymore. What works better for me now as an adult is regular cleansing, of hair with frequent shampoo (and once a week oil treatment), of nose (with neti pot) and of tongue (with tongue scraper).  As I bring these practices back into my life (NEXT time, travel with these things, note to self!), I can feel balance beginning to be restored.

The cardinal sign of imbalance was not really anything concrete, but a strong craving for sweets. The mexican vegetarian diet is heavy on carbohydrates, and when I don’t add sufficient protein, my sweet tooth goes crazy. It’s rare that I find myself in an airport looking for cupcakes, but there I was (and fortunately did not find any). Now that I’m home and able to add the nuts and yogurt and occasional eggs to the daily fare, things are coming back together.

The signs are here, though, to begin a pre-cleanse, a prelude to a week of nothing but nonfat kichadee/kicheree/kichadi (it has various spellings) with an increasing dose of ghee at the beginning of the day. This is the ayurvedic practice of deep cleaning the intestines: a non-fat legume and rice diet for up to a week or two, with ghee in the mornings. I actually look forward to this time of year, and usually do it twice, spring and fall. During the pre-cleanse, I let go of sugar and caffeine completely, and gradually lower the amount of fat in my diet, adding in more vegetables and grains, simply cooked. As I prepare myself for the radical mono-diet of kichadee, I can feel my bodymind appreciating life in a deeper way.

My book “Physical Poetry” describes in more detail how to undertake this practice. It’s important, too, after the week or weeks of only kichadee, to take triphala or castor oil to purge the large intestine, and to go back to normal eating slowly, beginning by adding a little ghee or olive oil to salads or grains and vegetables. This way, the kapha accumulation of winter will not overwhelm us and we can ease into spring and summer renewed.

Written by algarita

March 13, 2015 at 2:20 am

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Yogurt Rice with Spices and Curry Leaves and Yogurt

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A key text for me in shaping my thinking about food is “Diet for a Small Planet,” by Frances Moore Lappe. She points out that when we combine a grain and dairy, we have a more complete set of amino acids in our food. Here we have rice (I like basmati or texmati in the warmer weather, short grain brown in the winter) and yogurt and spices for a tasty one bowl meal. Thanks to my friend Wendy for sharing this recipe!

4 cups cooked rice

2 medium onions

1/2 ” piece of ginger, finely chopped or grated

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 green chili, finely chopped, or 1/4 tsp cayenne

2 tbsp. vegetable oil (I like sesame or olive)

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds, could use more to taste

pinch of asafoetida (also called “hing”)

8-10 curry leaves (thanks to my friend Leah, I have a big plant and will be making smaller gift plants soon; I’ve also heard the plants are sometimes sold at Indian markets)

salt to taste

1 cup yogurt, beaten with a spoon

1 tbsp chopped cilantro to garnish

Chop onions and chili finely, warm oil over medium heat and add mustard seeds and asafoetida. Cook until seeds splutter. Add ginger, garlic, chili and curry leaves. Cook for about one minute and add onions, saute-ing until lightly browned. Add salt and rice. Toss and cook 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat, add yogurt, and stir gently. Enjoy!

Written by algarita

February 19, 2015 at 5:56 am

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Amazing, Colorful, Green and red and orange citrus salad!

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You can see a photo on my (Margaret Kelley’s) facebook page. Can’t figure out how to put it here, though I tried. The colors are so lovely and cheering, and the taste is amazing. Worth the effort, and not that hard!


for the dressing:

2 oranges or tangelos, juiced

bunch of basil (I left it out, did not have any)

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

salt and pepper

4-6 tablespoons of olive oil

for the salad:

4 large handfuls of spring mix (more for more folks)

I like to include spinach as well as lettuces

1 large pomegranate, seeded (fun to do, use a sharp spoon)

4 oranges or tangelos, sectioned

2 radishes, tinly sliced

1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts

Mix dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor. It is meant to be thin.

Wash and chop greens, place in a salad bowl, add MOST OF THE pomegranate seeds, all the  orange sections, nuts and radishes, sprinkle the saved seeds over the top, toss with dressing, ENJOY!

Written by algarita

February 2, 2015 at 5:27 pm

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Unctuous Food

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Creamy Millet Casserole is something I make regularly. The miso and tahini make it unctuous, creamy, delightful. Here’s the recipe:

Cook one cup millet in three cups of boiling water, reduce heat and cover, simmer till done, about 20-30 minutes.

Stir fry an assortment of veggies: onions, mushrooms, broccoli florets, shredded cabbage or kale or collards, adding the more quickly cooking veggies last. Use whatever oil you find best for you, a tablespoon or two to start the onions, mushrooms, garlic and/or ginger if you like. You can add a half cup or so of water, cover and cook the harder veggies for awhile till tender (carrots, broccoli, for example) and then add the more tender veggies later.

To one half cup of hot water, cream in 3 tablespoons of miso and a half cup of tahini. Mix all together till creamy. In a casserole dish, combine cooked millet, steamed veggies, and creamed miso and tahini and water. Bake about 15 minutes at 350 till warmed and blended. Enjoy!

Unctuousness in food is important at this time of year. Winter is drying, depleting, and can be generally gloomy. Cheer up the kitchen with a medley of veggies and grains. Of course, use organic when possible! By the way, the word “unctuous” comes from a Latin root meaning “anointed with oil.” The tahini has sesame oil in it, and miso has an oily quality to it as well. Unfortunately, it’s a word on the hate lists of some food writers. Perhaps because when applied to people it can mean smarmy or falsely flattering. It’s a word I like, obviously, fun to say! If the photo comes through, it is of guacamole and chips, also unctuous. Photo of creamy millet perhaps next time May all be fed! May peace prevail!

Written by algarita

January 19, 2015 at 4:19 am

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Good Food for the Waxing Moon

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Dear Cyber-Universe,

I’ve decided to write more regularly this year and to limit this blog to Ayurveda and food-related topics. So twice a month, you will see a new recipe on this blog. This month, with the new year upon us, so many things are on my mind; new legislation in effect in California mandating more humane conditions for chickens and pigs (if you eat eggs, chicken or pork), a defense by the State of Vermont of their mandatory gmo-labelling law, rising rates of autism (seemingly related to the use of glysophate, an ingredient in Round-up, a widely used pesticide). More on all these topics later.

For now, how about some good winter food:

Kale and Buckwheat Pasta

Clean & coarsely chop a bunch of Kale (trim the ends and chop the stems especially fine)—set aside.

Put 2 T olive oil in a pot along with a tablespoon (more or less to taste) of finely chopped garlic.

Add kale, with just the water from washing, when garlic becomes translucent.

Cook about 20 min, stirring once or twice. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Cook buckwheat noodles according to package directions. When the pasta is done, drain and toss with the cooked kale. Add parmesan, vegan or dairy, if you like. A nice color addition is to add finely shredded organic carrots and/or beets. Enjoy!

Written by algarita

January 2, 2015 at 11:37 pm

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