Cuisine for mind and body balance

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Ayurvedic cooking teaches you to eat right using simple ingredients and techniques, finds PINKY BHATIA

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“You’re cooking with massage oils?” asked a friend when I mentioned that I have signed up for an Ayurvedic cooking class. It got me thinking that clearly Ayurveda is well-known for other things, than its cuisine! Until a decade ago hardly anyone in the western world could spell or say ‘Ayurveda’, but now with the in-vogue aim of balancing body and mind, it has been associated with the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore a just a few of the celebrities that swear by it.

Native to India, Ayurveda is a 5000-year-old traditional self-care system of preventative medicine. It meshes nutrition, meditation, massage, yoga and tailor-made herbal remedies. Until now, I didn’t think this knowledge was accessible without having to consult a professional Ayurvedic doctor or spend ages studying it myself.  But an Art of Living Ayurvedic cooking course opened up a new dimension of how I can apply the secrets of Ayurveda in daily life to help enrich the health and well-being of me and my loved ones.

It’s hard to express the energy, enthusiasm, passion and gratitude I have for coming across this knowledge, but here are the essentials so that others can eat their way to happiness.

 

Use food as medicine

The basics of Ayurveda and its nutrition are in eating the right type of food at the right time, based on individual body types.  Ayurveda does not recommend any type of dieting, or skipping of meals. Rather, it encourages a wholesome, timely meal that will naturally reduce excess body weight or build mass in the right way for those who need it, without any special effort. Ayurveda provides personalised food for individual healing processes and body constitutions. You should identify your body type, appropriate cooking methods, preparing and eating food that enhances your health and well being.

 

Food needs to appeal to all five senses  

Ayurveda advises that it is important to eat food that appeals to all your senses; your love for this food aids it in having a positive impact. Apart from ensuring healthy ingredients and having been cooked to retain its positive attributes, this food should look, feel, smell and taste good. Food cooked according to Ayurvedic techniques retains the life in the food, with a unique fresh taste and texture. The food satisfies the five senses and satiates hunger, while allowing the mind and body to experience natural lightness and calmness.

 

You are what you eat

The attributes of your body and mind are closely associated with the food you consume. The three attributes are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. The Sattva mind displays clarity, harmony and balance brought by consuming fresh raw or cooked food. The Rajas mind is active and restless, experienced by spicy and rich food. The Tamas mind is dull, leading to inaction and depression, observed on consuming stale food, meat in any form, and alcoholic or caffeinated beverages. While you may continue to eat all types of food, you can become aware of the influence of food on your mind. The best option is to retain the state of Sattva.

 

An Ayurveda cooking course

The Melbourne-based Manju Bhargava, an experienced senior Art of Living teacher from India teaches a course on Ayurveda cuisine that is well worth a try. At a recent session, the host Dimple Garg created a warm and welcoming atmosphere inside her house, with its soft lighting and much-needed air-conditioning on a 40o day. I cherish the recipes and notes, and will add to these in the future. I particularly loved the way we paused and savoured the smells and tastes of the foods we were cooking, rediscovering the magic of working with the spices. The fragrance that filled the kitchen, and the feeling of real joy in creating such delicious and healthy meals was something I didn’t expect and had clearly underestimated.

For me, the best part was discovering that the food cooked retains its nutrition and natural flavours, and is created using every day ingredients. It requires minimum work in a modern kitchen, a very important aspect for a time-poor person like me. And, with a foodie husband, it helps that the food is amazingly tasty!

I am still buzzing with energy and a sense of renewed consciousness in the food choices I am making. Food is an important part of our life and knowing the importance of eating in accordance with nature and the seasons, as well as how to eat right for your particular body type is crucial. I now understand that I have to nourish my body as well as mind with my food choices.

So consider my advice and make your choice of cooking the Ayurveda way.