Food as Meditation: 3 Stages to Rethink How You Eat
Jerry Seinfeld once said, ‘Thank god for relationships. Without them, all we would ever talk about is food. These days, wherever we look, we find a new blog, book or ideology proclaiming the health benefits of a new superfood, supplement or diet, guaranteed to give you, among other things, effortless weight loss, boundless energy, mental clarity and eternal youth. So, of course, you give it a try, and, voila, it works….. well, for a few weeks, anyway. Then, unable to sustain this radical new way of eating, you’re back to your old habits until…. the next fad diet promising, well, you know the same results as the last one.
We have bought into a reductionist, cookie-cutter mentality, believing that we can all eat the same thing and get the same results. Ayurveda, the planet’s first nature-based medical system teaches that, although some things are right for some people sometimes, nothing, no foods, fads or diets are always right for everyone. This observation is based on the premise that, each and every one of us, is completely different and totally unique.
With respect to food, the only universal truth is that we all need to eat. Period. Beyond that, we each have various likes, dislikes, preferences, aversions and what we regard as the perfect meal. Every day, however, we are faced with the same problem…having to choose. This dilemma brings us to the topic of this blog…. Food As Meditation
First, let me explain a few concepts. Meditation is a tool for clarifying our values and creating a calm and focused mind. It is a simple, yet profound practice which, eventually, transforms our perception and, ultimately, changes our behavior.
Classically, meditation is a three stage process requiring the abilities to: 1.Choose 2. Focus and 3. Sustain.
Choose– this is the most difficult step in meditation, as in order to choose to eat certain foods, I must forgo a whole bunch of other food choices. Choice comes from the inside. It implies taking in information from the outside, filtering it through your individual experience and applying the parts that are appropriate to you depending on your goals. This considered choice implies reflection and commitment which leads to the second aspect of
Focus. When I choose freely and willingly the foods that work for me then I am more likely to stay with these choices for a long time because it feels good and it’s the right thing for me. With this as my foundation I am more likely to stay the course and
Sustain my eating plan. Why? Because I am the one choosing based on what feels right for my body. This is the ultimate meditation. Someone who takes their cues and changes their behavior based on what feels truly right for them!
This is part one of a 3-part Ayurveda series. Be sure to check back next month for more great information from Eleni and check out her intro workshop 6.25.15.
Eleni Tsikrikas is an Ayurvedic practitioner based in Silverlake. She coaches and empowers students to make amazing food and lifestyle choices. She teaches Ayurveda Skills For Living courses and regular workshops at One down Dog Yoga.
Ayurveda 101: 5 Morning Rituals to Create Balance
Ayurveda is the science of life. It’s often referred to as yoga’s sister science, as they both originated with Vedic scholars some 5,000 years ago. Ayurveda strives to create balance in our natural constitution, or dosha, taking into account external factors such as the time of year or the climate where we live. While modern yogis often associate Ayurveda with diet, there are many ways to incorporate the practice into your lifestyle.
5 Morning Rituals
1. Lemon water
Ayurvedic science states that drinking a warm glass of lemon water in the morning helps to purify the blood. There are many articles floating around debating this theory, but all agree that lemon is a good source of vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from free radicals – vital for every cellular process from improving the look of your skin to helping prevent cancer. The citric acid in your morning tonic will also enhance your body’s ability to flush out toxins1. And the citrus flavonoids work to suppress appetite and calm mild stomach upset.
Of course, this simple ritual will also jump-start your water drinking for the day, which is always a huge plus! Use the juice of at least half a lemon, and add spoonful of raw organic honey for a little sweetness (and natural anti-inflammatory powers).
2. Oil pulling
A teaspoon a day keeps the dentist away! Place a spoonful or two of organic coconut or sesame oil in your mouth. Hold it there for about three minutes, then swish vigorously for another minute (be sure not to swallow). Repeat at least one more time. Spit the oil into the trash, and rinse your mouth well before brushing your teeth. Studies show that this process helps prevent plaque buildup and gingivitis2, and it will make your teeth feel cleaner and brighter right away.
3. Tongue scraping
After brushing, run a u-shaped metal tongue scraper (available at any health store) along the top of your tongue from back to front. Repeat 5-10 times, rinsing the scraper after each pass. When you’re finished, rinse your mouth and gargle gently. This will remove bacteria and stimulate saliva production, both important for maintaining a healthy mouth and fresh breath. In a pinch, you could use the edge of a metal spoon instead.
4. Dry brushing
Dry brushing is one of the best ways to improve circulation and exfoliate skin. Use a brush with medium-stiff bristles made from natural materials. Stand or sit in a dry tub and start brushing in a circular motion on the soles of your feet. Then move to the tops, the ankles, then up the legs using longer strokes to match the shape of your bones. Continue along your torso and arms, all the way up to your neck, avoiding the delicate skin of your face. Always brush in the direction of your heart.
Stimulating the skin in this way helps to circulate lymph, which carries away cellular waste to be eliminated. It removes dead skin, and the Huffington Post even reported that it helps diminish cellulite3! Plus, it’ll help you feel invigorated even before you step into the shower.
5. Oil massage
I’ve saved my favorite for last. Abhyanga is the practice of self-massage with oils. In colder months or for drier, more brittle bodies, sesame oil is grounding. For the summer or naturally oily, warm bodies, coconut oil is cooling.
Take a little oil and rub it between your hands to warm, then begin to massage the crown of your head with your fingertips. Spread your hands and continue rubbing your scalp in a circular motion, then the face, then move from the extremities up the limbs toward the torso. Use long strokes toward the heart as you would for dry brushing. Pay extra attention to joints like knees and hips, rubbing in a circular motion. Massage the abdomen and chest clockwise, following the shape of the large intestine. Then spend a little extra time on the feet, rubbing the soles with your palms to create friction, then kneading with your knuckles, spreading the toes, and any other motions that feel good.
Allow the oil to soak in for at least 20 minutes before taking a gentle shower or bath. You could also use a lighter coat of oil after a shower in place of lotion (skip the hair).
Abhyanga lubricates the joints, moisturizes the skin and stimulates circulation of lymph and blood. It’s also incredibly soothing for the nervous system, and a beautiful way to show yourself a little love.
To go deeper into your Ayurvedic practice and bring balance to your body and spirit, check out our six-week Herbal Apothecary workshop with Eleni Tsikrikas beginning Wednesday, February 25.
Discover Ayurveda, the planet’s oldest, nature-based medical system.
In this 6 week course, we will look at health and wellness through the Ayurvedic lens, discovering the natural principles underlying this ancient science of life.
Together we will explore:
• Week 1 (February 25th): Intro to the Ayurvedic lens
• Week 2 (March 4th): Culinary Spices: Ginger, Turmeric, Cadamom, Cumin, Fennel, Cinnamon, Black pepper
•Week 3 (March 11th): The Leaves: Peppermint, Spearmint, Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary, Parsley
•Week 4 (March 25th): Tea Herbs: Astragalus, Alfalfa, Hibiscus, Lemon Balm, Licorice, Nettle, Red Clover, Spearmint
•Week 5 (April 1st): The Rejuvenate Fruits: Amalaki, Bibhitaki, Haritaki
•Week 6 (April 8th): The Nervinces: Ashwaganda, Brahmi (Gotu Kola/Bacopa), Shankapushipi, Skullcap, Tulsi