Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Yoga Body Diet. Ayurvedic Matcha Porridge.

Winter Reading and Yoga-ing... I've spent my entire Fall/Winter in Ithaca either reading about yoga or practicing it. I feel like I have a brand new spine. My shoulders no longer go all the way up to my ears (most of the time). I walk home from every practice having had some type of emotional breakthrough that you would think I had just had a heart-to-heart with Oprah. But it's working...and I will be home in Philly in a few short months and hope to not undo any of the progress.

So what on this earth have I been reading? I just tore through the Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, and while I had some mixed feelings on the book, I found it truly compelling, a must-read for anyone who spends time on the mat. The book discusses some of the myths and misconceptions of yoga, citing various studies, and left me thinking about yoga in a different way. People are always telling us how wonderful that yoga is for us (myself included) that it is refreshing to hear the not so beautiful parts. I am hopeful that now that yoga is beyond mainstream, there will be even stronger research from which we can continue to learn. But read it! And let me know what you think.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Yoga Body Diet. Looking back now, this is the kind of book that the author of Science of Yoga warns about. Whatever your thoughts are on ayurveda as medicine, however, I have found many solutions in these pages.

This book makes the practice of ayurveda simple. You determine your dosha if you do not already know it, and find tips, recipes, an ingredient list of the best foods for your dosha, as well as suitable yoga poses. It includes tailored yoga practices for those who practice at home. It's straightforward, simple, and from what I've noticed, works. I feel a million times better if I follow the guidelines for Vata, especially in the winter or as seasons change.

And honestly? Ayurveda is a lot more reliable than those magazine quizzes you take to find out your skin type.

One of my favorite London breakfasts was this creamy, green-tinted Matcha Oatmeal made with matcha blended oats that I found at Selfridges, with soy milk, cinnamon and honey (if strict vegan, try maple syrup, also good for Vata). Here in the states I use organic rolled oats and mix in cinnamon and matcha. Matcha can be expensive but you only need 1 tsp for this recipe so it will last. I buy a small tin of Republic of Tea matcha for $6, which is fine for this use. I also use it for Green Tea Cupcakes.

Cinnamon, oats, honey, coconut, almonds, and soy milk are all on the Vata list, and they all make their way into this recipe. And you don't have to be a Vata dosha to enjoy it, since Winter is a Vata season and all doshas can adjust this to be beneficial. See below for recommendations.

Ayurvedic Matcha Porridge

1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp matcha powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp honey
2 tsp coconut butter
small handful of crushed almonds, for topping

Heat the soy milk and then add oats, matcha, cinnamon, and honey. Stir the matcha in thoroughly until your porridge is a pale green.  Simmer until oats are cooked, stirring often. Then fold in coconut butter (makes it super creamy and adds healthy fat for Vata) and top with crushed almonds for texture.

Makes 1 serving.

This porridge is incredibly creamy, has a slight green tea flavor that I love, and is probably one of my all time favorite oatmeal bowls. 

For Pitta: Top with blueberries. Soy milk, cinnamon, and oats are wonderful for Pitta, but use maple syrup or raw sugar instead of honey.

For Kapha: All berries, honey gets superfood status for Kapha, cinnamon, oats, and soy milk are great.

This book has simply made me more conscious of knowing what will serve my body versus what will aggravate it. There's science, there's "alternative medicine", and then there's delicious. Can't we be inspired by all 3?

[book images:,]


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Angélique Roux said...

Some questions and notes. (:

Question first, in case the rest is too long to read: what doshas do matcha work on exactly? I can imagine it works well to increase prana (my body's reaction to my first cup of matcha this morning: 3 minute detox within 5 minutes of consuming it, but recovery is much quicker than detoxing with coconut oil, but slower than with sesame seed oil). Is it recommended for vata?

Not to discredit the author (because I haven't read the book), but Ayurvedic food is easier to understand if you break it into the elements.

Vata: wind and ether (that's why it's cold and dry, also often anxious and rushed, prone to constipation - thus the need of healthy, warming oils like sesame seeds)
Pitta: fire and water (hot and moist, prone to inflammation, passionate, likely to get angry if they've not eaten)
Kapha: earth and water (cold and solid, oily, prone to stagnation)

I hate to burst bubbles, so I'm sincerely sorry if it seems hat that's what I'm doing here, but I have to add a note of caution to this gorgeous-sounding recipe. Coconut oil/butter is too cold for vata - it's a pitta thing. Sesame seed oil and maybe macadamia nut oil or avocado (fantastic! without the "detoxing" effects in the short term) are vata things (more rich in Omega oils; sesame seed oil and ripe avocado is the only oil that works for me, a very sensitive vata person with a quick metabolism to tell her within five to ten minutes of consuming something, if it's working or not). Even one teaspoon of coconut oil, butter or cream makes for very painful bowel movements - sorry for the TMI.

Cinnamon is nice and warming, but as it is a diuretic and Vata being dry, I wouldn't recommend this in a regular basis unless you have symptoms of excess water retention (overweight, swollen feet). Wouldn't really say it's genius for pitta, except that it's a diuretic, but if you're more fire than water, then best to leave this out unless it's once in a while. Cinnamon also tastes 100 times better if you steep cinnamon sticks in the boiling water/milk you're using for this - it takes away the dryness of the powder and if it cools down, might even replace sugar (so yum!).

Warm oatmeal is fantastic for vata people. I can literally not function without my oatmeal breakfast (topped with avocado, a tiny bit of black pepper for digestion, and goji berries).

Almonds are great, but might be a little too dry for some vata people.
Soy is great for excessively dry vata: soy oil for very dry skin, and so on. Oats and milk (plant, nut, dairy, kefir) are oja-building. Ojas are the building blocks of your body and immune system. Too much prana and agni can deplete ojas, so oats is fantastic to start the day.

Sorry for the load of information. I hope it was useful to you in tweaking this recipe to your constitution according to the Ayurveda I've studied (through a very comprehensive Integral Vinyasa yoga course, from teachers who studied Ayurveda in India, with a whole module dedicated to the science and philosophy of Ayurveda). The guidelines I've learned have helped me manage my overly sensitive stomach and metabolism, and irritable bowel. I hope they can be of use to you too. Again, I apologize sincerely for going all out like this on your post. Just had to say something about the coconut butter as it might cause someone pain as it does for me - it was really scary and I couldn't eat for the rest of the day due to extreme nausea. The only coconut thing I can eat/drink now is fresh coconut water (from young/green coconuts) and only in moderation (one glass a day).

Thank you for reading this.

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