Here I am at Kripalu Center where I'm spending 6 weeks volunteering and training. Yay! It's also where some of the best vegetarian meals can be had. Yay! How dare I even consider complaining? Well, if you're trying to adhere to a pure ayurvedic diet like I am, it can be challenging. However, I've figured out a few things and would love to share with anyone interested. I apologize for the late-ness of this but here goes ...

Ok, so my main problem is that there is garlic and onions in just about everything including the poached eggs that are commonly served for breakfast (if not on a bed of sauteed onions then sliced tomatoes -- yikes!). I'm happiest when they're available on sauteed spinach or just straight up hard boiled. Why is this such a big deal for me? Well, garlic, onions, and tomatoes (to name a few) are considered rajasic. Rajasic means aggravating to the whole physiology especially in Summer/Pitta season (acid is associated with the fire element). Basically, they're not the kinds of food that promote a yogic state of mind. They are pungent, stimulating, etc. Garlic in particular has amazing health-giving qualities but for some, depending on constitution, its just not a good idea. As a Pitta, its better for me to stay away. I've felt a definite difference since I've removed it from my diet. I'm not so easily irritated or reactionary. I know you garlic lovers (Carrie & Co.) are cringing right now ... but I say, it's worth it. There, I said it!

Same goes for tomatoes: too acidic. In general, most people have high acidity in the body and the need to alkaline for balance can be really beneficial. Other highly acidic foods include orange juice (sorry, Carly), citrus juices, and all night-shade vegetables: peppers, potatoes, eggplant as well as tomatoes. I've been drawn to the small pear or grape tomatoes and those don't do as much damage as long as they're super sweet. Sweet taste helps calm acidity. Does this mean that you have to swear off these innocent veggies? No, but if you're of Pitta nature or you have Pitta (inflammatory) symptoms in the Summer you'll definitely want to moderate. Try doing without for a week or two and you be the judge. I wasn't going to mention coffee and alcohol but will anyways. Yeah ... nope, sorry. Even though I indulge every once in a while, I'm always pretty sorry for it in the following days.

Ok, there's a theme here: Pitta dosha and Summer. They're related through the fire element as mentioned before. Pitta should be actively pacified if you have it as a dominant dosha or imbalance. Vata and Kaphas may not have as much to worry about. In any case, lay on the turmeric-cumin-coriander spices to help find balance between the tastes on your plate (tridoshic, digestive, mainly cooling properties that help with inflammation). Also, avoid using too much olive oil on your food. It's heating. Wait for the fall. That said, Vata's should always load their salads with good oils or oily dressing as this will make the veggies more agreeable to their variable digestion. I'm lucky enough to have an adoring husband who shipped homemade ghee to me. I use this in my soups, grains, veggies. It's a fantastic digestive, it's cooling (like coconut but even more beneficial), and even helps with the absorption and assimilation of nutrients from our food. Ok, so that's not so accessible to everyone (you can buy it in the shop, however) but it is nice to brag about my amazing hubbie.

Greens, greens, greens! Do these up to take the internal body temp down a few notches as well as whole grains, root veggies, cukes and zukes/squash.

As for dairy, moderate on the eggs (or do mostly whites for now - the yokes are heating) and hard/aged cheeses. Go for the fresh cheeses like cottage, goat, and fresh mozzarella. Not only are these types easier on the digestive system but they're also not as heating because they have lower fat content. The more fat content in the form of oil in a cheese (dense, harder types), the more Pitta aggravating it can be. Milk, is very cooling and nourishing for Pitta season. I'm not saying to go and down a whole glass of the stuff but not to be afraid of it. Milk has gotten such a bad rep and in Ayurveda it's considered one of the most sattvic (pure, peaceful) foods. Again, does this mean that you can't enjoy a little provolone in a sammie once in a while - no! Just be aware and variate your choices. Then, notice how you feel... and breath. Sound familiar?

Another sattvic food of note is fruit. I've heard that people have a hard time incorporating fruit while following an ayurvedic diet. The challenge is that fresh fruit digests differently than all other food and usually requires to be eaten alone to not disturb the digestive process. So, this means that its eaten in between meals or as breakfast. This takes a bit of planning. Here's what I've done: in the early a.m. I go up to the cafeteria and get my morning tea and some fresh fruit (after I've had a cup or two of warm/room temp water). I enjoy those together and am on my way. When I time it correctly, I'm eating breakfast an hour or so later. At breakfast and/or lunch, I take a bit of fresh fruit with me for a snack and eat that at least a couple hours after lunch if I'm hungry. If I forget about it, which happens a lot, I may eat it as a dessert a couple hours after dinner. Cooked fruit is fine to eat with meals: prunes with cooked grains or toast for breakfast or chutney with dinner (those are the only examples I can think of).

Same goes for yogurt. Try just having a little dollop on the side with meals or have it as a snack (its taken as lassi - diluted yogurt drink with spices - as an afternoon snack in India) in between meals. Avoid eating it with fruit. Fruit and milk is not good Ayurvedic food combining.

That's it for now! Gotta run to make it to afternoon sadhana!

Jai Bhagwan,
Heather