ayurveda diet

The Sensual Art of Eating with the Hands

For thousands of years, people across South Asia and the Middle East have eaten with their hands, and not utensils. Even today, the practice has become very common – and to the casual onlooker, it may seem somewhat strange!

However, first of all, we have to understand that eating itself, as also cooking, is somewhat a sensual art, deriving from our creative powers and stimulating our digestions. We now know about the enteric nervous system of “brain/gut” axis, that systems such as Ayurveda have known about since time immemorial.

Touch (sparsha) is, in itself, a sensual and necessary comfort for humans, via love, embrace etc.  Thus also, these “street foods” apart from the Italian pasta fork!

Take for example, every brain impulse, the effects on neurotransmitters; when people ‘tuck in’ to the kebab, to the fried chicken and eat with their hands, the brain is fully stimulated to relish the full taste, unobstructed by the (cold, inorganic) aids to deliver such to the mouth. Half of the subconscious “stress” of eating is aside, due to etiquette being waved. The nerves of the fingers also may touch the lips – such stimuli humans, as sensory organisms, crave!

In India, however, it is the right-hand only used for eating; the left, used for ablutions, is considered ashuddhi or impure/unclean. This has to do also with the right-hand representing the sun, fire and pingala nadi in yoga (thus, better for improving digestion), thus higher and more subtle and masculine. The left hand is considered lunar, watery and feminine, as the ida nadi in yoga runs through it and is hence more dense and earthy – thus relates to wastes (malas), considered of these more watery and earthy elements. Touch is hence more perceptible subtly on the right and is pure (sattwika/shuddhi). The left is akin to leftovers (ucchishtha), relating to the Goddess and impure. Yet, in higher yogic circles, the path of the goddess, especially the taboo, is hence known as Vamamarga or the left-hand path.

Touch itself is related to the element of air or oxygen (vata, vayu), which is connected to the skin, in Ayurveda. Vayu/vata is itself responsible for life in the body as a biological constituent (dhatu) in the body providing movement (gati) of the blood, respiratory system etc. Without it, the heart wouldn’t beat, the brain wouldn’t think and we are but a lifeless corpse! Touch/vayu also relates to the highest form of prana or the breath of life, connected to the soul. Thus, the connection between inner peace, calm and our own soul (Ayurveda tells us we should eat in a quiet, calm place for such a purpose).

The science of eating with the hands also goes deeper. When we eat, the index finger and thumbs are connected, forming the jnana-mudra, the symbol of wisdom via subtle pressure points via nadis or subtle channels across the body, also in the hands. This stimulates our intellect, and also has a reaction on our digestive system and is said to awaken the digestive fire, assisting with metabolising our foods.

Connecting the middle-finger and ring-finger to the thumb, as we do when eating, activates a form of the apanavayu-mudra, a hand symbol where the index-finger is tucked in (similar to apana-mudra where the small and index fingers remain erect), and assists with elimination of wastes in the body (by apanavayu, which takes them out and down, from the body), provides good colonic health in such a manner, etc. When eating with the hands, food is actually being stimulated in such a manner via this.

In the ancient system of palmistry, apart from planets, the system of mudras or hand gestures tells is that the thumb is itself the principle of agni or fire, relating to metabolism at all levels – from digestive metabolism, to that of the bodily tissues. Stimulating it – as we do when eating (as the thumb is required) activates this by pressing on the thumb. It is also believed that such energies are imparted to the food via this also, giving it an “energised” aspect. Of the fingers, the little finger represents water, ring finger represents earth, whilst the middle and index fingers represent ether and air, respectively.

In this way, all of the three biological humors in the body, the doshas, are combined via these combinations. Food may also taste more delicious, since all of the five elements are imbibed it it, at the subtle level of the tanmatras or base atomic levels, viz. ether (sound), air (touch), fire (sight), water (taste) and earth (smell).

Here, we can see that combining the fingers to eat, also sends heightened messages to our brain’s neurotransmitters via the nerves and nadis, the subtle channel systems – and helps us to better appreciate food from a “warm” than a “cold” aspect as we would via utensils. In this way, we relish foods by having a better perception, a more intimate connection via the sounds it makes when we eat it, the touch and texture of it which we perceive via our fingers, as also the warmth, which provides our minds with more nourishment – as well as relishing in the sight of foods, the taste and finally, the smell.

In this manner, the five elements are perceived via eating with the hands as a kind of “meditation”. For this reason since ancient times to the present day – many Indians, of all castes and classes, regions and beliefs share a common goal of eating with the hands – an ancient sensual art, for these reasons!

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Jala Rahasya: The Secret of Water in Ayurveda

“May waters filled with medicinal properties protect my body, so I may have the vision of the Sun!”
-Rig Veda, IX.9.7 (Author’s translation)

According to Ayurveda, the properties of water vary. Different types of water are thus useful for different people, disorders and times.

Unboiled water is said to take 3 hours to digest, boiled and cooled water 1.5 hours to digest and boiled water taken warm takes 48 minutes to digest according to the principles laid out in Ayurveda.

Drinking too much and over-hydrating suppresses the digestive fire and enzymes and hence can lead to disease. Especially drinking cold water can lead to various complications such as hiccups, gas, pains etc. and is thus also contraindicated in such cases (vata-rogas and kapha-rogas).

Warm and hot water helps alleviate these symptoms, especially when taken at night-time as it helps reduce the cooler properties of vata and kapha respectively.

The below isn’t at all a rigid nor exhaustive system, but one merely based on properties and generics alone, relative to jalapana (intake of water).

Note these seasons are based on the western four-season model outside of India, since India has a unique six seasons:

Vata Prakriti / old age / late autumn and early winter:

Warm water baths and warm water taken internally and warm milk with spices (ginger, cardamon etc.). For dryness, warm water taken with a little ghee is useful or castor oil with ginger at bed-time for constipation. Waters from the jungle-regions is better as it is agni-dipana or stimulating to the digestion, as well as water that has been reduced by 75% while boiling, which is good for vata.

Pitta Prakriti / middle-aged / summer, early autumn and men:

Luke-warm and cooler water baths and cool water, milk or coconut milk taken internally or aloe juices. Water that has been reduced by 50% by boiling is suitable for pitta as well.

Kapha Prakriti / young age / late winter, spring and women:

Warm to hot water baths and warm/hot water taken internally as well as honey (except when there are menorrhagia and pitta disorders / artavavahasrota rogas). Jungle-water can be taken as well for kapha. Spiced water can be taken here such as with pippali, dry ginger or trikatu formula to stimulate digestion and alleviate accumulation of phlegm. Water that has been boiled and reduced by 25% is suitable for kapha-types and disorders.

In addition:

Cold water on the face is useful for all types (except kapha) as also is not using excess hot /warm water on the head (especially vata and pitta types) as this causes excess sadhaka-pitta leading to premature balding, dry scalp, grey hairs etc.

*Geographical climates to be considered

*Women should alternate these according to hormonal changes and cycles also.

*Where there is ama or fevers, this also needs to be tweaked accordingly.

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India’s Ancient Influence: Food to Architecture

Dholavira is an ancient city in India, commencing around 3,500BCE, which has some amazing influences that show continuity with later Indian culture.

1. Highly-polished pillars, not unlike the later Mauryan Pillars were found, with interesting bases. Polished statues such as the Priest-King and Red Sandstone Bust from other areas of the Indus culture also reveal this, and preceded the Hellenic world by well over 1,000 years in such techniques.

2. Large stadiums, holding up to 10,000 people have also be found. This also shows influences from India that, possibly, through trade via areas in Gujarat where Dholavira is located, as well as the influences of later Universities such as Takshashila west, influence the Greco-Roman world.

3. Hemispherical mounds were found, over rock-cut areas, not unlike later Stupas. Rock-cut architecture in Dholavira, in the form of these and also large reservoirs show the continuity of later architecture such as rock-cut cave-temples, to the amazing Kailasa Temple.

These mounds appear to be precursors to what became Buddhist Stupas – dome-shaped funerary mounds. Ruins at Kaushambi (800BCE-600BCE period) show of true-arch formations/basements with such, and also a large dome that was atop the palace. Later Stupas and Mauryan Architecture around 300BCE also sport these archways and domes – thus as early as 1,000 years before the advent of Islam, let alone so-called “Indo-Islamic” architecture in India (15thC AD).

True archways are also seen over deities on Indus-Valley seals around 2,500BCE. Ancient people as the Todas of southern India have also built their huts in such styles for thousands of years. Corbelled archways are seen all over the Indus cities, especially at Dholavira, via sewage drains and storm-drains.

4. Large step-wells also originated in Dholavira. These also show continuity with later step-wells in India, and also their grand designs. It appears in the past 5,000 years, not much has changed.

5 The world’s oldest sign-board was also found at Dholavira, and originally went over the entranceway. Along with the stone-cut architecture that continues into later India, this reveals much more about ancient India.

Kalibangan in Rajasthan is another amazing city.

1. Tandoor ovens (known as kandu in texts such as Sushruta Samhita) – and the process of cooking meats like tandoori chicken have been found here. It was earlier thought such came to India via Central Asian influences, but it is clear such influences continued in India (as in present-day Sindh and Panjab), and spread to Central Asia etc., much like how South Indian cuisine and influences shaped SE-Asian cultures, especially Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. Central Asia was once also Buddhist and Indian Universities attracted many students from there. It appears breads such as naan originated here and also spread to Central Asia as well, since the inhabitants ate much wheat; naan and kebabs are noted by Arabs in the 13th century, 400 years before the Mughals; Arabs and Persians also translated many Ayurvedic and other works which influenced their Unani system of medicine and contained many recipes; Arabs also dominated the spices from India and would have taken back some of the Indian culinary delicacies. Recipes would have also influenced this.

There is often a misconception that some dishes from Mughals, due to Hindi terms popularised by invaders. Yet, even common words in Hindi for foodstuffs, viz. goat (gosht), chicken (murgh), onion (pyaj), vegetables (subji), world (duniya), life (zindigi), heart (dil), and even book (kitab) derive from foreign sources; it doesn’t mean they aren’t native to India! Invaders often used their local terms for food etc. that were popular with them – as we see, even common every-day items used by Hindus were replaced with Turkic, Arabic and Persian loanwords in Hindi. The Greeks, for example, identified Krishna as Herakles and Shiva with Dionysus. Even kismet (fate) is commonly used in Hindi to denote karmic fate – hence Hindi, as a common language, uses foreign terms for even things Hindu replacing Sanskrit.

Various dishes such as Pilaf (from which Paella originates) originated in ancient India, from blended dishes, taken back to Europe by Alexander the Great’s soldiers. Other classic dishes from kebabs to biryani have their origin in India, as well; The ancient figure and cook Nala of the Indian epics notes of Mamsodana or “meat-rice”, cooked with various fragrant spices (in his Paka-Darpana), as does the 12th Century text, Manasollasa, which also notes of recipes from modern-day idli in South India, to curries like pasanda, koftas, bondi and even chaats in the North. One recipe notes of pork balls and bacon in curds. The early Sangam literature in southern India, which also dominated the spice-trade also notes of Oon Soru, a dish of meat-rice with fragrant spices added around 200AD.

Again, the important fact to remember is that rice and spices as pepper, long pepper, cinnamon, cassia, star anise, cardamom, cumin, cloves turmeric, ginger etc. came from India to Central Asia and Arabia, where they were then transmitted west. It is thus no wonder we find such dishes originating in India, itself. As noted, Arabs (via spice trade and later influences from Ayurvedic books, trade, astronomy and mathematics from India) and Central Asians (via Buddhism, especially in the early centuries BCE and via the Silk Road trade routes) were influenced by cuisine etc. from Northern India as much as SE Asia was from southern Indian culture and cuisine.

Mamsodana or rice with meat and clarified butter, especially beef/veal (thus, beef biryani) is noted in Brihanaranyaka Upanishad (VI.4.18) around at least 3,200 years ago, said to be a recipe for providing a great son as a great scholar, able to hold debates etc. Interestingly, the modern Saint, Swami Vivekananda who brought Hinduism to the west, is known to have eaten beef! Such appears to do with the fact that Vrisha (the term for bull) also denotes strength, shakti or power – as seen by horned figures in ancient times from the Indus-Valley onwards. In the Vedas, beef or bulls was offered to Rudra (later Bhairava), who himself is often described as a bull in the Rig Veda. Shatapatha Brahmana (XII.7.2.3/6) states bulls are offered to Indra (later Shiva), since bulls as strength (indriya – also senses), as well as speech.

This may give us some clues as to the origin of biryani dishes in India, and their purpose, also.

Charaka, around 3,000 years ago (Charaka, Samhita, Sutrasthana, XXVII. 250 – 256) describes different types of rice preparations, including that with ghee, marrow, meats and fruits – not unlike variations in biryanis today. Likewise, Ashtanga Hridayam of Vagbhat around 600AD (Sutra, VI. 30 – 31) also notes of odana or boiled rice dishes with milk, meat etc (mamsa-odana, biryani), being hard to digest.

Sushruta around 3,500BCE, drawing from older works, also mentions various meat dishes that spread across the globe (along with India’s spices, just as Indian textiles and fashions did):

Mamsa Vilepi or a rice-gruel dish of meats, fruits, sour tastes and vegetables.

-Milk-Meat, processed in meat with fragrant spices, vi. cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger etc. (Su. Sam. Sut. XLVI.352). This is much like modern-day korma recipes, that pre-date Mughals by 3,000 years! Sweetened Vesavara Mamsa (ibid, 365) is similar; it is boneless meat, made into a paste, added with jaggery, ghee, Indian long pepper, black pepper and dry ginger.

Parisushka Mamsa, meat fried in ghee, processed with water, cumin and others. Pradigdha Mamsa is the same meat, placed in milk (ibid, 353). This is not unlike later variants such as keema dahi vada. Vadas themselves are mentioned (ibid 294-295) as vataka and sthunika and noted as being hard to digest, and of many varieties (“sarva vataka” – “all types of vataka“) – showing there were numerous forms and preparations; one form of discs of wheat and green-gram, as also filled with meat are noted (ibid 399). The vegetarian form of keema dahi vada also originated in Manasollasa. Preparations in buttermilk sauces etc. are noted (ibid, 449-457) where Sushruta notes various containers for storage of food preparations.

Here, we see the ideas of stuffed balls and cakes of various kinds, as also keema-parathas as originating in the time of Sushruta, 3,000 years ago or more. We recall that he was also from the more royal dynasties of Benares (Kashi), and hence mentions the foods of the kshatriya castes more.

Ullupta Mamsa or minced meat, often made into kebabs etc. (ibid, 354). It appears such also made its way into the middle-east as well. As noted, Manasollasa states of these recipes later, just in more detail. As tandoors originated in India, as also continuity in such dishes even in Sushruta’s times, shows kebabs originated in India and spread to Central Asia and Persia – perhaps by way of Gypsies, or trade, Indian scholars, or universities. Indian colonies, as via the Silk Road to Baghdad also established colonies where such influences would have existed.

Shulya Mamsa, meat roasted over coals etc. – basically, like kebab meat, or kebab-meat (ibid, 355), also called Pratapta meat, made by adding ghee, cumin, sea-salt and pepper, before roasting. Kebabs come from the ancient Akkadian term kebabu, which may derive from Sanskrit kandava (lit, “cooked in an oven/over coals”) or from kandu. Mahabharat first makes mention of roasting large pieces of meat with spices, juices etc. on spits. Harivamsa (c.400AD) elaborates on this (II.89.55 – 65), stating various substances such as fruit juices of pomegranate, vinegar, salt and black pepper used as marinades were cooked over coals on spikes; sauces of mangoes, vinegar, ghee, salt and pepper with sour fruit pastes, also.

-Bharjita-Mamsa (meat fried in fats, minced and made into pancakes – basically “meat-balls”) and finally, Kandu-pachita, basically tandoori-meat (ibid, 356), meat smeared with mustard powder, fragrant powders after being roasted. Again (ibid, 408), Sushruta mentions foods cooked on coals and mud-pans.

Many such influences were also taken west by the Romani (Gypsies) from India to Europe and the Middle East (by the Domari).

2. Fire-Altars which show continuity with the Vedic-culture to the modern-day. Ancient India’s Fire-cult as seen as early as the Rig-Veda reveals the origin of this, and also goes with the tandoors and the ancient sacred art of cooking.

3. The world’s earliest ploughed field came from Kalibangan also, around 2,800BCE. It shows a high-degree of agricultural sophistication.

4. Tiled floors are seen on houses, much like later and modern-day India. Latticework, not unlike that of later windows, palaces and temples is also found, of alabaster in some Indus cities.

Ancient Indian dress also inspired many across the world also, since cotton and other textiles arose in, and were exported from India since ancient times, to Mesopotamia, Egypt and later Greece and Rome, where such styles were influenced; the Roman toga derived from the Indian dhoti with upper draped garment over the shoulder as seen from Indus Valley times until the time of the Buddha and beyond; the Indus Valley also sports various types of turbans and tunics which spread across the western and eastern world, as well as numerous other headdresses, and hair-styles!

Just as we see later the Buddha sporting various knots, hair-styles and such, so also these are found in the Indus around 2800BCE onwards. Later military and royal tunics seen around 200BCE, as well as royal robes by Satavahana Kings on the older Ajanta Cave paintings, had their origin in the Indus. Tunics are also seen in The sculpture dubbed “Lady of the Spiked Throne” – a kind of bull-shaped ship, or vimana (flying chariot) sports men with tunics/robes and turbans as her guards/attendants, much as we see with later guards depicted in carvings and paintings in the Buddhist-era. Such are also seen on rock-art in Central and Eastern India, going back to 10,000BCE.

Like the art and architecture of India, these would have spread west. The use of dice, from one to six dots and the origin of chess are also from Indus cities – just as our modern numerals (1 – 9) replacing the cumbersome Roman system, zero, trigonometry, medicine and surgery, astronomy etc. spread etc. also was transmitted west via trade and also Indian universities where people studied – especially Takshashila in the western part of ancient India (Gandhara), which attracted many Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans and Egyptian students from 600BCE onwards. Here, the spread of Buddhism, Buddhist Monks and also the Sindhi-trade route would have influenced many dress-styles via being exported from India as ready-made textiles and their mode of wearing. Even buttons, for example originated in ancient India, and from the Egyptians to Romans, Indian gold and jewelry made its way west!

The Panchatantra, a work around 200BCE was translated into many languages from Latin to Arabic, and became the basis of fairy tales across the globe; like India’s numerals, integer system and decimal-place system, it is one of her most valuable contributions to the world’s culture – along with chess. Such tales in turn have their origin in the Ithihasa-purana literature – which is seen in the Brahmanas (1900BCE), and stories in the Indus-Valley motifs.

The ancient Indian system of Shilpa-Shastra or Stapathya Veda stands out as a purely Vedic model and is what has made Indus Valley cities famous; their grid-like and town-planning system, as well as hydraulic engineering, flush sit-down toilets, separate bathrooms etc. leading into large sewers – and even public rubbish bins on streets! Such is much as ancient hospitals and such are described in later times by authors such as Charaka, relative to public hygiene.

Thus, many styles of art, architecture, dress etc., especially in Central Asia (once Buddhist, and some regions even belonging to the Indus Culture) simple adapted these when converting to Islam; the once-Buddhist past was superimposed upon their new religion – which once dominated (and originated, from the Indus, spread via trade and education) from Sindh to deep into Central Asia.

The ancient name of the area, the Hindu Kush or Hindu-Killer, relates to the thousands of Hindu craftsmen slaves taken via this route to Samarkand and Bukhara, to build the capitals there.

In the East – India influenced China, Korea, Japan as well as Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines through Buddhism, Hinduism, Sanskrit literature as well as Indian scripts via southern India – the basis of SE Asian scripts, as well as dress-styles, just as Rome in the west influenced Europe. Epics as the Ramayana and Mahabharata are still performed throughout Asia and sung; ancient Cambodia boast’s the ancient Hindu Temple to Vishnu (Angkor Vat), and Thailand with it’s variants of south-Indian curries, dress and customs, scatterings of Hindu Brahmins (as also in Bali, in Indonesia) boasts southern-influences of architecture and Sanskrit-derived names for their rulers and place-names.

Even down to the anointing of the Thai rulers (Rajapisek, from Sanskrit: Rajyabhisheka – lit. “royal consecration/anointing”), the practices continue, as well as others to Hindu deities as Shiva (notably Triyampawai ceremony).

Just as the south-Indian scripts, dynasties with clothing and architecture, as also curries and spices influenced SE Asia, so also, as we see, Northern India, from things originating in Vedic times in the Indus-Valley, continued onwards and also influenced people west, such as the Arabs and Persians – translators of the Hindu texts, especially thus also gastronomical, as also influences as dress and belly-dancing from the Gypsies, Indian traders and their contact with Indian Universities. Just as the southern Gopura-style influenced SE Asia, so the northern dome and arch-styles influenced the west from the ancient and Indus origins, as also tunics, robes and such.

As with textiles originating in India and being exported, so also thus, North and South, India as the land of exporting rice and spices to the world also generated many delicacies along with these over thousands of years. Some became staples in Buddhist periods in Central-Asia and also the Arab world influenced from India – which were this popularised even more by their local names upon such invaders taking power of India; yet, we see the indigenous origin of such things “Mughal” as 5,000 years old in India, with continuity from later times (500AD – 1200AD), as we do with south Indian influences and those given to SE Asia.

From the naan and kebab, to tandoori dishes and biryani, Northern India has had such an influence on the western world, just as south India did with coconut and tamarind-based curries and such!

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The Importance of Ojas – Vitality

Ojas or vitality is a key concept in the ancient system of Ayurveda. Ojas is said to be our basic immunity, or immune system and vitality, described as a kind of “sap” in the body.

The ancient author, Charaka (1500BCE) noted (from earlier texts of his mentor, Sri Agnivesh), that ojas is either red (rakta – blood), white or yellowish in the body, and is in the heart. It is responsible for the vitiation or emaciation (kshaya) of the body and impairment of mental and sensory faculties. It is said to have the colour of ghee (clarified butter) and taste of honey (Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, XVII.73-75).

Ancient Ayurvedic texts also mention a disorder known as ojakshaya, in which the body starts to shut down, as a result of impairment to the immune-system, causing emaciation of all of the dhatus or bodily tissues, viz. plasma, marrow, blood, adipose, muscle, bone and the reproductive system. This disease is quite different from that of arbuda (cancers, malignant tumours) noted in the body, and appears to be not dissimilar to modern diseases we known, such as AIDS.

Overactive or hyperactive immune systems with inflammations etc. are described as pitta and ama (bile, and toxins) entering into the immune system (ojas), corrupting it and causing these flare-ups. Bile in the body in excess, caused by excess salt-intake, sour foods, alcohol etc. and pungent spices aggravates the small intestine and liver, causing an excess of bile, fevers etc., eventually leading to impairing the immune system. Imagine burning oil beyond its temperature threshold!

Ayurveda thus looked at preserving vitality or ojas in the body. There were many herbs, formulas and substances for this:

  1. The Formula Chyavanaprasha, which contains Amalaki (Elblica officinalis), the “Indian gooseberry”. Rich in Vit. C, this fruit is taken and prepared into this tasty, sweet paste with numerous other herbs. Amlaki is also useful relative to boosting collagen. This formula itself is named after the aged Seer, Chyavana, whose youth is said to have been restored by it, including his weathered skin, to new.

    Amla is also one of the three fruits in the recipe Triphala for eyes, skin and digestive health, and in itself, also helps to promote eyesight and hair.

    Hundreds of rasayanas or rejuvenation pastes or confections exist in Ayurveda for various purposes, including Brahma Rasayana, which contains more Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), than Amla. It is a rejuvenate herb in its own right, also, promoting ojas.

  2. Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia). One of the most immune-boosting herbs in Ayurveda, it is anti-pyretic, and also useful in cases such as HIV and Cancer to boost immunity of patients.

  3. Hira Bhasma (Diamond Ash) and Swarna Bhasma (Gold Ash). These might seem quite strange concoctions, however, the process of these goes back to the ancient iatrochemical system of rasa-shastra or alchemy in India. Parada or Mercury is also used, such as in the formula Makardhwaja, which is extremely useful for booting immunity, or ojas. These exotic, and expensive formulas are taken in extremely tiny dosages, under strict supervision of practitioners trained in their specific administration, along with specific diets for disorders from cancer, or debility or Parkinsonism.

  4. Shilajit / Mineral Pitch. The term “bitumen” originates originally from the Sanskrit “jatu”, meaning pitch. It was used as early as 3,000BCE in India to seal baths, sewers and drainpipes against leakage in the Indus-Saraswati civilisation (which also boasted sit-down toilets, separate bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms etc!). Shilajit comes from rocks in the Himalayas and is a great rejuvenate for the skin and hairs. It is also a rejuvenate for the uro-genital system, especially against diabetes (of which, Ayurveda recognises 20 different types – as also Type1 and Type2 for the first time).

    Other forms of dietary aids included the yogic-diet, consisting of wholegrains and also dairy, such as milks infused with cardamom, cloves etc. and sweetened, as well as nuts and fruits, said to help boost immunity.

    We can thus see the importance of boosting immunity in the body, especially against modern pandemics, and also general viruses and seasonal changes alone, that can disturb the natural rhythms in our bodies.

    Simple things such as taking in garlic cloves daily, can also assist with immunity, especially disorders such as fibromyalgia. Garlic cloves boiled in milk,. with a little sugar added, can also help keep disorders at bay and boost immunity on a daily basis!


    -Charaka Samhita
    -Sushruta Samhita
    -Ashtanga Hridayam
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Taking Care of Yourself Amidst COVID-19



Amidst the latest scare and also hysteria that has ensued, we must remember some things to keep us reasonably calm and level-headed, so as not to “freak out” and cause more issues for ourselves – and also others!


It’s normal to be anxious, as a natural human response to any major calamity or epidemic. However, we mustn’t get too hysterical and remain calm as much as we can by stopping our minds and thinking rationally.

In certain situations, the best we can do is to remain careful about things, and take precautions, but remember the situation is such that it is out of our control, and we must develop a certain level of faith, either personally (philosophically) or in our world leaders to put steps in place to help us go forward and keep safe. Keep this in mind!

Secondly, food will not run out. There is no need to usher in Armageddon by impulse and stress-buying. Supermarkets have measures in place for deliveries and such, if need be, and the supply chains and factories remain open. Supermarket staff, merchandisers and reps of groceries and produce are currently in demand themselves and are working around the clock to keep the supply chains open. Yes, by all means “stock up”, but don’t become too hysterical due to the social anxiety out there and take every day as it comes; don’t become a doomsday prophet!

Whilst the news and advertising media can be useful, it is also naturally hyperbolic in nature and tends to cause more stress and anxiety, especially surrounding epidemics such as COVID-19. Look at how we, as humans, compare ourselves to the stereotypes on Television soap-operas and also advertisements relative to lifestyle, relationships, body-images etc. and also buy into consumerism as a result of such manipulation, for example. Now apply that to the current situation regarding the Coronavirus!

Simple herbs as Brahmi (Barcopa monnieri), Valerian and others can help with anxiety and also help us to reason things better – even the causes of our own anxiety. Ancient yogis used to drink a beverage of Brahmi leaves made into a tea, for enhancing mental faculties, especially discernment and reason – often in periods of social and political strife in ancient India, so as to better deal with these situations by looking at the whole.

The mindfulness method of STOP method also helps:

Stop and simply take a breather. Stop the mind for a second!

Take a few breaths. Here, slow, yogic breathing helps as well.

Observe any thoughts that come to mind and associated emotional responses. In yogic, this goes deeper with manasika-vichara or mental-questioning and origins of thoughts.

 in another direction. Stop looking at or associating with triggers of our anxiety, especially the virus and do something more conducive, such as yoga, meditation, a walk or applying some of the techniques Ayurveda recommends to stay healthy. Be around positive people and recognise change – not hysteria!

DO NOT PANIC! Humanity has historically been a very resilient species and we’re still here, despite numerous world wars, plagues and other epidemics as the swine flu, SARS etc. and we’re still here!

Keeping Healthy:

The ancient system of Ayurveda tells us that two things cause diseases, primarily; low ojasa (immunity) and impaired agni (metabolism). When both are compromised, then disease manifests.

Ayurveda isn’t simply about a few simple herbs in villages, either. It has one of the world’s most ancient and advanced system of microbiology and surgery – from where many of our current techniques arose! Classical texts mention that wise-spread plagues and epidemics were primarily the result of corruption in society; visha-vayu (toxic air) here also referred to numerous airborne viruses and bacteria that was easily spread via air and also touch (sparsha – connected to the subtle element of air or vayu). Thus, if there is toxic air in society, viruses will spread via touch also, as with COVID-19, such as the ancients understood.

Cleanliness and good personal hygiene related to sparsha (touch, or air) is hence important. Many plagues broke out in Europe as a result of bad personal hygiene also – especially cleaning of the skin – and hands.

Indian culture has always advocated cleaning of the hands before and after meals to help prevent these issues.

Aloe-vera gel, neem powder and alcohol can make a good”home-made” sanitizer. Indian culture also believes that cow’s urine and dung also possesses these qualities, as well. I am neither stating one should be using these, or not relative to COVID-19 – I am simply stating what our ancestors have said!

Some basic tips, however:

1. Immunity Boost: Chyavanaprasha, the main ingredient which is the anti-oxidant and immunity-boosting Amalaki (Indian gooseberry), high in Vit. C has been used for both low immunity (ojasa) and also respiratory conditions for millennia.  This can be taken daily to help prevent issues relative to COVID-19. Again, whether or not it is 100% effective remains to be seen – but there it won’t do any harm and can, according to the classics, help develop immunity with many disorders and help with classic respiratory disorders as well.

The classic “Golden Milk” with turmeric and milk, as well as spices as cardamom and ginger is also said to be good for vitality.

Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is also useful as it helps boost our immunity, as also does Sheelajit, the ancient mineral pitch.

2. Metabolism: Boosting our metabolism means metabolism of all tissues in the body also, and proper enzymic function. The classic formula Trikatu (Indian long pepper, Black pepper and Ginger powder) is a classic for sluggish digestion – and also lung congestion and related issues, as also is Holy Basil or Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum).

These help prevent disorders of the lungs and respiratory system. Ayurveda has a long-standing history of treating severe forms of TB (rajayakshma) as also pneumonia (swasanaka-jwara) by helping the lungs, as also with alchemical formulas.

To boost metabolism at home – a simple drink of warm lemon juice, ginger powder and black pepper powder can help. This also helps to dispel kapha or mucous which develops in the stomach and lungs and causes issues.

Viruses are seen as tamasika (darker and stagnant) in nature and hence need some rajas (agitation, movement or aggression) to be dealt with, returning to a state of ultimate health, or sattvas. Such spicier herbs combined with those that protect the lungs, immune system and help treat pneumonia are useful.

3. Oral Hygiene: Ayurveda tells us that we should always crape our tongue with a tongue-scraper and brush our teeth on a daily basis, as also chew mixtures of cardamom for fresh breath, and rub our gums with powders of cinnamon, clove, cardamom, rock-salt or triphala powders to keep gums healthy. These formulas, as also triphala also help with any bacteria and reduce excess bleeding and mucous; scraping the tongue also does this and improves metabolism.

As per the current climate, these are very minor measures but could be conducive towards helping with viruses as COVID-19, especially with sufferers and their compromised respiratory systems, so as they do not become too vulnerable to abcterial infections that complicate the virus they suffer from already.

These methods are simply all about trying to be healthy, and again, are not a replacement for professional advice or treatment, but simply what Ayurveda has recommended for thousands of years, as also methods of “preventative medicine”, Ayurveda is also known for – just as authorities are telling us relative to keeping hands clean, using hand sanitizer, wearing gloves and isolating ourselves at present.

Namah Shivaya!


Schedule an appointment today from the comfort of your own home,
anywhere in the world via Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp!

ayurveda Uncategorized wellbeing yoga for health

What was the Ancient Indian diet like?

Q: How was Indian food made spicy before the introduction of chilies from the Americas?

A: Indian cooking has used garlic, ginger, black pepper and a spicier variety of pepper (Piper longum or “Indian long pepper” – from whence the term ‘pepper’ itself originates, via Latin piper) – in spices. Indian long pepper itself was used in many formulas to dispel phlegm, improve rheumatic complaints and as a digestive aid.

Being more pungent than normal black pepper (Piper nigrum), when combined with other spices, viz. turmeric, ginger, garlic etc., it turns the food, or curry, quite spicy in itself.

Q: Indian cooking uses tomatoes. Was there anything used before this to ‘sour’ Indian dishes?

A: Yes! Tomatoes simply replaced the older Indian variants of making curries slightly sour in taste. The main traditional ingredient prior to the introduction of tomatoes from the Americas was tamarind.

However, dried mango powder, curds, buttermilk and lemon juice were used in traditional recipes in the periods of pre-Columbia contact, and are still used to this day.

Q: It is said that North Indian dishes with creams etc. are “Mughlai” dishes introduced by the Turkic invaders from Central Asia?

A: Actually, Central Asia was once a part of greater India that included Gandhara (Afghanistan) and Sindh (Pakistan and North-Western India) where the cuisine was much the same. 2,000 years prior to the Mughal invasions, the Ayurvedic texts as Charaka Samhita speak of people in Sindh consuming foods or curries mixed with dairy. Classic texts also speak of buttermilk, curds etc. mixed with foods.

In Southern India, due to the hotter climate, coconut milk and cream was used. Hence, creamy curries are not simply exclusive to Central Asia, though these people did prefer them from antiquity, due to the influences from ancient Buddhist regions as Gandhara they received influence from

The ancient centre of learning for Persians, Indians and Central Asians – which included Ayurveda and also influenced regional cultures via architecture, dress and cuisine was in Takshashila (Taxila) in this region, which dates back to around 1200BCE, based on archeology.

Q: Was Tandoori chicken a thing in ancient India?

A: Tandoors date back as early as the Indus Valley civilisation, around 5,000 years ago. Chickens and other meats are said to have been barbequed, roasted etc., as in the later texts as Sushruta Samhita (c.2000BCE).

Various breads would have also been cooked this way as well.

In addition, chickpeas, lentils, dals and rice, as also wheat and amaranth were consumed some 5,000 years back.

Q: Were ancient Indians vegetarian?

A: No. Based on both the texts as the brahmanas as well as the Ayurvedic texts and archeological evidences, Indians ate beef, goat (also a speciality of Kashmiri Brahmins to this day), fish, eggs as well as chicken and exotic meats as tortoise, iguanas and even peacocks!

I have noted more about this in my article HERE.

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RESET your Digestion!

Resetting your digestion means re-setting your biological rhythms also, which ancient systems as Ayurveda see as the root-cause of many diseases, not merely gastrointestinal! 

Many people today complain of issues such as :

  • Bloating/abdominal distention after eating
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and similar symptoms
  • Constipation or difficulty passing stool
  • Intolerance to foods such as wheat and dairy products

In our unique program, you can Reset Your Digestive Patterns and learn the following:

  • STRENGTHEN your metabolism and help eliminate issues such as gas, distention, bloating, heaviness, IBS and other conditions 
  • BOOST your metabolism through key herbs and spices 
  • DISCOVER the best foods for you and your current condition 
  • UNDERSTAND the effects of your eating and psychological patterns on a daily basis 
  • BECOME AWARE of simple techniques and lifestyle adjustments for optimal digestive and gut health 
  • WORK WITH effects of climatic changes to help cope with changes in metabolic and circadian rhythms

Contact us today for more information regarding this service and begin your journey towards resetting your digestion!

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ayurveda Uncategorized

Ayurvedic Massages – Good or Bad?

Ayurveda has long considered the uses of massage, often as a daily palliative treatment, but performed with specific oils after a complete Ayurvedic examination by a trained professional to examine all facets of psychology, disorders, constitutional issues and others. Here, panaceas are often not the best, nor Ayurvedic per se!

Many forms of Ayurvedic massage today can actually be harmful as they can cause unwanted toxins in the body if performed outside of their required actions and techniques, which are specific cleansing actions or shodhana (purificatory) therapies; here, massages are often performed – again with specific oils, decoctions and substances – as preliminary methods (purvakarmas) to relocate toxins in the body and expel them, but in a clinical setting along with specific diets, formulas and lifestyle regimes as well. Such advanced and often aggressive methods are not to be performed for one and all, or outside specifically tailored detoxification programs, based on an individual’s disease category, age and other factors! This requires a full training in clinical Ayurveda from the classical point of view.

Other therapies are given as part of the Spa Ayurveda regimes today, which are just as bad, as such don’t target the true problems. Each disease requires specific treatment, internal and external, as a part of traditional Ayurveda over modernised New-Age Ayurveda often being practiced by Naturopaths and Yoga teachers.

For this reason, Indians were taught these sciences from youth and understood the spiritual and cultural contexts and rituals/implications that went along with this, which are important. The Hindu tradition and sciences are about specifics over generics

As an example, you wouldn’t go to a Chinese person to learn how to bake French pastries, nor would you turn to the Frenchman to teach you about authentic Qi Gong as the two cultures are completely different. Being immersed in such and understanding such means also the language behind it – which is imperative one understand from youth to gauge these nuances, over those who have culturally-appropriated and set up ‘Wellness’ businesses and organisations, who often tend to pasteurise these teachings, to the detriment of many.

Here, while massages and Ayurvedic therapies are useful, they have to be performed simply after a full clinical assessment by a trained and experienced Practitioner, not simply given based on a few quizzes alone. The therapies and manner in which they are conducted also change for the individual as well – so the use of generic oils and substances as is often done, isn’t true Ayurveda! It is merely money-making!

  • Always chose a trained, experienced Ayurvedic Professional with Clinical Training and Experience in all facets of Ayurveda, Yoga and related sciences
  • Look for those who have studied the entire tradition back to its roots, are fluent in the language (Sanskrit) as well as culture and heritage and connected to its ancient Vedic-Hindu system in practice and lifestyle
  • Avoid many vegan-based and modern veganesque and pan-Naturopathic formulas such as ‘Turmeric Coconut Milk’ and ‘Ashwagandha Coconut Milk’, Raw Food and other infusions; these are not Ayurvedic, but are simply based on other systems and aren’t good for one and all
  • Make sure you check whether or not they are simply starting a ‘Spa-Wellness’ business, or wish to share the deeper facets of Ayurveda with specific recommendations and guidelines If you are curious about Ayurvedic therapies and what might be best for you, book a consultation with us today at 

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ayurveda Uncategorized

Yoga Therapy for Health and Healing


Learn how Integral Yoga Therapy can help you!

Yoga is often a confusing term seen by many people as something for gymnasts alone – however, few realise that it is an ancient system of health-maintenance to:

(a) maintain health through living in harmony with nature and our own natural biology

(b) maintain health and prevent diseases through proper intake of psychological impressions, proper dietary regimes and living in harmony with our seasons, climate changes etc.

(c) how to maintain proper living through various simple holistic techniques, tenets and ethical practices that impact our psyche in a positive manner

(c) maintain our physical and psychological health and well-being through the above

The noted psychologist Carl Jung noted that ancient systems in India and China that included yoga were made important psychological discoveries and had many techniques and a deeper understanding of the human psyche than modern psychology:

We Europeans are not the only people on earth. We are just a peninsular of Asia, and on that continent there are old civilizations where people have trained their minds in introspective psychology for thousands of years, whereas we began with our our psychology not even yesterday but only this morning.” 
(C.G. Jung: Analytical Psychology: Its Theory and Practice (The Travistock Lectures), p.74)

Yoga is hence not simply about physical flexibility, but flexibility of the mind as a complete system of psychology itself and includes systems such as:

Marma or pressure-point therapies to maintain good health and also heal diseases

-Examining the chakras in the body relative to our psychological well-being and states, as well as healing relative to these

– Tantra or various mental and physical practices for our biological, psychological and spiritual well-being and understanding the importance of psycho-somatic disorders

– Various shabda (sound), aroma, colour/visual, breathing and other therapies for health and well-being

In our Yoga Therapy Consultation, you will learn life-long lessons such as:

– What yoga therapies are best for you personally, given your unique biology and psychology, assigned at birth

– What yoga type and practices are best for you, as well as dietary considerations

– Acupressure therapies (where required)

-Your unique yogic psychological type

– How to adjust working in harmony with nature and the seasons

– Useful herbs/spices and natural health formulas/supplements for health and well-being (where required)

..and much more!

downloadInvestment: NZ $120.00 incl. GST
(Initial Consultation and Examination)

CLICK HERE to book an appointment after payment

Have more questions? Fill our the form below and we’ll get back to your shortly!

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