Cleansing techniques from India

Cleansing techniques from India

As I promised before, I have gathered a few of the cleansing techniques that I learned in India. There are a few quite extreme ones but I also added some easy and absolutely usable techniques as well. First, I must mention shatkarma kriy, which is part of hatha yoga and its aim is to balance the body and the mind. One of the shatkarmas is neti. Jala Neti, which is a nasal cleansing technique with water. For this practice you’ll need a neti pot that you fill with a mixture of lukewarm water and Himalayan salt. (Use half a litre of water and a teaspoon of salt.) Stand squarely, with your legs apart, tilt your head to one side. Breath through your mouth and insert the nozzle into the uppermost nostril and tilt the pot so that the water can flow through your uppermost nostril and leave through the other one. Use half of the water, then remove the nozzle and centre the head to let the water run out of the nose. Blow on your nose gently to remove the remaining water and mucus then repeat the process on the other side. Start with your active nostril. When you are done rest in downward facing dog or chair pose. Jala neti removes mucus and pollution from the nasal passages and sinuses but it’s not recommended when the nose is blocked, or when the weather is too hot.

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Illustration from Swami Satyananda Swaraswati: Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha

Another form of neti is sutra neti which is nasal cleansing with thread. I got a thread for this purpose with my neti pot but fortunately we didn’t get around trying it. The teachers might have seen the fear in our eyes and decided we were not ready. I wasn’t for sure 😀 Sutra neti is not the most shocking of the shatkarmas. There’s also the cleaning your stomach with a stripe of textile or vomiting and other specialities that can be practiced with a teacher only.

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Illustration from Swami Satyananda Swaraswati: Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha

Luckily, we don’t need a teacher for all the ayurvedic and yogic cleansing practises. Tratak, or concentrated gazing is one of them. For beginners it is recommended to use a candle or a dark dot on white wall. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine erect with the candle flame at eye level. Gaze at it without blinking for 7 minutes than close your eyes and try to meditate. At first, it can be quite uncomfortable and you’ll probably experience runny nose and tears so have some tissues on hand. It will get better eventually and once you are comfortable with seven minutes you can do it for longer. Advanced practitioners should do it for as many minutes as old they are.

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Jala neti, nose cleaning thread, tongue scraper

Another cleaning technique that you can use (although, it’s not a shatkarma) is the ayurvedic practice of oil pulling. Before I gave it a try I did extended research on the topic  but I didn’t find any scientific proof that it works but as it is completely safe I wanted to give it a try. I haven’t been doing it for long enough to draw any conclusions but my mouth does feel cleaner after oil pulling. It is supposed to pull out toxins from your body, remove plaque and whiten your teeth, so…. The best time for it is in the morning. You can use different oils but I read that coconut oil is the best and as it’s easy to find it was an obvious choice for me. Put a teaspoon of oil into your mouth and swirl it around for 10-20 minutes then spit the content of your mouth into a bin. Rinse your mouth with warm (salty) water then brush your teeth as you would do normally. I repeat it every second day.

Now that we are talking about oral hygiene I must mention tongue scrapers. They’ve been used for centuries in India and are getting more and more popular in the west. It is even approved by dentists and you can buy westernised, plastic tongue scrapers online. Mine is  from India and made of copper and I use it every morning. Scrape your tongue from the back 7-14 times then brush your teeth.

Although, some of the techniques I mentioned are quite extreme, oil pulling, tongue scraping, tratak and jala neti are safe if we are healthy and do them the right way. I know reading about these practices can be overwhelming (or at least I often wonder how people have time for all these things in the morning) but if you introduce a few small changes into your morning routine they are totally doable. At least tongue scraping and oil pulling and I do tratak in the evening anyway. So if you feel inspired give these techniques a go and see how they can improve your health.

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Best Beetroot and Bean Burger

Best Beetroot and Bean Burger

I love a good juicy burger after a long day but if you’re like me and care about your carbon emission you probably know that eating beef is not the most environmentally friendly option. Thank god there are veggie burgers that are not only healthy but also delicious.

Since I moved back to Europe I didn’t really have the chance to have a good vegetarian burger so I decided to make my own. I read a bunch of recipes but I just couldn’t find the right one. Firstly, a lot of the ingredients were super expensive or not available where I live. Secondly, almost everyone complained that their patty didn’t stay in one. So after extended research I came up with my own recipe that (if I may say) turned out scrumptious. The two main rules I learned while researching recipes:

  1. Use a vegetable that has starch in it (legumes and potatoes are perfect) and a vegetable that is more juicy.
  2. Before you put them in a frying pan bake the burgers for a few minutes. It will help them not to fall into pieces.

With these rules in mind you can make just any kind of vegetable burgers. I have already tried it with pumpkin and cuscus and the zucchini/courgette version is coming soon. It takes quite some time to make these burgers but they are worth the hustle. You’ll need at least an hour, hour and a half but once you baked the burgers you can freeze them and save them for those busy days.

This beetroot and bean burger is sooo delicious that not even meat eaters can say no to it. (I’ve tested it). So if you feel like giving it a go here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

500 g fresh beetroot

200 g red kidney beans (tinned)

1 medium sized onion

2 cloves of garlic

half a cup of oat

a handful of walnuts

salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme

1 egg (optional)

Peel the beetroots and dice them. Pour some olive oil into a frying pan, add the beetroots and the spices and cook them under a lid till they’re soft. Do the same with the beans and onion then pour everything in a food processor and process the mixture to get a paste. Mix in the walnuts, garlic and oats. Depending on how juicy the beetroots were you might need more or less oats. You can add an egg to help the mix stick together but it’s optional. Once you have the right consistency you can start making the patties.

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Put parchment paper in a pan and with the help of two spoons form little piles. I find that it’s easiest to shape them once they are in the pan. Bake the burgers  till they have a very thin, hard layer and they are more solid but be careful not to dry them. Take them out from the oven, freeze what you don’t need, pour some oil in a frying pan (you’ll need only a thin layer so the patties won’t stick to the pan) and cook the patties till they get a nice colour.

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I serve them in a home-made bun (still looking for the perfect recipe) with different sauces, salad and tomatoes. I think English mustard especially compliments the earthy flavours but you can use anything you like. Get creative! 🙂

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Konmari with a twist – Spring capsule wardrobe

Konmari with a twist – Spring capsule wardrobe

The konmari method is big these days. Everyone is doing it and as I have been a huge fan of living with less I had to read the book, too. I think it was great in many ways. I like the idea of giving our objects the recognition and appreciation they deserve and I also like that we choose what we want to keep by emotionally evaluating each thing. It worked great with most of my personal items, although, it was a bit hard when it came to stuff from my childhood. There were some things that I knew immediately that I wanted to get rid of. It felt great saying goodbye to some of my old journals with my negative thoughts in them and it was also quite easy to sort out my photos but my clothes were a different question.

Mari Kondo says that we should start the whole cleaning with our clothes as they are the easiest to get rid of. So I followed her instructions and took everything out, held each piece in my hands and tried to … feel. With some pieces it was not even a question that I wanted to keep them. I wore them a lot so it was obvious. But when I got to my summer clothes it got more and more difficult. I also had problems with clothes that were relatively new but for some reason I didn’t wear them too often. I know, I should probably have said goodbye to those pieces but as I’m not a hundred percent happy with my style I wanted to give them a chance. Some of the clothes also made me feel guilty. It was really difficult to realise how much I waste so I think I kept a few things just to justify my purchases. “If I wear my clothes they were worth the money, energy and labour.”

In truth, I only delayed something that would happen eventually but I couldn’t trust my feelings… I had to come up with another technique and in the end I did. One day, I was lying in bed, thinking about where to move next and I started to think about packing. I couldn’t fall asleep so I tried to imagine the clothes I would put into my backpack or suitcase. As I usually travel for work I need all sort of clothes from formal to everyday wear. And so my new decluttering method was born.

Before I started cleaning out my wardrobe once more I sat down and wrote down the clothes that I would definitely pack if I had to move. Then, I removed everything from my wardrobe and made 3 piles. One for recycling, one for charity and one for the things that I wanted to keep. I know it is against the konmari method but I did try on a few things that I was unsure about. With the help of my list I was much more confident this time. Although, I kept a few things that were originally not on my list it was much easier to identify those “guilty pieces”.

I think, in the end I did a great job and managed to get rid of those pieces that made me feel guilty. By focusing on the clothes that I absolutely love it was much easier to let go of those that I don’t. My spring capsule wardrobe is ready and if I happen to move in the next few months it will be easy to decide what comes with me to my next trip.

Vegetarian breakfast ideas 2.

Vegetarian breakfast ideas 2.

As I wrote earlier, it’s not easy to have a healthy breakfast every day, especially when someone wants to eat less meat or is becoming a vegetarian. I wrote about peanut butter already and in this part I’d like to share some other easy “recipes” and tricks for a quick and healthy breakfast.

  1. Banana pancakes

This recipe is super easy and I was sure that everyone knew it but turns out that’s not the case. So here’s how you make it:
Mash half a ripe banana with a fork, beat an egg, mix it and fry it like a pancake. Done! It’s so simple and delicious and it also fills you up. I serve it with fresh or preserved fruits or jam and often sprinkle them with different nuts and seeds.

  1. Toast with honey

Another extremely simple breakfast idea is to toast some bread of your choice, put some butter on it (you can replace butter with vegan options), drizzle honey on top and you are ready to go. It couldn’t get any simpler yet everyone looks at me when I make it like I was an alien. It’s perfect with coffee.

  1. Oatmeal/Porridge

Another classic, simple yet filling breakfast. I know you can buy it in those tiny sachets or even in plastic cups but I really dislike those types. Oatmeal is one of the easiest things to make and it’s much better when you cook it yourself. The trick is to add enough water or milk to get a creamy consistency. Once it is cooked you can add fruits, cocoa powder, cinnamon, coconut, nuts and seeds, honey, preserves, jams or anything that you like. My mum puts slices of banana in it before she cooks it but I prefer to add them when the oat is cooked. My advice is to experiment with your oatmeal and find the toppings that you like best.

  1. Omelettes

You can use eggs or replace them with tofu or chickpeas. Whichever version you choose add some vegetables to make your breakfast more filling.

  1. Muffins and cookies

I like to prepare healthy (and sometimes not that healthy) cookies and muffins for breakfast. When I bake cookies I makes small balls and put them in the freezer, so when I want some for breakfast I just have to take a them out and put them in the oven for a few minutes. I haven’t tried freezing muffin batter but I did it with muffins that were baked and it worked. I sometimes freeze rolls and bund as well.

  1. Muesli with milk or yoghurt

Another simple choice that is healthier than sugary cereals. I like to make my own mix and add different seeds,  nuts and fruits.

  1. Avocado sandwich

I love avocado. It tastes amazing and it’s rich in fat so it gives me enough energy to start my day. I sometimes make avocado cream but when I’m lazy I just slice it up and put it on bread.

There are a lot of recipes on Pinterest but most of them are a bit too ambitious for an average morning when every minute counts. I hope that these simple ideas will help you so you won’t miss breakfast again.

Vegetarian breakfast ideas – Peanut butter

Vegetarian breakfast ideas – Peanut butter

I’m sure everyone has heard of the importance of breakfast, yet most people neglect it. As for me, I didn’t even have breakfast for a long time but about 12 years ago my life, or at least my eating habits changed completely. My sister took me to “Bodies… The Exhibition”, which was quite shocking at first but as I got used to the idea of seeing human bodies and organs it got more and more interesting. This is where I found out about the importance of breakfast and how morning meals can improve our memories. I’m extremely forgetful so I decided to help my brain with food in the morning.

I have tried all kinds of different breakfasts but I still prefer the “western ones” to Asian. When I lived in Vietnam I got used to eating soup and rice for breakfast but nothing can beat a good Italian pastry with coffee or a plate full of delicious treats. There’s one thing I don’t like about it, though. I get it… we’re in a hurry but a piece of cold cut on a slice of bread is not very appetising. Most people don’t eat fruits or veggies for breakfast, on the other hand we eat a lot of meat in the form of sausages, bacon and cold cuts. When someone decides to eat less meat or wants to become a vegetarian breakfasts can be challenging, so I decided to write down some very simple “recipes” and tips to spice up our mornings.

In this first part I’m going to write about peanut butter, which is quite a new thing here in Europe. I remember, when during one of my visits to America I tried peanut butter for the first time. It was shocking! I almost spit it out. I expected something sweet and chocolaty like Nutella but it was nothing of the sort. It was more salty than sweet and it made my mouth so dry I struggled to swallow it. In short it was a huge disappointment (and I know a lot of Europeans felt the same way) but just like others I learned to like it. Now, I’m such a huge fan that I make my own peanut butter.

I know, there are a ton of recipes out there so I’m not going to write down mine. but I’d like to give some tips on how to use peanut butter. All these “recipes” are super simple but I hope they will help you to find new ways of using peanut butter.

Peanut butter-banana toasty
You’ll need two, thin slices of bread, peanut butter and a banana. Spread a generous amount of peanut butter on the first slice of bread, slice some bananas and put them on top of the bread the cover it with the second slice. But the sandwich in a toasty maker or in a pan and toast it till the bread has a nice brownish colour and the peanut butter is melted.

You can replace the banana with other fruits. I tried it with thin apple slices, honey and cinnamon and it was delicious.

Peanut butter wraps
I used tortilla wraps for this but you can make it with European pancakes or other wraps as well. Toast the wrap, spread some peanut butter on it, then add bananas or other fruits and fold/roll it up. You can put it back to the pan for a few minutes to let everything “melt” together. It’s perfect for on the go.

While I haven’t seen these two recipes anywhere else (although, I’m probably not the only one making these things) you’ve probably heard about putting peanut butter on fruits and smoothes, which are also great ways to brighten your mornings up. I’m always looking for new and easy breakfast ideas so feel free to share your super recipes and tips in the comments down below.

Ashram diet

Ashram diet

I know it sounds like a new diet trend but let me assure you it’s nothing like that. The next blog post is about what I ate while I was in India doing a yoga teacher course and how this experience changed my eating habits.

Although, Hindus usually follow a vegetarian diet as the Indian economic gets stronger meat is becoming more and more accessible. Despite meat’s rising popularity you won’t find any restaurants in Rishikesh that sell steaks. In the yoga capital vegetarian dishes are still the only option. And while vegetarians are safe from unpleasant surprises (like meat wrapped in tofu) if you are a vegan you have to watch out for dairy. There’s a reason why cows are considered holy in India and that’s their milk. I always wondered why cows played such an important role in Indian culture but then a wise man explained the connection between milk, motherhood and the ability to create life and now it makes complete sense.

Despite the fact that I was following a traditional, ayurvedic diet and didn’t consume any meat or eggs I was able to exercise at least 3 hours a day and sit with a straight back for hours. For breakfast, we had fruits with porridge/oatmeal, toast or chickpea “omelette” with different sauces. Lunch was something light. Usually soup and curry with rice and of course a huge portion of fresh vegetables. For dinner, we got soup, fresh vegetables and curry with rice and some kind of bread, which was more filling and a better option before bed. All dishes were designed by an ayurveda expert and we had to chant a mantra before every meal to clean the food from negative energies.

As my metabolism is at least twice as fast as an average person’s I had to supplement my diet with food from outside the school but almost everyone else was OK with what we got.

I know that practicing yoga, pranayama and meditation played a huge part in me getting healthier but I’m sure that my diet also helped a lot. I wasn’t ill or anything but I had some minor health issues that all went away while I was in India so I decided to keep some of the habits I picked up in the school. Since I left, I try to eat even more fresh, raw vegetables and I always start my morning with a big bowl of fruits. I never have any problems with my digestion and I haven’t had any respiratory illnesses. Another thing that I don’t even want to believe is how my cellulite disappeared. I’m quite skinny but because I lose weight easily it caused some problems.

I know that not everyone wants to be vegetarian and we can’t live like we were in an ashram but a small change can make a huge difference. I wasn’t able to eat as healthily as I did in India, nor did I have the time to exercise for 3 hours a day but by rising my fruit and vegetable portions I noticed a significant difference. If I had to give one piece of advice it would be to add more greens to every meal. It’s not that difficult.

And to inspire you a bit more here are some pictures of the food from India:

Resolution #3 -Fasting

Resolution #3 -Fasting

I’m getting ready for spring with a new, more conscious diet. Before I start, I thought it a good idea to update my knowledge on fasting so I used the good old internet to help me understand the physical and psychological effects and the history of fasting better. It plays a big role in all religions and whether for a day or for a longer period of time, people fast for mental and physical purification all over the world.

There are different ways of fasting but for now let’s talk about the Christian customs. That’s because I’m in Europe where the majority of the population are Christians. In Lent, Christians commit to fasting and/or give up luxuries for 40 days. Some people give up meat, some eat only one big and two light meals a day and some even restrain from social media. I don’t want to lose weight and I don’t really have any harmful habits such as smoking or drinking but I do want to eat more healthy, so I’m going to pay more attention to where my food comes from and that my diet is not harmful for the environment. I must mention ahimsa, which comes from Indian philosophy and means non-violence or non-harming. Plastic is extremely harmful for the environment so in the next 40 days I’m going to pay more attention to the packaging of my food as well and hope to create new habits.

Once we are emotionally prepared it’s time to learn about our new diet. I’m not an expert and anyways, I believe that everyone should choose their own eating habits but there are some general rules when it comes to vegetarian eating. If we don’t want to get bored with what we eat we have to try new recipes and ingredients. As we are not eating meat we have to make sure that we eat enough protein, iron and other stuff that our body needs. It is also important to know which vitamins we need to supplement our new diet with. There are a ton of good articles on the topic written by experts so I suggest that everyone does their research. The whole point of fasting is to become healthier and more in balance not to feel miserable.

If we know what our body needs we can start collecting recipes. I love pinterest. It’s an endless source of information and usually it’s enough to look at a picture to start my fantasy fly. I love to invent my own dishes but if you are less adventurous you can follow the original recipes. Before you change your eating habits take some time looking at the pictures and let them get you excited for your new diet.

The last step is shopping. Now that you know what dishes you want to make it’s time to buy the ingredients and fill up on fruits, veggies and nuts. I love markets because the goods are fresh and often cheaper, plus you have more control over the packaging but you can find good things in the supermarkets and other shops as well.

Once we feel ready, it’s time to change our diet. It takes time to create new habits but remember that we are doing it for ourselves. Don’t be too strict with yourself andstay positive. I’m excited to find out how this experience is going to change me and what I will be able to take to my everyday life.