Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Soothing Foods

I lay reading Autobiography of a Yogi by flashlight, in my tent. Four a.m. would come soon enough, but I held on to the words of this engrossing book. Class started at 4:30 with cleansing practices, pranayama and meditation.

By the time breakfast rolled around, I was ready. We walked down to the main building housing the dining hall, the sanctuary/auditorium, administrative offices and an inn. Almost every morning there was a thick cloud bank below us. When the clouds cleared there was usually a view of the Pacific Ocean. A lovely place to spend my yoga teachers’ training, on the mountain above Santa Cruz. I loved being outdoors in a tent, having my meals prepared for me and spending most of my time in devotional practices, study and learning and expanding on yoga postures. Yoga theory was the most emphasized. So reading Yogananda helped bring understanding into my tent and heart.

The first morning I stood in line for breakfast I handed over my plate to be filled. It was given back to me partially filled with a golden-yellow mixture. What could this be? I wondered. Khichari, I was told. A mixture of lentils, rice, spices and lots of ghee. Ayurvedic cooking uses ghee as a basic and healing ingredient. Clarifying butter is easier to digest, aiding in absorption of our nutrients more than regular butter does. Khichari, which has many different spellings, with its wonderful aromatic combinations, has become a comfort food. It can be made into a vegetable stew, using different spices and vegetables depending on our condition. A stew may strengthen our lungs, our digestive system, it can be warming or cooling, or for our livers, all very individualized. My digestive system has certainly been grateful for introducing this form of healthy Indian cooking into my life. My first khichari, now it’s on to the spicy, sweet chai, a treat for having started the day before dawn.


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