Make food a part of your daily spiritual practice with these four healing Ayurvedic food sadhanas.
Ghee has been revered in both Ayurveda and yoga for thousands of years. It promotes sattva (purity) in the mind and nourishes the body tissues. Adding ghee to your diet is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself as a yogi.
The process of making ghee is a healing sadhana (spiritual practice). In the Vedas, milk is described as having the qualities of the moon: luminous, calming, and loving. The ancient Vedic monks ceremoniously made ghee during the full moon to acquire the positive energies of the moon.
You can do the same, making your own ghee during the full moon or really anytime to invite in a peaceful life. Be fully mindful during the process. Focus your awareness on the sounds, colors, and aroma of the butter as it transforms into ghee.
Spices have long been valued in Ayurveda for their mild medicinal properties. They bring synergy to foods and transform simple ingredients into healing meals.
Start by bringing turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel, and ginger into your cooking repertoire. Cumin, coriander, and fennel can be bought as whole spices and then ground with a mortar and pestle as needed. This, too, is a healing food sadhana: meditation in motion. The rhythm of stone grinding on stone, the activation of earth aromas, and the simple the act of holding the solid earth elements of mortar and pestle in your hands will renew your connection to the earth.
Before each meal, take a moment to give gratitude to the forces that brought food to your plate: the earth, the sun, the cook, and all of the people involved in the process in between. Giving gratitude is not a religious practice but an act of sending your positive energy to the universe.
Offering thanks and praises helps to bring the mind to a sattvic state before eating. This, in turn, helps with digestion. Blessing your food and eating it with gratitude will literally make it more nourishing and wholesome.
The Bhagavad Gita offers a prayer called Brahmarpanam to chant before meals. You might choose to learn this prayer or offer a simpler thanks to the earth, farmers, and cooks who helped bring your meal to you.
Eating in a calm and settled environment promotes sattva during meals. It helps with the process of digestion as well. When your focus is on your food rather than the TV or the road, you’ll feel the signs of fullness and are less likely to overeat. You’ll even taste food more fully and find that you’re satisfied with smaller portions.
Enjoy your meals sitting at a table rather than while driving or standing. Turn off the TV and put your work away. Keep your focus on your food. If you’re eating with friends or family, keep the conversation light and positive. Mealtimes are not a good time to discuss anything upsetting; it will turn food sour in the stomach. If possible, face the direction of the sun while you eat to receive its energy. Give yourself five or 10 minutes to lounge around after eating so that your body can focus on the process of digestion.
Food is truly life-sustaining. Each meal is a gift from the earth and has the potential to heal. It is more than just sustenance, and eating can become a sadhana on its own. When your attitude toward food is one of reverence, its power to nourish increases.
Tiwari, Bri. Maya. The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book of Ayurvedic Healing. New York: A Ballantine Book, 2000.