Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. Developed more than 3,000 years ago in India, it says that the health and wellness of the individual depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Going further, If your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony with the universe, you have good health. When something disrupts this balance, you get sick. Global warming much?
We had a fantastic time on the Incredible India Yoga retreat. We saw four cities, explored temples, saw sunrises, and met Sadhus in a mountaintop cave. We went to a spice market, Aarti in both Varanasi and Rishikesh, and learned how to haggle with rickshaw drivers. Yoga, feeding monkeys and dogs, having the best pizza outside of Italy ( no joke), and gaining appreciation for the brilliance of street Chai. We especially loved spending time in Rishikesh at the Ayurveda Sadan, having Panchakarma treatments, eating the delicious Ayurvedic food, and our cooking class.
Central to the Ayurvedic understanding is digestion and the strength of the digestive fire, called Agni. Agni is seated within the lower stomach and small intestine and is composed of acids and enzymes. Ayurveda refers to an individual’s overall digestive capabilities concerning Agni. While it’s common to use the terms Agni and “digestive fire” interchangeably, there are a total of 13 different Agnis governing all metabolic functions of the body. Any process involving heat, light, transformation, and conversion relates to Agni. On a universal scale, Agni is the creative flame of intelligence that is present in all life. We need to tend to the fire so that it doesn’t go out nor overtake us.
In Ayurvedic cooking, spices help to regulate Agni and thus help to ensure that we properly digest the foods that we eat, keeping the balance and harmony. There is an array of spices used in Ayurvedic cooking, below is a list of the spices we used during our stay.
Cumin or ‘Jeera’ is a savory spice that is dried and cultivated. It is known to help in-digestion of food and purported to help with the common cold. Used to prepare a wide variety of dishes, the health benefits of cumin seeds include a boost in the immune system, pain relief, relieving nausea, stomach pains and cramps, indigestion, and diarrhea.
This essential Indian spice is in almost every Indian food. The golden powder is a root vegetable that looks similar to ginger. Turmeric is known to improve condition which may lower chances of any heart-related diseases. It also helps in the digestion of food and has anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties. It also makes coping with diabetes easier.
The black-colored seed, more commonly known as Ajwain is a powerhouse of health benefiting properties. The intake of Ajwain is good for fighting flu and also acts as an instant stomach pain reliever.
A potent spice with a pungent flavor Hing will change the taste and smell of any food it comes into contact with, the Indian UMAMI, this spice benefits treating asthma, cough, bronchitis, and digestion. Hing treats upset stomach, intestinal worms, bloating, and gas.
Ginger has a long history in India and many other Asian countries. It is a tuber vegetable used to spice up liquids and solids. It comes with many health benefits, including relieving colds, joint pains, and digestive problems. It is beneficial for coping with cough and cold.
Mustard seeds are packed with B-complex vitamins and can help control symptoms of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and muscle pain.