10 Ways to Eat Better for More Energy, Mental Clarity and Vibrant Health

There's a fire in your belly called "agni". Agni is your digestive ability. According to the elemental theory of Ayurveda, fire is the energy of transformation, metabolism and digestion. Another important Ayurvedic principle states that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm – as without, so within.  

The fire inside reflects the fire outside. When I say the fire outside – I'm talking about the sun. When the sun is highest in the sky, our digestion is strongest. We have the most bile, which is the fire-y substance that breaks down our food transforming it into energy or matter which can be used to create the cells of our body. 

you-are-what-you-eat-so-dont-be-fast-cheap-easy-or-fake-quote-1.jpg

Agni is a big deal.  

As the sun sets in the sky, our inner fire also subsides. Bile production decreases and as a result that big, heavy, late dinner doesn't get broken down efficiently and turns into "ama". Ama is the Sanskrit word for "uncooked". It refers to the sticky, sludgy, goo that's a by-product of your undigested food. Ama is responsible for that which ails you – low energy, heaviness (in body and/or mind), digestive issues, brain fog, aches, pains, anxiety, depression, and more. Ama is the root cause of every disease. 

Ama impairs agni. When agni is compromised ama results and the vicious cycle continues. How do we stop the ama-generating cycle in its tracks and stoke our belly fire so we burn through our food and attain thriving health? 

Below are 10 healthier eating guidelines for strengthening agni and reducing ama.  

  1. Make lunch your main meal and eat an earlier, lighter dinner. Try to eat the majority of your food during daylight hours when the sun is in the sky and your agni is burning bright. 
  2. Eat real food. Processed, de-natured food turns into ama. Choose a whole food, nutrient-dense plant-centric diet that’s preferably local, seasonal and organic (when possible).  
  3. Stick to a regular schedule of 2-3 meals per day allowing 3-6 hours between meals to fully digest your food. Wait until you experience true hunger before you eat. If you're not hungry at meal times "turn on" your agni with a cup of warm water and a teaspoon of chopped ginger topped with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt 20 minutes before eating. 
  4. Drink hot water between meals: 2-4 cups upon rising, 1 cup 20 min before meals and one hour after to aid in digestion. Feel hungry even though you ate a few hours ago? 80% of the time your body registers dehydration as hunger.  
  5. When you eat, just eat. Stop, sit and mindfully, taste, chew and savor your food slowly. 
  6. Eat to nourish your body, not to numb your emotions. Emotional eating leads to overeating, eating unhealthy food or simply eating when you're not really hungry. If your agni isn't hot and ready for your food, what you ingest will turn to ama. True hunger is accompanied by grumbling in your tummy, a feeling of emptiness and a willingness to eat anything – not just chocolate. When there's an urge to emotionally eat, breathe deeply, make yourself a soothing cup of tea, call a friend or just allow yourself to feel your feelings instead of stuffing them down. 
  7. Awaken your agni with a morning routine that supports regular elimination with lots of hot water upon arising, and at least 20 minutes of breath-based exercise.  
  8. Don't overeat. If you've had a cup of water 20 minutes before eating and you eat slowly and mindfully this shouldn't be a problem. If it still is, eat from a smaller plate and aim to stop when you're 2/3 full. 
  9. Eat for YOUR body. There's so much controversy about what the best diet is – vegan, paleo, ketogenic, raw.... In reality, there's no one size fits all approach. We're all unique, complex beings. Start by simply noticing how you feel after eating certain foods. Do you experience any digestive discomfort such as gas, bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, constipation, or loose stools? If so, try eliminating that food and see if it improves.  
  10. Stress less. The parasympathetic nervous system triggers the "rest and digest" response. When you're stressed out all of your blood and energy is preoccupied with the perceived or actual threat that's causing your stress. "Turn off" your stress response before eating by getting out of your head and into your body. A great way to do this is with a few rounds of deep diaphragmatic breathing. 

Honor and nurture your agni and your agni will grace you with excellent health, vibrant energy and a clear, uplifted mind.  

The Power of Play

Dina charya is the Sanskrit word for daily routine. It’s an Ayurvedic concept based on the idea that when we align our daily cycles with the cycles of the sun and the moon, we create the conditions for balance and thriving health to naturally arise.

The daily routine includes everything from daily exercise, proper nourishment, evening wind down practices to cultivating an easeful relationship to life and doing something every day just for fun. Yep, Ayurveda prescribes play as fundamental to promoting health.

Why is it so essential that we build in activities that spark joy into our everyday lives? Well, because all work and no play makes us dull humans.

Play is something done for no other reason than it’s innate pleasure. Play has no purpose, except for the fun of it.

I once taught a workshop on handstands and I had a student approach me and ask me why we do handstands. It took me by surprise because my first thought was - why NOT do handstands?!?

She probably wanted to hear how they build overall strength, improve balance and the intricacies and benefits of inverting and reversing blood flow. Funny isn’t it, how adults need everything to have a logical reason.

My answer was simply, “because it’s fun”. It might not have been what she wanted to hear, but it was true.

Stewart Brown in his TEDTalk “Play is more than just fun”, talks about body play, which is a spontaneous desire to get ourselves out of gravity. Handstands are a perfect example of this.

Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism (a really good book that I highly recommend) said that: "Very successful people see play as essential for creativity.” Brown echoed it when he said: “Play leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity… Nothing fires up the brain like play.

He also said: “Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor.”

Play can unleash possibilities we barely dare to dream of. It can crack open creativity that otherwise laid dormant. At the same time, it offers lightness and liberation we often forget to seek in our grown-up lives.

We're never too old to play. In fact, George Bernard Shaw said: "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing".

Even the Tantric Yoga tradition teaches that life has no other purpose other than for the play of it. This is expressed in the Lila Tandava - the playful dance of life. Life is an unfolding of creativity, of consciousness expressing itself in everything and every moment.

The Lila Tandava is an invitation into participating fully in our lives. It’s playing the game of life with curiosity, openness and acceptance for whatever is being presented in the moment. It’s an affirmation of life’s innate goodness, even amidst pain and difficulty.

It’s not taking ourselves too seriously, but having the willingness to try new things, experiment with new ideas and try on new perspectives. It’s gamifying our challenges to play our edges and expand our capabilities.

Play is a way of life. It’s an attitude and an approach to living that’s cultivated by creating a childlike wonder and curiosity towards everything. It’s choosing to be amazed and live with awe.

Like Mary Oliver says in her poem My Work is Living the World:

“Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

Join us this summer at the Play Retreat on Vis Island Croatia. 

play.jpg

Once in a Super Blue Blood Moon

Tomorrow morning our night sky will be lit up by the rare "Super Blue Blood Moon". I never paid much attention to what the moon was doing unless it just happened to catch my eye. But over the past 6 years of aligning with nature's rhythms and living an Ayurvedic lifestyle, I've attuned to these changing cycles and have began to notice the profound effect the natural elements have on our lives.  

This week in my Empowered Living course we're learning about moon cycles. We're talking about the 4 phases of the moon and the different energies that accompany each. I did a quick google search to confirm the exact evening of this week's full moon and discovered that Wednesday's moon is not your average full moon. 

A once-in-a-lifetime occurrence 

The term "Blood Moon" is used to describe a total lunar eclipse because it causes the Moon to turn a dark reddish color. This happens when the earth passes directly between the Sun and the Moon. A "Blue Moon" occurs when there are 2 full moons in one calendar month. And not only is it a full moon, but it's a "Super Moon" which means that it will be closer to the Earth and appear larger than usual. Those of us in North America can see this one-in-a-lifetime occurrence (this hasn't happened in over 150 years) on the morning of January 31st. (see specific times here

Why should we be paying attention to what phase the moon is in? 

Our bodies are approximately 60% water. If the moon can impact the tides of the ocean, does it not make sense that it would impact the cells of our body just as profoundly? Part of living Ayurveda is paying attention to cause and effect. We are a microcosm of the macrocosm. No doubt we've all experienced how a grey, rainy day draws us inwards to cuddle up on the couch with a warm cup of tea; whereas a bright, sunny day invites us outside to play and frolic. When we do this intentionally we're stepping into the current that's already pulling us. We choose to align with it as opposed to resist it.  

Those-who-flow-as-life-flows-know-they-need-no-other-force..jpg

How do we align with the full moon? 

The Full moon is a time of abundance, creativity, and generosity. Purna is the Sanskrit word for the quality of fullness. The full moon is an invitation into the full expression of ourselves. We feel more naturally extroverted, energized and activated. We want to harness this excess of energy and offer it outwards in a way of service, connection and celebration.  

Celebrate your accomplishments and achievements. While this should be a daily practice, this is particularly a potent time to acknowledge your efforts and recognize your successes.  

Count your blessings. Again, ideally part of your regular routine, but now more than ever bring your awareness to the abundance and good fortune that surrounds you. The full moon is an outer expression of the plentiful bounty in our lives.  

PLAY. During a full moon we're naturally drawn to connecting more with others. It's a beautiful time for intimate love-making, impromptu dance parties, gatherings with friends and crazy adventures. With increased strength and stamina, we have more capacity to push ourselves physically.  

Indulge in life's sensual pleasures. This is a time to enjoy elaborate and delicious feasts. Digestion is strong being in the "pitta" phase of the moon. You can also delight in a lovely at-home spa night with an aromatherapy scented bath and luxurious oil massage. Or pop in your favorite tunes and get on your yoga mat for a blissful flow

Begin to notice how the different phases of the moon affect your energy and shift your natural desires. Listen to your inner wisdom and honor its quiet requests. When you do, you'll live a life of more ease and balance.  

What I accomplished in 2017

I worked my ass off this year.  

Every quarter I set specific goals, laid out a plan and took action daily to accomplish them. Over the years of refining my goal-setting and time management processes, I'm getting better and better at hitting my goals on time, most of the time. While I work 6-7 days a week, I always stop working by 4pm. I'm a bit of a workaholic so my self-care habits are non-negotiable so that I don't burn out

My goals were hard-won, pushed my edges and weren't always easy – but discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.

Here's my list of accomplishments for 2017: 

It's been a great year and I plan to make 2018 even better. Hope you join me for the ride. 

goals.jpg