Here’s what you need to know to eat Ayurveda everyday

We’re stoked to be able to pass this news on to y’all. Our friend, Yatra partner and on-the-Yatra teacher Kate O’Donnell, Authorized Level 2 Ashtanga teacher for those wondering, has announced a publication date for her Ayurvedic cookbook, The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook. Mark your calendar for Dec. 1.

Hey, right in time for the holidays. (It can make a late Divali gift, too.)

There’s a website, which you can check out here. A little, ahem, taste:

Even the simplest Ayurveda practices complement Western medicine because of their focus on righting imbalance before it creates disease. Keeping digestion on track is the key to health in Ayurveda, and eating natural, homemade foods in accordance with personal constitution and changes in environment is often all that is needed to bring a body back into balance. The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook inspires yogis and nonyogis alike to get into the kitchen and explore this time-honored system of seasonal eating for health and nourishment.

Ditching processed food and learning to eat well at home are the first steps you can take to relieving imbalance. The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook removes many of the obstacles by showing you how straightforward and accessible preparing your own delicious, seasonal meals can be. Season by season, learn how the changing weather and qualities in your environment both mirror and influence your body and appetite. Lifestyle advice on meal planning, self-care regimens, and how to ensure health during the change of seasons is included throughout. And the no-fuss recipes will get you eager to cook.

To expand your cooking repertoire, you’ll also learn foundational “everyday” recipes that can be adapted to any season and any dosha: once you understand the blueprint of a basic dish, you can recreate it in your kitchen year-round, using seasonal produce, grains, and flavors for health and nourishment.

(I took liberally from the About page.)

Kate talked to us about the book, why, just about this time last year while we all were treading our way across the Himalayas. We know she’s been working hard at it; we also know Kate knows what she’s talking about. She didn’t just come to Ayurveda yesterday; she’s nationally certified. (She’s also an insightful Ashtanga teacher.)

The book contains more than 100 recipes; the website even has some preview recipes, like this one for tofu tacos. Again, to give you a quick taste. The lead-in gives you a sense of how the book will treat and dissect Ayurveda:

On a cold, dry spring day you may have a heartier appetite than on a warm, wet day. Tofu Tacos with Greens make an easy, satisfying meal for a hearty day while staying aligned with the lighter qualities of spring. The dry quality of corn, the bitter taste of the greens, and a hint of spice to help the body digest tofu’s proteins balance the meal so you will feel full, but not heavy.

We certainly can get behind the notion of ditching processed foods that’s at the center of this. And I’ll throw in a little personal plug. (Feel free to use this, Kate.) Kate not only knows this stuff, she knows how to translate it so it’s useful here in the West and for people to whom Ayurveda isn’t all that familiar. I’m sure it isn’t going to be “Ayurveda for Dummies,” but it will be something that will benefit both longtime practitioners and those new to the game. I’m sure it will be both grounded and inspiring, sort of like Kate herself. The excerpt above demonstrates all that nicely, I think.

The book’s photographer and recipe developer is Cara Brostrom. It’s being published by Shambala, so there’s also that stamp of approval.

Posted by Steve

An unimaginable Ashtanga yoga pairing

I can’t resist this.

I know the joke embedded here may only reverberate with people in and around Los Angeles — where parking and how you got to whatever place you’re at are two endlessly fascinating topics — but I’m passing it on, anyway. In my Google alert, it popped up as “Ashtanga Yoga Parking“. How could I not click on that and find out what it meant.

I’m not sure that copying parts here will have the right impact, but I’ll try:

Ashtanga Yoga Parking

When:  Sept. 10, 2014, midnight
Where:  University of Illinois Chicago

I know yesterday I mentioned how Ashtanga might be making you more patient (and thus you might be missing your chance to secure a spot in Mysore), but I’m not sure the Buddha himself would be able to keep his composer when trying to find a parking spot in Los Angeles.

And have I mentioned our parking signs? Check them out.

And just so there’s a little sustenance to this post to go along with the empty calories, did you know there is an Ashtanga Ayurveda Expo in Kerala? It’s happening now, and this news came out from it:

The government will take measures to set up a national ayurveda institute in the state with the assistance of the Central Government, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said here on Wednesday. He was inaugurating ‘Ashtanga 2014’, an ayurveda expo organised at Government Ayurveda College here as part of its 125th anniversary celebrations.

The CM said that the demand for the formation of an AYUSH Department would be discussed in the Cabinet.

We’ll see if it gets anywhere.

Posted by Steve

Two great things tasting great together: Coffee and Ayurveda

As we’ve said recently, the “confluences” we are counting down to are myriad. For instance, this confluence of coffee (hurray!) and Ayurveda.

Video from Yoga International:

Although it often gets a bad rap, coffee can be a helpful digestive aid. Taken moderately after a meal, in a way that complements your constitution, will enhance this effect.  So, coffee lovers, take heart!  You can still enjoy this popular beverage using a few ayurvedic tips.

“Coffee is an excellent digestive.” (Yes, she emphasizes in a “moderate” amount.)

Posted by Steve

Stiff yoga guide bonus: The wrong things I’m not doing right

Sunday came and that meant Bobbie and I had the chance to practice together in our little home shala.

Helpful reminder: Don’t practice with the person teaching you, especially if you’re the only other one there. That teacher likely will find the little things you aren’t doing right.

In this case, it is the wrong things that I’m not doing right. Can you do things you aren’t supposed to be doing incorrectly? The answer: Yes.

Here’s a probably incomplete list:

* I wrote about bring my arms up in Sun Salutes a little forward of my body. “Incorrect,” Bobbie told me, and showed me. “See how together the shoulder blades get?” I saw. So arms essentially in a straight line when bringing them above your head — including in Warrior.

* I’m having a tough time with keeping  the pads of my hands stuck to the ground in Down Dog.

* Do I even have to say my breath and bandhas could use some additional work?

* Here’s one to think about: In Utthita Hasta, she suggested for the final part of the pose, when you are extending your pointed foot, to have my dristi be where I want my foot eventually to be. Looking down at the sad, so near the ground foot, may be pitching me forward a bit. That was the first time I’d heard that. It seemed to work on the second “easy” side.

* Finally, less a doing it wrong that trying to show me what doing it right is: Bobbie, in Janu A, anchored my folded leg and really twisted my from the upper torso. “It’s a stretch here,” she said, patting the right side of my ribcage during the first “harder” side. And then we repeated on the left. I think, perhaps, you twist in this one where you breath in them all?

Now, a brief look back: On the Surya Namaskara B post (link above on “wrong”), a commenter, Michelle, raised another possible avenue to investigate: for stiffness relief Ayurveda. My initial reaction (since I’m feeling all petulant from the pain of stretching) is: Wasn’t the Rolfing enough?

My slightly less petulant reaction is: I’ll admit to being not sold on Ayurveda as being that … how to say it … effective as a cure. I think it is OK at maintenance, as part of a healthy lifestyle, but I’m not sure it is as efficacious for treatment.

But I don’t know that much. This is my experience of seeing people who follow Ayurvedic practices. And I know our raw diet is totally not Ayurvedically approved. So I feel like I’m starting from a difficult point if I were to tread that road.

But if anyone has a more informed opinion, I’m listening.

Posted by Steve

Secrets to keep from getting sick in India, and other things to check out

Quick roundup of things for you.

First, Ashtanga teacher and Ayurvedic consultant Kate O’Donnell passes on secrets to keep from getting sick in India. For instance:

Keep it movin.
I have noticed a direct correlation between constipated types and parasite difficulties.  If you are not the type to poop easy, you may consider getting on Triphala (see Banyan before you travel, and staying on a routine of 2-3 tabs before bed while you are in India, up to a few months. I also recommend a short Ayurvedic cleanse before you hit the road.  You can find information about this here:, and I am happy to consult with you about a cleansing program before you go.

I hope she appreciates I picked that one.

And now, some more:

Your withdrawal period is over. Lululemon’s too-sheer-for-a-time pants are back, thicker where they need to be (or so the company says).

In our effort to keep you informed about the latest yoga morphing craze: Brewga. (Didn’t I just say something about yoga + wine retreats?)

Posted by Steve

Big weekend ahead for Jois Yoga-backed center at UVa

As I’m sure most of you know, Saraswati and Sharath are beginning their time in America. (So it’s a good time to brush up on your Led Primary etiquette!)

One of their early stops is in Charlottesville, Va., at the University of Virginia. Yes, it’s the site of the Contemplative Sciences Center, which was funded by Jois Yoga backers Paul Tudor and Sonia Jones. On Friday, students, faculty and staff at UVa have the chance for a free 90-minute class and lecture featuring both Saraswati and Sharath.

Not a bad deal, huh? Here’s a bit from the center’s announcement, Gurus on Grounds:

After a hour-long yoga class, Sharath will discuss the benefits of yoga and answer questions in a seminar moderated by UVA alum, yoga-enthusiast, and dear friend of JPJ, Paul Tudor Jones.


Admission to the event will be on a first-come, first-served basis, and necessarily limited by the maximum legal capacity for the space. Please be prepared to arrive early to ensure being among the fortunate 300 first arrivals who will receive a commemorative t-shirt.

No prior experience with yoga practice is required to participate.

Non UVaers are told to register here, which is the Jois Greenwich site.

But it isn’t just the Friday class that is making for a big weekend. All day Saturday, the center is hosting a conference titled, Contemplation and Medicine in South Asia & Beyond. There are three focuses: Yoga and Ayurveda in Premodern South Asia; Mindfulness, Compassion and Ayurveda in Contemporary Clinic Care and Research; and Healing Places: Contemplation and the Build Environment.

No doubt the Contemplative Sciences Center is off and running. We’ll keep watching where it heads. (And that’s no April Fool’s Joke!)

Posted by Steve


A different way to do the Saturday Ashtanga oil bath

On Friday, following the post-Savasana chant that ends the Led Primary practice at Omkar 108 (which chant? this one), Jörgen Christiansson asked if anyone in the class had ever taken a oil bath.

Image via, and believe me, I could have gone racier

“You mean a castor oil bath,” someone behind me asked.

Yes indeed. The infamous Saturday Ashtanga oil bath.

Jörgen’s version was slightly different from what I’ve heard before, so, I’m passing it on. It goes like this:

First time, liberally cover your head in oil. Hang out for 10 minutes. Then get in the shower (the most likely and convenient place to finish the process) and cover the rest of yourself with the oil. Rub it in, focusing on the joints.

Well, you probably know that part. What was different was the long time leaving the oil on the head.

The second time, Jörgen added, you leave it on your head for 15 or 20 minutes before moving to your body. And you can build up from there. (You start shorter, he noted, because the bath can have such a strong effect that you’ll catch a cold or get a headache otherwise.)

Jörgen also talked about the pros and cons of castor oil. The pros are that it is the traditional oil and, I suspect, considered the most efficacious. The cons? It’s thick and messy and will clog the heck out of your drains! (Note: Apartment dwellers, go with castor oil. House owners, and not just “holders”, maybe choose almond oil. That was Jörgen’s suggestion; I’ve also heard coconut oil suggested.)

So, there you have it. If you are doing oil baths, give it a try and let us know if the effects are any different from what you are used to experiencing.

Posted by Steve

Introduction to Nancy Gilgoff

As we’ve been keeping this blog, we’ve sought the input of our friends and fellow Ashtangis who have practiced with the “senior western students” who are participating. We asked our Shasta friend, Heidi Quinn, to write up something about Nancy Gilgoff. We’ve practiced beside Heidi with Timji, and hiked in the mountains with her and her family–she had a kind, loving way about her that comes through in her account of Nancy. Heidi teaches at Monterey Yoga Shala–you should take her class if you get a chance.

I met Nancy Gilgoff at the beginning of my Ashtanga yoga journey.  After hearing about her from a devoted student, Christine Hoar, I was determined to meet Nancy and flew to Vermont to attend a weekend workshop.  This Vermont workshop was a precursor to admission to Nancy’s primary series adjustment clinic scheduled for the following month.  Because I hadn’t been practicing Ashtanga for a full year, I had to seek special permission from Nancy to attend the week-long clinic.  I didn’t understand it then, but I do now.  As more experienced practitioners know, the Ashtanga practice goes beyond a series of physical poses.  Nancy wanted to ensure participants had integrated the Ashtanga practice into their bodies.  Nancy is not just looking at the physical body and alignment – she is tuned into the flow of energy in the body. This comes from how she learned the practice.

Nancy Gilgoff was the first woman certified by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.  Many also know her as the former partner of David Williams, and one of the key people involved in bringing Pattabhi Jois to the United States.  She studied with him for more than 30 years.   Unlike many other well-known Ashtangis, Nancy came to the Ashtanga practice with illness and injury.  And Pattabhi Jois treated the whole of her person, building her strength and wellness from the inside out.  Nancy is greatly influenced by Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, and this may be due, in part, to Pattabhi Jois’s teachings.  Nancy told many stories of Guruji’s instructions to change her health by changing her diet to a more cooling one (to calm Pitta dosha).  So Ayurveda infuses her teachings.

As a result, Nancy’s approach in the yoga room is marked by her perception of the subtle.  While many teachers focus on alignment, she focuses on the movement of energy.  Nancy teaches to give adjustments with clear intention and purpose, and to offer connection and support.  Pressing down on a student’s sacrum in a seated forward bend, for example, is a way to nurture the student and provide a sense of stability.  At the same time, the adjustment offers insight and feedback to the teacher.

As one of the few female voices in Ashtanga yoga, Nancy offers a unique perspective.  Her practice has spanned several decades and several female milestones.  After hearing various theories regarding the Ladies’ Holiday – Should I practice or not? –  Nancy finally offered an explanation I could support.  She explains it as a way to honor our bodies, a way to respect the body’s natural inclinations toward depletion and fatigue, and to support the downward flow – apana.  From Nancy, I learned to be kind to myself during the “maintenance yoga” phase of life – when the needs of my children expanded (rightfully so) into that precious early morning practice space and far beyond.  I learned that this too, is yoga.  Her approach to Ashtanga yoga goes “off the mat” in other ways.  She closes each practice with a mediation that creates a certain spaciousness – to fill ourselves with “loving kindness,” and take it out into the world.

This past summer, I attended Nancy’s workshop in nearby Mountain View.  Despite my best intentions, it had been many years since I last saw her.  I was curious as to how I would experience her teaching years later – and after the influence of other wonderful Ashtanga teachers along the way.  I knew she wouldn’t remember me and I didn’t expect her to.  And yet, my experience was as profound as ever. I recognize her as the source of many of the philosophies I have integrated into my teaching, and into my practice.  For this, loving kindness.

Posted by Bobbie