An Exclusive Interview with Ananta Ripa Ajmera on Balancing Your Fall Health Routine.
Ananta Ripa Ajmera grew up in America leading what seemed a pretty perfect life—great schooling, wealth, intelligence, yet, she was always carrying around some degree of anxiety, fear and pain. In her youth, she struggled with eating disorders, and while she tried conventional wisdom for her anxiety and pain, she kept returning to the same starting point.
Looking for something different, she turned to Ayurveda. First learning from her Ayurveda and spiritual teacher, Acharya Shunya, and then studying at Shunya’s school, Vedika Global, in a span of five short years Ajmera was able to shift to a healthy state of mind and body. Her skin began to glow, her relationship with food changed, and the pain she once experienced from menstruation completely dissipated. She shares her knowledge in her new book, The Ayurveda Way: 108 Practices from the World’s Oldest Healing System for Better Sleep, Less Stress, Optimal Digestion and More (Storey Publishing, 2017), which not only offers glimpses into this healing system but also offers incredibly practical tools for everyday living—from diet to movement and everything in between. Here we chat with Ajmera about the importance of transitioning your health routine with the seasons, and uncover her two favorite seasonal recipes for beauty and cuisine.
HL&S: We’ve just transitioned into the fall season, can you share with us how your personal routine shifts in the fall?
In the fall season, the ancient Ayurvedic texts teach that pitta dosha (a bioforce consisting of fire and water) is predominant in the atmosphere. This means there is more internal heat in our bodies, making it a time when I avoid eating spicy foods and doing intense exercise, so as to not overheat my body. In the fall, I focus on adding foods with the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes to my diet. I sprinkle pomegranate seeds, an Ayurvedic super food, onto my savory food items just about every day to benefit from their amazing ability to purify blood, slow down the aging process of skin (slowing down the wrinkling process) and strengthen the heart (both the physical and emotional heart) and other important organs like the lungs, brain and kidneys. I eat more green veggies at this time, as recommended by Ayurveda.
I also love embracing the moonlight at this time, as we believe that the sun, moon and wind have subtle healing attributes we can all benefit from in different times and in different ways. The moon is associated with kapha dosha, a bioforce consisting of the cooling earth and water elements. Kapha dosha is naturally stable, soothing, cool, calm, nurturing and grounding. When you absorb the moonlight in the fall season, it helps to cool and soothe the body in cases of excess heat and stress. I have experienced this and love doing it.
HL&S: What do you feel is the most important seasonal change to honor during the fall and moving into the winter seasons?
The most important seasonal change that happens, according to Ayurveda, is that our digestive capacity greatly increases as we transition from the fall into the winter season. This means it’s particularly important not to skip any meal. We want to really nourish ourselves during the winter season, as the nourishment we receive at this time gives us strength for the whole year to come. So we start to transition our diet to include more hearty meals, including meat (if you eat it), sweets, heavier foods like sweet potatoes and butternut squash, nuts, and fresh cheeses like goat cheese, mozzarella cheese, etc. Winter is considered the best time of the year in Ayurveda, as our enhanced seasonal digestive capacity allows us to enjoy eating almost anything we like (provided we do actually digest it!).
HL&S: What are signs that someone is out of balance?
In Ayurveda, the main sign that someone is out of balance is when the digestion is off balance, and there is a tendency towards either constipation or diarrhea, or blood in the stools. If you experience pain, bloating and heaviness upon elimination, have headaches often, and inexplicable chest pain, or feel tired all the time, yet suffer from insomnia without knowing why, these are all signs your digestion could be compromised. In Ayurveda, digestion and elimination are seen as deeply intertwined. When digestion is optimal, healthy elimination is the natural result. Having a healthy digestion is the best indicator of overall health in Ayurveda. You know when your digestion is healthy when you feel the urge to eliminate one or two times a day (skipping a day is a sign of imbalance), you eliminate around the same time each day, ideally by 7 a.m., have soft, well-formed, log-shaped stools, and feel ease and satisfaction in eliminating.
HL&S: What does Ayurveda say about balance and the seasons?
The strategies for finding harmony with nature change throughout the year. In Ayurveda, the collection of recommended seasonal behaviors is called ritucharya (ritu translates as “season” and charya means “behavior”). I used to blindly follow the same protocols for food, work, and exercise all year, but with Ayurveda’s seasonal guidelines, I enjoy the variety of approaches and am much more in touch with the changes in nature and in my own body and mind. Ayurveda is like an amazing compass with which you navigate and plan the year. Ayurveda outlines six distinct seasons per year. These specific seasons follow the natural pattern of the three doshas (bioforces) as they build up, peak, and then dissipate throughout the year. Following a seasonal Ayurvedic regimen not only keeps you healthy during each current season, but it also prepares your body for the following season. And each season brings you different opportunities to take health into your own hands.
Fall Beauty Recipe
Photography by Mars Vilaubi
Marigolds (Tagetes erecta) are highly regarded in Ayurveda for their many healing properties. As with many things in the Ayurveda tradition, there’s both a spiritual and a practical component to their healing potential.
Marigolds are the color of the sun, and because the sun is considered a symbol of the bright, shining spirit within you, marigolds are the color of spirituality in India. They represent inner spiritual fire. People often makebeautiful marigold garlands and give them to important people in their lives to honor their spiritual dimension. This is the most popular flower featured at traditional Indian weddings.
The marigold flower is also synonymous with beauty and has fantastic benefits for any type of skin. For oily skin, it helps check excess sebum, which causes oiliness. For dry skin, it soothes and prevents further dryness. For combination skin, it naturally moisturizes and helps keep wrinkles at bay. I can’t help but smile while wearing a face mask made from fresh marigold petals.
Marigold Face mask
The ingredients vary based on skin type, but the basic procedure for making and applying the mask is the same. Marigolds are in season in summer and fall and can be found at many local nurseries. To crush the petals, simply rip them with your hands. For each recipe, start with the recommended amount of flour, but if the mask is dripping off your face, add a little more flour to thicken it.
4 teaspoons organic honey (from the farmers’ market or local bee clubs)
1 teaspoon cream
1/2 teaspoon gram flour
Ingredients for combination skin:
10–12 crushed marigold petals
1/2 teaspoon plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon red sandalwood powder
1/2 teaspoon chickpea flour
1. Combine the facemask ingredients in a small bowl. Mix, then apply to your skin.
2. Sit calmly for 10 minutes while meditating or listening to relaxing music.
3. Rinse off the mask with cool water.
Fall Food Recipe
Calm your mind and body with opo squash.
Another Ayurveda superfood, opo squash promotes mental clarity, balance, optimism, and peace of mind. A great nourishing food, it also benefits your heart. It is easily digestible and tastes sweet.
This opo squash recipe is a personal favorite. I love how grounded and clear-headed it makes me feel, and I recommend it for anyone experiencing mental stress and turbulent emotions. It goes great with cooked rice, chappatis, warm wheat tortillas, and khichadi. You can buy opo squash at Indian or Chinese markets. If you can’t find it, you can substitute any winter or summer squash.
Cooked Opo Squash
2 teaspoons ghee
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 pound opo squash, peeled and
diced into 1/2-inch cubes
Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
1. Warm the ghee in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and turmeric and cook for 10 to 15 seconds (be careful not to burn the cumin seeds).
2. Stir in the onions and cook, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Add the opo squash and stir again. Cover the skillet and cook until the squash is soft enough that you can easily cut it with a spoon, 20 to 25 minutes. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.
Melissa B. Williams is a freelance writer and editor based in Louisville, Colorado. She previously served as the Editorial Director for Healing Lifestyles & Spas for 10 years and remains a frequent contributor.
With her love of health and writing, Melissa has written for such publications as Shape, Natural Solutions, Yoga Journal, Self and Pilates Style, and has created recipes and food-oriented stories for such publications as Delicious Living and Cooking Light.
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