In wintertime, we tend to eat a little bit more to help compensate for the cold. Extra calories can be burned off to keep us warm and a little more body fat will do the trick, too. However, more food also makes us lethargic, and when you are used to a steady weight accompanied by a certain “body feeling”, it can make you uncomfortable and unfamiliar within your physical home.
There is a belief that the hot spices in the Indian diet are responsible for the high incidence of heart disease and high blood pressure among Indian souls. However, strictly speaking, it is not the spices that are the “baddies”, rather the modern instruction and liberal use of cooking oil (rather than the moderate use of cold-pressed sesame, mustard, coconut oil and ghee) and white flour for rotis, puris etc.
Spices help to stimulate the body towards self-healing and provide a fine-tuning of the body. However, there seems to be two types of people when it comes to spices: those who enjoy spices (and sometimes feel bad about having them!) and those with whom they don’t agree at all. To the first group, one would suggest, “Please enjoy them!”, and to the second group, “Practice makes you perfect. You can slowly raise your tolerance level!”
A wise way to deal with winter’s austerity is to rely on the warming and invigorating natural medicines that Ayurveda, the ancient “sister” of yoga, discovered many thousands of years ago. These are subtle and calorie-free remedies and go a long way to working small changes into the way we feel and experience. Spices are natural medicines and can be warming or cooling. Here we look at a few of the prominent warming ones:
Turmeric (also known as Haldi or Borrie)
Turmeric has a mellow, warming effect. It “lubricates” the body by harmonising all the mucous membranes functioning. Do you know that dry, cold feeling inside? Turmeric will help balance the air element and is rejuvenating, a natural beauty remedy and a good blood purifier. It creates that glowing, youthful look on yogis and yoginis which makes us wonder “is this person 30 or 50 years old?”
If you suffer from cracking joints, turmeric too will take care of that. Cheap as it is, I suggest you buy a big packet and start taking it now!
Original turmeric recipe:
Simmer 1Tbsp in water for 8 minutes, then add milk, bring to the boil, add a touch of ghee and serve it up with a bit of honey. Have this daily for 40 days and appreciate the effect is has on you.
Cayenne pepper increases circulation and provides vitamin C. Mountain climbers have been known to rub Vaseline on their feet and put a sprinkling of cayenne pepper into their socks before putting them on, to keep their feet buzzing and warm. Cayenne pepper acts as a natural anti-depressant (against winter blues?) and stimulates without harmful side-effects. It gives you a pleasant “lift” and puts an unreasonably happy smile on your face. Cayenne pepper also assists nutrient absorption and allows us to better metabolise food.
When you feel a cold coming, heat up some fruit juice and add 1Tsp each of honey and cayenne pepper (less if desired). This is called a “yogi cocktail”. You may have it twice a day and it goes a long way towards coping with your flu, in conjunction with your Echinaforce or whatever flu remedy works for you.
Black pepper has similar qualities to cayenne pepper. It contains vitamin C and acts to clean the colon. It prevents constipation and gas. Freshly ground is best, so why not buy one of those beautiful pepper mills and sprinkle it liberally on salads, pasta, steamed veggies, mushrooms etc.
Ah, glorious ginger creates enough heat to make you sweat! It is very soothing for coughs and sore throats, flu and congested sinuses. Ginger is a digestive aid, neutralises toxins and has a wonderful effect on the nervous system.
If you want to start enjoying spices in their pure form, try and make a delicious formula called Gota. Gota purifies the breath and palate after lunch or dinner.
Gota spice recipe:
Toast half the amount of aniseeds over medium heat in a pan (preferably heavy cast-iron), taking care not to burn them, until they are pleasantly fragrant. Mix with the other half of untoasted aniseed. Add 6 times the amount desiccated coconut and add the contents of 1 green cardamom pod per each tbsp to the mix. Add 1Tbsp brown sugar per each cupful of the mix. Store in a screwtop bottle and offer to your friends!
(Does this recipe sound confusing? This is how original Indian recipes work. Cooks managed to remember an infinite amount of recipes just by picturing the different proportions to each other).
By Pritam Hari Kaur Khlasa
First published, Complete Yoga, Volume 3 1993