You can’t attend a good yoga class without hearing mention of the Sanskrit word ‘prana’, and the expression ‘pranayama techniques’. Prana means life-force, life-giving energy. Pranayama means the gathering, the storing and the wise utilisation of prana or life-force.
We gather prana from the air that we breathe, from the sun (solar prana), from the earth (ground prana), and from the food we eat. The fresher the food, and the less interference it has received the more prana it will contain. So picking an apple from a tree and eating it immediately will give you maximum prana. Drinking fresh water, eating organic fruit and vegetables ensures that you are taking in prana.
It is prana that fuels our seven main wheels of energy. Yogis call these ‘chakras’.
On this ‘Yoga Prescribed’ blog, we have had a romp through a variety of foods which have medicinal value. Yoga teaches us to be aware; to listen to our bodies. The more in touch with the body that we become, the more we are able to read the signals. I develop a headache in a specific place if there is not enough oxygen in the room. I develop a headache in a different place if I am dehydrated. In both cases, the headaches disappear immediately once I have fixed the problem. Listen to your body.
Including a variety of foods in the diet will take care of your nutritional needs. Eat a rainbow of vegetables. If you are drawn to a certain fruit or vegetable, eat it. Your body is telling you what it needs at this moment. For instance, you might find that you are fancying carrots and oranges. Yes, you might need betacarotene and vitamin C, but on a more subtle level your sacral chakra could be out of balance. You might need more of the colour orange in your life. Listen to your body.
Always remember that the way you eat matters, too. Yoga teaches us about the three gunas. These are qualities or constituents of nature. Eating in a rush is rajasic. When you are busy, busy, busy, it is not an appropriate time to eat. Eating because you’re bored and indolent is tamasic. You’re feeding your emotions, not your body. However,eating when you are calm and balanced is sattvik. You have time to consider your food and what your body needs. You eat slowly and with appreciation. Listen to your energies…Listen to your body.
‘Food is medicine’ is an ancient Chinese proverb, and it is still so true today.
Yogurt has been around forever. I got into making my own when we lived in the States. Live or ‘bio’ yogurts contain health-giving bacteria which synthesise B vitamins, biotin, folic acid and B 12. They keep the bowels regular and increase the absorption of calcium and magnesium. The good bacteria in live yogurt kill the bad bacteria that cause food poisoning. It is essential to eat a yogurt everyday when taking antibiotics.
Yogurt is an excellent source of vitamin B, keeping up the spirits, and calcium. It also supplies vitamin D , which is essential for the absorption of calcium. Buying plain yogurt gives you a clean canvas. You can add your own organic fruit, so you know exactly what is in it.
Hampshire, where I live, is the home of watercress. Indeed, we boast the Watercress Line, a lovely little steam train, which still runs from Alton to Alresford.
Hippocrates described watercress and its medicinal values in 460 B.C. He built the world’s first hospital next to a stream flowing with pure spring water so that he could grow fresh watercress for his patients. Nero, Hippocrates and even Henry V111 enjoyed this wonderful vegetable.
Watercress is packed with vitamin C. It was prescribed in the 1500s to cure scurvy. It is a powerful antibiotic, and fights off chest and urinary infections. Watercress is also a useful source of iodine, thus it is important for regulating the thyroid gland.
Always wash watercress thoroughly under running water, and do source organic. It’s great for sandwiches!
Walnuts are a wonderful health-giving and nutritious snack. They provide protein, slow-release energy, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and vitamins B6 and E. The oil contained in walnuts is very special. There is seven times more polyunsaturated fat than saturated fat. This in conjunction with the antioxidant properties of walnuts makes them an ideal treatment for anyone with heart, circulatory, high blood pressure and cholesterol problems.
Spanish and American scientists have discovered that eating a handful of walnuts a day significantly lowers cholesterol levels.
Engraved clay tablets dating from 2,000 B.C. showed walnuts growing in the hanging gardens of Babylon! And the Greeks and Romans treated them as a royal food. The most widely grown variety is the English walnut. I well remember my dad cracking walnuts at Christmastime, when I was a little girl. Add them to your shopping list this week…
Indian Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe turmeric for eyesight, rheumatism, arthritis and liver problems. It is a spice which should be in daily use as it provides substantial amounts of highly protective and immune-boosting antioxidants. Research has shown that one of its natural constituents, curcumin, is very powerful in cancer prevention and treatment.
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family. It is grown for its root, and is used extensively in curry recipes. Make sure you have this wonderful medicine in your spice rack!
Tomatoes were introduced to Europe by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. They are rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids such as betacarotene and lycopene. They contain vitamins C and E, and so protect the heart, the circulatory system and the body against cancer. They are low in sodium and high in potassium, thus are helpful with conditions such as high blood pressure and fluid retention.
Canned tomatoes lose very little of their nutritional value, so always keep some in the larder. The lycopene contained in tomatoes protects men against prostate cancer. Tinned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato ketchup and sun-dried tomatoes are all important nutritionally. They protect men and women against heart disease. I love cherry tomatoes! So much nicer than sweets!
In Britain, semolina is mainly used in desserts, and I well remember how much some children hated semolina pudding at school. I rather liked it! In the States it is popular as a hot breakfast cereal, and in Italy it is used in savoury and sweet recipes. Couscous is popular in North America. This is made by combining fine semolina with water and flour.
Semolina is a good source of starch and contains protein. It is also a useful source of manganese and phosphorus. It is easily assimilated and popular for those recovering from illness and operations. Semolina is a winning addition to a vegetarian die,t as it forms complete protein when combined with pulses, milk or vegetables.
I have pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds on my breakfast each morning. In addition to nuts, cereals and pulses, seeds contain protein. They are a good source of vitamins E and B, and are full of dietary fibre. This is great for keeping the bowels regular.
Seeds make a useful contribution to soups, salads and casseroles. They are also a great snack when you are out and about.
Pumpkin seeds contain iron for healthy blood, magnesium for maintaining healthy cells and zinc for growth and development. Zinc aids the immune system, too.
Sunflower seeds are a useful source of vitamin E and an acid known as linoleic. This is necessary for the maintenance of cell membranes.
Sesame seeds contain vitamin E and calcium.
I got into sweet potatoes big-time when we lived in the States. They are very popular in the Caribbean, and date back a long way. Indeed, Columbus brought them to Europe, and you will find them in every supermarket in England now.
Sweet potatoes contain starch, which is energy. They provide some protein, vitamin C, vitamin E and a huge amount of carotenoids, including betacarotene. They are considered to be strong in combating cancer.
Sweet potatoes are delicious in homemade juice. Try combining apple, celery, carrot and sweet potato.
Mashing this delicious vegetable with others, such as ordinary potatoes, parsnips or swede, is a great way to introduce them to children. Get them organically grown if you can.