Kitcheri with burdock and squash-min.JPG

Janani gets ready to enjoy kitcheri with burdock and squash.

This week some of the first year Gurukula students are doing their gradual reintroduction of food after their home panchakarma assignment. We created this recipe to support them--and they pronounced the recipe delicious!

Burdock root is important as both a food and herb. It has the bitter and astringent tastes recommended for the spring season, but it also has some sweetness because of its content of probiotic inulin. It is a good blood purifier and liver tonic and is also used in our pharmacy because of its anticancer and lymph cleansing actions. To learn more about burdock from an Ayurvedic perspective, visit this excellent site.

Kitcheri with burdock and squash

Serves 4 as a one-pot dish or 6-8 with sabji


1 cup split yellow mung dal (available from Indian and Asian markets)

1 cup basmati rice

1 burdock root, chopped

1 lb winter squash, cubed

1 tbsp ghee

1 inch piece of fresh ginger

1 tsp turmeric or 2" fresh turmeric

1 tsp each of powdered fennel, cumin and coriander

6 cups water

1-2 tsp garam masala

Wash mung dal and rice thoroughly. Heat the ghee or oil, add the spices and cook for a minute, taking care not to burn the spices.

Add rice, dal, vegetables and water, then bring to boil. Turn down to simmer for 45 minutes or until mung dal is very soft in pot on stove.

After cooking, add salt to taste. If you live at altitude, cook the mung beans for 45 minutes while soaking the rice, then add the rice and cook for 45 minutes more; or make the kitcheri in a pressure cooker.

For an extra touch of deliciousness, serve with Ginger, Turmeric, Cumin Flavoured Ghee.

Green pea and asparagus soup with beet maror-min.jpg

Green pea and asparagus soup, beet maror, karpas and of course, Hafez!

This year, instead of making Vegan Matzoh Ball Soup for the Passover Seder, I decided to make Green Pea and Asparagus soup instead. This green, springtime soup is a bit of an Alandi Passover tradition--but it would be great for Easter or any springtime gathering. It's an amazingly delicious soup that takes little time to make and yet leaves your guests delighted.

I adapted this recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks, Mediterranean Vegetarian Cooking by Colin Spencer.

Green Pea and Asparagus Soup

Serves 4-6


1 bunch asparagus

1 lb. organic frozen peas, defrosted

2 Tbsp. olive oil

8 cups vegetable broth

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

Break off the tough white part of the asparagus stalks and save for future vegetable broth. Cut off the asparagus tips and reserve. Chop the green, tender asparagus stalks in 2" pieces.

Heat olive oil in pan and cook the asparagus and green peas for a few minutes. Add the vegetable broth and simmer for 15 minutes.

Blend in a blender or with an immersion blender. Reheat.

Stir fry the asparagus tips in olive oil for a few minutes and add to the soup. Add the salt, pepper and parsley and cook a few more minutes to combine the flavours.


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Alandi Ashram Seder table with seder plate by Dale Rose and our home-made haggadot we wrote.


Commons Wikimedia: Incense Burner with Taoist symbols, 1736-1795, detail - Chinese Cloisonné

Last week, we looked at a basic programme for harnessing male sexual energy by befriending body, breath and energy with awareness. We discussed how men can experience different kinds of orgasm and can gain control over their ejaculation, by utilizing certain practices on a daily basis. Once you have laid a solid foundation with the basic building blocks we described, here are some resources to deepen your practice in the direction of ejaculatory control and greater sexual satisfaction.

Taoist Secrets of Love.jpg Taoist Secrets of Love: Cultivating Male Sexual Energy by Mantak Chia and Michael Winn is a book that has been around since the mid eighties and still is irreplaceable in teaching men how to gain ejaculatory control and work with sexual energy. A lot of important Taoist teachings are made accessible in this book.

Multi-orgasmic man.jpg The Multi-Orgasmic Man: Sexual Secrets Every Man Should Know, also by Mantak Chia, with Douglas Abrams, is a newer book aimed at teaching men how to separate orgasm and ejaculation and become multi-orgasmic.

Multi-orgasmic Couple.jpg The companion volume is The Multi-Orgasmic Couple: Sexual Secrets Every Couple Should Know by Mantak Chia, Maneewan Chia , Douglas Abrams and Rachel Carlton Abrams. This book combines Mantak Chia's Taoist knowledge with that of Holistic MD Rachel Carlton Abrams.

Develop intimacy with your partner by setting aside time each week to get to know yourself and each other better.

Margo Anand .jpg The Art of Sexual Ecstasy: The path of sacred sexuality for western lovers by Margo Anand offers intimacy-building exercises for couples to do together week by week. Each study session could culminate in lovemaking--but it doesn't have to. Many couples have found this resource helpful in building sexual, sensual and emotional intimacy and enriching their connexion.

Learn Taost sexual practices together using a CD set

Taoist Sexual Secrets.jpg

Sounds True offers a great CD set Taoist Sexual Secrets taught by Rachel Carlton Abrams and Lee Holden. This CD includes a special section for helping men learn ejaculatory control.

Find a certified Taoist teacher.

This website has a directory of teachers certified in Mantak Chia's Universal Healing Tao; look for a senior teacher or someone trained to teach Healing Love. These teaching sessions don't involve nudity or sexual contact; you learn practices to do at home.

May you have a joyful journey to greater sexual fulfilment!

Scotland Stag Symbol of Male Sexual Prowess.jpg

Photo Credit: Bing Image Archive: Close up of a red stag in the Scottish Highlands (© gmsphotography/Getty Images)(Bing) Via Creative Commons

I've given my talk on Sexuality and Spirituality in many cities, from New York to Denver. As I speak of accessing our potential for sexual ecstasy, the same question inevitably arises--how do we learn this?

Men in particular are intrigued to hear that orgasm and ejaculation are not necessarily one and the same. Men, just like women, can experience different kinds of orgasm. And men can gain control over their ejaculation, thus allowing for a more prolonged sexual experience and greater satisfaction for a female partner. However, finding the right way to learn this is easier said than done. Sex sells. As a result, prices may be high, while the quality of instruction offered may vary. Sometimes, instructor integrity may be a concern. In this blog I'll give some simple suggestions for a way to approach befriending and harnessing your sexual energy and next week I'll offer some tried and trusted resources to help you in this journey.

Essentially, you'll need to work with body, breath, energy and awareness.


To experience your ecstatic potential, you need a basis of physical wellbeing.

  • Clean up your diet: focus on fresh fruits and vegetables. Stay away from junk food and fast food, which slows and dulls your body and mind. A vegetarian diet is ideal to support greater clarity and awareness.
  • Exercise: Taking regular exercise helps with overall energy and weight control. A basic level of physical fitness is a prerequisite.
  • Habits: As the porter says in Macbeth, alcohol, "provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance." The same might be said of marijuana, while cigarette smoking constricts the blood vessels that supply the penis. To prepare your body as a sacred vessel for higher ecstasy, limit intoxicants.
  • Kegels: Exercising your PC muscle is essential in order to gain control over ejaculation. Practice at least 30 kegels every day.


As part of your preparation for gaining ejaculatory control, it's important to become aware of your breath and its relationship to the energy flow in your body. In addition to your aerobic exercise, make yoga a part of your week. You will especially benefit from types of yoga such as Shivananda Yoga, which focus on uniting breath and body.

Practice a simple daily pranayama (Conscious breathing), after your Kegels. This will help you become more in tune with your breath.


Your physical body is not your only body. You also have a subtle body or energy body, sometimes called the astral body. Becoming aware of this body is an essential component of any ecstatic or peak experience. Your breath is the link that connects you to your energy body and to the flow of your sexual energy. Chi Gong or Qi Gong practices are extremely valuable in working with energy body awareness. So if you have the opportunity to sign up for a weekly Chi Gong class in your area, that could be helpful.

There is one Chi Gong practice that is fundamental for harnessing male sexual energy--the Male Deer. This is best practiced in the morning. So now you can have a morning practice consisting of Male Deer, 30 kegels and nadi shodhan.


Awareness comes from meditation, a practice that helps us befriend and stay aware of our body, mind and energy. Practicing at a Shambhala Centre, Insight Meditation group or Zen group in your area will help you on your journey to your full potential. Another option is to attend a meditation retreat.

Ayurveda advises us to build good habits in an incremental way. The first month or so, focus on establishing a healthy diet and exercise programme and cutting back on intoxicants. Get going with your daily kegels. The next month, start your yoga and nadi shodhan practice. The third month, it's time to look into Chi gong and introducing a daily Male Deer practice. And next month, start to make meditation a part of your life. If you already have a good lifestyle and yoga practice, start with the Male Deer. This is a journey of a lifetime--build a solid foundation.


Tobacco chewing, also known as smokeless tobacco, is a habit that affects about 3 per cent of the US population, with more chewers in the Southern states and a majority of chewers being young adults. Yet far from being a harmless alternative to cigarettes, tobacco chewing carries all the same cardiovascular risks as smoking, while in addition being a potent cause of oral cancer. The website of the American Academy of Otolaryngology lists the following ingredients of smokeless tobacco.

Polonium 210









Meanwhile, pān chewing is notorious throughout Asia and beyond as a source of stained teeth and oral cancer. Yet the habit is so ingrained that it has followed Asian migration paths around the world, with pān kiosks now being found in cities such as London. The classical texts of Ayurveda refer to tambula, or pān, as a typical part of daily routine. So is there a healthy chew? A safe alternative would give tobacco chewers and pān users a way to overcome their dangerous addiction.

Today, pān is a potent mix of betel leaf, areca nut, tobacco and slaked lime. Not only is the tobacco content carcinogenic, areca nut is also recognised by the WHO as a carcinogen in its own right.

So despite its high content of antioxidants such as gallic acid, areca nut should not be used on any consistent basis. Excess incidence of oral cancer is found even in communities that use traditional pān without tobacco. Areca nut also stains the teeth red and is the source of the unsightly red spittle so commonly seen in India. Confusion is added due to the fact that areca nut is commonly referred to as betel nut. However, areca nut is the seed of the areca palm, areca catechu, and is not in any way related to the betel leaf, piper betle, a member of the pepper family.

So what about betel leaf itself? Is that the solution for a healthy chew? According to an article in the South Asian Journal of Cancer, betel leaf has anti-diabetic, cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, anti-ulcer, hepato-protective, anti-infective actions. It also improves digestion when chewed after meals. In animal studies, no carcinogenic effect was found from betel leaf alone. It has a mild stimulatory effect, although not as marked as the effect of tobacco.

This said, we don't have any long term studies on the effect of chewing betel leaf alone. So I would not recommend adopting betel leaf chewing as a long-term habit. However, chewing betel leaf could be used as a means of getting rid of the smokeless tobacco habit, or the betel nut pān habit. Someone trying to get off tobacco chewing could chew a mixture of tobacco and betel leaf, gradually reducing the amount of tobacco over the course of a month. Then they could chew betel leaf alone for about a month or two, gradually reducing the frequency of chewing in preparation for leaving the chewing habit behind completely. At that point, satisfy the need to chew by munching on pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds or dry dates.

Betel leaves are available at Indian grocery stores or can be purchased online.


Photo Credit

One effect of this year's El Niño is a very late influenza season. Influenza is usually a winter disease, with increased susceptibility in cold weather. The unseasonably warm winter hasn't freed us from the 'flu, it's simply put it off until spring. Many of my patients report having influenza recently, while in some states the epidemic is still peaking.

Influenza is a serious illness, often causing additional morbidity with illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis, and even leading to death in susceptible individuals. So if you really have influenza, rather than just a seasonal cold, please take care of yourself.


"In acute fever one should avoid day-sleep, bath, massage, solid diet, sexual intercourse, anger, wind and exercise." Charak Samhita.

Stay home. This won't be so hard to do as influenza is a prostrating illness--it's difficult to get out of bed. I remember passing out on the London Underground as a young medical student, and being taken home in a police car. One moment I seemed fine and the next moment I couldn't stand up. Be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, by keeping your germs to yourself.

Rest in bed. Again, it's a prostrating illness, do what your body tells you and stay in bed. You need rest to fight the infection. If you live alone, contact a friend for shopping and other support.

Fast. You won't have any appetite anyway, but many believe they 'should' eat. Just take healing herbal teas for 'flu. (If you are pregnant or diabetic, don't fast. Consult your doctor.) Fast for four days or until your fever comes down and appetite returns--whichever is sooner.

Drink plenty. Drink your herbla teas plus extra lukewarm water.

Sweating. You may find relief by taking a warm (not too hot) bath with 1/3 cup dry ginger powder and 1/3 cup baking soda to alleviate your aching limbs. Don't take this bath if you are home alone and don't lock the bathroom door. Take every precaution to avoid passing out and drowning in your bathtub! After the bath, settle in a warm room huddled under blankets to promote sweating. However, in a pitta situation, i.e. a really high fever, cold sponging and cold compresses to your forehead may be more helpful than sweating.

Do not sweat a child who has a high fever. Use cold sponging. A child with a very high fever can potentially have a seizure.

Light Diet: After your fever drops or four days have passed, begin taking a thin gruel containing digestive spices such as ginger, coriander, and pippali (long pepper).

Gruel Recipe (Peya)


1 tbsp. dry ginger
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
¼ cup basmati rice
3 .5 cups water

Preparation :

1. Coarsely powder dry ginger, pepper and coriander seeds
2. Add 800 ml of water and condense it to 400ml.
3. In this decoction of dry ginger, pepper and coriander seeds, cook the broken rice until it is fully cooked.
4. Then serve hot.


For your next meal, take a thicker gruel called yavagu

Yavagu recipe

1 part rice
6 parts water
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ tsp. grated ginger

Boil rice in water till rice becomes soft. This can also be can be cooked in pressure cooker. Add salt, pepper and grated ginger when rice is well cooked and stir well. Yavagu is ready to eat.


Now try Mung yusha

Basic Yusha recipe:

1T green, unpeeled whole mung beans

6 cups of water

¼ t turmeric

½ tsp. cumin seeds

½ tsp grated fesh ginger

Salt and pepper to taste.

Boil until the beans are quite soft.; 30 min in a pressure cooker or an hour on the stovetop. Then add the spices to taste and serve.

As an alternative, you can have chicken broth. (Jewish penicillin)

Next have Tridoshic Kitcheri

If dark grapes are available, try to eat them.

Cleansing Herbs

Triphala tea taken at bedtime is excellent when recovering from fever.

Finally, follow our Post Flu recovery tips.

Dal with Okra-min.JPG

Okra is not only delicious; it also has many medicinal properties. It is a gentle laxative, anti-inflammatory, strengthens bones, soothes urinary problems and enhances lactation. Enjoy this comforting Ayurvedic dal recipe I created after Sadananda proudly came home with fresh okra!

Serves 4


1 stick cinnamon

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 Tbsp. ghee

1 cup red lentils, washed

1 Roma tomato, chopped

1 tsp. turmeric

1 Tbsp ground coriander

4-6 cups water

1 lb okra, washed; tops and tails cut off.

2 bay leaves

1" piece grated fresh ginger

1 dry red chilli

1 pinch hing

1 spring curry leaves

Salt to taste


Heat 1Tbsp. ghee in heavy bottomed pan. Add the cinnamon stick and cumin seeds and fry for a minute or two, taking care not to burn the cumin.

Now add the washed dal, chopped tomato and grated ginger and fry for a few more minutes.

Add 4 cups of water, bring to the boil. Allow to boil for 10-15 minutes until the dal starts to break up.

Now add the okra and simmer for another 20-30 minutes until the dal is well cooked and the okra is soft. Add more water as needed for your desired consistency. Some prefer a thicker dal eaten with chepati and some a thinner dal poured over rice.

Add the rest of the ghee in a small frying pan and heat. Add the red chilli, hing and curry leaves and sauté a few minutes, taking care not to burn the spices. Drop the sizzling spice mix into the hot dal.

Salt to taste and serve. Good with Bitter Gourd Sabji. (Karela sabji)

Dal with okra served with bittergourds -min.JPG

Inspired by


Just a short while ago, I heard the mountain chickadee for the first time this year. Crocuses are poking forth between snowstorms and the house finches sing as they build their nest on our porch.

During the spring season, the texts of Ayurveda encourage us to make use of the bitter taste. Similarly, in the Passover seder, bitter herbs are eaten.

Indeed, many of us do crave the bitter taste after a winter of heavier foods. Fresh little dandelion greens are poking up in the garden and baby arugula is available in grocery stores. Meanwhile, those who are preparing for spring panchakarma are heroically gulping down titka gritam, a specially medicated bitter ghee that readies our body to cleanse. But what is so special about the bitter taste?

The bitter herb kutki, a key ingredient in titka ghee, is noted for its content of compounds known as iridoid glycosides. Plants are exposed to the same hazards that we are, including viruses, bacteria, fungi and environmental toxins. While we protect ourselves with antibodies and special white blood cells, plants protect themselves by manufacturing special compounds that are beneficial to us as well as to the parent plant. That's basically how herbs work. So iridoid glycosides are a part of the immune system of bitter herbs like kutki.

And like us, plant cells are subject to oxidative stress. While oxygen is the element that keeps us alive, it's also a highly reactive element that can degenerate our DNA and hence cause ageing and chronic diseases. Think of what happens to your car if the autobody paint is damaged. The rust is the result of an oxidative process. And, unlike us, plants are constantly at risk of being eaten. If they figure our how to taste bitter, they are less likely to be eaten! So for several reasons, a number of medicinal plants produce iridoid glycosides. Despite their bitter taste, our innate intelligence guides us to consume foods that contain iridoid glycosides--substances that are analgesic, support the heart and blood vessels, protect the liver and help stop age and environmental toxins mutating our DNA. Iridoids are also anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-tumor. They help keep our blood sugar at healthy levels and support the flow of bile to promote digestion. Taking bitter herbs in springtime cleans up the 'rust' (oxidative damage) from our winter of holiday parties and heavy foods. What's not to like--aside from the taste!



By Katarzyna Matylla - Own work, Public Domain,

While olives are a food source of iridoid glycosides, we typically consume a diet very depleted in the bitter taste and heavy on sweet and salty. The best way to ensure that you get your iridoid glycoside spring anti-rust treatment and tune up is to consult an Ayurvedic practitioner for a spring cleansing formula, which can be given as a stand-alone treatment or as a prelude to panchakarma.

And as we recite in the Passover seder:

See! The winter is past;
The rains are over and done.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
the cooing of turtledoves
is heard in our land.

Black-eye Pea Bhaji

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This nourishing soup can be served alongside a rice dish such as yellow rice, or eaten accompanied by a flatbread like chepati or puri. Black-eye peas are good for nursing mothers and provide a great source of protein and fibre.

Black-eye Pea Bhaji

Serves 4-6

I cup black-eye peas, soaked overnight

4 cups water (approx.)

1 large clove garlic, chopped

1 small handful cilantro, chopped

1.5" piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 heaping Tbsp. shredded coconut/coconut flakes

½ cup water for blending

2 Tbsp. sunflower oil

1 tsp. black mustard seeds

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 pinch hing

5 curry leaves

¼ tsp. ajwan

¼ tsp turmeric

1 tsp. garam masala

¼ tsp. salt

Drain black-eye peas. Pressure cook in approximately 4 cups water until soft, about an hour.

Put garlic, cilantro, ginger, coconut and ½ cup water in blender and blend until liquefied. Set aside.

In saucepan, heat oil, add mustard seeds, cumin, hing, curry leaves. When seeds pop, stir in blended coconut mixture. Add ajwan, turmeric, masala and salt. Cook for 1 minute to lightly brown.

Pour in the black-eye peas and their cooking water and mix well.

Rinse out the blender with clean water to add the extra to the soup.

Bring to a boil, if it's more liquid than you want, simmer uncovered to reduce, if it's too thick you can thin it.

Adapted from Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing by Usha And Vasant Lad


Here is a warming and substantial dish using nourishing and grounding winter vegetables like squash and 'yam.' The students were intrigued to learn that what we usually call yams are actually orange or gold sweet potatoes! Real yams as such are only sold in specialty African or Asian markets. This recipe calls for jewel or garnet 'yam' i.e. orange sweet potatoes. To make matters still more complicated, sweet potatoes are not potatoes either. They are in the morning glory family, whereas potatoes are in the nightshade family.

Gingered Chickpeas with Yam, Squash, Chard and Tomato

Chickpeas and vegetables in ginger-tomato sauce, should be saucy, moist, not dry.

Serves 6

1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight

1 TB ghee or sunflower oil

1 jewel or garnet yam, about 1lb

1 lb winter squash or pumpkin, cubed and peeled

2 TB minced fresh ginger

2 hot green chilies, seeded and minced

1 Tb cumin seeds

1 lb. Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1 TB ground coriander

1 ½ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp each of cayenne and black pepper

1 ½ tsp turmeric

½ cup water

1 lb chard washed and chopped.

1 ½ tsp salt

4 TB chopped cilantro

1 ½ tsp garam masala

Pressure cook chickpeas until soft, about an hour. Drain and set aside. Boil yam until fork tender. Reserve the water, cube the yam.

Heat ghee or oil and raise heat to medium high. Add ginger, chilies and cumin seeds and fry until the seeds darken but do not burn. Add tomatoes and then the coriander, paprika, cayenne and black pepper, and turmeric. Cook gently until the tomatoes are reduced to a sauce, about 7-10 minutes. Add ½ cup or more of the reserved yam water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add the yam, squash, chickpeas, salt and half of the cilantro. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add chard during the last 15 minutes of cooking. Before serving, stir in the rest of the fresh cilantro and the garam masala. If the dish is dry, add more of the reserved yam water. You can make this dish sloppy and serve over rice or just moist and saucy, served with flatbreads or with saffron rice on the side.

Source: Adapted from Lord Krishna's Cuisine.