I first met Sandhiya Ramaswamy as a student at the California College of Ayurveda. I remember first hand her exuberant energy so vividly. Her knowledge of Ayurveda, coupled with her vibrant stories of India made for an engaging experience. Born in India, she has lived in the US for over fifteen years. Working in the corporate world for many years, and battling Asthma since she was a child caused havoc on her health, which led her to seek treatment in the Science of Ayurveda. Growing up in India she was not “born with an Ayurvedic spoon in her mouth,” she muses. She watched her Mother and Grandmother practice it as a child, but this was the first time Sandhiya viewed Ayurveda as a holistic science and a holistic way of living life.
Ayurveda is just that, a science of life (Ayur= life, Veda = science or knowledge). It is the art of living in harmony with nature. In 2010 Sandhiya became an Ayurvedic Clinic and Panchakarma Specialist from the California College of Ayurveda, where she is currently a faculty member as well. She has a private practice where she offers Ayurveda consultations and body therapies. She teaches workshops on Ayurveda and on Ayurveda inspired vegetarian cooking throughout the Orange County area. Sandhiya shares joyfully, “After meandering into the corporate world for many years, I have finally come back home to my roots of cooking and Ayurveda.”
Letʼs talk doshas… what are they? In Ayurveda they are the principles known as mind-body types, expressing particular patterns of energy in the subtle body. There are three doshas: Vata (air and ether), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (earth and water). These elements combine to form our constitution known as doshas. We have all three doshas present in us, though one or two can be more dominant than the other. Doshas are intrinsically our own individual map, a guide, giving us ways to achieve optimal health and harmony within our body and mind. Sandhiya describes the three doshas in the animal world equivalent. “We have the butterfly flittering from flower to flower gathering nectar, they are the life of the party, very vivacious,” these are the creative types known as Vata (air and ether). Pitta is mostly fire and a little water, represented by the bull. “Especially when they are not in balance it’s a bull in a china shop,” she laughs. Pittas are the natural born leaders, they get things done. The last is Kapha, a combination of water and earth, described as the “slow moving gentle elephant, wonderful supporters, very loyal, they don’t rock the boat, and tend to be followers.” Sandhiya explains further, “The doshas when in balance keep us healthy, it is when they get out of balance (through our diet and lifestyle habits) that disease happens.”
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Sandhiya over a delicious cup of Chai she prepared for us, and asked her some questions about Ayurveda and Yoga.
Q: How can Ayurveda expand or benefit one’s Yoga practice?
According to David Frawley,“Yoga and Ayurveda are two sides of the same coin.” Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga; it is the science of self healing and Yoga is the science of Self Realization. When the western students went to India in the sixties to learn Yoga they brought the physical practice but not so much the Yogic diet and lifestyle practices, which is what Ayurveda is all about. However, it is very heartening to see the growing interest in Ayurveda today. Yoga studios are introducing Ayurvedic workshops, talks, and consultations. It’s wonderful! So you see, Yoga and Ayurveda are very much intertwined. I always try to encourage people that go to a yoga class… if you go for just the physical benefit (asana practice) it’s like just having the icing on a cake. After all, Yoga means union — uniting with our own true nature as divine spirit!
Q: Nowadays eating can be quite confusing: Do I eat vegan, vegetarian, raw, or the very popular green shake?
Ayurveda is not about fads, it has been around for about 6000 years and the principles haven’t changed much. There’s a wonderful saying in Ayurveda, “You are what you digest.” Digestion is the cornerstone of health and immunity in Ayurveda. There’s a fallacy in assuming what is good for someone is good for everyone. For example, in Ayurveda we have something called the Vata dosha (air and ether elements). Somebody with a great deal of Vata Dosha does not have the digestive fire (Agni) to be able to digest raw foods all the time. If this person eats a primarily raw food diet they may have digestive issues, i.e., gas and constipation. They may feel cold, and develop some insomnia, for instance. Ayurveda is about everything in moderation. A true evaluation would be to seek out an Ayurvedic practitioner, and have your constitution assessed, along with a customized food program. Thankfully, Ayurveda is now where Yoga was fifteen years ago. My true vision is one where Ayurveda is offered in every yoga studio across the country, and changes the face of healthcare.
Q: When preparing and cooking a meal what mindset would be ideal?
What we want to try to do is to make everything a Sadhana. Sadhana is a Sanskrit word, which means making an experience sacred. So taking our time in preparing our meals, not rushing. I used to be a Tasmanian devil in the kitchen. I would have all my burners on high trying to prepare a meal after a long day when I was in the corporate world. One time my parents were visiting from India, and I remember my mother telling me, she said, “Well…food tastes really good when you cook it with patience and love, but when you cook with the flame on high and let the food boil turbulently that just transfers into our mind.” She is absolutely right! I have learned from Ayurveda that we have rajasic (activity) tendencies, turbulent tendencies of the mind that can cause vrittis (disturbances) and so food affects us not just on the physical level but on a spiritual and emotional level. So cooking the food needs to be a Sadhana. Maybe saying a small prayer before beginning to cook, perhaps offering the food to the Divine Gods and Goddesses! Then this translates the Sadhana to how we eat our food. There is no more sacred experience then feeding our body temple. According to Ayurveda how we eat is more important than what we eat. By blessing the food, and being mindful of chewing our food well because digestion begins in the mouth. Savoring every bite and eating with no distractions, i.e., TV, reading, phone… etc. The same goes as we finish our meals with the same kind of mindfulness. If you can sit for two minutes to honor the process of digestion, then we essentially bookend our meal-taking with sacredness, from beginning to end. Giving gratitude and making everything a Sadhana.
Awakening Our Bodies Potential To Heal
Ayurveda views health in a different way than traditional western medicine would. It looks at the whole body including the mind. Rather than treating a symptom, it goes deeper into the root of the problem. According to Ayurveda disease starts in the mind and transfers into the physical body to find a home. When working with an Ayurvedic Practitioner they look to recognize the personʼs ideal state of balance, determine what imbalances are there, and supply suggestions for restoring balance. Some recommendations might involve specific diet and herbs, meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, and massage. Imagine that you are going to college for your health! Sandhiya states, “As an Ayurvedic practitioner, I tell my patients, I am not the healer, I am facilitating the healing. What we are doing is awakening our own bodies potential and intuition to heal. We all have this ability.” Ayurveda empowers the individual by becoming harmonious with who WE truly are, by simply following the rhythms of the seasons, of the day and night, the sun and moon. We as human beings can begin to flow with the melody of nature.
Sandhiya Ramaswamy offers Ayurveda consultations at her practice, Green Lotus Wellness in Dana Point. She also offers consultations at Yoga Shakti Studio, in Irvine and Be The Change Wellness Studio, in Irvine. She is also a trained chef and gives cooking workshops. Check out her website for upcoming events www.greenlotuswellness.com
Prep time – 15 minutes
Cooking time – 30 minutes
1 cup moong dal (green gram, split, pre-soak for 1-2 hrs)
1/2 cup basmati rice
5 – 6 cups water
3 tbsp. Ghee (Ancient Organics) or coconut oil/sunflower oil
2 tbsp. chopped ginger root
1tsp. each whole spices – coriander, cumin, fennel
1/2 tsp. turmeric
4 tsp. spice mixture (1 tsp. each: cumin, coriander, fennel, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. cloves)
1 – 2 cups vegetables – greens (spinach, kale, collard, dandelion etc.), green beans, carrots, asparagus, butternut squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes, parsnips, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves (you can also use dill)
Salt to taste
Topping options – Toasted – sunflower seeds / sesame seeds / shredded coconut; green onions, a squeeze of lime
1. Rinse the rice and the lentils separately, drain the water and set aside.
2. Over a medium flame, add the ghee to a medium sized saucepan; when ghee is fragrant add the spices in the following order – ginger, whole spices, turmeric and spice mixture, stirring until fragrant (30 secs.)
3. Add the moong dal and sauté in the ghee and spice mixture, stirring constantly, until the moisture evaporates (about 1 minute), taking care again not to burn the lentils.
4. Add 4 cups of water and stir the mixture; Allow the lentils to cook over medium heat for 15 – 20 minutes; If making with hard to cook root vegetables or greens, add in the beginning.
5. Add the other vegetables (add harder to cook vegetables earlier) and the rice to the mixture along with 1 cup of water. Cook for another 8-10 minutes on medium heat. Add more water if required.
6. When the water begins to boil, reduce the flame to low and cover the pan and simmer for another 5- 10 minutes until rice is cooked.
7. Check after 5 minutes; adding salt to taste and turning the stove off
8. Fold in the chopped cilantro/dill.
9. Let it sit for 5 minutes, before serving. Enjoy as is or add desired toppings and have with some yogurt.