Ayurveda: Preparing Your Kitchen as a Ritual Space for Healing

Ayurveda: Preparing Your Kitchen as a Ritual Space for Healing

At the change of each season I take a few hours to clean out and prepare my kitchen for the next season. I sort through anything that doesn’t seem fresh or healthy and move it out. I then spend time creating fresh spice mixtures, soup stocks and other staples. This practice is calming and creates space in my life for eating well.

In Ayurveda, a form of wellness that stems from ancient India, but has direct application to contemporary life, we often say that the most important ingredient in food is the consciousness of the chef. Compare, then, the consciousness imbued in food lovingly prepared in the home with food cooked under pressure by a stranger in a commercial kitchen.

The choice is clear: home-prepared food has the potential for more consciousness-value and can, therefore, transmit more radiant health.  Even more so when the chef clears the space and their mind prior to cooking. When the kitchen is lovingly prepared to create scrumptious and delightful food, high-value healthy food will be the result.

What can we do to make food a partner in the creation of our radiant health?

Preparing Your Kitchen

We can prepare our kitchen as a ritual space. Ayurvedic practitioner and educator Cate Stillman recommend performing a “kitchen sadhana” several times a year. In the seasonal kitchen ritual, we approach our kitchen as a temple. Just as we would not want to leave waste in a sacred space, we want our kitchen to be uplifting, free of debris, and be a space of clear, clean, energy. To create this creative space where we can transform loving thoughts into nourishment, we clear out any stale, left-over, or processed foods to make room for more lively, vibrant foods that are full of life-energy.

Spring is a perfect time to perform a ritual cleansing of your kitchen. To get started, approach your kitchen as a temple of your health. Find any foods that aren’t serving your highest good and clear them out. A well-stocked, clean kitchen, and clear mind while cooking results in vibrant health.

While we clear out stale, old, left-over, or processed foods from our kitchens, we can simultaneously begin to bring vibrant, life-filled foods into our kitchens. Visit a local farmer’s market for fresh, seasonal, often organic fruits and vegetables. Fill up bulk jars with grains, rice, and legumes. And because spices have very high potency and healing properties, fill a spice rack with freshly ground spices. Having a clean coffee grinder (one that hasn’t been used for coffee) in which you can grind spices and spice seeds into fresh powder makes it easy to have very fresh spices and spice mixtures at your fingertips.

Experience Your Food

In Ayurveda, the term “ama” is used to describe what we might call “sludge-factor;” really any obstruction to vibrant health and well-being. When food, experience, or emotion is undigested the body and mind produce ama. Every time we eat on the go, eat with improper food combinations, or when digestion is weak our bodies produce Ama.

Since, according to Ayurveda, ama is the root cause of many diseases, it is imperative to reduce ama. Signs that ama is accumulating in the body include brain-fog, excess weight, and a thick white coating on the tongue. Whenever we experience these signs they are indications that we should take measures to reduce ama.

Ayurveda gives us many ways to reduce ama, and many of these are found right in our kitchens. The first way to reduce ama is to strengthen digestion. To do this we can use digestive-fire (agni) enhancing spices in our foods such as fennel, cumin, coriander, turmeric, pepper, ginger, and salt. If digestion is weak we may experience gas, pain, or bloating after eating. One traditional way to strengthen digestion is to eat 1/2 tsp ghee (clarified butter) at the start of our meals or take a 1/2 cup of licorice tea about 15 minutes before a meal. Stewed apples is another wonderful recipe for reducing ama, stimulating digestion, and regulating elimination. Finally, we can use hot water routinely to reduce ama and stimulate digestion.

At the turn of the seasons, or when ama has accumulated in the body, it is recommended that we spend a few weeks taking a lighter or ama-reducing diet. An ama-reducing diet allows the body to naturally reduce waste, loose accumulated weight and strengthen the digestion. An ama-reducing diet is not indicated for long-term use but can be applied at the change of seasons or whenever you feel ama is accumulating.

Another way we can reduce ama is through smart food combining. While Ayurveda gives many rules for combining foods, the most important of these have to do with proper combinations for dairy. Because dairy is heavy, it becomes difficult to digest when eaten in combination with many other foods. In particular, Milk should not be combined with eggs.

While this may come to a surprise to many people on a western diet, Ayurveda describes how the combination of eggs and dairy creates an indigestible sludge throughout our digestive tract. The best way to avoid ama, in this case, is to avoid ama-creating food combinations. Traditional food combining can be a complex art, but here is a more simplified chart of food combinations to avoid, developed by Dr. Paul Dugliss, MD (link to food combination chart).

What’s On Your Grocery List?

Through simple methods of Ayurveda, we can also begin to shape our food choices for our particular constitution or our particular imbalances. Ayurveda acknowledges six primary tastes groups; sweet (dairies, meats, many grains), sour (yogurt, sauerkraut), salty (rock salt, seaweed), pungent (chilies), bitter (kale), and astringent (drying, like pomegranate). Each of these tastes transmits information to our bodies.

A well-balanced meal should contain some of each of these tastes, even if some are in a small proportion. The sweet taste, for example, is a tissue-building, nourishing taste. This is why many of us crave sweets (for better or for worse) when we are upset or need a boost of energy. Our body is asking us for more energy, more sustenance, and more nourishment. The salty taste builds a digestive fire and communicates warmth and heat to the physiology.

The sour taste is moisturizing. So someone who is weak, cold, and dry throughout their physiologies, could incorporate more of the sweet taste, salty, and sour tastes to bring in more vitality (ojas), more warmth, and more moisture. The bitter taste is purifying and cooling to the physiology. So someone who is experiencing hot flashes, rashes, or irritability could incorporate more bitter flavor into their diet to reduce their symptoms of heat in the body. In this way, Ayurveda can use taste as a mechanism to create change in the physiology. 

For someone who is more balanced in their physiology, Ayurveda recommends eating along lines of the constitution, or predominant dosha. In Ayurveda, there are three dosas (literally, defects), that dominate our physiologies. Vata is thought to resemble air and ether. Pitta resembles Fire. Kapha resembles earth and water. People who are more Vata in their physiology tend towards a wiry body. They can be vivacious, anxious, and changeable. The tastes that are most balancing to Vata dosha are salty and sweet. People of a more Pitta nature are more Type-A.

They are driven, athletic, and can be intense. The most balancing tastes for those of a Pitta nature are Bitter and Sweet. People of a Kapha nature tend to be sweet, nurturing, and can tend towards being more heavy-set. The most balancing taste for Kapha people is Pungent and Astringent. Everyone needs all six tastes but the manner in which we use and proportion these tastes is different depending upon body type, and imbalance.

The key, however, to using the kitchen as a pharmacy starts with the practice of creating our kitchens as ritual spaces for healing and deep nourishment. When cooking is a ritual act, then healing will flow from this intention. When we allow consciousness into our kitchens we quite naturally and intuitively move towards the foods, tastes, and dishes that are most resonant with our physiologies.

When we are cooking we can ask ourselves the simple question: what taste is missing? How can I bring this taste into my food? When we are eating, rather than mindlessly shoving food into our mouths, we can pause and ask ourselves: what taste would I like to experience next? In this way, our kitchen becomes a temple, cooking a ritual act, and eating becomes a delight to the senses.

 When cooking is a ritual act, then healing will flow from this intention.

Recipe &  Ama reducing Dietary Duidelines

Stewed Apples Recipe (Dr. Paul Dugliss):

Ingredient (one serving):
• 1 whole, fresh, sweet apple, cored and peeled
• 2 whole cloves (per apple)
• 1/4 cup of purified water


  • Core, peel, and dice apple into small pieces.
  • Add cloves, apples and water in a covered pot.
  • Stew apples in 1/4 cup of water until soft consistency (usually takes about 5 to 10 minutes).
  • Remove cloves and discard before serving.
  • Let stand away from heat for 5 minutes, to cool a little

Hot Water Routine (by  Dr. Raju)

The Hot Water Routine is not based on “flushing” out the toxins with large quantities of water. Instead, it is based on the effect of warm water on the tongue. This stimulates digestion. Through stimulating and enhancing digestion two things occur.  First,

whatever food you take during the day is processed better, decreasing the likelihood that you will produce ama. Second, when the digestion is not working on a meal, stimulating it will cause it to “burn” up old ama. Thus, it is really the effect of warm, wet

water on the tongue that is responsible for most of the effect of the Hot Water Routine.


1) Bring water completely to a boil and place it in a thermos (a one-quart thermos is ideal)

2)  Take a sip on this every half hour throughout the day (more can be taken if you like)

3)  Stop at 6 PM so that you do not have to be up in the night to urinate

4)  If you are dealing with any digestive disturbances, place the following spices in a one-quart thermos with the water, letting them steep the whole day as you drink it: 1 tsp fennel seeds, ¼ tsp coriander seeds, and ¼ tsp cumin seeds

Ama reducing dietary guidelines (by Dr. Paul Dugliss)

General Considerations:
This diet is indicated in the case of low agni (low digestive power) combined with Kapha imbalance or Ama excess. Food should be fresh, well-cooked, tasty, satisfying.


  • Barley-Light preparation such as soup, crackers, unleavened bread, etc.
  • Rye: Crackers
  • Oats: Cooked with water to a light porridge.
  • Millet: Steamed or boiled.

Wheat Only preparations made from finely ground whole wheat flour:

  • Crackers; light bread toasted; unleavened bread such as light, fresh and well-cooked chapati, Arabic bread, tortilla, etc.; couscous; semolina.


Basmati, white

Dahl and Beans

Yellow mung beans (green husk removed):

a) liquid dahl preparation

b) prepared with rice as a thin soup

Red lentils: same as preparation for mung beans.


Well-cooked, and slightly juicy in preparation: green leafy vegetables, white pumpkin, asparagus, artichoke, cabbage, zucchini, celery, carrot, spinach, tender eggplant (better with skin removed), tender white radish (prepared with some fat), and green papaya.

Dairy Products

Low-fat milk, goats milk, buttermilk, lassi, ghee (in very small amounts).


All in small amounts in cooking. Avoid coconut oil.

Sweeteners, Spices, and Condiments

Honey in small amounts. All spices, except salt. Pungent and sharp spices (pepper, ginger, etc.). Lemon juice.


Ripe and in-season grapes, raisins (soaked, chewed well), pomegranate, papaya (small amounts), fig, apple, guava are especially good. Other fruits if ripe and in season.  Avoid bananas and mango.

Yoga For Your Doshas: Kapha

Yoga For Your Doshas:  Kapha

In this last part of our three part Dosha series we will visit Kapha Dosha. At home and on the couch–that’s where we’ll likely find this type. They enjoy laying low, chilling out, being quite happy and comfortable in familiar homely surroundings with their cat, dog and family around. Perhaps you’ll find them enjoying a good book or movie while munching on some healthy, or not so healthy, snacks.

As per Ayurveda, yoga’s five thousand year old sister science which divides us humans into three main types (namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha), the Kapha Dosha is the calmest and most loyal type; loving and steady.

Kapha, being associated with the natural elements water and earth (Vata is associated with space and air, Pitta with fire and water), is easy to like but also faces her, or his, own challenges in physical and emotional well-being. Kapha, most often being an endomorph body type, is the most likely of the three Doshas to face problems around weight management.

If you are a Kapha person you may have many friends who know they can always count on you. You most likely give your Vata and Pitta friends a sense of stability and a feeling of security that they may be longing for, and might lack within themselves. Community is important to you and you might sport a green thumb in gardening―tending to nature’s beautiful creations.

Kapha is very sensitive to cold and damp climates. If you live in an area with long and rainy cold seasons you may get downright miserable and crave warmth and dryness. For you, it is important to stay warm during the cold season. So make sure you keep moving to prevent stagnation in your body, and nourish yourself with spicy teas like Chai Tea or Hot Ginger Tea. You may also enjoy Golden Milk, a warm Turmeric drink.

Food for Kapha

Sorry Kapha, but even though you are probably really fond of your sweet, sour and salty flavors, these are also the ones you should stay away from. Foods that are sweet, sour, and salty in taste will increase the problematic qualities that come with a predominant Kapha Dosha or a Kapha imbalance.

This type does really well with foods that are bitter, pungent and astringent in nature, such as leafy greens, kale, spinach and collard greens, hot spices and curries, apples and berries. Kapha also wants to take it easy on oils and dietary fat, and heavy food items such as most dairy, baked and glutinous foods, cakes and ice creams.

Kapha will do well with a light and easy to digest diet consisting of small amounts of low glycemic fruit, steamed vegetables, and warm soups and stews. These are all foods that won’t weigh you down.

Meditation for Kapha

Nothing suits Kapha more then to sit in one spot for periods of time and not move. This Dosha type tends to be extremely loving, loyal and particularly devotional nature and will find bliss in joining in a spiritual practice. Finding ways to focus the mind won’t be necessary for you if you are a Kapha person; you are already calm and grounded.

A wonderful meditation technique for Kapha is a walking mindfulness meditation. Put on whatever you need to stay warm and comfortable and go for a short walk, preferably in nature, in an area you know well where you feel safe and don’t get distracted by traffic or other concerns. Let your senses―smell, sight, touch, sound and even taste―be engaged and notice your environment without getting too attached to these sensory impressions.

You may also use your walking meditation to align your breath with your step. For Kapha, mantra meditation is very useful as it keeps your mind engaged enough to not drift off into a sleepy state. Kapha should sit in an upright position with an erect spine while meditating to avoid slouching and nodding off.

Exercise for Kapha

Kapha Dosha, more so then the other two, has excellent endurance and stamina. With steady energy the Kapha person can go on, at a low intensity, for a very long time. Kapha is also the Dosha least likely to want to exercise at all. For you, dear Kapha, it is important to find an activity you enjoy so you don’t have to come up with excuses not to move at all.

You are likely to enjoy team sports or group training sessions, as they allow you to be with others and build community which you naturally thrive on. Interestingly, out of all three Doshas, Kapha is the one least likely to suffer from the ill effects running can have your joints. Though the benefits of running as a recreational activity are somewhat controversial, Kapha (with its well buffered and lubricated joints) can easily get away with it as a cardiovascular activity.

Most important for Kapha Dosha is to get moving, no matter what the activity. Try High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), cardiovascular training, fast-paced resistance training with more repetitions and any sport that gets the blood pumping and induces sweat.

Yoga for Kapha

Similar to other forms of exercise, the Kapha person can get away with more vigorous forms of yoga. Even though Kapha is a type that tends to be of a sturdier build, this type also benefits from great flexibility. A Vinyasa flow is a fine practice for Kapha, as are Hot Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga. The Kapha body doesn’t sweat easily, so a warm room and flowing practice will help work up a healthy sheen and flush toxins out through the skin. Poses that are particularly beneficial for Kapha are standing postures and those that stimulate the adrenal system; in particular, asanas such as Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose) or Ustrasana (Camel Pose). Kapalabhati Pranayama, the skull shining breath, or the Kundalini Breath Of Fire are also beneficial for stimulating blood circulation and the respiratory system, which is especially important for Kapha who tends to accumulate mucous easily.

Each of the Doshas have their own unique strengths and challenges, and with a little awareness you can do a great deal to stay healthy and balanced. You can use this series to adjust your lifestyle and routines in a way that supports your constitution.

I suggest you take one of the many Dosha Quizzes available online that will help you figure out which type you are. If you are dealing with a particular concern, you may also seek the advice of an Ayurvedic practitioner.

Small changes can have a big impact on your quality of life. Don’t be afraid, find out who you are and take small steps. You might enjoy it.

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