August 10, 2012

Food As Sadhana. ~ Aparna Khanolkar

Photo: Flickr/Chris Booth

Sadhana is a commonly used term in Vedic spirituality and yogic sciences.

What is sadhana? It’s a sanskrit term for spiritual practice; a regular practice that is focused and enriching to your life. Sadhana takes you from limitation to liberation.

So, how do you make food a sadhana?

1. Recognize that food is composed of the same building blocks of creation as you. Air, fire, space, earth and water are the elements that create life and these elements exist in you in varying degrees. Nature has the perfect foods for balancing these elements in you.

2. To balance excess of any element in you, use foods of the opposite qualities. If you have excessive fire, cool down with cucumbers, dill, mint, rose water and cilantro. If you have too much air, add more unctuous foods such as ghee and olive oil. Pungent foods such as chili, ginger, garlic and warm the body and melt the watery element.

3. Buying food that is fresh, organic and seasonal is a valuable sadhana. If your town has farmer’s market, make a sadhana of shopping there. Fresh,organic and seasonal are all covered in one trip! Fresh organic foods have more prana and nutrients and seasonal foods offer the perfect solution to the needs of a particular season. Cooling foods for the summer, grounding foods for the fall and such.

4. Cooking your own food is one of the greatest sadhanas you can cultivate. Placing your attention on cooking, which includes chopping, grinding, stirring and simmering, is a healing act in itself. Roasting your spices, grinding them in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder enlivens your senses in a way that frozen food or take away can never do.

5. Eat foods that cover all six tastes—sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Your taste buds will be satisfied and you will have fewer cravings. This is simpler than it sounds. All greens are bitter. A small amount of sea salt in your food covers salty. Pungent foods are cayenne, garlic, ginger and pepper. Sour foods include lime and lemon. Astringent foods are beans and legumes. All grains are sweet, as well as milk, ghee and butter.

6. Be mindful of when you eat. Chew your food thoroughly. Eating quickly, standing or while watching television will not support digestion or assimilation. When your senses are distracted, you will not experience satiation after your meal. Food and eating bring us joy and satisfaction—it fulfills us in a primal way.

7. Set a beautiful—even if simple—table. If you can, sit near a window so you can have a view of nature. Sit down with your plate of food and small glass of hot water to sip with your meal. This helps the fats in your meal and supports digestion.

8. Before you eat, take a moment to reflect on your food and health and offer gratitude, whether it is a prayer or chant. This is a humbling sadhana to develop because everything we have is from the Divine and to offer thanks is a good practice.

Photo: Tim Werr

Everyday cooking does not have to be complicated. Simple salads, cooked vegetables, lentils, rice, some ghee, small amounts of spices and love for yourself and time you allot for this sadhana will greatly benefit your long-term health.

Sadhana awakens a connection to your higher self and the sadhana of food will connect you to the energy of nature and creation itself.

Your body is the temple of your soul; you want to take care of it with proper nourishment and plenty of prana through food.

Photo: Tabitha Parsons

The sadhana of food is meant to be easy and gentle, not rigid. Aligning with seasonal changes, with the rhythms of the planets and to the day-to-day needs of your body is an essential practice for your health and happiness. The sadhana of food is a lifelong practice. Recognizing that, begin with small steps.

Make a simple but luscious pot of soup. Sip it slowly, seated at your beautifully set table. Feel the warmth in your belly. Take time to feel the satisfaction in your body. Sit for several minutes after your meal.

There…you have just cultivated a simple sadhana.

Food is medicine, food is love and food is a blessing; create simple rituals to honor it and your body.


Aparna Khanolkar is an Ayurvedic educator and workshop facilitator in Santa Barbara. She is the author of Happy Belly, Happy Soul, A Mother’s Blessing, Spice and Purify and Heal. She is the co-founder of Grace, Power and Beauty, a workshop series for women. Her sadhanas include cooking, mantra chanting, meditation and dancing. Connect with her at: www.gracepowerandbeauty.blogspot.com and  www.themistressofspice.com/blog.


Editor: Bryonie Wise

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