Does the aroma of coffee call to you?
How can we create a habit of intention and integrity? Anything we imbibe, according to my understanding of Ayurveda, is either a medicine, a food, or a poison.
This depends on your current state, your underlying constitution, and the pranic (think of it as life force) quality of the substance. So first contemplate: does it heal, does it nourish, or does it deplete you?
I recall that when I first delved into studies of yoga and Ayurveda, I was under the impression that coffee was “forbidden.”
Kripalu (an illustrious yoga center in Massachusetts) allowed no coffee on the premises the first time I went there. Years later, they opened a little café where you could drink your brew in a designated area, but last spring, they were full on serving coffee in the dining hall, and the line stretched the entire length of the large room!
I first got an inkling that coffee had some energetic whole health benefit when I discovered a prominent Ayurveda teacher selling “Shakti Shots” on his website, which is a combination of herbs and spices, I assume, that you add to your coffee.
First of all, yoga is about relationships, so the first place to go with the inquiry is examining how this potential plant medicine fits into your life.
Do you take the time to enjoy the brewing process, or even sit down to take in the cup of coffee with your senses, or do you throw it in a cup with a lot of add-ins to mask the taste, and grab it on the go? (There were days when I looked in my cup and wondered how it was already empty.)
Ayurveda teaches us that digestion and absorption doesn’t just happen in your gut. It begins with the subtle signals of smell and taste. Actually, the nutrients and potential for absorption of any substance begin long before it ever comes to the table. High prana foods are influenced by the integrity of the seed and soil, and the energy of those involved in growing and producing it—another reason to focus on the source of your food and medicine.
Even if one consumes a high prana beverage, some people have a tendency toward dissipating energy, and when this tendency is out of balance (high vata), coffee can be depleting or even poisonous. Drinking coffee stimulates the adrenal glands, and if you are a stressed-out space case, the odds are, your adrenals are already maxed out, and you would be wise to reconsider.
For some of us, the opposite is true. If we have a lot of earth element in our constitution (kapha), then moderate amounts of stimulants can energize, motivate, and bring balance. The pungent, sour, and bitter tastes create a balancing effect in this scenario. If you have to mask the taste to make it palatable, either you have not had a well-made cup of coffee, or you are turning away from the body’s intelligence, as well as the yogic skill of listening to your body. However, coffee is acidic, so it is a good idea to balance it with some fat (like coconut oil) and foaming it, as well as adding some digestive spices such as cardamon.
In order to remain in balanced relationships, one must step back and re-examine our relationship dynamics periodically.
Take breaks every now and again (perhaps a week or two in the spring, and another break in the fall—as these seasonal junctures are optimal times to clear the body of substances and patterning), just to ensure that this is not a habit you are leaning on too heavily, which may be covering up other imbalances.
Shifting away from coffee can be harsh, bringing headaches and other symptoms. I have had some success weaning myself away by substituting matcha (a Japanese green tea powder) for about five days as a transition.
Perhaps you will find that the break is a transformation, and you no longer need this helper for now, or perhaps you will return lovingly to your old friend. Either way, you have infused your actions and consumption with the integrity of the mind and body.
Author: Tina Ghantous
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Travis May
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