with Susan Rush

Vanda Scaravelli Inspired Yoga

My personal yoga practice has in recent years been inspired by the works of Vanda Scaravelli.

Using simple enquiry ‘within’. Being the witness.

Finding a seat as the sitting bones find connection with the ground.

Tuning into to the breath.

Watching the spine lengthening on the inhale.

Exhaling as the heaviness and pull of gravity grounds any points of contact to the mat.

Be it sitting, standing, walking, reaching or head standing… just this simple technique is fundamental to my practice and life.

Vanda grounding through the surface of the feet, toes and heels. Giving up-lift and space through her front body to backbend with grace.

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Kitcheri Recipe

Traditional Ayurvedic Kichadi/kitcheri/kitchari (there are many, many different spellings!) is a staple.

The dish is centred around rice and yellow split/green mung beans. It is a ‘complete’ food – both building and nourishing, as well wholesome while containing vegetarian complete proteins, yet they are easy and light to digest. Including the 6 tastes, mung beans are satiating too. Mung beans are traditionally used during detoxification periods to nourish the body while at the same time, allowing the digestive tract to clean up and heal.

*vary the grains, the ratio of rice and mung beans, and the spices. 

The proportions of rice:dhal can be altered depending on ones constitution, season and body’s needs. And the spices can be varied accordingly. It can be made into a chunky soup or a broth for a more comforting dish for children. 

At any time when a reset calls, especially at the equinox/change of season, eating kitchari only – breakfast, lunch, and supper for a few days (a ‘mono’ reset diet), leaves you lighter and brighter – with its healing properties! It’s easily digested, nourishing the tissues, giving strength and vitality to the body.

Ingredients (serves 3/4) 

1 cup split yellow mung beans / or the green (ackets|) mung beans, rinsed and then soaked overnight

1 cup white basmati rice, rinsed and then soaked overnight (1 part rice: 2 parts water)

2 tbsp sunflower oil/ghee

1 green chilli chopped

1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

½ tsp black mustard seeds 

½ tsp cumin seeds

6 curry leaves (or add in later into the pot 2 bay leaves) 

Pinch asafoetida

1 tsp jaggery/unrefined sugar

Salt

Chopped seasonal vegetables (sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, cauli, garden peas)

Drizzle of olive oil/ghee

Handful of chopped coriander 

*(as a treat – dry fry a handful of pre-soaked or dry fried sunflower/pumpkin seeds and sprinkle on your finished dish!) 

  • Heat the oil in a heavy based pan with the ginger, chilli, curry leaves, mustard and cumin seeds. Heat until seeds begin to pop. 
  • Add the mung beans with the turmeric. Stir in the pot till the beans are covered with spices. Cover with 2 cups of water. With a lid on the pan, bring to a simmer. 
  • Add asafoetida, and salt.
  • The mung beans will need at least 45mins to become tender, so add your vegetables and rice (7 mins before the end of cooking) in accordingly with more water as needed – timing it so beans, rice and vegetables finish cooking all at the same time.
  • Lay any leafy greens like spinach/lettuce to steam on the top at the end of cooking!
  • Remove from the heat and leave it to cool down a little before serving.
  • Serve with a drizzle of olive oil/melted ghee, grind of black pepper and sprinkling of chopped fresh coriander. Enjoy!

Mung beans are small green legumes. Mung beans are sold hulled and split, as well as in their ‘green’ jackets. in their green jacket they contain more fibre than the yellow split mung. A complete vegetable protein, they have, like basmati rice – qualities of being sweet and cooling with a sweet after taste. Together they make a very balanced bowl of goodness suiting all body types. Always soak to aid digestibility.

Ghee is clarified butter. Nourishing ojas the body’s essence and vital energy. 

Turmeric, the king of the spices, taking central stage in the kitchen spice box – improves digestion, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, strengthens immunity… the list goes on!

Asafoetida – a traditional Ayurvedic spice with a taste similar to garlic and onions (with a very pungent smell). Improves digestibility and takes the ‘gas’ out of any bean. You can add a pinch into a mug of hot water if feeling bloated.

Cumin – enkindles digestive fire and helps remove toxins (ama) from the body. 

Ginger – the best and most sattvic of all the spices. Famous for its properties enkindling digestive fire and helping digestion. 

White basmati rice – much easier to digest than the brown whole grain variety. Always soak to aid digestibility.

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Nadi Shodhana/Alternate Nostril Breathing

The breath brings balance to the systems of the body. It is both cleansing and calming. 

The Vishnu Mudra

In this exercise, adopt the Vishnu Mudra with your right hand to close your nostrils. Tuck your index and middle finger into the palm.  This leaves your thumb and ring finger available for closing your nostrils as you switch sides. 

Sit quietly in a comfortable upright position, holding the natural curve of your spine. Keep your head centred, chin slightly tucked. Closing the eyes, take a few deep, complete breaths to connect body and breath. 

Place your right thumb by your right nostril and your ring and little fingers by your left nostril.

*It is important to use the right hand and always start and finish with the left nostril.

Technique

  • At the top of the inhalation, close off your right nostril with the thumb.
  • Inhale through the left nostril, to the count of 4.
  • When the breath is full, hold the breath, closing both nostrils, to the count of 6.
  • Exhale through the right nostril, closing the left nostril with the ring finger, to the count of 4.
  • Inhale through the right nostril, keeping the left closed with the ring finger, to the count of 4.
  • Hold the breath, closing both nostrils, to the count of 6.
  • Exhale through the left nostril, keeping the right closed with the thumb, to the count of.

Finishing the practice with a long exhale from the left nostil. Dropping the hand mudra to rest on the thigh. Pausing and noticing the effects. Open the eyes slowly and gently. 

This is one full round.  7 rounds is enough to bring changes to the body, more if you have time. 

Breath ratio

  • Inhale: 4 count
  • Retention breath: 6 count
  • Exhale: 4 count

In time you can adopt other ratios, 5:6:7 etc. Advanced practioners may extend the length of the exhalation up to twice as long as the inhalation.  

*If your right arm tires, then support your elbow with the left hand. Practice gently and avoid if you have blocked sinuses.         

Benefits 

Calms and clears the mind; lowers the heart rate; synchronises both hemispheres of the brain; stimulates the channels of the body; food for insomnia; quiets the heart and is good for anxiety.                                                                                                                           

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