French Lentil Dal for Spring

Spring is getting closer. Vaccines are becoming more abundant. I am in the mood to move! To help clear out the lethargy and stagnation of wintertime, Ayurveda recommends eating more bitter greens, spring vegetables, light grains, pulses and berries.  Nature is beginning to offer an abundance of bitter greens like arugula, kale, beet greens, bok choy, dandelion, and collards.  Other vegetables that help to clear the dampness of spring include asparagus, brussels sprouts, fennel, onions, garlic, green beans, and sprouts.  Light grains, such as millet, basmati rice, and quinoa assist in the clearing of mucus and excess water in the body.  Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, adzuki beans, and black beans have a drying effect on the body.  Berries, once they come into season, have a cleansing effect on the liver and also help to remove excess sludge from winter. Try this yummy recipe to help you lighten up for springtime.

French Lentil Dal

1 c French lentils soaked overnight

4 c water

1-2 Tablespoons ghee

1/2 teaspoon coriander seed

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

1/2 teaspoon fennel seed

1/2 inch fresh ginger, chopped

1/2 c chopped sweet onion, spring onion, or leeks

1/2-1 teaspoon turmeric powder (or 1/2 inch chopped fresh turmeric)

pinch asafoetida (also called hing, has a taste similar to garlic)

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

salt and pepper to taste

After soaking the lentils overnight, drain and add 4 c fresh water for cooking.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer for about 1 hour or until lentils are soft.

In a separate skillet, heat ghee over low-medium heat.  Add the cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds, ginger and onion to the ghee.  Saute until onions are transparent.

Add this mixture to the cooked lentils.

Add the turmeric, asafoetida, maple syrup, prepared mustard, salt and pepper.

Stir and let simmer for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.

Enjoy with steamed or sauteed veggies and white basmati rice.

Slow and Steady On

In case you missed it, I recently had parathyroidectomy surgery. This was an important surgery to make sure my parathyroid continues to function properly and maintain the acceptable range of calcium in my blood and not leach it out of my bones. On the surface, I never really felt badly, I just had a pain in my side that led me to my PCP last fall which was when I had the routine blood test that turned up this issue. The news was a bit shocking to me to say the least. My idea of a healthy lifestyle had not made me immune from this particular health issue. Now that I’ve had a few months to live with the condition and actually do something about it, I have the benefit of hindsight and let me tell you, I am so very thankful for my yoga training.

Preparing for surgery can be very anxiety-provoking. In the weeks leading up to my surgery and especially the few days prior, I made sure to take time for myself, to move my body in yoga postures and breathe fully in order to oxygenate my blood and ensure a maximum infusion of prana, vital life force, before being cut into. I even gave myself a steady diet of fresh vegetable juices including carrots, apples, celery and ginger to make sure I was taking in prana through my food as well.

On the morning of surgery, I had to be at the hospital by 5am. Breathing practices, pranayama, sustained me in that moment. Each time I felt fear or anxiety creeping up, I would return to long, slow, smooth inhales and exhales through my nose in order to remain as calm as possible beforehand. After surgery, I slept a lot. When I finally felt ready to begin moving again, I looked forward to returning to a gentle yoga practice. This was an interesting experience, because the feeling of the poses and my practice was very different. Whereas before I may have begun with some sun salutations and then stronger standing poses or backbends (my favorites), now I had to really pay attention to my body. I still did not have much range of motion in my neck and did not want to push things. Being forced to slow down was truly a practice of embodiment. Instead of returning immediately to a strong practice, I would sit on my mat, breathe, and feel. What do I truly need today? What would serve my current body most effectively? There is much to be learned from slowing down and paying attention. We can all benefit from the lessons of yoga to carry us through the challenging times as much as through the good times. And I would argue, we’ve all been through and perhaps are still in extremely challenging times right now. Slow and steady on.

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