I’ve recently rekindled my relationship with a regular Mysore practice. It’s safe to say Ashtanga was my first real love and gateway into the yoga world. Well, technically it was my mom when I was 7 years old who took me to a gentle hatha yoga class at our local fitness club in the early 90s. Or you could say it was the Jivamukti DVD I did on endless repeat in my bedroom when I was in high school growing up on a small island town in Alaska. But it didn’t truly really click in as a devoted path and foundation for self-inquiry until I was 19, when I walked into my first Ashtanga class the day Pattabhi Jois passed away, and through the sweat and tears shared in class I knew I had found home in a practice.
Over the last decade, my relationship with Ashtanga and my overall approach to asana has taken many forms as I’ve explored injuries and imbalances. As I’m learning more about myself through Ayurveda, my asana practices have become much more fluid and less rigid. There are times I find myself needing more fire, and there are times I need to pull back instead of push forward. Since being on the island, it’s felt good to come back to an early morning asana practice and explore the energy of the Mysore room again with a seasoned teacher. This means early to bed and early to rise, a rhythm I appreciate so much when I honor.
This Ayurvedic tonic recipe is both a remedy for better sleep and building overall vitality. The combination of soaked almonds, ghee, sweet dates and raw honey are considered to be rasayanas – foods that nourish and build vitality. Rasa can be translated to “juice” or “essence”, and Ayana as “path” – so rasayanas are literally the pathway to juiciness. This juicy vitality is also known as Ojas, the subtle essence that provides strength and life force. Many things deplete Ojas in our life, including stress, poor diet, irregular routine, dissonant emotions and lack of loving connections, to name a few. Many nourishing activities help to restore this loss of vitality in our lives, including establishing healthy daily routines, incorporating wholesome building foods (like fresh sweet fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts/seeds, and healthy fats like ghee), meditation and mindful movement, and spending time in nature connecting with her rhythms. Special herbs are also considered rasayanas – including Ashwagandha, Brahmi, Shatavari, Shilajit, Licorice and Saffron, which are more effective at penetrating the tissues when paired with sweet and a bit of fat.
This recipe uses Ashwagandha, a unique adaptogenic herb that enables the body to reserve and sustain vital energy throughout the day while aiding restful sleep at night. It is considered one of the best herbs for pacifying vata, which can often cause difficulties falling or staying sleeping at night (read more about that here). Saffron is also a potent medicinal spice with many benefits from supporting the reproductive organs to relaxing the nerves. A few threads is all that’s needed for this recipe. Paired with a little ghee and raw honey, it offsets the drying qualities it has on its own. Make this warming drink after dinner to satisfy a sweet tooth and help you wind down after a long day and prepare for deep sleep. Early to bed, early to rise with the sun…
SOOTHING SAFFRON SLEEP TONIC
An Ayurvedic ojas drink with dates, almonds, spices and ashwagandha
1 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight
4 cups filtered water
pinch Himalayan pink salt or sea salt
Place the almonds in a bowl and cover with filtered water. Soak 6-8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse well, remove the skins from the almonds, then place the almonds in high-speed blender. Add the water and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth and frothy. Pour through a nut milk bag, cheesecloth, or other fine mesh strainer to separate the pulp from the liquid. Store the milk in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 3-5 days.
Makes one quart milk
2 cups almond milk
4 pitted dates
1 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp raw honey
½ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp saffron
Optional: ¼ tsp ashwagandha powder
In a small saucepan, lightly heat the almond milk until warm, not boiling. Transfer to a blender and add the remaining ingredients. Pulse until combined. Pour into a mug and sip slowly before bed.
Makes two servings