Those who know me offline are aware that I despise almost all forms of exercise. Rote, repetitive movements, meat heads grunting and dropping dumbbells on the floor, chicks in pony tails and ear buds running on treadmills... all serve to repel me. That is why "discovering" yoga felt like a revelation. Not off putting fashion lalalimey, or unattainable cirque du soliel yoga, but actual "tell the instructor you got a bum knee" yoga with copious blocks, straps, blankets, mats, bolsters, and even chairs.
I speak of Iyengar yoga. In the class I wandered into were senior ladies doing sun salutes next to hard bodies and chubby bodies alike. These were ordinary people striving, learning, tipping over, and trying again. At one point the students stopped and helped each other feel what it's like to be in a perfect down dog: shoulders broad, neck relaxed, and a straight line from hips to hands. The whole thing was lead by a tall elegant man with a mellifluous voice and a humble papa bear personality. His words of wisdom echo in my mind even outside of class: ”you are your own guru,” ”do what you can do, be happy with what you can do,”"lengthen the exhale," and of course, ”soften the face." I knew he was conducting class with me in mind when he asked us to stand with our feet together, "heels touching, big toe mounds touching," then followed this directive with the adjustment, "those with fuller thighs may stand with their feet hip width apart." "Yes!" I thought, "He's looking out for me!" That first day I took heart, stayed, and learned.
Since then I have also sampled Kundalini, Hatha, and Vinyasa styles. While Kudalini was too hard, the Hatha classes were too soft, and Vinyasa was just right, Kundalini taught me something incredibly important: always drink your chai.
Yogi chai tea is just the thing to help your body recover from a great yoga class, no matter what style you prefer. I make it caffeine free with rooibos, while traditional recipes call for a tiny amount of black tea. It will soothe your muscles, stoke your digestive fire, and save you from flu season. I swear by it and drink it by the gallon. In fact I am drinking some right now to speed my recovery from a sprained ankle because ginger helps inflammation. Even if it is all placebo effect I don't care cuz the stuff is delicious!
Large stock pot with lid
Large mixing spoon
Kitchen rock, or mortar & pestle
Digital kitchen scale
Mini food chopper/processor
Coffee filters, or cheese cloth
1 gallon water
4 sticks of 3 inch cinnamon
1/2 of a large nutmeg
12 Whole clove
12 Whole black peppercorns
2 Star anise
10 Allspice berries
1 level tablespoon whole cardamom seeds
1 - 2 oz fresh minced ginger root or 1 teaspoon ground dried ginger
4 tablespoons dried orange peel
6 tbsp (48 grams) Rooibos, or 2 tbsp (16 grams) Ceylon B.O.P.
4 tbsp Stevia leaf
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Milk of choice
Honey, or sugar of choice
I know, I know, you are looking at the ingredient list above and thinking, "I can't afford all those fancy whole spices, what am I, a Raja?" But ah, my loves, and oh, my friends you can if you know where to shop. Behold the best kept secret of the internet: www.sfherb.com
If you order online they have a $30 minimum. You can make the purchase with a friend and split the booty. If you go in person don't be intimidated by the glory of spices for sale by the pound. Take the leap. Once you don't have to ration your cinnamon sticks you'll find all sorts of wonderful ways to use them.
- 4. Bruise the cardamom seeds with your kitchen rock and add. If you feel like living dangerously you can grind them. I recommend reducing the amount by at least half because too much ground cardamom can impart a bitter flavor. Add, stir.
- 5. Weigh out 1 oz of fresh ginger, mince by hand, or in a mini food processor. If you don't have a scale, cut a fat chunk that is about an inch long. Add to pot, stir. If using ground ginger, get the dried ginger pieces from SF Herb and grind it yourself in your spice grinder. Dried ginger is pretty intense, so you might want to add it after the chai has already boiled 10 or 15 minutes. If you are like me and want the chai to have a lot of medicinal benefits, go for the full monty. See reasoning behind each option at end of recipe.
- 9. To get every last drop press the leaves with your spoon, or heck, squeeze the tea out with you hands! Yes, I have done that... hate to see precious chai go to waste. To strain all possible sediment lay a coffee filter, or cheese cloth in the sieve before pouring the chai through. More ground spices = more sediment. This can be really slow and infuriating, so I just deal with the sediment by pretending I'm Turkish.
- 10. Now you can add your vanilla extract. Stir it into your gallon pitcher, or add judiciously to your smaller containers.
Why dry ginger vs. fresh? They have differing medicinal qualities. Dry ginger is heating, while fresh ginger is cooling. I personally prefer heating, so I use the dry stuff. If you've ever neglected your ginger and found a shriveled stick in it's place, now you know how to use it!