Navaratri is the festival of nine nights where the feminine form of power is worshipped in the form of 9 different goddesses. It all began when Goddess Durga emerged victorious after battling the buffalo demon Mahishasuri. I am sure we all know this story as we have all grown up listening to these but what we never understood is the significance behind each celebration for our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
These 9 days is the time where we actually offer different forms of prasad to each of the Goddesses and you would be surprised what is offered because these are all the foods that are condemned by the dieting culture as they are “calorie-dense.” Foods like ghee, malpua, panjiri, sugar, milk and so many more. Why are these foods so sacred and part of our culture from centuries ago but yet demonized?
Well, these are the foods that promote our health, longevity, and balance. They help us in our creative energies and what’s best is these festivals in itself do not promote overeating. It is all about the mindfulness, portion control, and the consciousness that we have to inculcate into our day to day lives.
There is a vast difference between eating a small piece of prasad compared to eating a larger piece of cake right?
Our first day of Navaratri starts with the sowing of Jau or barley plant as it is said to be the first crop that was sown at the beginning of creation and represents Brahma. Jau is what we use to throw into the havan and has a great symbolism with respect to how our future will go.
Let us dive a little deeper into the 9 days of the celebration and understand how every health aspect along with the why’s & how’s have been long passed down in our scriptures.
Day 1: Goddess Shailputri
She represents the collective power of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva and is known as the Daughter of the Mountain.
1. Food offered: Ghee
Ghee is offered to the goddess on the first day of Navratri with a belief that it takes away all your disease and ailments. No wonder, it’s been sold as a superfood these days, but was earlier condemned for its fat content. Only the ones who really value their health and wellbeing understand the importance of Ghee in life and would have it even without knowing what a superfood is. As the popular saying goes ‘Runam kritwa, ghritam pibet’ which means take a loan if you have to, but have ghee as its an elixir for life”. It contributes to the fat portion of the brain and if consumed regularly helps in brain development, works as an antidepressant, and helps in building the right mindset towards a healthy life.
2. Asana: Parvathasana
The Mountain pose. A simple pose to bring attention to the inner self, increase focus, concentration. This pose has an upward stretch which also helps improve circulation. It is a wonderful pose to perform especially now that we all are working from home and constantly sitting This loosens the hip and corrects the posture and spine alignment. It’s the best thing to do when you feel tired or heavy to renew your energy. Once you establish balance you can slowly try this asana by closing the eyes. Focus turns inward and a deep sense of calmness is established in this posture.
Day one is the perfect day to start working towards a mindset change and focussing on strength & courage. The transformation for good physical health starts from your mind. This is a day you write down and create affirmations for working towards your inner health.
Day 2: Brahmacharini
This is the time when goddesses sat in meditation to impress Lord Shiva and to attain peace.
1. Food Offered: Sugar
The devilish ingredient in the health industry. Again the problem is not really the sugar but our way of having it. If sugar really was the culprit, ever wondered why it was offered to the god, or considered a prasad, or an important ingredient for every ritual, celebration, and tradition? It is offered to the goddess Brahmacharini on the 2nd day of Navratri and is believed to improve knowledge, wisdom, and energy. So don’t be afraid to add that sugar in your chai, or ladoo, but restrict the sugars coming from your sauces, ketchup, biscuits, cookies, jellies, etc. They are loaded with low-quality sugar that can mess around your blood sugar levels. But when you make things using sugar in your own kitchen you are aware of both the quality and quantity. So there is nothing hidden from you, under false claims, and that’s what allows you to make sustainable health decisions and keeps you in check. This also allows guilt-free eating and lesser cravings!
2. Asana: Kukutasana
The rooster pose. Modern times demand the strength, stability, and agility to balance on your hands. It is an asana that helps to strengthen your stomach, chest, arms & shoulder along with improving your digestion ability.
Also note this is an advanced asana. And for every asana, no matter of it’s a beginner or advanced- there are preparatory poses, contraindication, and step by step techniques to achieve that asana, which makes the process more beneficial than the end product itself.
So never directly jump in a “pose”. An asana is not a “pose” its a flow. That connects the body with the mind.
3. Lifestyle: Let us while sitting in this asana reflect on one question today. Why have we yet to get fit and healthy if we have avoided all these devilish foods and done multiple fad diets?
Day 3: Chandraghanta
The day of bravery, beauty, grace, and strength of course. The day where she revealed her ten hands to protect her family and her to be husband Lord Shiva from embarrassment. She wears a beautiful crescent moon on her head. She is pleased with kheer on this day and aims to drive away all your pains.
1. Food offered: Milk in the form of kheer
I had done a detailed post and a live video on this topic earlier.
However, I wanna re-emphasize the goodness of Milk or as it is popularly known these days as a “complete source of nutrition, or a complete meal. ” As a country, we have always celebrated festivals with kheer, or milk-based sweets. Even when fasting for 9 days in Navratri, milk is an important part of the diet and also as an offering. It is not only food that nourishes tissues, promotes balanced emotions, and muscle strength but it’s also an ingredient that is considered “Sacred” and offers a high “energy or pranic” value.
2. Asana: Ardhachandrasana
The half-moon pose. Finding balance in this tough world has become a talk around every corner. But why are we looking outside for the balance? Align your lunar energies and bow down to the third manifestation of Ma durga on the third day of Navratri- Ma chandraghanta and allow the peace and power to seep in. This asana strengthens the entire lower body along with working its way up to the spine. Strengthen your spine to stay strong.
As this is the day to drive away all our pains, let us genuinely try to stop getting into the same vicious cycle of following the wrong diets, constantly reading negative content, and so much more misinformation. What you see as “science” is basically manufactured data that has been presented as a magic claim to support an ideology or product. All you need is a little common sense to eat. Check where the information is coming from, check whether this is sustainable or will change every year. For example, ghee was evil once and a magic potion now. Check whether that food is approved in your culture, tradition, and local cuisine. It’s 2020 now. Keep your guard up, don’t take bullshit seriously, and don’t play with your health and well being.
Day 4: Kushmanda
Chaturthi or day 4 is the day Goddesses take the form of Kushmanda.
She is the Goddess of creation and a symbol of fertility. Kushmanda is broken down into- ‘Ku’ (little), ‘Ushma’ (warmth or energy) and ‘Amnda’ (egg) and she is known to have created the world with a bout of laughter.
1. Food offered: White pumpkin
The white pumpkin is known by many names like ash gourd, petha, safed kaddu, etc, and is considered a gem in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine.
It’s a cornerstone of ayurvedic medicine and has been used to treat a variety of ailments like
-Urine infection or ulcers
-epilepsy and mental disorder
– intestinal worms, constipation etc.
It has a detoxifying effect on the body and the seeds are great to boost fertility. There are various ways of incorporating this vegetable into your diet. You can make curry, juice, halwa, or the traditional petha (a sweet) using this.
2. Asana: Bhujangasana
The cobra pose. Not only is the white pumpkin beneficial for asthma but also this pose. Bhujangasana is great for opening up your heart and lungs along with being a great stress reliever and strengthening the spine. Its a multi-beneficial posture and a must include in your day to day especially with the kind of stress be it personal or work everyone is going through these days.
What is different between us and other species on this planet? We have the power to create! Unlike other species who are already bound by their habits we have the power to easily transition from one phase to another. You have a choice to take the better path. So let us choose to create healthy habits to helps us flow through this unknown world. Habits have the power to shape your routine, health, and mindset. They take time to develop but you get better by practice. So check the deeply rooted habits and use your power to create a new one
Day 5: Skandmata
She is the mother of Skanda or Kartikeya and was called upon to fight in the war against demons. She had to however go along with her infant to fight in the war and that is where her vulnerability and protective nature came about. She is also seen in her other form seated on a lotus with kartikeya in her lap.
1. Food offered: Banana
On this day although banana is offered I am going to tell you a bit about what the wondrous raw form of banana does for your health. Banana tree in itself is a powerhouse and how do we conclude that, because each part of it is packed with nutrients. Raw banana is great for all digestive issues and is full of fiber hence making you feel satiated for longer duration. You must be thinking healthy is so boring “ab kacha kela bhi khana padega” [I will have to eat raw bananas too for health benefits?] However there are many ways in which you can make this food interesting and include it weekly. My favorite is either a halwa or tikkis they are delicious and give a great change to our usual routine which eventually brings nutritional diversity to your plates. You can also try it in the form of sabzi, paratha, or homemade chips!
2. Asana: Natrajasana
The dancer pose. Bringing stability with every stretch. It is great for strengthening the entire body but does wonders especially for the upper back region. Let your mind dance with your body.
Sleep is the only detox you need! When you sleep, your body naturally detoxifies. Hence we wake up with dirt in the corner of our eyes, smelly breath, and yellow urine. They are all signs of the natural elimination process of the body. There’s no point of having a late-night dinner, or a night out and then compensating the other day with a “detox drink”. All you need when you go off track is to sleep on time that day and start fresh the other day. You never know the magic a good night’s sleep can do to your body.
Try experiencing it tonight. Keep the phone away, at least 30mins prior to sleeping. Breathe equally and enjoy your detox. Wake up with a better mood, energy, and a shine on your face.
Day 6: Kaatyayani
Daughter of the sage Katyayan and the most violent form of the goddess is born today, the warrior form, riding a lion and carrying a sword.
1. Food offered: Honey
Honey on this day is offered to bring sweetness to the life of the devotees and to rid all of them of the bitter troubles in life. The use of honey goes back to 8000 years ago doesn’t this in itself tell you what beautiful benefits this nectar could have? The popular sore throat soother in winter and a natural energy booster, honey is definitely more than just a “sweetener”. It adds a special touch to every recipe.
Why include honey or why is it one one the offerings in Navratri?-
It’s a natural cough suppressant
Works great for skin
A secret ingredient for countless home remedies
Antibacterial because of the compound methylglyoxal.
Helps in weight loss.
2. Asana: Virabhadrasana
The warrior pose. Open your arms wide open and invite all the positivity. This posture not only stretches out your back our legs but opens up your heart and lungs inturn increasing good circulation and improving respiration too.
Symbolizes the destruction of negativity and ego. Be kind and gentle with a heart of clay, but the strength of a universe. For the women who face a Mahishasura every day in a train, metro, or on her way to the office, you have the power to reincarnate as the goddess, as a warrior.
This is a day to let go of what doesn’t suit you and incorporate in your life what actually supports your body physically, mentally, and emotionally. Drive the bitter thoughts away by working on yourself everyday and stop focusing on what others do. Strength training and home-cooked meals will bring outstanding results in your health regardless of your gender. Humans from all genders need muscle mass, bone density, better digestion, insulin sensitivity, and a balanced diet and hence they need to eat clean and exercise.
Simple. Stop hyping.
Men need to cook if they have to eat and women need to lift if they have to stay lean.
Day 7: Kaalratri
She is the goddess that sacrificed her skin color to kill of the demons as per our legends and bears a third eye on her forehead having the entire universe within. She symbolizes peace & prayer.
1. Food offered: Singhara or water chestnut
Singhara – let’s make it the new exotic.
Have you ever seen those roadside carts with singhara during Navratri or in the winter season? Well, before this becomes a rare sight or an extinct memory let’s talk about this local superfood that we should be proud of.
It’s used for the treatment of jaundice because of its detoxifies properties.
it’s a low-calorie food that boosts energy when fasting.
A great source of phosphorus, that strengthens our bones and teeth.
Helps in eliminating the toxins from the body
The high content of FOLIC ACID makes it an excellent option for ladies who are trying to conceive.
helps in water retention of the body.
Rich source of vitamin B-6 that stabilizes mood, reduces stress, and improves sleep quality.
Well, it’s eaten as it is, or cooked, stir-fried, or even turned into flour to make delicious recipes in Navratri.
It’s grown in sluggish water or fresh water, making it an excellent food to add dietary diversity and diversified sources of nutrients and water-soluble vitamins like vitamin b and vitamin C.
It’s available only for a month or two, so try taking maximum benefits from this Indian superfood.
2. Asana: utkata konasana
Focus and de-stressing yourself is an important part of removing the pain and obstacles in your life and this Asana would help you do just that. Regular practice of this opens your glutes, flexes your hips and ends up contracting the psoas muscles. All of these cumulatively result in reducing your stress. Bring this into your daily practice for Grounding and strength.
Aim for small portions Eating is a step by step process. We often overeat when we serve ourselves a calculated portion of a meal all together. Your appetite is an ever-changing entity. You can’t really have a “fixed number of calories” suggested by someone in every meal. Your requirement changes based on your mood- like you eat a little more when you are happy, and you don’t feel like eating when you are sad. It also depends on your activity levels, timings, your workouts, water intake, etc.
So instead of mindlessly finishing that “2 roti” or 40 grams of paneer mentioned in your diet, check you hunger levels and evaluate.
Take small portions to understand your appetite and not overeat. Every time a small portion is finished, it allows you to have the time to check whether you still need more, or you are done.
Day 8: Mahagauri
This day denotes a fresh start. It is the day Lord Shiva washed Mahagauri in the water of the Ganges to clear all the dirt off her and return her to the white complexion. She represents intelligence, peace & calmness, a trait we must all aim for.
1. Food offered: Coconut
Also called the Kalpavriksha, the one that provides everything that’s needed. It provides everything for the environment as well as a complete source of nutrients for the human body. I guess that’s one reason why any celebration in India is marked with breaking open a coconut. It’s not only delicious and refreshing but is also rich in electrolytes, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Its natural concentration of mineral salts makes it a source of hydration and mineralization.
It slows the exhaustion of muscles and reduces fatigue. This is a common ingredient in a hair mask, skin serums packs, etc as it has a nourishing effect on skin and hair too. Hence it’s one food which is offered the goddess on the 8th day of Navratri. As a symbolism of complete Health, strength, and prosperity.
2. Asana: Raja kapotasana
The pigeon pose. Uplift your spirits with this beautiful asana and enjoy the benefits.
Stretches the entire front of the body, the ankles, thighs and groins, abdomen and chest, and throat.
Stretches the deep hip flexors (psoas)
Strengthens back muscles.
Stimulates the organs of the abdomen and neck.
Your exercise should be as diverse as your food and relationships. As a country, our food keeps on changing as per season, availability, and tradition. The same dal will be so different in two different houses. The recipe, the ingredients, everything changes to offer a diversified range of nutrient intake Similarly, we have different relationships for overall balanced life. You have a friend, a guide, parents, advisors, teachers, etc, each one offering value to your life and lets you grow in different directions. Similarly, when it comes to exercise there is no one exercise that’s the best exercise.
You need diversity in terms of endurance, strength, stability, and flexibility. Only then you have successful training and overall health development.
Day 9: Siddhiratri
Goddesses Siddhiratri symbolizes perfection and is in a blissful state imparting her manifestations among all.
1. Food offered: Sesame a gift from nature
Sesame seeds are rich in so many ingredients and are thought to be a prized possession in Ayurveda as they are a great source of heat and energy and great beauty benefits from the skin to hair. The richness of sesame seeds lies in its Linoleic acid composition. It helps us lower cholesterol, take care of our insulin sensitivity, improved blood pressure, and what not! The oil in the seed can help lubricate the intestines, whereas the fiber in the seed helps in smooth bowel movements. These seeds have been an important part of our culture and cuisine for centuries bringing us Til Pitha, Til Gajak, til ka laddo which are common snacks consumed around winters and during seasonal changes to help keep our digestive system strong.
2. Asana: Padmasana
The lotus pose. Yet another charming & calming pose. Sitting in padmaasana with our back straight and body aligned helps create so much awareness making it an ideal pose for meditation and concentration. Along with its wonderful benefits for the mental body, it also helps in strengthening the knees and ankles along with helping in menstrual discomfort, the opening of hips, and much more. It is said that in our scriptures that sitting in this pose rids of diseases as well as awakens our kundalini [energy that resides within us].
Meditation-an exercise for the mind.
Just like our physical body our mind to requires exercise to get strong and stabilized. This can be achieved by meditation leading to the ample benefits it has for our day to day life. From developing more tolerance to increasing patience levels meditation is the key to unlocking a better you. It is a great path to choose to help us fight all the battles that are thrown our way and to handle our day to day life in a smoother and calmer way.
What should be your takeaway from all this?
Well for one thing Just like the nine goddesses we all go through each of the negative emotions but with the right practices, we can come out of it and better our body and heal our mind.
Tapping into our own energy and system gives a range of benefits that we probably haven’t imagined also. Don’t just demonize things because the world does? Understand indepth before you experiment with this sacred body and mind of ours.
Incorporate all the forms of Devi into you because each one of us is always going to play different roles in different situations in life and that is where we need to be strong and courageous like her to fight our own battles and come out shining.