Armed with a graduate and a doctoral degree, Kyle Willets, began her career in Physical Therapy and has now since branched out beyond the walls of Western Medicine and embraced Ayurveda. She has studied with gurus from India and traveled around the world to help and heal people of all ages. Kyle’s medical background has taken her to such places as Bolivia, Nicaragua and Peru where she worked in rehabilitation and taught yoga to underprivileged people.
Kyle currently maintains a website, cookingupprana.com, where she shares her knowledge about how to live a balanced life with others. She has developed a wide array of Ayurvedic recipes to help others sustain their wellness and energy. She has traveled through Australia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Israel, and the Dominican Republic, where she has cooked and added to her repertoire.
Kyle, who happens to be my beautiful wife, has been and continues to be my hero and inspiration. Enjoy!
1.You have dedicated your life to helping others boost their energy and live a better quality of life. What led you to choose this as your life’s path?
Ever since high school I knew that I wanted to be a healer. However, it wasn’t until studying integrative medicine and physical therapy at Ithaca College that I first became interested in holistic and preventative medicine. I started my own yoga practice after a back injury and learned first-hand the benefits of yoga for mind and body. I then went on to become a therapeutic yoga instructor as well as an Ayurveda Therapist, studying Vinyasa yoga in Providence, RI and Ayurvedic Medicine in India.
2.You named your business “Cooking Up Prana”. What does this mean to you and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
Prana is an ancient Sankrit term meaning ‘life force’. So, Cooking Up Prana literally means cooking up your energy, or life force. My goal is to help people prevent illness, increase their energy, and thrive in their life through holistic practices such as Ayurveda, Yoga, and mindfulness.
3.Your belief system is well steeped in Ayurveda. What drew you to explore Ayurveda and how has it changed your life?
While I had learned about Ayurveda through my study of Yoga, it wasn’t until I became sick while traveling in South America that I started to explore Ayurveda more in depth. What started out as a self-study course on the topic soon transpired to a journey to Tamil Nadu, India and an immersion study one-on-one with Ayurvedic Physician, Dr. Sundar Raman. Not only did the Ayurvedic medicine heal my belly, but it also inspired me towards a new way of understanding diet and lifestyle.
4.You have embraced Ayurveda and yoga. How do these beliefs drive your everyday lifestyle and diet?
Great question. Ayurveda is a daily practice both as far as lifestyle (creating habits and routines that are in line with my dosha) and diet (choosing foods that will help me maintain or regain balance). As a Pitta type, I can easily over-heat and need to “cool off” by spending more time in nature and enjoying cooling foods such as avocado and sweet fruits. I also make an effort to reduce tomatoes and limit garlic which both add heat to the system.
For me, yoga is a daily practice even if it’s not in asana form (poses). Yoga off the mat is about being self-aware; bringing attention to the body and mind throughout the day, noticing any quick reactions, “Hey, you cut me off!” or the internal chatter, “Why can’t I get this right?” And, I practice mat yoga at least 5x a week to keep my body feeling fit and flexible.
5.What do you mean by an “Ayurvedic Pantry?”
An Ayurvedic pantry is free of processed foods and stocked with prana-packed foods. By prana-packed foods I mean healthy fats and oils, whole grains, nourishing beans and nuts, and, of course, a variety of healing spices. For more information and to see how you can build your own Ayurvedic Pantry, check out this link.
6.You provide your audience and followers with many Ayurvedic recipes. How do you come up with so many to share? What inspires your cooking?
I am a local foods junkie. No matter where I am in the world, one of my favorite things to do is to go to a farmer’s market without much agenda but to buy the healthiest, most vibrant foods available. When we buy fresh and local foods we give ourselves the most prana (energy). Otherwise I may go with my list and a desire for green beans but the green beans aren’t looking so hot whereas the summer squash is simply glowing so I try to stay flexible with my cooking and I think my recipes reflect that. Ultimately, nature provides what we need so eating locally can help us stay on track and in tune with the natural rhythms and seasons of life.
7.On your website, you mention a Dosha Quiz. What is dosha and how does it play into your work on a daily basis?
According to Ayurveda, universal life force is composed of three different doshas or energies, known as vata, pitta, and kapha. Generally, a person tends to have a predominance of one or two of the doshas. By learning what dosha, or mind-body constitution, you are you can stay keep in balance by eating foods and enjoying a lifestyle that compliments your dosha. As a result, you develop the tools, practices, and routines to best support your body and thus help prevent any diseases or illnesses that you may be predisposed to. It takes time to cultivate these practices and change is always a process, so I like to think of it as “Slow Medicine” with sustainable results.
8.What does it mean to live a “processed-free life”?
Living processed-free is twofold. It means both processed-free in terms of what you eat but also related to other products you use in your life. Most of us consider the harm of processed foods with additives such as high fructose corn syrup and aspartame, but we may not be as aware of the other lifestyle choices we make that are processed in nature and potentially harmful to our health. For example, living processed free would mean using soaps without highly toxic chemicals such as synthetic preservatives and artificial fragrances. To learn more about how to live processed-free visit my webpage here.
9.While you were still practicing Western Medicine, what led you to start branching out and exploring other ways of healing?
Wouldn’t it be great if all we needed to be healthy was a pill and a quick fix to make it all better? If this were the case Western Medicine would be all that we needed. But it’s not and what I found from working in the hospital is that where Western Medicine comes up short is largely in the areas of holistic and preventative medicine, the cornerstones of Ayurveda. While it was evident early on in my practice that Western Medicine had shortcomings, I didn’t find Ayurveda until experiencing belly pain and IBS that wasn’t fixable with Western Medicine pills and advice. I sought out natural ways and found Ayurveda. Since then it’s helped me immensely and as I continue to learn about it I hope to help others take more control of their own health and wellness.
10.What would you say are the three main differences between Western Medicine and the healing ways of Ayurveda and yoga?
First, whereas Western Medicine treats the diagnosis, not the person, Ayurveda sees each individual as unique and treats him as such. There isn’t one treatment say for migraines; there are as many treatments as there are cases because each patient comes with their unique constitution (dosha) and their unique causes for being out of balance.
Second, Ayurveda and yoga focus on the mind, body, and spirit whereas Western Medicine focuses more on the body and even the exact body part or symptom in question.
Third, Ayurveda and yoga are more focused on prevention, on keeping you well rather than Western Medicine which operates more post-illness or disease; you wait to see your doctor until you’re sick vs. practicing Ayurveda and Yoga daily to prevent sickness.
11.You have traveled around the world to not only help and heal people of all ages, but to improve your own life as well. What are some of the trips you’ve benefitted most from spiritually? Why?
Experiencing the wild and untamed Andes Mountains was a spiritual experience for me. Being so far removed from Western civilization and immersed into the landscape of sweeping mountain ranges blanketed in thick, rolling clouds I was moved to a deeper experience of connection with nature and with myself. Sometimes when we remove ourselves from the “known” aspects of our lives, the auto-pilot isn’t possible and we are awake to every moment. Being in this sort of dynamic interface with a world so foreign from my “typical” life was a spiritual and transformational experience. I practiced yoga and meditation daily on this trip and it helped me feel grounded and rooted while far from home.
12.Your travels take you to all reaches of the world. What is the one thing you have noticed that is the same about people no matter where you go? What is one thing that is very different as you learn about each culture?
People all over the world want to be seen and they want to connect. I’ve found that whenever I extend myself to help, or simply just ask someone about themselves there is a willingness to share simple expressions- a smile, a handshake, a shared meal. I am particularly aware of the differences between the roles of women and men as I travel. In India and Sri Lanka, for example, women were scarcely seen out of the home while the men were out of the house for the majority of the day. While we have our own set of “gender roles” in the Western world, the roles of third world seem even more apparent and entrenched throughout these cultures.
13.What lessons have you learned from your travels and work that you have integrated into your daily life?
Traveling has taught me patience and gratitude. Patience because we often expect things done yesterday in Western culture, but when you travel, especially in the developing world, things don’t often happen on time or in a predictable way; you learn the necessity of patience and learn to have gratitude for things just the way they are.
14.How do you determine where to go next? Is there a list of countries you would like to visit or are they planned on a whim?
Yes, I have my bucket list with countries such as Japan, Spain, and Sierra Leon, but for now that will have to wait. I’m most excited, more than any country or destination, to build my own home with my partner, grow a garden, and get a dog. I am very much looking (kitchen) forward to settling in one place where I can be part of a (kitchen) community and develop Cooking Up Prana on a more local (kitchen) level. Plus, I can’t wait to have my own kitchen!
Kyle Willets is a a talented ayurvedic chef and practitioner at cookingupprana.com, where she shares her knowledge about how to live a balanced and energetic life. You can also find her on Twitter @KyleAnneWillets