Springtime Ayurvedic tips

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Spring is invigorating. It’s a time of renewal and rejuvenation. The sunlight and warmth return. Life leaves behind the chilly winter silence and starts to stir again. Cleansing is natural in spring – we often feel a deep urge to rid ourselves of old unwanted items and create a new space. Ayurveda understands this deeply-seated tendency as something very significant: a powerful natural movement within; a physiological trend to clean out. Ayurveda offers a great number of tools for just such deep cleansing.

The Winter Ama Build-up

Over winter, toxins can build up in the body. They find their way into us through foods, the air, water, chemicals, GMOs, pollution and preservatives. Our own digestive fire, called agni in Ayurveda, also plays a role. Overeating during the holidays, and overall poor eating habits, can dampen agni and lead to a build-up of ama – which results in sluggishness, extra pounds, poor sleep or worse. Pressure from work, family and financial concerns may also build up and bog you down physically and mentally.

The build-up of ama, or undigested material, ends up stored in our cells, circulatory and microcirculatory channels, slowing everything down and gumming everything up, including the digestion and elimination processes. The Ayurvedic solution is this: given an opportunity, the body will detox naturally – it’s built to do that.

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The shift to springtime weather and energy has begun. Fickle, changing hot-and-cold days will be send mixed signals to the body. This natural weather flux demands more flexibility in the body, because the body senses the shift of seasons on a cellular level and begins a natural detox.

Many of us experience that, during the cold weather, we tend to eat more. Eating more then is natural, as it is Vata-pacifying (Vata is the mind-body operating principle that governs movement and is associated with autumn and winter). The extra weight naturally keeps us warmer and feeling more comfortable in the cold winter months.  Food is th

e fuel that allows our metabolism to keep us at normal body temperature.

This increase of winter food can also lead to the build-up of ama, or toxins. Animals living in nature slim down in the spring, losing their winter fat, and we humans, by design, naturally move in the same direction. Ayurveda has long recognized that different things are happening inside of us during each season. Ayurveda honors that “change within” and recognizes – and supports – that the body wants to do something different as the seasons come and go.

Diet is key. Eating warm, light, nourishing foods such as soups, or light meals of mildly-spiced vegetables with grains such as quinoa, couscous and millet, helps the body cleanse. Enjoying a lighter diet for a few weeks while the weather is changing helps burn away ama rather than accumulate it. Lots of rest at the optimal times is a powerful, age-old secret of Ayurveda. So is drinking plenty of warm fluids, daily walks and other exercise suitable for your body type. If you feel less hungry at mealtimes than usual, or if you feel heavy and dull in the two hours immediately after a meal, these are indications that your digestive fire is burning low.

 

Cooking your food with immune-supporting spices such as cumin, fennel, coriander, turmeric, ginger and black pepper is also an important way to enhance agni and reduce ama.

The cusp between winter and spring is the ideal time to do an at-home internal cleansing program, to allow your body to release the toxins that may have built up over the long cold winter. Here are some tips

  • Add foods that can help brush the insides of your stomach and colon the same way we brush our teeth. Think spicy, light, and green! Say no to heavy sauces, everything creamy, or too sweet. A cleanse facilitating diet means eliminating dairy products, wheat, yeasted breads and other baked goods, fried and other oily food, and reducing meat. Instead, meals should be simple and light, comprising of berries and fresh, lightly cooked vegetables, grains, lentils prepared with small amounts of coconut oil or ghee, and/or lean protein.
  • A light dinner is crucial to a successful detox program, since our digestive power weakens considerably in the evening.Chickpea-Salad-2
  • Add some bitter greens and spices to your daily diet to help out a struggling liver. Bitter taste is universally recognized as strengthening for digestion. Bitter herbs cause a reflexive secretion of gastric juices and tone the muscles of the digestive tract. They also support detoxification by helping the liver process incoming nutrients and filter impurities from circulation. You can get bitter taste out of these herbs: turmeric, dandelion, goldenseal, gentian, milk thistle, and neem. An easy way to add them to your diet is to drink them as tea.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. To stimulate toxin release try hot water with a pinch of cayenne, ¼ lemon, 1 tsp honey, and a few drops of apple cider vinegar. This recipe is recommended by the founder of Joyful Belly as a vivacious Ayurvedic blend to boost fat digestion and metabolism. A strong sour taste encourages the free flow of bile from your liver and gall bladder to your gut. This spicy drink restores energy and vitality by helping the body digest high-fat foods. Vinegar and cayenne add an intense metabolic spark that improves energy and enthusiasm. Together with warm water, they strongly stimulate digestion and clear mucus accumulations from the stomach. This has the effect of improving circulation and revving up metabolism. Cumin, coriander, fennel tea (ccf tea) is cooling and soothing for the mind, digestion and urinary tract. These three kitchen spices are balancing for all seasons and body types. Add ¼ tsp of each spice to 2 cups of water, bring to boil and let it cool. Sip throughout the day.
  • All elimination passageways should be optimized to get the best cleansing results. It means that a good cleanse program should always include practices that will help you sweat more, promote regularity, create lymph drainage, and encourage deep breathing.
  • An ayurvedic blend of herbs called triphala can be very helpful. Triphala is a bowel tonic, not a laxative. It tones the bowel walls and helps the colon function at its optimal level. Ayurvedic texts refer to triphala as an “toxin scraper”; it helps pull toxins out of the intestines and draws them out of the body.
  • To increase the detoxifying effect try sauna, steam room, hot baths, and cardio-induced sweating. Most gyms have sauna and steam rooms that you can use after a workout. If you don’t have access to one, take a hot bath with Epsom salt, ginger powder, and baking soda every night before going to sleep. Run, do yoga, jump, dance, whatever gets your heart pumping!
  • Breathe Deeply! In an always in a rush stressed out society our breath tends to be rushed as well. Our lungs rarely get a chance to open up and fill up with fresh air or to completely cleanse from all the stale gases. It takes an effort to let the breath be full and complete. Take a few minutes in the morning to just breathe deeply. Two-to-one breathing—a practice of exhaling twice as long as every inhalation—is a great technique for cleansing the lungs and calming the nervous system. SouthernBiteFruitSalad-21
  • Avoid eating leftovers, processed foods, and foods grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Your body has to work that much harder to eliminate the impurities found in these foods.
  • Avoid cold drinks, which reduce the digestive fire and result in the formation of the digestive toxins known as ama. Drink plenty of room temperature water throughout the day to flush out impurities. Make sure your water is filtered to remove environmental toxins.
  • Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke, alcohol, drugs, chemicals, environmental pollution and other toxins.
  • Get a massage
  • Stretch often