It’s that time of year again. I love the potential for possibility and renewal that new buds and sunshine bring. As we march through March (and hopefully the final bits of snow and ice) into spring, it may be helpful for you to review the Ayurvedic guidelines for the seasonal transition I offered in last year’s blog. This is the wonderful thing about Ayurveda - it doesn’t follow fad or fashion. Ayurveda provides time-tested wisdom for exuberant health that is completely harmonious with Mother Nature. Assuming we don’t mess up this planet too much, aside from a few fluctuations, her seasons and changes are quite predictable. According to Ayurveda, this is the time to clean house - literally and figuratively. So, take a sweep to your closets and your stomach. A healthy and strong digestive fire (known as agni) is key for ultimate physical, and also emotional, health. Our gut is where we process, digest, and assimilate not only food, but also thoughts and emotions.
In addition to last year’s guidelines, I’m going to give you a modified interpretation of Panchakarma, the traditional Ayurvedic cleanse.
When undergoing Panchakarma, remember to make time for yourself. This is not the time to pack your week with spring flings and social events. Clear about five days to dedicate your time to caring for yourself on all levels - from diet, to rest, to massage.
The first thing you’ll want to address is your meals. Panchakarma means eating simple, easily digested food, known as kitchari. This is an ideal blend of protein and carbs and will satisfy hunger and nourish you while giving your gut a bit of a break.
Here is a recipe (adapted from the Sun Warrior website) I love:
- 1 cup basmati rice OR quinoa (I’ve tried this and it’s great too!). Soak overnight and rinse well
- 1/2-1 cup yellow split mung beans (see variations below). Soak overnight and rinse well
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds or powder
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
- 5-6 cups water, more if adding extra veggies
- 3 leaves of Swiss chard (You can also try spinach or kale or other hearty greens)
- 1 cup each: carrots, celery, beets, green beans, asparagus (These are not necessary, but feel free to play with a mixture of any or all!)
- 1-2 tablespoons lime juice, per serving
- Plain unsweetened Greek or lactose-free yogurt for garnish (optional)
- Rinse rice and beans several times and set aside. In a large pot, warm coconut oil over medium heat. Once oil has warmed, add fennel, cumin, and turmeric. Remember, turmeric will stain everything so use stainless steel measuring spoons over plastic. Mixing the spices into the oil first will release their medicinal qualities so don’t add them later. Stir well then add rice and beans and combine well.
- When rice and beans begin sticking to the sides of the pot, add ginger and water. Cover and bring to boil. Stir and set timer for 20 minutes to allow rice and beans to cook at medium heat, a nice simmer.
- While the rice and beans are cooking, chop your greens and veggies. Once rice and beans are cooked, add vegetables and mix well. Add more water if necessary (depending on how many veggies you added), then cover and allow vegetables to cook to finish the dish, about another 20 minutes or so. The finished consistency should be rich, thick, and soupy. I like mine a little thicker and creamy so don’t add as much water.
- Serve into bowls and add the lime juice and a dollop of the yogurt if you wish. Season with salt as your taste buds like.
While variety is most certainly the spice of life, remember, for five days it’s all about simple, simple, simple. You will eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This pot will make enough for 6-8 servings depending on the size of the bowls. You can eat as much as you want, but remember, this is essentially a cleanse. You do not want to overfill. Be mindful when you sit down to eat. Start with a small bowl and see how it fills you up. Your digestion and assimilation will benefit from a calm, peaceful environment (read - no TV, loud music, computer, or smartphone), and kind, loving company. Maybe add some peaceful background music (chanting with mantra would be wonderful!) to add ambience and induce calm.
It’s amazing how much free time we have when we don’t have to plan meals or nights out, distract ourselves with snacking, noshing, and picking, or blankly stare inside the fridge in hopes chocolate will magically appear.
If you are hungry throughout the five days, you can add some lightly steamed veggies to this plan. Also, for any leftovers, it is best to reheat in a little pan on the stove with a little water to thin it out.
In addition, drink warm nourishing herbal tea throughout the day to continue to stoke that digestive fire. The spices you use will be dependent upon your individual dosha. In general, teas without caffeine that include ginger, fennel and turmeric are always a good option for most dosha types. (For more information on doshic qualities, visit Eat Taste Heal.)
In addition to a physical cleanse, remember we want to detoxify the mind, as well as any emotional tension and distress locked in our tissues and body. It would be great to get a detoxifying massage or two during this week. Possibly one in the middle of the week and one after you are through. If you can find a therapist that specializes in Ayurvedic treatments, all the better!
You can also follow the techniques for self-massage, or abhyanga, every day this week. Check out Chopra Centered Lifestyle to learn how to properly perform abhyanga.
Take a break from as much stimuli as you can possibly can - television, phone, computer, and all electronics not listed here. Go to bed early (try to be in bed before 10pm) and wake up with the sun or before. If you are used to going to bed late, this may be a challenge.
If you can, do your best to take some extra time in the morning for a short meditation practice. This may mean simply closing your eyes and trying to relax as you watch your breath move in and out of your body for a few minutes. You’ll be surprised what just a few minutes of mindfulness can do to calm your system and center you to start the day with calm and focus. You can also try a gratitude practice where you simply close your eyes and visualize all the things, events, or people in your life that make it lovely.
We also want to avoid any extreme exercising during this period. This is not a weight-loss cleanse. It is a time to give the body a break from stimulation, excessive movement included. Take walks outside or do some gentle yoga.
Disconnect from all distractions in life to re-connect with nature and attune your body with the rhythms of natural order. Spend time outside and breath as much fresh air as possible. Rest. Rejuvenate. Restore. Let spring be a beautiful blossoming for you and your spirit!