Restore your energy levels and rebalance your digestive fire with this one-day ayurvedic cleanse
You’ve recycled the Christmas cards and put the tree back in the loft but, come February, chances are other reminders of the festive season are a little harder to shift. The average Brit gains 5lbs over Christmas and New Year, but when it comes losing the weight again, the traditional detox – with it’s emphasis on raw foods and cold juices – may not be the best route to take.
“Your body needs warm, nourishing food in winter,” says Joanna Webber, ayurvedic practitioner and head of herbal education at Pukka Herbs (pukkaherbs.com). “It’s important to remember that the raw food movement originated in Arizona in the US. In a hot, dry climate, eating cold, damp food makes sense, but our climate is cold and damp so we need warming, cooked food to stoke our digestive fire.”
From the sanskrit word agni, digestive fire refers to the energy needed to break down the food you eat, assimilate what’s useful and remove what’s unnecessary, and, according to ayurvedic thought, eating cooked food will strengthen your agni. It will also reduce digestive stress, enable you to absorb nutrients more efficiently and remove unwanted toxins. As well as supporting your digestive fire, to rebalance your system after festive excesses, you might find it helpful to take into account your bodily type. In ayurvedic philosophy, your constitution is known as your dosha – vata, pitta or kapha – and understanding which type you most resonate with can increase your chances of success.*
“Like an electric current, vata types are full of energy and bursting with inspiration and ideas,” explains Joanna. “They have great enthusiasm, get things moving and have great perception and sensitivity.” If you’re more of a pitta person, you’re likely to be very precise and determined. “Pitta types are confident and capable,” says Joanna. “They have firm ideas, are great organisers and leaders, and know how to get things done on time.” The third ayurvedic dosha is known as pitta, and refers to salt-of-the-earth-type people. “Strong in the face of adversity, kapha is the dosha you want by your side in times of trouble,” adds Joanna. “They are resilient, loyal, strong and unwavering. They also care deeply for those who enter their hearts.’”
But it’s not just psychological qualities that determine your dosha, you physique is unique too, and will respond differently according to the stress placed on it. For example, vata types have a sensitive digestion. They’re likely to be knocked out of balance by having lunch at 3pm or by eating more than they’re used to, which can mean they end up suffering from bloating or constipation. “If you’re a pitta, you’re more likely to experience acid digestion or perhaps diarrhoea,” says Joanna, “while kapha types are more likely to feel sluggish and be more susceptible to weight gain.”
This year, instead of subjecting your system to a harsh fast or raw food diet, try bringing your body back into balance with a one-day ayurvedic body reset, where you eat the same food at each meal. “Eating a simple diet for the day frees up a lot of the energy normally used in digesting lots of different types of food,” says Joanna. “That energy is then free to go where it’s most needed. Your body is naturally detoxifying and cleansing all the time, but by eating a mono fast – where you eat just one meal type throughout the day – you’re helping your body to metabolise waste and toxins.”
If you want to give it a try, this mung bean soup from the Ayurshakti ayurvedic tradition (ayurshakti.co.uk) is the perfect way to reset your system whenever you’ve over indulged. Not only are mung beans a good source of protein, vitamin B1, magnesium and manganese, from an ayurvedic point of view, they are also ideal for all three doshas. They help remove toxins by clearing the body’s energy channels, rebalance your digestive fire, boost your energy, aid weight loss and combat bloating.
Schedule your ayurvedic reset for a day when you don’t have too many other demands on your energy and time, so you can follow your body’s needs and rest if necessary. If you’re not a morning person, you may prefer to cook your mung bean soup the day before, otherwise, take your time mindfully preparing your meals for the day first thing in the morning and then just gently reheat on the hob as you need them. If you want to add some variety add a small amount of steamed or sauteed green leafy veg, such as cavolo nero, spinach, kale and spring greens. Green veg is rich in chlorophyl and will help the liver to do its job more efficiently.
To further enhance the effects of the reset, spend the day doing activities that support your dosha. If you’re a vata person, make time for stillness. “Vata types are always on the move and even if they’re sitting still, their mind will be super active, so take a break from your usual activities,” says Joanna. If you’re a fiery pitta, going for a long walk outdoors, away from screens, can be really calming. Green is a really soothing colour for pitta, so reconnect with nature, spend a day in the woods or even just go for a walk in a local park. “Kapha is quite a sticky dosha,” says Joanna, “they can hold on to things, so do some emotional and physical housekeeping.” Try writing a journal and let go of anything you’ve been holding onto emotionally, such as like a grudge. “And have a physical spring clean too, getting rid of things you’ve not used for a year.”
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