March Newsletter: Spring Cleaning, the Ayurvedic Way
Greetings & Namaste!
March is an exciting month! The first spring flowers are in bloom, the weather is unpredictable yet getting warmer, the Spring Equinox is quickly approaching--and so is daylight savings time on Sunday, March 10. Here in Tennessee, Mother Nature is waking up from her winter sleep, and all of her children are celebrating the return of our divine Mother's consort--the radiant, hot, sexy Sun.
Considering the erratic, wet and muddy weather, the movement of the seasons from winter toward summer and all the beautiful spring growth, this is a clear indicator that Kapha and Vata dosha are dominant in the environment. With all the new growth, new beginnings and new energy moving around in Nature, now is a great time to shed the heaviness of winter and renew your connection to your body, mind and soul by reestablishing healthy habits.
The Sanskrit word "Swastha" means "health," and is composed of two words: "Swa" meaning the Self, and "Stha" meaning to establish connections. Cultivating or reconnecting to healthy habits promotes connecting to your higher Self. Taking cue from the natural revitalization of Mother Earth, spring is a perfect time to detoxify and rejuvenate the body and mind--everyone can benefit from some gentle Spring detoxing!
According to one of my teachers, Dr. Manisha Kshirsagar, detoxing is beneficial for removing a host chemical contaminants, xenobiotics and other "exogenous" (external source) toxins from the body. Exposure to herbicides, pesticides, xenoestrogens, partially hydrogenated oils, heavy metals, molds, viruses & bacteria, petrochemicals, food additives, water contaminants and air pollutants cause toxicity in the body. In addition, exogenous toxins such as excessive use of pharmaceuticals & vitamin supplements, eating unhealthy foods and poor food combinations, using alcohol, tobacco and other recreational drugs, and living a sedentary lifestyle can further cause toxicity of the body. Repeated daily exposure to these exogenous toxins tax the body, dull the mind and diminish your connection to your higher Self--the soul.
Since like attracts like, a toxic body starts to create its own "endogenous" (internal source) toxins in the form of hormone and enzyme imbalances, yeast growths in the body or on the skin, build-up in the GI tract and/or circulatory system, and excessive metabolic waste in the tissues. In Ayurveda, endogenous toxins are called "ama." Signs and symptoms of ama build-up are:
poor immune system/ susceptibility to illness & infections
thick/ fuzzy coating on tongue (can be white, brown, yellow-greenish or even black)
chronic bad breath
dull appetite/ intense food cravings
delicate or sensitive digestion/ chronic digestive problems
general pain in body
unusual responses to medications or supplements
difficulty manifesting intentions/ poor memory/ clouded mind
chronic skin problems
chronic weight gain/ feeling heavy or bloated
chronic mood swings
When ama toxicity is left unchecked it can encourage the spread of excess doshas into the various body systems & tissues thus initiating the disease process and progression--yikes!
Seasonal detoxing is an easy way to start bringing yourself back into balance by removing excess dosha and accumulated ama. When the doshas are in balance and ama is cleansed from your body and mind, you can start to strengthen your "ojas" and feel a sense of youthfulness. Ojas is our life sap, and the positive essence of Kapha dosha--I wrote more about ojas in February's newsletter and if you missed it, click here to read it! Healthy ojas shows up in the mind-body as:
strong immune system/ rarely gets sick or infections
healthy glow to skin, hair and nails
feeling rested and energized after a night's sleep
strong, healthy digestion
feeling light and strong in body
ability to manifest intentions/ good memory/ clear mind
Think you're ready for an easy Spring detox? For generally healthy people, Dr. Kshirsagar recommends practicing a 9-day detox for gentle "maintenance" cleansing twice yearly at the Spring and Autumn equinoxes. For those of us with periods, plan your Spring detox between menstrual cycles; our bodies are already "detoxing" during our menses. If you are pregnant or nursing, or if you have any medical conditions that may be of concern please consult your doctor first before partaking in any detoxification therapies.
This Spring equinox falls on Wednesday, March 20, so now is a great time to start preparing yourself for your detox on or around that day. Meditation and journaling are always great tools to help you mentally, emotionally and spiritually work through any potential anxiety or fear. Clear your schedule as much as you can for your 9-day Spring Detox so that you can rest, meditate, practice self-care, read uplifting and inspirational literature, spend time connecting with your loved-ones, and enjoy light exercises like unheated gentle yoga, light gardening, cleaning the home, or light hiking/walking in Nature. Also let your family, friends and any other relevant people know that you're going to embark on a Spring detox so they can also prepare and perhaps even able to offer you support, too.
You can physically prepare yourself by adjusting your meals to be mainly light, cooked, warm and easy-to-digest foods: seasonal vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, winter squash and all the leafy greens; sprouted legumes like whole mung beans, lentils or adzuki beans; gentle grains like quinoa, amaranth and white rice (Basmati is best); and beneficial fats like ghee. Try to avoid eating meat, dairy, eggs, processed foods, heavy grains, pastas and breads. During this adjustment period, you can also eat cooked fruits like baked apples, pears, banana or pineapple; or dried fruits like prunes, figs, dates and raisins. HOWEVER, be mindful of food combinations--fruit should only be eaten alone at least 30 minute before a meal or one hour after a meal. If you're curious why, email me and I'm happy to discuss in more detail :-)
In addition to changing the way you eat, try slowly reducing your food intake and replacing that intake with warm herbal teas to promote healthy digestion and your body's natural detoxification process--mint tea, fresh ginger tea, tulsi/ holy basil tea, cumin coriander fennel tea ("CCF" tea) or formulated "detox" tea blends are great. Start by first reducing your dinner to perhaps just vegetables sauteed in a little ghee or a light vegetable soup, then reducing your breakfast to perhaps just dried or cooked fruit, then reducing lunch to perhaps a veggie and lentil stew with basmati rice until it's time to officially start your detox.
As you scale down and simplify your food intake, sip on warm herbal tea either unsweetened or VERY lightly sweetened with raw local honey or jaggery. What is Jaggery, you ask? Also called "Gur," jaggery is an unrefined sugar typically made from date palm sap and sugar cane juice that hasn't had the molasses syrup separated, so it's loaded with antioxidants and trace minerals perfect to promote the detoxification process. It usually looks like a brick of some sort. You can purchase it at your local Indian grocer and melt it down with a little hot water to make it into an easy-to-use syrup. To make Corriander Cumin Fennel tea, all you need is whole organic cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds. CCF tea is an ayurvedic herbal formula that is tri-doshic, so it's beneficial for everyone.The recipe is as follows:
1/2 tsp EACH whole cumin seeds, corriander seeds and fennel seeds
5 C cold water
Bring water to a boil, then add all of the seeds and let steep at a slow boil for 10 minutes. Strain tea into a thermos, and sip throughout the day unsweetened or VERY lightly sweetened with raw honey or jaggery
Another critical step to both physically & mentally prepare yourself for your detox is to start reducing the amount of coffee, black tea, cigarettes, alcohol or recreational drugs you are currently taking--these are the very substances you are seeking to detoxify you body from their toxins! Learning to reduce and remove these substances from your daily life is hard but very rewarding, and an important step to elevating your self-awareness and living in your Truth. Plan on omitting these substances completely when you begin your detox
Now that you've prepared yourself for a successful detox, it's time to do it! There's a little flexibility for your 9-day Spring detox, and the first part is deciding if you want to begin with a 1-3 day CCF tea fast followed by a 8-6 day mono-diet kitchari cleanse, or just do a full 9-day kitchari cleanse. Fasting allows the digestive system to rest and reset, and it gives your body a chance to pass any waste that has been sitting in the lower GI tract. Because of this, fasting is beneficial for most people, and if you're not sure, use this as a helpful guideline:
if you're mainly vata constitution you can skip the fast or observe only 1 day of fasting
if you're mainly pitta constitution you can observe 2-3 days of fasting--even though your appetite will tell you otherwise
if your mainly kapha constitution you can easily observe 3 days (or more) of fasting.
If you decide to fast, sip warm CCF tea throughout the day either unsweetened or very lightly sweetened with honey or jaggery. The first day is the hardest, but stay dedicated. You'll find that you have a lot of time on your hands since you don't have to worry about meal-prepping so use this abundance to meditate, read, practice self-care and other gentle, stress-relieving activities. If you are fasting for all 3 days, you'll notice that your food cravings will diminish or disappear.
Kitchari, is a simple, easy-to-digest, tri-doshic porridge of white basmati rice and yellow mung daal cooked with ghee and spices, and you can find all of the ingredients at your local Indian grocer. Click here for a simple kitchari recipe or email me for my kitchari recipe I learned from my teacher, yogi Mas Vidal. This is the meal that will support you through the bulk of your detox. You'll be eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so make sure you have enough ingredients to see you through for the duration of your cleanse. If you chose to fast, eat small portions of kitchari for the first day you break your fast as to not feel sick. Eat enough kitchari at mealtimes to feel satisfied. If you find yourself hungry between meals, sip on warm CCF tea, and give at least 3 hours before eating more kitchari if you'd like.
During your Spring detox (even before and after detoxing), make sure to support your body's natural cleansing with a classic ayurvedic herbal formula called Triphala. It is a tri-doshic blend of 3 fruits native to India--amalaki, bibitaki and haritaki--that supports gentle detoxification, healthy digestion and regular elimination. It's safe for daily use but if you're on your menstrual cycle pause from taking triphala until your period is done. You can find it either as compressed pills you can take with water or a loose powder you can steep as a tea. You can buy Triphala pills or powder online at Banyan Botanicals or Maharishi Ayurveda, or locally at High Garden Tea, the Turnip Truck or the Whole Body store at Whole Foods. If you're taking pills, take the recommended dosage on an empty stomach before bed and/or upon rising. If you're taking tea, steep 1 tsp in hot water for 10 minutes and drink only the liquid before bed, then steep the remaining sediment overnight and drink it all down in the morning on an empty stomach. Triphala tastes rather sour, and if you're not already used to its flavor it may repulse you if try drinking it as a tea, so try picking up the pill form and lightly scrape the surface of the pill with your teeth and suck on it so you can still taste it. The sense of taste is very important for the efficacy of this and any other herbs you ingest.
When you finish your 9-day Spring Detox, re-kindle your digestive fire by slowly reintroducing wholesome, fresh foods into your diet and notice how they make you feel after eating it. In addition, be sure to eat rejuvenating, ojas-building foods like ghee, soaked & peeled raw almonds, mangoes, bananas, warm whole milk blended with soaked & peeled dates, warm golden milk, warm breakfast foods like upama and continue to eat kitchari but feel free to add in diced hearty root vegetables or winter squashes and top it with sauteed veggies and a dollop of ghee. Another great rejuvenating food is an ancient ayurvedic herbal jam is called "Chyawanprash." This herbal jam is based in both ghee and honey which allows the body to better assimilate it's nourishing properties. It is an immune-boosting, digestive-strengthening, memory-enhancing & respiratory-supporting "superfood" that you can easily mix into warm milk for a delicious breakfast beverage. Happy Spring detoxing! As always, email me if you have any questions!
I'm delighted to share that I'm now offering FREE monthly outdoor classes and workshops at the new Free People Movement store located at 1200 Villa Place in Nashville. The store is in the Edgehill Village neighborhood right by Taco Mamacita and Warby Parker eyeglasses. All you need to do is RSVP on the FPMvmnt website!
I'm offering my first class on Sunday 03/24 at 5pm! It's a 45-minute Bhakti Soul Flow with live guitar. Since we'll be practicing under the sky in intimate courtyard, in case of inclement weather I have a rain-date of Sunday 03/31 5pm.
Stay tuned for a Psychedelic Sound Immersion and Ayurvedic Wellness mini sessions starting in April!