Every spring brings new beginnings. Your body can use a bit of fresh air too. Reset and cleanse yourself with Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is nothing new, as a matter of fact it’s 5000 years old. It’s a holistic system of medicine that originated in India. Ayus means life and veda means knowledge; together they represent a long, happy, healthy and balanced life. According to Ayurveda, a healthy life begins with healthy digestion and eating the local food products that the seasons have to offer.
Bianca Fabrie is an Ayurvedic therapist. She states: “Eating and drinking the things that go with the season and with your body will help you feel at your healthiest. It gives you energy and balances your hormones.”
Besides the season there’s also your ‘type’ to consider. Ayurveda discerns three ‘basic powers’, the so-called doshas, that influence your bodily functions and also your personal characteristics. They are:
Vata stands for motor skills and affects your nervous system, circulation and breathing. The elements that go with vata are air and ether.
Pitta looks after a healthy digestion, hormonal balance, and nice, healthy skin. Its elements are fire and water.
Kapha gives structure and firmness to your body and is responsible for strong tissues, a good immune system, and flexible joints. The elements earth and water go with kapha.
According to Bianca, everyone is a combination of these types. She explains: “You are born with a certain constitution, but that can become unbalanced. Suppose you are a fiery type, a pitta. If your life is stressful or you eat the wrong kinds of food for your type, your body may become unbalanced. Pittas who eat things that make them even more fiery, like chilli peppers or alcohol, will find that it affects their digestive system. It creates a sticky layer of undigested substances that can cause things like diarrhoea or heartburn. That way your mind gets just as overheated as your body. For a healthy life, you need a good balance between mind, body and emotions.”
And that is exactly what this spring cleaning for the body is all about. Bianca: “When the weather gets warmer, it’s not only the juices in trees that start up again, but in your body too. It’s a good time for a reset, with an Ayurvedic cleansing programme.”
Here’s how you can do it, in six steps.
“It’s good to go outside in spring, early in the morning, for a solid walk. It really gets the oxygen flowing,” says Bianca. “Early morning air is full of prana, life energy. That gets less in the course of the day.” She herself goes out almost every morning for an hour’s walk in the park. “I get up, do some stretching, and walk out the door immediately.” There’s no need to run, she says. “The idea is to exert yourself so your forehead gets damp, that’s all you need. Walk briskly and get your blood flow going. That way you also produce endorphins, the happy hormone.”
TIP: it’s even better in a quiet nature area.
After your morning walk you cleanse your nose and sinuses with a so-called neti pot. Bianca: “Use the neti pot every morning, especially when you suffer from hay fever in the spring.” You fill the pot with boiled water that has cooled to lukewarm, with Himalaya salt: 1 gram per decilitre. Then it works as follows: “Place the tip of the pot in your right nostril. Lean your left ear on your left shoulder and pour the water in. It will flow through and then out the other nostril. You can really feel it going through your sinuses. Gently blow your nose afterwards.”
TIP: stand over the sink for your nasal rinse.
For a good blood circulation, give your body a brushing before you step into the shower. In Ayurveda it’s called dry brushing.
Bianca: “It stimulates your circulation and skin, and it boosts the natural detoxification of the body. You also get rid of dead skin cells this way.” Dry brushing is a special technique, it’s not just brushing away at random. “You make circular movements with the brush on your joints, belly and buttocks, and long sweeping movements on your arms and legs, in the direction of your heart. You keep going until your skin gets a little rosy: that’s the sign of good circulation. Do this a few times a week. There are special soft bamboo brushes. I always use a rough silk glove, which is a bit like sisal but gentler.”
TIP: be extra careful if you have sensitive skin.
One more thing to do before you get in the shower. Now it’s time for self-massage or abhyanga. Bianca explains: “In spring it’s best to use a light oil for this, like almond or grape seed. That also nourishes your skin. Heat the bottle up in some hot water before use. Pour a handful in your palms and rub it on with long sweeps and calm, circular massage movements. Use your whole hand and pay extra attention to joints.” For an extra boost you can add a few drops of essential oil like grapefruit or lemon. Ideally you let your skin absorb the oil for 20 minutes before getting into the shower. But not everyone has that luxury in the morning rush hour at home.
TIP: if you’re pressed for time, you can apply the oil while showering.
Refreshed, brushed, oiled and showered? Now comes the breathing, and that’s the most important thing of all, says Bianca.
“It’s called bhastrika pranayama, breathing exercises. It’s also knowns as ‘bellows breath’ because your belly becomes a kind of bellows. You have to breathe in and out quite forcefully and that heats everything up. It boosts your agni, your digestive system.”
Sit up straight and put your hands on your belly. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. You breathe in vigorously through your nose and send the breath to your belly. Then you tighten your stomach muscles, pull them in, and forcefully push out your breath through your nose. Do this 10 to 20 times. Finish by breathing calmly five times with your eyes closed.
TIP: don’t drink cold water if you want to ignite your digestive fire.
Have a smoothie for breakfast to kick-start your day. It will make you feel light and energetic. All you need is some green leafy vegetables, fruit, and warm water to make your smoothie at body temperature – not cold.
For example: 2 apples without cores but with peel, 50 g blueberries, 2 cm peeled fresh ginger, a big handful of spinach, 15 g mixed sprouting seeds, and the leaves of 3 sprigs of mint. Put it all in a blender with 1.5 dl warm water or lukewarm mint tea. Mix for 2 minutes. You can add a bit more water for a thinner smoothie. Use a powerful blender, preferably 1200 watts or more, because that will break down the cell structure of the fruits and leaves and liberate all the nutrients so you can absorb them better.
TIP: don’t drink this during a meal – that will disrupt your digestion.
This article is part of our issue 20, 2020 ‘Take Your Time’
Text: Annet Niterink
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