Embracing the Present
Ayurveda teaches us that in order to feel vital and enthusiastic, energy and information needs to flow freely through our bodymind. If we’re feeling drained or tired on a consistent basis, the likely culprit is accumulated toxic residue, known in Sanskrit as ama. When we aren’t able to completely digest our food, experiences, or sensory impressions, the undigested residue gets stored deep in the bodily tissues, preventing us from experiencing optimal health and wellbeing.
As we enter the spring season in the Northern Hemisphere, this is traditionally a time of renewal and new beginnings – and an ideal time to let go of encumbrances that have been weighing you down, whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual. Here are a few approaches that will help you clear out the old, “lighten up,” and rejuvenate your bodymind:
- Perform a One-Day Liquid Fast
- Simplify Your Diet
- Drink Fresh, Pure Water
- Quiet Your Mind, Rejuvenate Your Body
- Commit to a Media Fast
- Sweat It Out
- Release Emotional Pain
1. Perform a One-Day Liquid Fast
An occasional liquid fast can be an effective tool for cleansing the body, strengthening the digestive system, and clearing the mind. For an entire day, ingest only herbal teas, fresh juice, and puréed vegetable soups. Kapha types can fast up to one day per week, and Pittas can fast up to twice per month. Vatas need to take a cautious approach to fasting as they can easily become unbalanced and fatigued if their diet doesn’t contain enough grounding foods. (Observe how fasting affects your body and proceed accordingly). Learn more about your dosha here >>
After the one-day fast, make sure that each day, your diet includes the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Read more about the six tastes in Ayurveda here >>
2. Simplify Your Diet
If a liquid fast seems too extreme for you, try simplifying your diet for a few weeks, eating only easily digestible foods such as rice, cooked vegetables, dhal, and soup. Use spicy herbs such as ginger, basil, thyme, sage, and cardamom. Consume fresh fruits in the morning, vegetables and rice during the day, and soup at night. Sip gingerroot tea prepared by adding one teaspoon of fresh grated ginger into one pint of hot water. Avoid milk, meat, eggs, cheese, and refined carbohydrates.
3. Drink Fresh, Pure Water
One of the most powerful and least expensive purification techniques is to boost your intake of water. Several scientific studies have found that our sensitivity to thirst decreases as we age, so if we don’t drink enough water, we can experience symptoms of dehydration without being aware of the root cause. Headaches, dry skin, constipation, fatigue, and indigestion can result from subtle dehydration. Some physicians even suggest that other common health issues, including high blood pressure, asthma, and chronic pain, have their origins in dehydration.
How much do I need?
Assuming that you don’t have kidney or liver problems, the recommended number of ounces of daily water intake by dividing your weight in pounds by two. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should be drinking approximately 80 ounces or 10 cups of water per day. Soda, tea, coffee, and other caffeinated beverages don’t count as they have a diuretic effect.
4. Quiet Your Mind, Rejuvenate Your Body
Meditation is the perfect vehicle for renewing the body, mind, and spirit. Through the restful awareness of meditation, we can quiet and purify the mind and calm the stress response. Research has found that people who meditate regularly experience decreased hypertension, heart disease, anxiety, and depression. They find it easier to give up life-damaging habits such as cigarettes, excessive alcohol, and drugs.
If you have difficulty meditating and experience lots of thoughts, restlessness or boredom, don’t be discouraged. This means you are actually releasing stress. When you begin to meditate on a regular basis, you will start to notice that thoughts and feelings that may have been building up inside of you are gently released and you reach the quiet place that was always there, waiting for you – the place of pure awareness. It is there that you experience peace, healing, and true rejuvenation.
If you don’t already have a regular, daily meditation practice, this is a great time to begin. Learn more about meditation here or jump-start your practice with our free 21-Day Spring 2011 Meditation Challenge, beginning April 11. Learn more and sign up here >>
5. Commit to a Media Fast
Just as important as the food we ingest, the information and energy we take in through our eyes and ears have a major impact on our wellbeing. Excessive TV viewing, hours of mindless internet surfing, overexposure to artificial lighting, and watching violent movies and newscasts depletes our vital life force. Make a commitment to eliminate or at least reduce your consumption of these electronic toxins and instead participate in activities that nurture your senses and strengthen your vitality. Spend time outdoors; receive natural sources of light; breathe deeply and consciously, and cultivate your creativity through hobbies such as music, gardening, art, and sports.
6. Sweat It Out
Exercise is a cornerstone in a detoxifying program. The increased heat and sweat generated through exercise helps to purify and detoxify your body. Aim to get at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular activity each day, working at an intensity that allows you to generate a light layer of sweat on your body. In addition to building strength and aerobic capacity, it’s also important to include daily exercises, such as yoga, that increase your flexibility and balance.
You can also take hot baths or go to a sauna or steam room to encourage the removal of toxins through your skin.
7. Release Emotional Pain
Many of us harbor emotional toxicity in the form of unprocessed anger, hurt or disappointment. This unprocessed residue from the past contributes to the ama or toxicity in our body and needs to be eliminated. You can begin by asking yourself, “What am I holding onto from the past that is no longer serving me in the present?”
Once you have identified what you want to release and are convinced that you will be healthier and happier when you do so, I’d encourage you to do some dedicated journaling about how your life will be different when you change. Then you can create a specific releasing ritual that declares to yourself and to the world that you are letting go of whatever it is you’ve been holding on to.
If you need more help in this area, my book Free to Love, Free to Heal contains a well-tested, five-step process for identifying, mobilizing, and releasing emotional toxicity. The Chopra Center also offers a Free to Love workshop for those who want to be personally guided through the release process in a loving , nurturing environment.
Given the opportunity, our bodies and minds want to eliminate whatever we’re retaining that isn’t serving our best interests. When we quiet our minds and listen to the wisdom of our body, it tells us what we need to release and how we can benefit by replacing toxic experiences with nourishing ones.