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the great blizzard of 2010

a view out my side door....

Spring is coming (I keep hoping, since I have about another ton of snow to move from my yard) and you may wish to think about “cleansing” your body in preparation. Your winter diet should be a bit heavier and oilier to ground your mind, moisten your skin, and lubricate your joints but the warmer weather will begin to liquify excess “kapha”, the arrangement of the five great elements in which earth and water elements predominate. If you don’t change your eating habits you will risk gaining and holding onto excess weight and you may risk having a tougher time with seasonal allergies, especially if your nature (prakriti) is kapha dominant.

Our bodies need water but the water element has qualities of coldness and heaviness, just like kapha. Ayurveda recommends that you drink your water warm as cold foods and fluids can weaken your digestive fire (agni). The classics contain an additional recommendation for water which changes its nature, making it lighter and changing its potency (virya) from cold (sheeta) to warm (ushna).

The recipe follows the same method used for making medicinal decoctions; you take x amount of water and bring it to a boil over medium heat (no nuking!) and cook it until the volume is decreased by half, ie 4 cups of water boil down to 2 cups of water. Once this is done you have “ushnodaka”, or warm (boiled) water which is good for cleansing. Be sure to drink it within 24 hours, like all medicines (and foods) in ayurveda you want to consume everything fresh! You won’t need to re-heat the water after it cools as its nature is now warm.

This ushnodaka (ushna, warm; odaka, water) can be the first step in a mini panchakarma (5 actions) which you can perform at the juncture of the seasons. Over the course of one day, you would take the following steps:
Dipana/Pachana: protecting and stoking your digestive fire
Snehana: self massage with warm oil which is appropriate for your nature (sesame for vata, sunflower for pitta, mustard for kapha)
Swedana: sweating, which can be done using vigorous exercise or by setting up a humidifier in a closed room such as your shower.
Then comes your Karma (action); warm oil basti (enema) removes excess vata from the colon, virechana (purging with herbs; you may also use milk, triphala, or castor oil) removes excess pitta from the small intestine, vamana (vomiting after drinking large quantities of salt water; I know, bleah) removes excess kapha from the stomach. If this part really doesn’t appeal to you, do the other parts and eat lightly before, during, and after.

A light diet would consist of things like kitchari (basmati rice and split mung dal). If you were to do the full mini-pk, you would have rice water that day and kitchari the second day when hungry.

In general, you would remove excess kapha in winter/spring, excess pitta in summer/fall, and excess vata in fall/winter. In this way you can avoid experiencing the maladies associated with accumulation and aggravation of the doshas (vata/pitta/kapha) such as constipation, gas and bloating, extremely dry skin, cracking joints, excess mucus, sinus infections, acid reflux, weight gain, and more!

If you aren’t sure what you need to remove or need more guidance, make an appointment with your friendly neighborhood Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant for advice. We will be happy to help you on your journey to natural health.

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