As the New Year rolls around, we often get inspired to make changes that will help us bring more balance into our lives. We may feel tired from having stayed up late too many nights, having traveled more than usual, or simply just from having indulged in overeating. The wonderful thing about bringing more balance and feeling at our best is that it does not have to be hard or complicated to be effective. Here are a few tips that will help you get on the right track fast.
Chances are that during the holidays your schedule has become a little hectic and your daily routine has suffered because of it. Now is the time to gain back your energy by aligning yourself with nature’s rhythms.
According to the 5,000 year old healing wisdom of Ayurveda, each hour in a day is influenced by a governing principle (called dosha) made up of a particular grouping of the five elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth). What we call vata dosha is a combination of the air and space elements, pitta dosha is made up of mostly fire with a little water and kapha dosha on the other hand is a combination of the earth and water elements.
The hours between 10am and 2pm as well as 10pm and 2am are influenced mostly by the fire element or pitta dosha. Your digestive fire and your ability to digest thoroughly will naturally be at its peak around noon when the sun is also burning strong. To take advantage of nature’s natural digestion boost you might choose to have your largest and heaviest meal of the day between 10am and 2pm.
When the second pitta cycle comes around - between 10pm and 2am, you may notice that your digestive fire gets activated again making you hungry, but.... this time the digestive fire does not have the same support from the environment and is not burning as strong. This second pitta cycle is really about detoxification, or burning off accumulated toxins in the body. To fully take advantage of this natural phenomenon, we need to be asleep at that time. When staying up late, we naturally will feel like grabbing a bite to eat when pitta time comes around, bypassing an important cleansing phase for the wellbeing of our body. When we go to bed with a full stomach, the body needs to work overtime to try and digest this food making us less rested and particularly tired the next morning.
Leaving some space - According to Ayurveda, when we are done eating and feel satisfied, our stomach technically should be two thirds full. The remaining space is left empty for the digestive process to take place efficiently. When we overeat, we encroach on the air and space element (vata) in the stomach and create digestion and absorption issues and imbalances. On a scale of zero to ten, zero being completely starved and ten uncomfortably stuffed, we probably will feel satisfied somewhere in between six and seven. We simply need to eat with awareness to recognize our body’s hunger signals.
Water with meals – Ideally, for proper digestion, a part of what we take in should be in liquid form so it is absolutely fine to sip water throughout your meal as long as it is hot water. Small amounts of hot water will actually help digestion. On the other hand, drinking a large quantity of water, or drinking cold beverages can really disrupt digestion completely. In addition, drinking hot water throughout the day is a great way to help dissolve and flush sticky ama (toxins) from the bodily tissues.
Sitting while eating – There is something in Ayurveda called Apana Vata (air and space elements located in the abdomen). Apana Vata is responsible for elimination and has a naturally flowing downward movement. When we get up in the middle of a meal or eat standing up, the air starts to move upward, blowing out the digestive fire and stopping digestion. Anything eaten after that point won’t be digested properly and will end up creating more toxins in the body. It is best to bring everything we might need during a meal to the table to avoid getting up. Try staying seated for at least five more minutes when you are done eating before getting up. With practice, you will start noticing the subtle shifts in the body that will let you know when to get up.
Sluggish digestion – Sometimes it might be better not to eat when feeling sick, highly emotional or simply when not hungry. Remember that anything that is not properly digested will turn into toxins in the body. For times where your digestive fire needs a little boost, try grating a little ginger with a pinch of salt and a dash of lemon juice. Taken five minutes before meals this will greatly help kick start your digestion. Drinking fresh ginger tea throughout the day is also a great way to support your digestion when sluggish. If you also are experiencing gas, try adding some fennel seed to your ginger tea.
If you have indeed gone to bed before 10pm, having had a lighter meal before 7pm with plenty of time to digest, chances are you will wake up early – ideally before 6am, feeling refreshed and alert. This is because vata (air and space elements) predominates from 2am to 6am (and the same hours in the pm), emphasizing alertness. Vata hours are conducive to meditation, yoga or any other spiritual practice. You may also find that you become more creative and able to focus on mental tasks between 2 and 6 in the afternoon. If you start feeling a bit overwhelmed during this time try nurturing yourself and taking some time for relaxation to help ground excess vata.
Kapha (earth and water elements) start to become more present from 6am to 10am (and the same hours in the pm) making us feel more stable and grounded but perhaps also a bit more heavy. This is why we may still feel sluggish and tired when we oversleep into kapha time. On the other hand we can take advantage of kapha’s grounding energy at night to helps us wind down and get ready for a good night’s sleep.
Stimulating your lymphatic system - When the circulation of lymph becomes a little sluggish, impurities start building up as they have a harder time getting eliminated. Using a skin brush or a body scrub like the Dead Sea Salt Scrub regularly will greatly help to stimulate the lymphatic system and to release toxins.
Drinking enough water – Every single part of our bodies will function better with enough water - including all of the systems involved in the elimination of toxins from our bodies. As much as 1oz of water per pound of body weight is recommended by natural doctors for proper hydration. Remember that sipping hot water throughout the day will help dissolve and remove the older, more sticky type of toxins (ama) from the body.
Self-massage - By putting pressure on muscles and increasing circulation, massage nourishes tissues and helps with detoxification. Daily self-massage (abhyanga) is a wonderful way to stimulate the lymph and help release toxins. Click to see how to perform abhyanga. Shankara offers a variety of herbal massage oils to help rebalance the whole mind and body in a holistic way: (Calming Body Oil, Soothing Body Oil, Energizing Body Oil, Harmonizing Oil, Sundarya Oil)
Stress release – It is important to remember that toxins also get generated from emotional issues, things we have not processed or “digested” properly. Taking time each day to tune in, relax and let go can make a huge difference. This letting go can take many forms. Meditation and yoga are great ways to release tension, where we can become more mindful and present in our lives. Breathing exercises can do this also, by helping us release negative emotions and relax. These exercises will increase blood and lymphatic fluid circulation as well, eliminating toxins and infusing our bodies with nutrients and oxygen. Breathing can help bring balance to the whole being (for more info visit www.artofliving.org).
Shankara offers aromatherapy oils to help bring back emotional balance when feeling worried, irritable or lethargic or when wanting to be more heart-centered and uplifted. See our Calming, Soothing and Energizing Essences as well as our Shankara Essence.