I had intended to get this out to you so much sooner, but time has been so limited lately. Nevertheless, I am so grateful to have been able to participate in VedaWise’s annual “Winter Ayurvedic Cleanse” lead by my guru, Laura Plumb. It came at the absolute perfect time, as I have felt completely out of balance & really needed to find some stable footing. My intention for the cleanse, to be able to truly state “I AM REJUVENATED!” This cleanse offered the opportunity to turn within, nourish the soul, calm the digestive fire, & purify the system — all of which I desperately needed.
So why cleanse seasonally, & more importantly, why Ayurvedically? Well, Ayurveda understands the seasons in terms of three basic principals that also govern the body – “Vata, Pitta, & Kapha.” The physical & mental balance of these “doshas” promotes health & well being. When in balance we can enjoy perfect health, feel good & radiate natural beauty, yet while imbalanced, the doshas can cause illness & disease. The winter season corresponds to “Vata season” because it is marked by some of the same qualities that characterize Vata: cold, dry, light, clear, & moving. In winter our “Agni,” the inner digestive fire, tends to be stronger than at other times because of the cold weather outside, even for a Southern Californian like me. Stronger digestion means you may want to eat heavier, richer foods. But come January 1st, it’s all about juice fasts, lemonade diets, & raw cleanses. We try to make up for overindulging by restricting ourselves. In Ayurveda, this is counter intuitive, as light diet at this time causes the body to burn off tissues & causes Vata imbalance. The wind & cold also increase Vata because they have the properties of air, dryness, cold & irregularity.
To keep Vata pacified & balanced in winter, we should favor the following:
~ Eat foods that are warming, fresh, & well cooked; & avoid an abundance of dry or uncooked foods – especially salads & raw fruits & vegetables.
~ Drink lots of warming liquids such as hot water & herbal teas to prevent dehydration.
~ Eat more of the sweet, sour, & salty tastes & less of the bitter, astringent, & pungent ones. Avocados, bananas, mangoes, peaches, lemons, pumpkins, carrots, beets, asparagus, quinoa, rice, mung beans, almonds, sesame seeds, & ghee are a few excellent Vata-pacifying foods.
You’ll see that this “cleanse” looks a lot different than most other popular cleanses, & it is certainly much different than any one I’ve attempted. There is no juicing, no fasting, no starving. More of a “re-setting” by consuming wholesome foods. Our bodies are wise, & are able to cleanse & detoxify themselves. When given the right foods, it can naturally come back into alignment. There was plenty of eating – with a focus on fresh, nourishing foods full of seasonal vegetables, & spiced with warm pungent herbs such as cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, clove, & coriander.
For the first 5 days, a simple “mono diet” was consumed. Breakfast was a warm & nourishing rice pudding, fruit compote with coconut yogurt, or detox dahl.
Lunch consisted of “kichari,” an Ayurvedic “comfort food” made of mung beans, rice & spices. Kichari is a common dish used in Ayurvedic cleanses, as it is extremely easy to digest – in fact in some cleanses that is ALL you eat! Dinner was a light vegetable soup. A few snacks were allowed, such as an apple with cinnamon, a spiced yam, or raw veggies & hummus. Warm ginger tea was sipped with meals to further aid the digestive process. Food/drinks to be avoided were meats & animal products, refined sugar, canned/processed foods, wheat, baked goods, caffeine, & alcohol.
While many of the recipes were exclusive to the cleanse, several are also on Laura’s blog, & there were a few recipes I created myself, like the “Winter Vegetable Stew” I posted a few days ago, & I will share the rest soon.
Here are a few of Laura’s cleanse friendly recipes from Food: A Love Story –
- Ayurvedic Recipes for Winter
- Detox Dahl: Healing Lentil Soup
- Cardamom Rice Pudding
- Soup for Sophia
- Sunshine Soup
Here is a ”basic” recipe for kichari, but I will be posting one soon!
The food was wonderful. Very filling & nourishing. This is certainly not a “fasting” cleanse! I must admit that I am not always self disciplined when it comes to cleansing, usually because I am STARVING! On this cleanse I felt satisfied after every meal, so I didn’t cheat! I also didn’t suffer too badly from the detox “crash” that often happening with juice cleanses. I was a bit head-achy for the first few days, but for the latter half of the week I felt clear & energized. It was a simple, wholesome way of eating, not far off from my normal diet, but definitely stricter! While I was not “perfect” on this cleanse (I had one cup of coffee on a particularly busy day at work), I was certainly impressed with myself & how diligently I adhered to the program. I definitely began to feel rejuvenated pretty early on & that was extememly motivating.
In addition to the diet, we were also encouraged to practice some self care rituals. In the mornings – a gentle yoga practice, dry brushing & “abhyanga” an aroma therapeutic self massage. In the evenings – a warm epsom salt bath, drink a cup of Smooth Move tea & take Triphala, an Ayurvedic colon cleansing herb. We were also encouraged to abstain from mass media, & limit our time on social media, in order to allow our minds & spirits a bit of cleansing as well. Many of these practices I’ve already established, so it was easy for me to keep up the routine.
I also wanted to mention that I made the decision to allow local honey & consciously sourced ghee into my diet for the purpose of experiencing a true Ayurvedic cleanse. I guess that make me a “ghee-gan?” Ghee, considered “liquid gold,” is recommended for a host of ailments ranging from poor digestion to memory loss. Ayurveda places ghee, or clarified butter, at the top of the oily foods list, as it has the healing benefits of butter without the impurities (saturated fat, milk solids). Ghee is considered to be beneficial for the whole body, & is a long a favorite of yoga practitioners (like myself), as it lubricates the connective tissues & promotes flexibility. In traditional Ayurveda, the preparation has been used to promote memory, intelligence, & to enhance digestion. Modern science tells us that ghee also harbors phenolic antioxidants, which bolster the immune system. You can make your own ghee (Laura has a DIY video here) or purchase it in health food stores. In San Diego, it is available at the farmers’ market from Spring Hill, but my cousin recommended the Ancient Organics brand sold at the co-op. From an ethical stand point, it was a hard decision to make. I could certainly have used coconut oil in the recipes & they would’ve turned out just fine. But as I have been feeling os imbalanced, & was allured & intrigued by ghee’s healing claims. I turned to my friend vegan chef pal Katie, who studied Ayurvedic cooking & she said “do what makes you feel best. No one is a perfect vegan.” So I researched the dairy behind Ancient Organics Ghee, Straus Organic Family Creamy & after reading this, I felt a little bit better about my decision to give ghee a try. I know many of you will not agree with this, but it was a personal decision that took a great amount of consideration, I respect your views & choices, so please honor & respect mine. While I will likely not make ghee a regular part of my diet, I will probably continue to use it in small amounts in my Ayurvedic cooking.
After 5 days of gentle nourishing foods, & soul warming practices, I was feeling almost back to life. I had more energy, my mind was clearer & more focused, my digestion felt stable, & I’d slept better than I had in months. This is a way of living & eating I could definitely get used to.
I’ll be back soon for Part II, where I will discuss the “Weekend Re-Integration” phase, & share more recipes & insights.