An anjali (handful) of rice. In Ayurveda the hand is used to measure quantities for cooking.
With the autumn well and truly upon us now is the last chance before the cooler weather kicks in to de-tox and reset our health. Ayurveda (the ancient Indian natural medicine model) doesn’t usually prescribe detoxing during the cooler seasons but the end of summer and seasonal juncture to autumn is a good time to purge the system of built up toxic materials (ama) before the cooler months. Cleansing veggie broths, dhals and herbal teas are a good focus at this time of year. Young ginger is now available in the farmers markets and a few slices in warm water creates a brew jam packed with spicy goodness. Here are five top tips to get you flourishing at this time of year:
Turmeric is good for everything and in everything! It’s a myth that an ayurvedically balanced meal has to be ‘Indian’ food, we can find balance and nourishment in all types of cuisine, but the traditional Indian root turmeric is anti-inflammatory and has a host of healing properties. Grate some up and add it to smoothies, soups, stews and rice during the cooking process. The fresh root (looks a little like ginger but more yellow) will be most effective – if you do use the powder make sure it’s not too old. Turmeric is also easy to sprout and grow yourself.
Get into the kitchen. It is all to easy to survive on a diet of take-out and convenience food especially if you live in an urban centre. This way of eating may even be quite healthy if you’re opting for green smoothies and chia bowls. But there is something irreplaceable about the connection to food and the nurturing qualities of eating if you’ve spent time and energy preparing it yourself. Pull out your favourite cook book, look online at vegetarian food blogs and get cooking. If you can chant some mantras and create a sacred space in your kitchen as you cook, all the better. As my teacher Maya Tiwari says ‘the kitchen is the most sacred space in your home’.
Notice what is happening in your physical and subtle body. Do not let niggling headaches, difficult menstruation or skin break outs become normal. Warning signs like these signal that your health is under stress and are the first opportunity to stop poor health taking a grip on your system. Likewise, if you are suffering from mild anxiety or depression you might look to the subtle body as a way of building your reserves … meditation, yoga asana and deep relaxation could all be profoundly helpful. If you live near the ocean the cooling salt water is incredibly therapeutic both energetically and physically – jump in!
Digital de-tox (for better sleep and attention span). Unplug from all digital devices at least an hour before bed and resist the temptation to go online for at least an hour after rising. Limit the number of times in the day you get online, especially if you’re using it as an antidote to boredom or the virtual world is encouraging you to disengage from family or friends. Many yogic texts, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika specifically, speak of the importance of the moments or rising and falling asleep each day. Honour these sacred daily junctures and bring mindfulness to them.
Notice the seasons. Have a look at the flora and fauna surrounding you at different times of the year, even if you live in the city. Start to notice which flowers bloom when and which fruits and vegetables are in season and abundant at different times. In general, local and in season produce will always be the best for your health wherever you are in the world. Ayurveda teaches us that life and our health moves in cycles; active and restful, hot and cool, night and day. The seasonal cycles are a mirror for this and we can respond to them to fortify our wellbeing.
Katie Manitsas is a senior yoga teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner based in Sydney. She offers an annual Advanced Yoga teacher training which incorporates many elements of Ayurvedic education as well as scriptural study and more.