Our main purpose here at MOM’s is to restore the environment. Typically for me it means outward actions of recycling, reusing, and enlightening others on how they can do that too. So on the flip side, what does environmental restoration look like internally?
We can think of our bodies as microcosms of mother earth. We have mountains and valleys, self-explanatory; weather systems, think about how a good cry wracks the body; and pollutants, attacking us from every direction.
So how can we keep our bodies in balance with all that goes on internally as well as externally? I decided to participate in an ayurvedic cleanse to give the ancient life science the old college try. Ayurveda comes from India where it was believed that they were chosen to learn this precious wisdom. For centuries it thrived as the way to heal people in that country until British occupation. I’ve heard anecdotally that they took the number of Ayurvedic colleges from hundreds when they arrived down to less than 5 when they eventually left. It has seen a rise in popularity in recent years as an alternative to our drug happy western approach to solving health problems.
In Ayurveda you don’t need medicine because you simply use the wisdom in food to bring the body into a healthy balance. I find it utterly fascinating and it perpetuates my belief that when things work they last. Without getting too deep here are a few basics.
Dosha – this is your constitution, there are only 3 so go with what describes you the most. One will always be the main dosha although all 3 are present in each of us all the time.
1. Vata – ruled by air, these people tend to be thin, maybe even classified as scattered, or a dreamer if you will.
2. Pitta – ruled by fire, these types are usually medium, muscular build, are persistent, they have ‘fire in the belly’
3. Kapha – ruled by water, these are mother earth, nurturers, their bodies tend to have soft round edges
I am a Pitta person. I can be intense, and sometimes not in a good way. But I digress…
So why does a ‘dosha’ matter? Because it helps you figure out how to bring yourself into harmony with nature. You may have noticed that those 3 descriptions are all essential elements. Air, Fire, and Water. They key is knowing the principle of opposites. If you’re ruled by air, you need something grounding to balance you out. Fire needs coolness and water needs dryness.
Our spring cleanse focused on coming out of the winter season, governed by Kapha. Makes sense right, it’s typically a time when we retreat to the indoors spending more time with people. We may even add some rounder edges to our frames by eating heavier meals. Our goal was to help get the excess water out of the body in a gentle manner. And yet, this was not a depriving cleanse in fact I swear I ate more on it than I normally do!
We started by focusing on foods that are warming, using spices in an intellectual way to help the body work better. We used a lot of ginger, coriander, anise, and fennel. These are all digestive aids. We also drank warm lemon water in the morning to help the liver be a better detoxifier. That was pretty much it for the first week. Not so hard.
The second week featured a mono-diet of kitchari (kitch-a-ree). Kitchari is a generic term for porridge but traditionally it is a potage of split mung and basmati rice with heating spices. The theory is that it is very nourishing and easily digested. This allows the body to focus on healing and detoxifying instead of constantly trying to digest food. Three squares a day and no snacks. Hmmm. I found it to be delicious and filling though. For 4 days I ate nothing but kitchari. As a foodie you may think I would have found it boring but on the contrary it was kind of liberating. Instead of constantly thinking about what I was going to eat at my next meal my mind was free to think about all sorts of other things. It also left me feeling light and energetic.
The final week consisted of eating all kinds of bitter greens from spring. Purslane, dandelion, arugula, etc. Radishes were a nice feature as well as fermented foods to repopulate our internal flora and fauna. Since the internal environment is now clean we can put in the good stuff, all kinds of micronutrients to restore our health.
From here the journey continues to try to eat in accordance to the seasons and my dosha. To reiterate from earlier, the key to Ayurveda is knowing the principle of opposites. So I guess if you see me rockin’ a popsicle just recognize I’m trying to quell that inner fire 😉
So that’s been my informal internal environmental restoration project. Now that I’ve got ‘me’ figured out it’s back to the real crusade. Cheers!
Claudia works at MOM’s central.