Our fascination with Ayurveda has only grown as we’ve become more familiar with the holistic fields of nutrition. Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing from India, thought to be the oldest in human existence. As Deepak Chopra describes, “It provides guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior and the proper use of our senses. It reminds us that health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.” Ayurveda addresses the body not only as a whole unto itself, but also how the body relates to its environment. As the environment changes, we must change how we treat our body. This concept is reflected by how we choose what foods to eat, especially as the season changes. So with winter upon us, we’re learning how to eat in season with Claire Ragozzino.
Claire is a certified yoga instructor and holistic nutrition educator who focuses on Ayurveda. Through her blog, The Vidya Cleanse, and one-on-one consultations, she shares plant-based recipes (like this amazing winter kitchari with ginger cilantro chutney) advice, stories that inspire holistic wellness, her favorite healing herbs, and of course, killer superfood juice recipes. She’s walking us through the basics of Ayurveda, how to use the ancient kitchari recipe for cleansing and healing the body, and how these timeless principles can help guide you through the coldest winter months…
Moving into the new year, you may be feeling the effects of that endless grazing on holiday fare right about now. The combination of rich meals, poor food combining and stress can lead to the accumulation of toxins in the body, known as ama. Ama is formed when agni, your digestive fire, is low. Excess ama in the body and mind can be physically felt and seen, leading to weakened digestion and low immune system function. A simple Ayurvedic cleanse can help rekindle a weak digestive fire to gently detoxify and renew balance in the body and mind after the heavy holidays.
Ayurveda & Cleansing
Ayurveda, which translates to the science of life, is the study of our health in relation to the elements and the cyclical rhythms of the earth – think seasons and moon cycles. In Ayurveda, everything in nature, including ourselves, can be categorized by three primal energies, known as doshas, which consist of the five elements. Vata dosha, the element of air and ether, governs fall and early winter, and the nervous and eliminatory system of the body. Pitta dosha, the element of fire and water, governs late spring and summer, and manages the metabolism, digestion and endocrine functions. Kapha dosha, the element of earth and water, governs the late winter and early spring, and regulates the water in the tissues and lymphatic system. We seek inner harmony through balancing these elements within us in accordance to what elements are showing up around us. Through self-study, we begin to apply this science as a way to align with this beautiful cyclical dance of nature.
The core beliefs of Ayurveda recognize that nature heals disease, and the body has the ability to heal itself when assisted properly. Diet and lifestyle stand as the principle medicine of Ayurveda. The practice of purposeful, seasonal cleansing is considered a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, used to restore inner harmony and balance with each season. A deep Ayurvedic cleanse is best conducted in spring to release the accumulation of excess kapha in the body after a long winter of heavy meals and sluggish activity. However, with the new year upon us, it’s a perfect time to get a jumpstart on the process by following these three simple tips to support everyday detox during the winter months.
3 Simple Tips to Detox in Winter
A basic Ayurvedic cleanse uses the principles of mono-dieting to give rest to the digestion by eating a singular diet of kitchari for a period of time. Kitchari is an ancient healing combination of mung beans, rice and spices. This simple one pot meal is easy to make and to digest, allowing the body to use less energy on digestive functions, and more on clearing and metabolizing ama. The combination of rice and mung beans make a complete protein, meaning you receive enough nutrients to sustain a restful daily routine from this dish alone. The spices – like ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin and fennel – do deepana (stoking of agni) and pachana (burning of toxins) to cleanse the blood and digestive tract. To conduct a simple whole food cleanse at home, lovingly make a pot of the kitchari recipe below and enjoy this 2-3 times a day alongside herbal digestive teas, like ginger and fennel tea.
Dinacharya is the art of self-care. In Sanskrit, dina means day, sun or flow, and charya means to practice or conduct. These rituals were developed to keep the body in tune with the daily rhythms of nature. To create your morning routine, wake up with the sun, set your intentions for the day ahead, cleanse the senses by oil pulling and tongue scraping to purify the mouth, do neti kriya to rinse the nasal passages, dry skin brushing to stimulate lymphatic drainage, and oil massage to sooth the skin before bathing. Finish your morning routine with meditation, conscious movement and a mindful breakfast. Establishing a nourishing daily routine in the sacred morning hours creates a positive foundation for the rest of your day.
Rest & Reflect
After the rush of the holidays, it’s important to move slowly and allow time for rest and restoration. Excessive activity, stress, and anxiety can lead to adrenal fatigue, disturbed sleep and indigestion creating a toxic environment in the body and mind that contributes to winter weight gain. Rather than punishing your body with aggressive exercise to get back in shape, consider granting yourself the permission and space for deep rest and reflection. Meditation, gentle yoga, afternoon naps and time in nature can bring a deeper sense of renewal and alignment so that your true health intentions for the year ahead can begin to emerge.
Winter Kitchari with Ginger Cilantro Chutney
makes 2 cups
1 cup sprouted mung beans
¾ cup basmati or brown rice
2 pieces kombu
2 bay leaves
10 cups water
2 tbsp ghee (use coconut oil for vegan variation)
2 tbsp yellow mustard seed
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp ginger, fresh grated or powder
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp asafoetida
1/2 bunch kale or spinach, chopped
1/2 zucchini, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 sweet potato, diced
Ginger Cilantro Chutney
2 bunches cilantro
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup water
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut
3 in fresh ginger
1 Tbsp raw honey
1 tsp Himalayan pink salt
Combine the mung beans, rice, kombu and bay leaves in a large pot. Add 10 cups of water to start, or enough to cover mixture with 3-4 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. While cooking, heat a separate saucepan. Add in your ghee or coconut oil, then stir in all your spices. On low, heat the spices gently to release the aromas – careful not to burn. Then pour into your cooking pot of rice/mung beans. Continue to cook on low for about 45 minutes. Check occasionally and stir to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. If using, add veggies in the last 20 minutes of cooking. For very well cooked and soupy kitchari, add more water to reach desired consistency.
Add cilantro, lemon juice and water to a high-speed blender. Pulse until well combined. Add the remaining ingredients and blend into a paste. Store in an airtight glass container for up to one week.