AYURVEDA TOOLS DURING THE HOLIDAYS • Meredith Carter
Meredith Carter is the Ayurveda superwoman you've been hearing about if you are apart of the Yogala community in Echo Park. Her workshops and knowledge have been so rewarding to partake in that I HAD to have her on here to share with you! If you're in the area today, I implore you to check out her workshop this evening at 5:30. Or treat yourself to understanding the doshas on a deeper level in her January workshop! For the rest of you that can't be there in person, Meredith was kind enough to share how we can keep our shit cool and grounded during this crazy holiday season full of stress and travel!
VATA-INSPIRED AYURVEDA FOR EVERYONE’S HOLIDAY
The holidays come at the height of the vata, or wind, season. No matter what your constitution, at some point we all feel like a bunch of scattered leaves this time of year. Here are some vata-inspired tips for everybody to keep you feeling warmed, held, hydrated and earthy.
GARGLE. Restless vata winds have all kinds of things blowing around. If you think you’ve been exposed to a cold or anything airborne, gargle immediately. Warm salt water is great. Adding a small pinch of ground cloves is even better as it breaks up congestion and counters the cause and pain of a sore throat. I only use non-irradiated spices since irradiation kills much of the natural healing qualities. You can gargle 5 to 10 times a day starting first thing. If you tongue scrap and oil pull in the morning, gargle first. So it’s -- gargle, scrape, pull, brush!
GHEE IMMUNITY TEA. Now is the perfect time of year to get into a daily ghee tea habit! In Ayurveda, we consider it a superfood, the best form of grounding fat for the body. It also lubricates the digestion and elimination processes, supporting the body’s natural ability to detox.
Taking ghee in a warm spiced tea is the perfect foil to the dry weather. Steep fresh ginger, turmeric*, ground fennel seeds, cinnamon, then strain and add some lime and 1/2 tsp of ghee. This recipe is great for immunity, congestion, cough, and aids in the digestion of richer foods like fat and sugar as well.
*Please be careful with the turmeric in this season. While it’s considered generally balanced for all the doshas, it is astringent just like the vata winds. If you have any dry conditions like constipation or parched skin, skip the turmeric and consider adding more ghee.
AGNI. In the cooler weather, sometimes our digestive fire, or agni, needs a little help to get warm and keep going. In Ayurveda, we call black pepper the spice king and ginger, the queen. Fresh ginger tea before meals builds agni to digest heavier holiday fare. A cup first thing in the morning jump starts the fire as well as helping with regularity. Any warming spices like black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, mustard, garlic, and fennel will have a similar digestive effect.
PRETOX. Holiday indulgences can go practically unnoticed if you start with clean slate. Consider a preemptive kitchari or juice cleanse. My favorite method takes 3 days: one day of kitchari, then a day of juice or simple soup, then back to kitchari. Triphala is a great detox accompaniment. It helps with digestion, indigestion, metabolism, it cleanses the blood, and keeps you regular. Please use as directed by R U Ved.
DETOX. Abhyanga is not typically thought of as a detox practice but it certainly is! As we massage, the oil loosens waste products or ama in the blood, skin, and extremities which we call the outer disease pathways. Circulation moves the ama from the deeper tissues to the central disease pathway, the GI tract, to be drained.
That said, abhyanga is one of those practices that is far greater than the sum of its parts. When you do abhyanga, you have the truly profound experience of feeling held in your self-made force field all day. It’s the perfect counterpoise to the sometimes unstable feeling of the season. Brahmi oil is great all over but especially on the soles of the feet. Banyan has how-to videos but I just slather and massage for a few minutes, sit in meditation for at least 5 minutes and then shower. Skip this practice if you have a fever or chills.
MUDRA. From a young age, faith has been an issue much of my life. Unshakable Trust Mudra can immediately circumvent the worry of a vata mind. I teach this mudra in my yoga classes in the autumn season but I personally feel the benefits throughout the year. Try layering this practice with the 4-6 breathe, breathing in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 6 for added effect. Just a few minutes is all you’ll need.
MANTRA. LAM is the bija or seed mantra for the root chakra. of course, it’s good for keeping our feet on the ground but I love it for any issues that come up around ‘our roots’ over the holidays. This can include family, cultural, location or anything the relates to where you’re coming from.
You can sing it aloud but it is just as effective when you repeat it silently in your mind. The key for this season is to go slow! Sing about 20% slower than you want to. Consider layering with music to get deeper. This is one of my favorite songs by my friend JD Emmanuel. He’s one of the original, old school new age music pioneers and an incredible human being. From an Ayurvedic perspective, most of his music is perfect for the vata season so I'd highly recommend checking out his whole catalog.
SLEEP. You’re probably well aware of ashwagandha. While we love tonic doses, you may want to consider stepping up your dose to help with sleep, stress, anxiety, immunity. Use as directed.
NIGHTCAP. In Ayurveda, we consider cow’s milk calming and laxative especially when its warm. Try this nighttime take on eggnog by heating a cup of cow or nut milk and add 1/4 tsp of nutmeg, 1/4 cardamom, a couple dates or a little maple syrup. Blend, drink, sleep.
STAY WARM BUT CHILL. While it’s not Ayurvedic, I'm finding CBD is a serious go-to for racing vata mind and anxiety. If you have some time to experiment this holiday do it with the best -- organic newcomer, Cosmic View. They offer free 15 minute consultations with cancer researcher Dr. Christine Skibola for all your concerns and queries. The doc and her co-founder daughter Nicole only use whole, intact plant and flower-based medicine. Their formula is unlike the industrial hemp CBD, most often found at your local health food store. Cosmic is different in that does not chemically extract compounds for optimal healing qualities. Think of their non-psychoactive 20:1 CBD as having the opposite of a cup of coffee in terms of the strength of the calming effects. Use as directed.