We all know that a balanced diet and daily exercise routine is essential to a healthy mind and body. However, these are some great ayurvedic practices that can assist in weight-loss, detoxify the body, and also provide many other health benefits.
A study done at UC San Francisco took 47 overweight women and divided them into two groups. One group received training in “mindful eating” and meditated 30 minutes a day. During the 4 month period, the women who meditated loss up to more than a pound of belly fat and showed a big decrease in their cortisol levels (linked to stress)- while the control group continued gaining weight.
There are so many different forms of meditation- from breath awareness and moving meditation (yoga) to mantras. Chose the ones that resonate with you and stick with them- the more you practice the easier it will become.
2. Pranayama (Breathing Exercises)
Deep diaphragmatic breathing clears the lungs from carbon-dioxide, and increases oxygen intake, providing our bodies with more vital energy. Deep belly breathing massages our internal organs and promotes digestion by stimulating metabolism and encouraging peristalsis.
Kapalbhati is a breathing technique that uses your abdominal muscles to pull in your belly along with repeated forceful exhalations. This is said to strengthen the agni (digestive fire) and actually gives your abdomen a nice workout.
3. Tongue Scraping
This oral hygiene practice has been proven to remove toxins on your tongue better than a toothbrush. If your taste buds are covered by bacteria and plaque, it makes it harder to taste your food. This typically leads to either going overboard with the salt shaker, loading up on sweeteners, and can lead to overeating.
Place the tongue scraper as far back on your tongue as comfortable. Using firm but gentle pressure slide the scraper from the back of your tongue to the tip. Rinse and clean off the scraper and repeat until there is no chalky residue left (takes about 1-2 minutes). `
4. Oil Pulling
Just like in tongue scraping, when you remove toxins and bacteria from the mouth it leads to detoxification of the body. Dr. F. Karach, MD. (responsible for introducing oil pulling to the modern world) claimed that it has the ability to treat various illnesses, ranging from digestive disorders to heart disease.
Take a tablespoon (or two) of cold pressed organic sesame or coconut oil and vigorously swish it around in your mouth (like you would mouthwash). After about 15-20 minutes, spit the saponified oil out and dispose of it.
Numerous studies have shown the amazing health benefits of massage, including lowered blood pressure, increased muscle tone, stress reduction, and increased lymphatic flow (thereby reducing edema). The National Institute of Health did a study in 2009 concluding that abdominal massage successfully reduced constipation and increased bowel movements. If you aren’t able to get to a spa, try a self-abhy massage with any high quality organic oil:
Warm the oil and apply it to the entire body from your scalp to your toes.
Take more oil and spend some time on each area of your body using circular movements over the joints and long strokes over the long areas of your body like the forearms and thighs.
Make sure to spend some time where there are nerve endings including your scalp, hands, and feet.
Massage your abdomen in a clockwise motion (in the direction of peristalsis) for improved digestion.
Put some love into your self massage and take your time. Ayurveda suggests using either Sesame or Coconut oil.
6. Sweat (Swedana)
Your skin is the largest organ of detoxification. When pores are exposed to heat they enlarge and allow impurities to be released from the body through the sweat glands. Sweating also increases circulation and helps to lose excess water weight.
Swedana is also the name of a blissful ayurvedic spa treatment that includes a full body oil massage followed by steam. It mobilizes the toxins which are then sweat out through the pores.
Whether its hitting up the sauna at the gym or taking a hot bath- get your sweat on (and make sure to hydrate while doing so!)
7. Basti (Enema)
This therapeutic treatment uses herbalized oil which is introduced into the rectum with the purpose of lubricating the intestinal tract and flushing out toxins. Okay, I get it, this may not be for everyone, but after seeing literally thousands of people go through panchakarma (an ayurvedic cleansing program) and get basti’s everyday for about a week, the results and changes are undeniable.
8. Eat Your Largest Meal at Lunchtime
Ayurveda believes the digestive fire is at it’s peak when the sun is at its highest point in the sky (from about 12-1pm). This is not to say you should start throwing down at an all you can eat buffet for lunch. The point is to make your breakfast and dinner meals ones that are smaller and more easily digested.
9. Rest up
A sleep study at Case Western Reserve University, done by Sanjay Patel, MD, followed 68,183 women for 16 years. The results showed the women who slept for 5 hours or less per night were almost a third more likely to gain weight of 30 pounds or more compared to those who got at least 7 hours per night.
Make your environment conducive to sleep by getting your bedroom as pitch black as possible. Even the little glowing lights on your alarm clocks and cellphones can affect the quality of sleep. So, shut it all down!
Take a warm bath with some epsom salts and soothing essential oils (try lavender or chamomile) and give yourself an oil massage afterwards.
Keep electronic visual stimulation (i.e. computers, cellphones, and television) to a minimum, 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Wake up early (preferably at sunrise) and go to bed at a decent time (around 9-10pm).
10. Laugh Out Loud (lol!)
The Mayo Clinic states that laughter releases endorphins, stimulates blood circulation, and promotes relaxation. Ever had a really good belly laugh that led to your tummy muscles aching? Nuff said. Watch a good comedy movie, tell funny jokes, and don’t forget to laugh at yourself!
The Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Southern CA, has a whole class dedicated to getting downright silly called laughter yoga. Attendees have reported feelings of ecstatic joy and weightlessness. So, laugh hard and laugh often to lighten up!
11. Drink Warm Water and Ginger Tea
Cold water can actually impede on your digestive functions. Instead, drink a lot of warm water and ginger tea throughout the day and with meals. Ginger tea is also believed to increase agni (digestive fire) and promote digestion.
Start off with one cup of ginger tea in the morning and if it feels right, increase your intake to 2-4 cups a day.
12. Use the Six “Tastes” in Every Meal
Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent are considered the 6 tastes in ayurveda, and are preferably included in every meal. Every fruit, veggie, grain, nut, and legume have a particular “taste” or combination of a few. If it gets too confusing, try these simple tricks:
Use an ayurvedic spice blend that includes spices such as coriander, ginger, mustard, turmeric, cinnamon, and cayenne and sprinkle on your meals.
Chose whole foods with a variety of different colors (eat rainbow colored meals).
13. Don’t Eat While Feeling Overly Emotional
If we eat while feeling stressed or emotional we don’t process foods as well. When we are preoccupied by intense feelings, chances are we are not paying attention to the food we are eating. This can lead to poor diet choices, overeating, and feeling less satisfied after a meal. So, wait until the storm passes before picking up your fork.
Breathe deeply and on every exhalation imagine letting the feelings pass. Repeat until you feel clear and centered. Then enjoy some nourishment!
14. Take Your Time and Chew
Chewing is the first step in the digestive process. As we chew, digestive enzymes are produced by our salivary glands that assist in breaking our food down. Chew your food until it is as liquified as possible before swallowing. Chewing for a longer period also gives our stomach more time to signal to our brain that we are full, preventing us from eating more than necessary.
15. Eat in Silence
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing like eating a good meal while chatting it up with friends and family. Just give “mindful eating” a try- take in the wonderful aromas and really zoom in on the textures and flavors of food, you may end up feeling more satisfied after a meal. Eating in silence also makes it easier to “hear” your body signal that you are full, preventing overeating. Take your time and be truly thankful for what nature provides and enjoy every bite!