Ayurvedic Self-Care for the Holidays

Yes, I practice yoga and Ayurveda. I do postures, breathing, and meditation in the morning. Sipping hot water, scraping my tongue, and oiling my body are also daily rituals. I focus on clean eating and being in bed before 10:00 pm. I also have a full-time job, a full social life, and an amazing family.

I’m going to make the assumption that you, like me, are engaged in work, family, and social activity while attempting to live a conscious lifestyle. We are not in a cave in the Himalayas, spending hours upon hours in meditation, contemplation, and chanting. We are householders, living our yoga both on and off the mat.

So, what does this have to do with the holidays? Well, many of us will be engaged in a bit of holiday cheer this season. This might mean staying up past 10:00 pm more often; eating off the organic/vegetarian/sugar-free/gluten-free grid; and having a cocktail or two. Here are some ways to maintain balance in this time of celebration.

Eat early. Ayurveda teaches that lunch should be the biggest meal of the day. The digestive fire is hottest at high noon, like the midday heat of the sun. I know—most parties are at night. Try to eat as early in the evening as possible, and avoid noshing for the rest of the night. If you’re hosting a gathering, consider making it a brunch or late-afternoon meal. Eat your heavier foods first and lighter foods last.

Don’t stop moving. During the holiday season, keep doing your yoga. So many of us are overscheduled, overworked, and overtired during the holiday season. Continuing your yoga practice will support calm, stable energy; properly functioning digestion; and the patience to handle your busy schedule and those “challenging” relatives. Schedule time for doing yoga at home or going to a class; give it as much importance as holiday shopping and the other seasonal items on your to-do list. Whenever possible, take a 15- to 30-minute walk after big meals.

Try ginger for your GI tract. If you wake up in the morning feeling like a stuffed animal after that amazing cheese platter and that decadent flourless chocolate cake, don’t go out for breakfast or make pancakes at home. The course correction is to sip ginger tea until your appetite returns, which might take several hours. Ginger tea is warming, aids digestion, and burns off toxicity.

If you overdo it, rehydrate. It happens. When you drink a bit too much alcohol for your body’s comfort, the best remedy is to drown the hangover. Drink a glass of warm water in the morning (ice water slows down digestion). Drink coconut water—which is so hydrating that it was reportedly given intravenously during World War II when IV saline solution was in short supply.

Two Detoxifying Tonics

These two remedies for overindulging come from Vasant Lad’s The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies.

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon raw sugar, coconut sugar, or sucanat
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

Mix the first three ingredients and then add the baking soda. Drink a glass or two in the morning.

8 ounces warm water
1 tablespoon whole, plain yogurt
Pinch of cumin powder

Mix all ingredients and drink some three to four times during the day.

Have a happy, healthy holiday!

Erin Casperson, Lead Kripalu Faculty and Director of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, is passionate about sharing how the ancient practices of Ayurveda can be applied to modern-day living.

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