LUCIA BYRNE has some naturopathic tips for those looking to boost their energy levels and their vitality and says for those living in temperate climes, Spring has a powerful impact on our Vital Force.
March, UK. We welcome you. Gentle misty mornings, mindful movements and the cheerful daffodils standing tall. After a cold and crisp winter, March gifts us spring; a reminder to uncurl ourselves from our warm winter cocoons. It’s the end of the hibernation period and the start of the preparation for a season of revival and reinvigoration.
There are no better months than March and April (for those living in more temperate climates) to recharge and reboot our sense of Vitality. You can think of Vitality as being the Vital Force, the Prana or the Qi/Chi that flows in each and every one of us. It is a vital energy that both supports and promotes optimum health. It prevents and cures disease in the body, bringing us back into a healthy balance, lifts our spirits and boosts that glorious feeling of wellness.
According to naturopathic principles, health is far more than the ‘absence of infirmity’. When we talk about being healthy, we are talking about a physiological and psychological state of abundant vitality. There are many people with no history or diagnosis of a medical condition who still lack energy and vitality. Relatable, right? Sadly, certain culprits have become the warp and weft of our daily living including stress, poor dietary choices and lifestyle habits. These then work to squash, squander and suppress our vitality. Naturopaths understand and recognise that the vital force has been blocked, barricaded or diminished and they use natural approaches to help achieve a state of abundant Vitality.
So, what’s the big secret?
Healthy children have it and you can see it shining from their pores. Pregnant women often have it too – when it is referred to as that ‘special glow’. But the most beautiful thing about Vitality is that it can be recaptured so easily just by implementing a few very simple steps.
Vital Force is restored through fresh air, daily doses of sunshine, clean water, fasting, a healthy diet and detoxification. You can probably implement the first four steps easily into your daily routine but you may need a little more steering and direction on the final two — diet and detoxification.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Everyone has heard the quote: “Let food be thy medicine”, famously coined by Hippocrates, the acclaimed Father of Modern Medicine. And it’s no secret that eating nutritious foods is one of the simplest mechanisms for improving health, healing and vitality.
Diet has been recognised as a profound supporting pillar to health since the beginning of time. It is one of the principles of Ayurveda, an ancient intricate natural system of health and wellness, originating in India, some say as long as 5,000 years ago. Ayurveda literally translates as ‘the science of life’ and is recognised in India as a medical science deeply focused on healing as well as on maintaining the quality and longevity of life using soul-led sciences such as spirituality, psychology and philosophy.
According to Ayurveda, the cornerstone to health includes mind-body balance and using diet as a tool to ultimate health. Ayurveda recognises that each person has a unique constitution (dosha) which is indicative of certain foods and practices that help to keep the digestive fire (agni) burning bright, powering us through life. Not only do we digest food but we also digest emotions, senses and experiences around us. Therefore, a good strong digestion is pivotal to promoting vitality.
If your agni is set to a sluggish simmer, you can begin to feel stuck and depleted physically and emotionally. Unprocessed emotions and experiences are just as harmful as unprocessed foods, increasing the toxic load on the body and mind.
In modern Ayurveda, food is classified according to its nature — sattvic, rajasic or tamasic. Sattva is that feeling of waking up in the morning with the energy to take on the day. We all have sattva inside and should actively seek more of it. Sattva evokes intelligence, helps to mitigate infirmity, calls forward cognition and creativity and nourishes the body and mind with a sense of lightness. Sattvic foods give the body energy without taxing or extracting from it. Think of that feeling after a nourishing, healthy meal — grounded, energised and satisfied. That is sattva in full swing!
Think of incorporating some sattvic foods into your main meals for that feeling of vibrant vitality you have been longing for. Examples include whole foods such as fresh vegetables, juicy fruits, raw nuts, legumes and spices including turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, fennel and cardamom. The sattvic tastes are fresh, light, nourishing, sweet and juicy.
Fancy a brew bursting with Vitality? Then try the Ayurvedic Tridoshic Tea (recipe below) suitable for all dosha types.
BANISH THOSE ENERGY-SAPPING ‘BLUES’
So, let’s dip our toes into detoxification and discover why it’s important as part of healthy hygiene habits. Think of the human body as a home and the physical foundation for all of the body systems to reside in. The exterior form takes the brunt of external forces like the weather (rain, hail, shine), protecting the interior systems.
While the interior body systems are exposed to external stimuli regularly (through the senses), the body is interdependent on internal purification practices for the exterior to maintain its integrity and strength. Enmeshed in this is the liver, the body’s primary detoxification organ.
The liver is a warehouse that is continuously detoxifying on a daily basis and its strength and effectiveness are largely determined by a person’s health status. Although the liver acts in a transformational manner, it is not invincible and can become overburdened when it’s overwhelmed by toxins, lacking in, or not absorbing, essential nutrients.
In ancient Yogic tradition, detoxification practices known as shatkarmas are practised regularly in order to create harmony and allow Vitality to be expressed.
IN PERFECT BALANCE
Shatkarmas are used to balance the three doshas in the body
— vata, pitta and kapha. According to Ayurveda, an imbalance in the doshas can give rise to disease in the physical and mental bodies. Shatkarma practices are used before pranayama (techniques used to regulate the breath) and other higher yoga practices in order to purify the body of toxins.
There are six main purification practices that target specific locations around the body to enable purification.
- Jala neti is a process of cleansing and purifying the nasal passages using a neti pot of lukewarm saline water.
- Kapalabhati is a breathing technique known to purify the brain’s frontal regions and activate the digestive fire by toning the abdominal muscles.
- Trataka is the cleansing practice of intense gazing at one point or object which develops the power of consciousness.
- Basti shatkarma is a technique of washing and toning the large intestine.
- Nauli involves a method of massaging and strengthening the abdominal organs (not for Western practitioners).
- Dhauti is a series of three cleansing techniques that purify the stomach and the intestines.
While the spring season brings forth new growth and regeneration, this is a wonderful time to refresh our systems through gentle detoxification and those purification practices (above) that most resonate with you. True, for most Westerners, Dhauti may feel like a step too far, but if you are interested in exploring some of the practices mentioned above, I recommend working with an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner as contraindications, constitutions and cautions must be taken into consideration for everybody’s unique bio-individuality and above all, to prioritise safe and sound practice
Tridoshic CCF Tea
Cumin, coriander and fennel stimulate the digestive system, help the body remove toxins and increase nutrient assimilation. This tea is recommended throughout the day to keep the agni burning bright and the Vital Force strong.
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- 1 litre (1 ¾ pints water)