In the winter, many people feel heavy, lethargic, and emotionally drained. This comes at a time of year which, in Ayurvedic terms, is considered kaphic, or influenced by the elements of earth and water, with cool, heavy, and dull energy that can manifest in the body as excess mucous, lethargy, and weight gain.
As winter turns to spring, the body, like the earth, will begin to shed this heavy energy. But for now, we can take some tips from Ayurveda to begin to heat up our digestive fire, rev up our metabolism, and help the body begin to melt away the excess, physical and energetic, that may have accumulated over the past few months.
I thought I would share some gems about agni—your fire. More specifically we’ll talk about your digestive fire and the secret of great digestion. Boosting our digestive fire is key to shedding excess weight and getting back to feeling vital and energized. Agni is what transforms and assimilates what we are taking in, whether it is food, life experiences or thoughts.
If you want to feel vital and beautiful, the dietary secret is universal:
Good Digestion + Good Assimilation/Absorption + Good Elimination = Feeling Like a Bombshell
Being an Ayurveda bombshell isn’t about the way you look. Being a bombshell is about how you feel. We all know that eating the right foods is essential for a beautiful body, good skin, a clear mind, and energetic balance. What we may not be aware of is that healthy eating is not enough. The best food on the planet can’t help you if you don’t have the digestive fire to transform and assimilate what you are putting in your body.
Simple Ways to Boost Your Belly Fire
Start the day with lemon. Drink a cup of warm lemon water first thing in the morning. About one quarter of a medium-sized lemon in a normal coffee cup full of water will suffice.
Fire starter for your belly. One of the easiest and most effective ways of boosting the digestive fire is to eat fresh ginger. I recommend placing a few strips of thinly sliced ginger into a bowl with the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of rock salt. Eat a slice about 15 minutes before meals to stimulate your digestive enzymes.
Eat while the sun shines. Eat light at night. Soups and milky/spicy herbal teas at night make the belly happy and help us detox.
Best in solitude. Drink milk alone or with things that are sweet (such as grains, honey, brown sugar). Milk digests best when it is hot and spiced.
Dine with the stars. Get to know these superstar medicinal spices: turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, fennel, black pepper.
Get to know ginger in your liquids. Drink more ginger tea. Fresh ginger is best but bagged ginger tea works as well. Drinking ginger and other spiced teas at night helps, too.
Get some herbal support. Trikatu and triphala are Ayurvedic herbal formulas widely known for boosting metabolism, stimulating digestion, and cleaning out the body. You can find them at places like Whole Foods or online through Banyan Botanicals.
Improve and prioritize elimination (your poo). Eat freshly prepared foods. Leftovers lead to less-than-perfect poo. Eat fiber-rich foods to improve stool quality.
Stop the grazefest. In general, snacking on foods before the previous snack has been digested leads to sinking, toxic poos.
Get out in the elements. Breathe deeply as you take a daily 30-minute brisk walk outdoors. Move your body and let the sun shine on your skin.
Salute the sun and the fire. Around this time of year, start incorporating more rhythmic flows like Sun Salutations into your yoga practice to help heat the body. Twists in particular will help stoke belly fire, and burn away sluggishness and lethargy. End your practice by meditating on a fire in your belly. Throw in any old grievances into this inner flame.
Loosen the lymph. Sipping hot water throughout the day helps loosen and detoxify the lymphatic system, which tends to get sluggish during the winter months. Make tea by boiling water and then adding the following spices, allowing them to steep for at least 15 minutes before straining the water and drinking the tea:
Digestive Booster: 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds.
Winter Spice: 3 thin slices of fresh ginger, 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds, 1/4 tsp. fennel seeds, 2 black peppercorns, a pinch of cardamom). I keep my tea in a thermos and drink all day. (Frequency of intake is more important than volume.)
Say “yum,” and mean it. When we love what we are eating, when it smells and looks good, our bodies are listening and we digest better. Eat while sad or angry, and you can see the emotion in the “motion.”
Beware fire-dampening habits. Watch what you do while not eating. It blew my mind to find out that energy-wasting habits, seemingly unrelated to mealtimes, also dampen the metabolic fire. Gossiping, watching the news or gossip-loving TV talk shows, engaging in arguments, talking for the sake of filling the silence, or obsessively checking email are all examples of agni killers.