Ayurveda offers structured guidance and many useful tips for prepping your body to feel your best from the inside out, season by season. Here are five practices to help you out of a rut, to help you look and feel your best this summer:
1. Develop a morning sun salutation routine.
Sun salutations (surya namaskar) are an excellent full-body workout and provide an excellent burst of cardio. Start first thing in the morning with a set of 15 to 20 sun salutations. For toned arms and a strong core, spend a little extra time in your chaturanga. Stretch weary legs by going deeper into downward dog. Back troubles? Spend extra time in cobra to strengthen back muscles. Want to break a sweat? See how many sets you can do in five minutes.
2. Choose the right foods.
Eating healthy probiotics like yogurt during the day increases the amount of gut-healthy bacteria in our digestive tracts. This facilitates efficient digestion and prevents belly bloat. Also reduce the amount of high-fructose or sugar-containing foods from your diet. Not only are fructose, trans fats, saturated fat, and omega-6 fats hard on the digestive system, but they also cause inflammation in your digestive system.
Some additional tips from ayurveda? Sip water between meals (though ice water and fruit juice with your meal are to be avoided).
3. Hydrate throughout the day.
Many people don’t realize that they sometimes mistake thirst for hunger and eat when they’re actually supposed to drink! Keep yourself hydrated with a consistent amount of water throughout the day. Chugging large amounts all at once can shock the system and cause swelling, so drink slowly. The fluids will help move food along the digestive system, hydrate your bowels, and flush out waste, ultimately preventing bloating. You can try these creative ways to stay hydrated, including eating fruits such as watermelon, pineapple, and cantaloupe, all of which have high water content and potassium levels. Papaya also helps the movement of the bowels.
4. Eat right for summer.
We’ve already mentioned that fruits like watermelon can help you stay hydrated—but have we also mentioned that they’re Pitta dosha pacifying? This means that they are cooling to a fiery digestive system and season, which makes for a healthier intestine and gut all summer long for optimal energy and digestion. Cooking your vegetables will improve the ease of digestion and promote optimal nutrient absorption. Here is a selection of what ayurveda constitutes as "recommended" foods for summer:
- Eat more green leafy vegetables to increase your fiber intake and magnesium levels, which are all essential to rejuvenating gut muscle function so that gut contractions function properly.
- You can also try brown rice and oats.
- Try chomping on a banana for your midday snack, and add ginger and peppermint teas to superpower digestion and metabolism.
- Apples, apricots, pomegranates, pears, peaches, and persimmons are good for you to eat, as are asparagus, beets, eggplant, garlic, leafy greens, cabbage, lettuce, and mushrooms.
- Consume oils sparingly, and preferably use almond or sunflower oil when you do.
There are some foods you'll want to skip, too. Avoid foods that increase Kapha, especially because one condition of Kapha is something we’d all like to avoid: excess fat! Ice cream, cheese, and yogurt are all culprits (goat’s milk and derived products are acceptable—these actually help to reduce Kapha). Sweet and sour fruits like grapes, oranges, plums, and grapefruits are heat-generating and not ideal for summer consumption. Sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini are also not recommended, and you should especially avoid meat such as pork and beef.
5. Combine dry brushing with essential oils.
Dry brushing is a traditional ayurvedic practice used to detox the lymphatic system and recharge the skin. This ritual causes microscopic scratches on the skin’s surface, which triggers blood to come to the rescue by improving circulation to the brushed area, which helps create new skin cells.
How to do it? Using a vegetable-bristle dry brush, brush gently up and toward the heart in semicircular motions, just until the skin becomes slightly red.
The way we supercharge it? Pure essential oils.
Oils like cypress, juniper berry, and patchouli will help with fluid retention, while rosemary, cinnamon, and citrus oils will help to further improve blood circulation. Mix 3 to 4 drops of your desired oil(s) or blends with 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil (like almond or jojoba oil) and massage into the skin. Your skin will feel completely revitalized and may even tingle slightly. You’ll also smell divine!