A 5,000-year-old practice meant to balance your mind, body, and spirit, ayurveda can seem a little intimidating for those just beginning their holistic well-being journey. Perhaps you, too, have always wanted to follow India's ancient principles but don't know where to start. Well, according to ayurveda expert and author Sahara Rose, it's actually not so difficult to fit the ancient practice into your lifestyle. After all, "Ayurveda is tapping into the wisdom that's already inside of you," she shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast.
Incorporating ayurvedic concepts into your daily routine doesn't have to require too many drastic lifestyle changes. In fact, you can start with just a few simple tweaks:
1. Drink something warm first thing in the morning.
Coffee lovers, don't rejoice just yet. "The first thing in the morning is the most important time to drink something warm—before coffee," Rose notes. That's because in ayurveda, you want your digestion to quite literally "warm up" before supplying it with food. "You're essentially waking your digestive system back up," she adds.
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Rose recommends any soothing, calming drink like warm water or tea. (Coffee, she says, is too stimulating for the body to handle first thing in the a.m.) She's actually partial to a cumin, coriander, and fennel seed tea (or "CCF tea," as she calls it), as these choice herbs work to balance all three doshas: Just let the herbs simmer in some hot water for about 10 minutes before sipping. Feel free to choose any anti-inflammatory herbs you have on hand, or stick to a simple warm lemon water. Whatever you choose, "A warm drink will rekindle that digestive fire."
2. If you eat breakfast, stick to soft foods.
On a similar note, you'll want to choose a morning meal that's not too hard on your digestive system. Warm, soft foods should do the trick, says Rose—think oatmeal or porridge. She likes to whip up a warm bowl of "om-meal" (note: not oatmeal; it's a sort of cauliflower and zucchini stew) as her first meal of the day. "It's warm, soupy, and mushy," she says—the perfect meal to gently wake up your digestive system, "so by the time it's lunch, you can absorb and break down nutrients you will provide."
3. Wait four to six hours between meals.
It's not a complete move toward intermittent fasting, but Rose mentions that your digestive system does need a substantial break between each time you eat. Specifically, "It takes four to six hours for us to digest food," she says, and according to ayurveda, your digestion "starts over," each time you consume a meal. "So if you eat again and again, you're starting digestion all over." You need to let it rest so that the system isn't overwhelmed.
In terms of when to eat, exactly, Rose recommends eating your biggest meal at lunchtime when the sun is the highest in the sky (your "digestive fire" tends to follow the sun, she says), with smaller meals in the morning and at night.
4. Drink water every 20 minutes.
To optimize your digestion, you'll want to constantly give your colon the hydration it needs, says Rose. Only, you don't want to be chugging down ice water, here. No, Rose recommends taking small sips of water every 20 minutes. As for the temperature, she notes it should be as similar to your internal organs as possible, so it doesn't require any energy expenditure—ideally, a tad above room temperature fits the bill. You can also sip on the aforementioned CCF tea, if you so choose, but the real kicker here is to constantly drink to keep your body hydrated. "Go after frequency rather than quantity," she notes.
Another expert ayurvedic tip: "If you notice every 20 minutes you are getting thirsty, that's a sign you are perpetually dehydrated," Rose says.
Ayurveda may date back thousands of years, but that doesn't mean you can't incorporate it into daily modern life. Start with small tweaks, like these four basic principles, and see how you feel. If you notice any beneficial changes to your digestion or overall well-being, perhaps take a gander at the other ayurvedic concepts you can incorporate into your life.