It’s spring, but in Tahoe we are just winding down our epic winter of more than 700 inches of snow — many of us will be skiing into the summer. When it comes to thinking about a spring cleanse, our seasonal cycles don’t necessarily line up with the spring equinox. Here in the mountains, especially this year, a May cleanse is the perfect time to give our bodies a break from the foods that carry us through the winter season but aren’t always the best for our overall health. Also, environmental toxins build up over time.
An Ayurvedic cleanse helps our bodies adjust to seasonal changes. Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. The ancient Indian science purports to be more than 5,000 years old and is based on the premise of balancing one’s individual constitution. The word Ayurveda translates as, “the sacred knowledge of life.”
There are three doshas, or functional energies, in Ayurvedic medicine: pitta, vata and kapha. Each dosha is governed by different elements — air, water, fire earth, ether — and the three gunas, or characteristics: rajas, tamas and sattva. A balanced dosha helps to foster a healthy and centered life physically, mentally and spiritually. People with pitta doshas are generally fiery types, vata doshas tend to be more airy or windy, and kapha doshas tend to be earthy and slower moving. Most people are governed by more than one dosha. Balance is the key. In Ayurveda, it is important to align diet and lifestyle choices with one’s dosha.
READ MORE: Try Priya Hutner’s recipe for kitcherie
To figure out your dosha, you can take an online test (see below). Imbalances are relatively easy to recognize. Fatigue, skin problems, digestive issues and insomnia are just a few red flags that it might be a good time to explore a dietary shift.
A May cleanse is the perfect time to give our bodies a break from the foods that carry us through the winter season but aren’t always the best for our overall health.
Fiery pittas tend to be Type A personalities that would benefit from cooling foods and less aggressive exercise programs. A cooling yoga practice, such as moon salutation or yin yoga, might be helpful. Vatas can be ungrounded and often have digestive issues; they might benefit from eating more cooked foods and vegetables and less uncooked. A more grounded yoga practice, such as restorative or slow vinyasa, would be beneficial. Kaphas tend to be dense and slow moving and easily gain weight when imbalanced; they need fast-moving vinyasa and hot yoga. Kapha doshas do best to eat fewer calories and spicy foods and avoid dairy.
When flowers are blooming, there’s a tendency toward congestion. A break from dairy for a period of time could be beneficial. A simple cleanse might include kitcherie, a stew made of mung beans, basmati rice and vegetables. Some of the benefits of a kitcherie cleanse include better digestion, toxin and congestion elimination and increased energy.
Choose a period of time to cleanse. Consider a three- or seven-day period. If you drink coffee, slowly wean yourself off first. This can take up to a week for those who rely on java to get their day going. Start by mixing decaf into your usual full-strength cup until your morning cup of coffee is all decaf; then stop drinking coffee altogether. Eliminate all processed foods, dairy, meat, sugar, alcohol and caffeine from the diet.
Begin each morning with a cup of warm lemon water. For breakfast, eat kitcherie and vegetables or cooked spring fruits with cinnamon and cardamom. Make lunch the biggest meal: kitcherie, steamed vegetables and/or a green salad. If you have digestive issues, forget the salad and have cooked veggies. For dinner, eat light. Have a small bowl of kitcherie or vegetable soup or basmati rice and/or vegetables. Drink lots of warm water throughout the day and before meals.
Finding someone who is familiar with Ayurveda to guide you through a cleanse can be helpful or take an Ayurvedic workshop in a group setting. This is fun and offers a support system to help you through the cleansing process.
From the Kitchen of Priya Hutner
1 C split yellow mung beans
½ C basmati rice
1 T olive oil
1 small knob fresh ginger root, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 t cumin
1 t turmeric powder
½ t coriander powder
6 C water
½ C fresh cilantro leaves
1½ C vegetables, cut
Soak the split mung beans overnight, then drain. In a large pot, heat oil and add onions, garlic and ginger. Sauté until onions are translucent. Add mung beans and sauté for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add remaining water, basmati rice, ground spices and veggies. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add fresh cilantro, salt and pepper to taste. Braggs apple cider vinegar is a tasty addition Add more water if you like a soupier consistency.
If you have a pressure cooker put all the ingredients, except the veggies and cilantro, in the pressure cooker and put on bean setting. When the beans are finished cooking, add the veggies and cilantro and allow to steam cook for the last 8 to 10 minutes.