Ayurveda for Elephants

At the end of July in Kerela, India, an ayurvedic rejuvenation ritual begins. Those involved are treated to a balanced diet; good, restorative rest; baths that last over an hour and include vigorous scrubbing, massage, and palm leaves; and a regiment of ayurvedic and allopathic medicines to promote optimum cleansing and good health. This is a truly unforgettable experience, especially because those getting the treatment are known for their memories. That, and their massive trunks.

Yes, the lucky individuals getting this royal treatment are elephants. Starting in March, a season full of festivals requires elephant owners (including temples) to traipse their magnificent animals around for months on end. At the end of the season, the elephants are treated to sukhachikitsa, an ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy, which helps them rest and restore for the following year.

You don’t need to be an elephant to benefit from a similar ritual. Ayurveda encourages us to engage in seasonal cleansing to maintain optimum health. As the days are getting shorter and colder, it’s the perfect time to explore a cleansing ritual of your own.

Ayurvedic medicine believes that digestion is key to good health. When our digestive systems aren’t working properly, either due to us eating certain foods or just having inefficient body systems, small bits of food remain undigested. This undigested matter is known as ama in ayurveda, and is believed to turn toxic the longer it remains in the body. Further, ama impedes the digestive process even further, which allows more toxins to build up in our bodies.

How do we know that we’re in need of a cleanse? Watch out for the following signs, adapted from AyurBalance.com:

  • A white coating on your tongue in the morning when you wake up
  • Feeling tired after a meal
  • Feelings of lethargy or low energy despite eating and sleeping well
  • Poor appetite or junk food cravings
  • A general lack of motivation or zest for life
  • Feeling “spaced out”; your mind is cloudy
  • Abdominal bloating and gas, especially after a large meal
  • Feeling heavy, congested or constipated
  • A general sense of malaise, with vague aches and pains

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you might want to make like an elephant and embark on a sukhachikitsa. You can either research online to find recommendations on an at-home cleanse, or seek out an ayurvedic specialist in your area. Regardless, you can incorporate some ayurvedic principals in your life by doing the following:

1.    Eliminate ama-enhancing foods – anything with preservatives, additives or chemicals. Junk food should also be avoided, as should caffeine and alcohol.  Fresh foods are best, but raw foods are actually harder to digest, so make sure to cook up those fresh veggies. The lighter and easier to digest a food is, the better it is for your body.

2.    Drink warm water instead of cold,

3.    Use digestion-enhancing herbs when cooking. These include turmeric, cumin, coriander, clove, dried ginger, and fennel

4.    Eat three meals a day, and eat lighter meals at breakfast and dinner, saving your biggest meal for the afternoon.

5.    Get plenty of rest, but avoid napping during the day. Rather, go to sleep earlier and rise earlier and more refreshed.

An integral part of ayurvedic cleansing is meditation and exercise – these aid digestion. Yoga is a great way to accomplish both these tasks, and certain asanas also promote a healthier digestive system.

Use the change of season as inspiration to get your body back on track. You may not be an elephant tired of parading around for months on end, but life can certainly make us feel that way. Why not treat yourself to the same sort of cleansing rituals our large, trunked friends enjoy?

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