As we move towards the New Year, I am reflecting more intentionally on what I would like to leave behind and what I would like to usher in. I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, however, the turning of a year provides us the opportunity to reflect, embrace and release. This weekend I will be committing to taking the time to dig a little deeper, process emotions and feel into what needs to shift energetically, whilst giving my system a seasonal reset. I hope you too can set aside some space to do the same.
Staying open and willing to change requires a softness and ease with oneself following what has been a challenging year for us all. Giving yourself space to process all that has happened this year and setting intentions to move away from old habits that are no longer serving you is important for whole body health. Self-care and deep nourishment is a gift. Welcome it in. You deserve it.
Preparing to Reset
At this time of the year, bloating, a slower digestion, and low energy is common, but it can also be a sign of accumulated toxins. This happens often as a result of poor food choices, lack of sleep and stress, which can over-burden your digestive system and in turn, your immune system. However, as you’ve heard me say before, our bodies are resilient when given the right support, and balance can be restored to promote gentle detoxification and regulation in the body.
Ayurveda Cleansing with the Seasons
Fo those of you who joined me in my 3 day Autumn Cleanse and Reset, you’ll know that I like to cleanse Ayurvedically. This is because Ayurveda understands the seasonal cycles, which also affects the body. Claire Ragozzino the author of Vidya Living, describes Ayurveda as “the science of life – the study of finding inner harmony through the balance of the elements and the cyclical rhythms of nature – think seasons and moon cycles. Like everything in nature (including us) Ayurveda believes that harmony can be found by classifying three different energies, known as doshas, which represent 5 elements.”
Here is Claire’s simple breakdown of the different doshas:
Vata dosha, the element of air and ether, governs the season of Autumn and early Winter, and the functions of the nervous system and the elimination system in the body. Pitta dosha, the element of fire and water, governs late spring and summer season, and the liver, skin, metabolism and digestive system in the body. Kapha dosha, the element of water and earth, governs late winter and early spring, regulating the water in the tissues and lymphatic system. I love that through the science of Ayurveda, we can learn to flow with this beautiful dance to keep our bodies and minds in sync with the seasons and the changing elements. When we are in tune with nature, our bodies evolve with the influence of the elements around us. With each seasonal shift, our nutrition and lifestyle shifts in order to maintain inner balance and equilibrium. The seasonal practice of cleansing is the perfect way to stay in tune with ourselves and the seasons.
Claire believes that a simple Ayurvedic-style cleanse aims to reset the digestive system and balance agni, our digestive fire. Whilst a deeper cleanse and detox is best carried out during the Spring to release the accumulation of kapha built up over the winter and generally slower activity, the New Year is a great time to support the body in winter, by building up digestive fire, supporting immunity, and bringing balance after the festive season.
Three Pillars for Winter Reset
This simple Winter cleanse and reset uses the concept of mono-eating to give your digestion a rest from complex food combining and rich food. In essence, meals are simplified to a one-pot meal of kitchari, an ancient healing dish of nourishing mung beans, wholegrain rice and healing spices that your body can break down and digest with ease. This simple one-pot meal is Ayurveda’s answer to “chicken soup” for its nourishing medicinal qualities. I’ve added a good measure of greens to the recipe, to aid cleansing and provide an extra boost of fibre and vitamins and minerals. The combination of rice and beans provides your body with a complete protein, giving you the range of essential amino acids – the building blocks of protein – and providing your body with enough nutrients to sustain a restful daily routine from this meal alone. The healing spices: ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, black pepper and fennel are your anti-inflammatory warriors, which also cleanse the blood, helping to remove toxins and improve digestive fire. I’ve also created a fresh ginger and lime sauce to stir into the kitchari to further aid digestion and build your intestinal fire.
To conduct this simple reset at home, you mindfully prepare a pot of kitchari and enjoy it at every meal 2-3 times a day for 3 days, alongside herbal elixirs, such as the agni tea from the Autumn cleanse and a luxuriously creamy and nutritive sesame seed milk, alongside restful restorative practices.
Our daily practices or rituals of self-care help keep our bodies in tune with the seasonal cycles and rhythms of the day to promote gentle and natural detoxification. Each morning of the reset, aim to wake with the sun, set your daily intentions, and cleanse the senses through dry skin brushing, meditation or breath work and mindful movement; ending the day with a warm self-massage followed by a magnesium salt bath to aid sleep and help you to relax, and a gratitude practice to quieten your mind. If you like, you can add in a cup of flax tea before bed to help lubricate the colon and promote elimination, which is helpful if you feel a little stagnant after the holidays. I’ve included this simple recipe below. These practices, best performed in the morning and evening, serve to bookend your day and create a healthy, grounded foundation for your cleanse.
Rest and reflect
Preparing to come out of the year, it’s important to take the time to rest and regenerate our bodies and minds. In this vata-dominant season, we need slow, calming and nourishing activities, which ground and support the nervous system. Excessive doing creates stress and anxiety which, when left unchecked, can lead to adrenal fatigue, digestive issues, disturbed sleep and weight gain. Instead of pushing our bodies, we need to slow down and incorporate restorative activities such as yin yoga and meditation or breath work as a way to deeply support and nurture your vital systems. Give yourself permission to take this time for yourself, pause, and turn your energy inwards as you set your healing intentions for the year ahead.
Just like the Autumn Cleanse and Reset, you’ll see that this cleanse looks a lot different to most other popular cleanses. This style of cleansing is more about hitting the reset button by consuming simple, nutrient-rich whole foods. Our body’s are wise and are able to cleanse and detoxify themselves given the right environment. When provided with the right foods (and supportive lifestyle practices) the body can come back into alignment and balance naturally. Each ingredient in the one-pot kitchari plays a specific role in the cleansing process:
- Mung beans are alkalising and blood purifying, but also provide protein and nutrients to nourish your body
- Wholegrain rice is easily digested and contains good amounts of fibre and nerve balancing B vitamins
- Warming spices kindle your digestive fire and help tame inflammation
- Greens remineralise and alkalise the body
- Ghee (or coconut oil) lubricates the system and supports cellular and hormonal health.
As simple as it is, this ancient food alchemises the body and mind. Food as medicine at its very best.
Additional Guidelines for the Cleanse
- To prepare for the cleanse, shop for what you need ahead of time to ensure you have everything you need
- Abstain from social media and unnecessary screen time in order to allow mind and spirit cleansing
- Wear warm clothing both inside and outside of the home to support the gentle detoxification process. Organic cotton and wool are the best materials because they allow your skin to breathe and sweat (one of the key ways we detoxify)
- Keep your socks on in the house, or wool slippers, or both. Keeping socks on in bed is especially helpful if you have issues with getting to sleep. Energy leaves us through our extremities and socks and slippers make a huge difference to us staying warm
- Take additional warm baths, or long warm showers if a bath is not available
- Hydrate well. Sip plenty of warm herbal teas throughout the day, starting with warm water and lemon upon waking. Hydrating well is especially important when we are re-setting, since we are releasing toxins that need to be flushed out
- If possible, take saunas. A far infrared saunas is particularly good as it makes the body sweat at lower temperatures and the infrared penetrates deeper (up to 3 inches), which supports detoxification
- If you have a fireplace, use it. There is something inherently nurturing and relaxing about relaxing by the fire beyond the warmth it generates
- Whilst staying warm is important, short bursts of cold can also help the body to reset and promotes natural detoxification. You can practice the Scotch Hose therapy of taking a cold shower. You do this by directing a jet of cold water (with a hand-held shower head), starting with your right foot, then moving up to your groin, and back down again on the inside of your leg. Repeat with your left foot and left leg, before spraying your arms, chest, face, and back if you want to, but directing the water up and down your legs is beneficial and will help your body to regulate and make you calmer and more resilient
- The cleanse is naturally dairy and gluten free, but you should also avoid anything processed, condiments, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and fizzy drinks
- Always listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel. The cleanse should be enjoyable and it shouldn’t feel harsh or restrictive. If you find that you are hungry, I recommend that you make an herbal tea first, as sometimes hunger can be confused with thirstiness. If you are still hungry, eat a little more kitchari or have another nutritive sesame seed milk
- In between meals, sip agni tea to aid digestion and support your digestive fire
- Get outside and connect with nature as much as possible, kicking off your shoes to practice some grounding if you can
- Be fully present at mealtimes. Try eating without distractions. When seated and ready to eat, take a few deep breaths to prepare your body to receive food. Chew each mouthful slowly and mindfully
Suggested Daily Routine
The evening before you start the cleanse you will want to soak your mung beans, wholegrain rice and sesame seeds for the following day (and again on the second day when you’ll need to make a fresh batch). This is important because it helps to reduce the natural phytic acid found in these foods, which can block certain enzymes needed for healthy digestion. In separate bowls, cover the beans, rice, and seeds with filtered water. The next morning, drain and rinse thoroughly before using. You’ll also want to prepare your first batch of flax tea (recipe below).
- First thing in the morning drink a couple of cups of warm water with freshly squeezed lemon juice to wake up your digestive system and gently stimulate your agni.
- Light some incense (I love Palo Santo) or white sage to clear space before taking your seat for a meditation or breath work practice. If you would like a guided practice, I recommend Jon Kabat Zinn for mindfulness meditation and Ashley Neese for breath work. Or you can follow my longer combined practice of both here.
- Take some time to stretch or practice some gentle yoga. My friend Annie Clarke is a wonderful yoga teacher who offers online classes in her membership, including yin yoga, but there are many other teachers online. Just be sure to choose a properly qualified and experienced teacher when you do your research.
- Before taking a shower, drink a glass or two of warm filtered water followed by some dry skin brushing to get your lymphatic system (our waste disposal unit) moving. Dry brushing helps eliminate toxic build up on the surface of the skin and increases lymphatic drainage. You’ll need a dry brush with natural bristles, or you can use a sissal hand mitt. The important thing to remember is to guide your lymph fluid towards your heart and collarbone. Follow with a warm shower to clear away dead skin cells and a quick Scotch Hose treatment (optional, but great).
- Put on the 3 Sources Winter Cleanse and Reset playlist, make an agni tea or drink some more filtered warm water and get started on your first pot of kitchari (recipe below). Prepare and cook your food mindfully knowing you are setting your body up for deep nourishment. Enjoy a bowl of the kitchari with some coconut cream (or sheep’s milk yoghurt), a drizzle of the ginger and lime sauce stirred in, topped with a good amount of steamed greens and freshly chopped coriander. Eat mindfully, chewing and savouring each mouthful.
- At lunchtime enjoy another agni tea and kitchari bowl. If you are not hungry, don’t eat. Be guided by your body’s cues.
- Get outside and take a daily walk (especially after a meal) to facilitate digestion and elimination and connect to nature. Practice some grounding if you can, to energise your body, decrease inflammation and improve sleep.
- Prepare a batch of sesame milk elixir (recipe below) and enjoy at room temperature, or slightly warm (not fridge cold). Sipping this lovely concoction provides your body with calcium, magnesium, iron, and minerals to rejuvenate your body and mind whilst easing a sluggish digestion. This tiny seed has 3 times the calcium of cow’s milk and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
- Take your last kitchari meal before the sun sets to give your body time to digest the meal before bed.
- An hour or so before bed, run a warm bath and add a handful of magnesium salts to help prepare your body for sleep. Spend enough time in the bath to relax fully. If you don’t have a bath, enjoy a long, lingering warm shower. Take a little time to treat yourself to a warm sesame oil massage whilst your skin is slightly damp. If you don’t have time to do a full body self-massage, starting with a simple foot massage as you prepare for bed can be incredibly nurturing and help you to unwind and get the much needed rest your body needs to heal and regenerate. Sesame oil is wonderfully warming and calming for this vata-dominated season, but different oils can be used for different seasons. For a simple practice, warm your oil so it is comfortable to the touch. Coat your hands in the oil. Apply gentle but firm circular pressure from the ankles to the tops of the toes, cross your ankle over your opposite knee to access the arch and bottom of the foot. Finish by pulling on the toes. Repeat on the other side. Be sure to put socks on before you go to bed to preserve warmth and aid good sleep.
- Bookend the day with another mindfulness meditation or breath work practice and finish with a simple gratitude exercise. Keeping going with a gratitude practice helps us to shift our perspective and focus on the good in front of us in each moment. Taking a pause at the end of the day to acknowledge what you are grateful for moves your energy in a deep way. In the midst of all that we are processing right now, it reminds us that this too shall pass.
A short gratitude exercise:
- What are 3 things I’m thankful for in my life today?
- Who are 3 people I’m thankful in my life today?
- Who are 3 people I will reach out to today with a message of gratitude?
Sleep is the pillar of optimal health and strong immunity. It’s at night – especially from 10pm-2am that our organs get a chance to repair and regenerate. To honour your immunity, I recommend creating night-time rituals such as the suggestions above to support you from getting good sleep and switching your nervous system into rest and digest mode. Aim to be in bed by 10pm (or no later than 11pm) with a cup of flax tea to further promote hydration and cleansing (recipe below). Flaxseeds are well known for their abundance of omega-3 essential fats, but therapeutically they also help us stay hydrated. When soaked in water, the insoluble fibre helps to hold more water in the colon for longer, as well as soothing and relaxing the colon and keeping things moving in the gentlest way.
Repeat for the 3 days.
GREEN KITCHARI WITH GINGER AND LIME SAUCE
For the Kitchari
1 cup whole or split mung beans, pre-soaked
3/4 cup wholegrain rice, pre-soaked
10-12 cups filtered water
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp ghee or unrefined coconut oil
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp mustard seeds (black or yellow)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2-inch piece kombu
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp pink Himalayan salt, or sea salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
Greens: Swiss chard, kale, spinach, dandelion greens, mustard greens, savoy cabbage, or broccoli crown, finely chopped into an almost rice-like texture. Whichever you choose, steam separately for freshness and vibrancy and toss with a little extra virgin olive oil before adding to the kitchari.
In a large pot, heat the ghee or coconut oil over a low heat. Add the celery and shallots and cook until just softened. Next add the ginger and spices and gently toast for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant. Add the drained and rinsed mung beans and rice to the pot and stir until covered with the spice mix. Pour over 10 cups of filtered water, add the bay leaves and kombu, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and half cover with a lid. Cook for 35-45 minutes, or until the beans and rice are just soft. For a soupier consistency add more water. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze in the fresh lime juice. Steam the greens of your choice in a separate pan until just cooked. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
For the Ginger and Lime Sauce
Makes 1/2 cup
4 tbsp brown rice vinegar
1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsp raw honey
1 tsp pink Himalayan salt
Juice and zest of I lime
Add all the ingredients to a blender except the lime zest. Blitz until smooth. Stir in the lime zest and pour into a jar and seal. Refrigerate until needed.
To serve: when you are ready to serve, spoon the kitchari into warm bowls. Top with the greens, some fresh coriander, a spoonful of coconut cream or yoghurt. Stir in a little of the ginger and lime sauce at table.
SESAME MILK ELIXIR
for 2-3 servings
1/2 cup sesame seeds, pre-soaked overnight
3 cups filtered water
2-3 pitted Medjool dates
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ashwagandha powder (optional)
Drain and rinse the sesame seeds. Add to a blender with the water, dates, cinnamon and ashwagandha (if using). Blitz until smooth. Serve at room temperature, or slightly warm, with a pinch of nutmeg.
for 1 serving
1 tsp flaxseeds
4 cups filtered water
Your favourite herbal tea, such as ginger, chamomile, or peppermint.
Add the flaxseeds and water to a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Cover the pan and leave the flaxseeds to soak for 12 hours or overnight. Strain – it should be just a bit thicker than water and have a faint nutty taste. To drink, make up your usual pot of tea. While it is steeping, fill your mug just below halfway and then top up the rest with your hot tea. Stir well and enjoy at bedtime.
After the 3 Days
Although it may be tempting to indulge after completing the cleanse and reset, resist the urge to do so. Introduce different foods slowly and keep combinations small and uncomplicated for the next week or so. Continue to avoid (or at least limit) consumption of refined sugar, cow dairy, gluten and excessive caffeine and alcohol. Rejoice in the time you’ve taken for yourself to nourish and cleanse your body and mind. Winter is still a time for closing in and being quiet and gentle, nourishing yourself adequately and getting plenty of restorative rest. I hope you feel more grounded, centred, refreshed and energised. I wish you health, vibrancy, and abundance for the year ahead.
“2020 wasn’t about how much you did or didn’t do
it wasn’t about how many trips you took or how
many bucket list items were checked off.
2020 was about finding joy in the simple things
laughter with a few close friends
connecting with family near and far
opening your heart
and being present in every moment because
moments are too precious to waste.
2020 was about being grateful for what you have
knowing that is, and always was, enough.”
– spirit daughter