One of the most interesting observations ayurveda makes about the rains is this: what’s unfolding in the atmosphere around you is mimicked inside your body. Thunder, lightening, change and imbalance that the rains bring with it are reflected within your system too. The vata gets aggravated and pitta is accumulated, leading to an imbalance, and eventually, illness.
Vata, pitta and kapha are called doshas and refer to the body type you belong to. Vata is the element of ether and air in the body. Pitta refers to the principle of heat, digestion and acid secretion in the stomach. Kapha refers to the growth of tissue, mucous and fat, and retention of fluid. Our body includes all three doshas, but usually one of them is more dominant than the others.
Simple changes in your diet can help stabilise the imbalance between doshas that typically occurs in the monsoon, especially since the rains follow the summer when the body has been through a period of dehydration. The rains, say ayurveda practitioners, is therefore the perfect time to flush out impurities and balance body energies.
Stomach takes a beating
In the 12 years that ayurveda expert Dr Ravi Kothari has practiced herbal medicine, the most common challenge he has seen the rains throw up is indigestion. “During the monsoon, digestion slows down.
Avoid leafy vegetables since they come packed with moisture during the monsoon, slowing down an already sluggish digestion. In fact, even a simple glass of water you drink takes longer to digest in the rains,” he says.
Aiding smooth digestion is fairly simple. Stick to drinking water that has been boiled for half an hour. “When it reaches boiling point, reduce the flame, and switch off the gas in a few minutes.
Make it a practice to wash all vegetables in hot water, and cook your food in vessels with the lid on so as to retain nutrients, and build stamina. Avoid raw salads; they are the toughest to digest.”
Keep it light
It might seem the obvious thing to do but most of us don’t, argues ayurvedacharya Dr Rohit N Bartake. Avoiding heavy meals during the monsoon is key digestive fires burn slow. “It’s best to avoid sour foods like dahi, pickle and fermented foods that will add to accumulation of pitta.
While buying vegetables, opt for doodhi (bottle gourd), bhopala (pumpkin), bhindi (ladies finger), carrots and turi (ridge gourd), that are light on your tummy,” suggests Dr Bartake. Pick steamed and boiled food over anything raw, he warns, since the cooking process helps kill bacteria.
Due to the high moisture content in the air, most of us, especially asthma and wheezing patients, face trouble breathing during the rains. Making steam inhalation a regular part of your daily routine helps. “Inhaling medicated steam works towards balancing the vata, and clearing nasal passages.”
If you have an outdoor exercise regime or one that involves fancy gym equipment, Dr Bartake suggests you replace it with simple Pranayam and the Suryanamaskar, both of which help the endocrine system, the network of glands that secret hormones to regulate the body’s growth and metabolism.
Give yourself a rub
The thought of a massage seems divine no matter what the weather, but experts say, a rub is especially beneficial in the rains. Sesame oil (til) is considered the king of oils in ayurveda, and is preferred if you have a dominant vata dosha since it has warming properties. It also leaves your skin glowing. If possible, use untoasted, organic sesame oil.
You needn’t check into a fancy spa. Warm sesame oil, and apply it vigorously all over your body, from your forehead to your toes. Leave it on for half and hour, and bathe with hot water, advises Dr Bartake.
The monsoons demand that you make a change in ahar (food) and vihar (lifestyle), suggests ayurveda:
• Malaria is common during the rains. A dhoop (incense) made from charcoal, gugal (resinous gum), vacha (aromatic root), turmeric and loban (aromatic resin from a tree) works as an effective mosquito repellent.
• It’s a good time to have tea, without milk. Milk kills its medicinal properties. Add dry ginger, tulsi, ajwain, and lemon grass to the boiling water before you add tea leaves, says Dr Kothari.
• Take ten tulsi leaves, soak them in water for 10 minutes before you chew on them. It will help you keep fever, cold and cough at bay.
• Two teaspoons of ginger juice mixed with one spoon of honey and room temperature water can help build immunity.
• If you feel low during the season, mix Ashwagandha with warm milk and sugar. Drink this twice daily.
► Avoid leafy vegetables since they come packed with moisture during the monsoon, slowing down an already sluggish digestion
- Dr Ravi Kothari, Ayurveda Practitioner