As someone who is naturally introspective, health conscious, and a deep planner, I revel in transition periods and fresh starts. However the new year often feels abrupt and abrasive – like a mini midlife crisis forced upon us, at the wrong time, loaded with doubts and anxiety as we assess whether we are living our best lives.
It is mid-January, and personally I am just now coming up for air from the holidays. I could use a few more weeks of rest, and yet there's a nagging voice telling me it's time to get motivated and make this year the one that really counts. But as I walk amongst the dormant forest of winter, I recognize a starkly different message within the seasons – one that says it is time to rest and go inward.
Taking cues from nature, I prefer to approach the months of January and February as a period of quiet insight and assimilation. A time to allow enough spaciousness in my days to tune into what my body and spirit are truly longing for. It's the perfect time to slowly, mindfully set intentions. This is not something to be rushed.
And yet I often roll into the new year feeling frayed, depleted and stagnant. Whenever I feel that way, no matter the season, I have long turned to cleansing and fasting as a way to reboot my energy and vitality. And in the wintertime, I favor the restorative benefits of an ayurvedic kitchari cleanse.
Kitchari is a seasoned mixture of rice and mung dal, together creating a very balanced, nourishing food that is an excellent and easy to digest source of protein. Perfect for winter, this warming and nourishing approach to cleansing is accessible while maintaining energy levels so that you can keep up with the demands of modern life, even when it is freezing cold outside.
There are many variations and recipes, including breakfast kitcharis and ones catered to specific ayurvedic doshas (vata/pitta/kapha). If you are curious to know your ayurvedic constitution, try an online dosha test, though to get an accurate assessment you should visit an ayurvedic practitioner.
I've included a few reference and cookbooks at the end of the post, along with a basic tridoshic kitchari recipe. You can also find many recipes and guidelines on websites such as this three-day kitchari cleanse via Banyan Botanicals. And if you aren't a cook or just need some help getting started, try to find a restaurant that serves it – here in Asheville we are blessed with two wonderful tea houses, Dobra Tea and Alchemy, both serving next level delicious bowls of kitchari!!
As with any cleanse, it is important to prepare on many levels. Here are a few suggestions on how to set yourself up for a beneficial cleanse with intention:
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• Addicted to alcohol? This is a big one for many people. Get the support you need if you can't do it on your own. One tip is to replace that glass of wine or whiskey with another beverage, like a glass of kombucha or a calming tea for your nerves. You can also try weaning yourself off alcohol with a digestive bitter liqueur such as Campari.
MUNG DAL KITCHARI (tridoshic recipe)
**from Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing by Usha Lad + Dr. Vasant Lad
Note from the author: I have experimented with many approaches from the master cleanse to panchakarma, juice fasts to the Whole 30 Program. Each has distinct qualities and benefits, and there will never be a one-size-fits-all answer to how to cleanse or fast. We all have our own unique physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Within that, there are a confusing array of opinions and recommendations available to us, and I strongly believe that it is up to each of us to take responsibility for our own well-being – to explore, research and inquire until we discover what works best for us on a holistic level.
Sometimes the best recommendation will come from a traditional doctor, especially when facing life threatening illness. That is a disclaimer to say that I am not a doctor and to please do your own research before jumping into any of this! No matter the approach, be sure to take as much time as you need to reach your goals and be sure not to shock your system too drastically. By that I mean please don't go from eating donuts and burgers one day to drinking nothing but carrot juice the next. That is a sure setup for failure.