The eating — I mean holiday — season has nearly arrived! You ready?
For most of us, being "ready" for the holidays actually means that we’ve prepared ourselves to feel...terrible. Heavy, bloated, tired, full, and guilty!
It’s right about now that we usually write off the possibility of sailing through the season feeling light, bright, and in control, in part because it all seems too hard. But you know what? It doesn’t have to be.
Yes, a bright and balancing holiday season is well within your grasp. All you need to do is pay attention to one thing: your digestion.
Why Digestion Matters
According to Ayurveda, everything we come into contact with must be processed and assimilated in some way. We are constantly digesting the world around us. The trouble starts when we experience an overload of information, experiences, ideas, interactions and food. All of which seems to describe the holidays to a T.
When that happens we overload the digestive system and compromise our ability to connect and shine. The physical result usually looks a little like what I described above: bloating, heaviness, constipation, and fatigue. Mentally, it might end up looking like frustration, anxiety, depression, and an inability to cope (sound familiar?).
Meeting the holiday onslaught with ease and steadiness can be a matter of focusing your attention and intention on what matters most in order to keep your mental and physical digestion primed and ready for action.
So much of how we experience life is, well, in our heads. The beauty is that this gives us infinite power to transform any situation with a simple thought (or lack thereof). Wanna feel clear, calm and connected through the holidays? Here are 5 Ayurvedic tips for stress-free holidays, so you feel truly jolly.
Start small. Five to ten minutes a day will do.
Taking a little time each day to experience silence, connect with yourself, and let go of a few things can free up the mental space that inevitably fills up with concerns, anxiety, holiday activities, and responsibilities this time of year.
2. Give and Take
Hey party people, I know you want to do everything (in the same way that you might want to eat everything), but before you do, take a moment to consider how you’ll feel afterwards.
Life can be a little like a smorgasbord, especially this time of year. And like a smorgasbord, the healthiest way to get out alive, and feeling like yourself, is to take just enough of what you really enjoy and leave some things to try another time.
When it comes to events and invitations to make merry, be intentional with your "yeses," and liberal with your "nos." Gift yourself with the time and space to truly digest only the people and experiences that feed your soul.
Kindling the Physical Fire
Our physical experience of the season is mostly shaped by the food and drink that we consume. The thing is, making smart choices about how we eat can help to mitigate some of the potential impacts of what we eat. Here are some ways to do that:
3. Warm Water All Day Long
Who would have guessed that something as simple as a cup of warm water could help keep your digestive system in tip top shape? Doctor and ayurvedic practitioner Nancy Lonsdorf says that hot water prevents gas and bloating, and helps elimination by promoting peristalsis (the downward movement of the GI tract).
The result is not only better digestion and assimilation, it also means fewer toxins in the system, and no need to undo your belt after dinner!
Start first thing in the morning with a cup of warm water with lemon on an empty stomach. Sip warm, purified water throughout the day in the same way you might drink regular water. You can jazz up the taste and the potency by adding a cinnamon stick.
4. Walk It Off
Enjoying a gentle fifteen to twenty minute walk after meals helps in the process of digestion by stimulating movement in the belly and calming the mind and body.
It’s also a great way to experience the outdoors or potentially extend and deepen your connection with someone you love.
5. Pace Yourself
How often do you breathe during meals? Yeah, I know. So this little tip couldn’t be simpler.
Give your body-mind the space and time it needs to meet and greet your food by taking a few breaths in between each bite. Use this pause to savor not only the flavor, but the experience of the meal and those you’ve chosen to enjoy it with.
Doing this will keep you present and aware of your degree of fullness. It can also extend the process of eating (and enjoyment) long enough for you to recognize when you’re truly satisfied.
The Yoga of Moving Things Through
Yoga is a terrific path to better digestion. A few simple poses linked with intentional breathing can be yet another key to a satisfying season.
One of my favorite pose sequences for boosting the digestive system while calming the mind and body is known as the Wind-Relieving sequence. Here's how to do it:
And who knows? A few gentle rounds of this sequence, ten to fifteen minutes after eating might actually feel like the icing on the cake. Enjoy!