Detox and lose weight with Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, good health and maintaining weight are dependent upon our capability to fully metabolise the nutritional, emotional and sensory information that we ingest.
Ayurveda gives a five-fold holistic approach to losing weight. These are:
- detoxification procedures called Panchakarma
- external massage based treatments such as Udvartana
- internal herbal remedies
- diet intervention
- yoga and movement
Let’s look at each of these, in turn, to discover how they can help our health goals.
Udvartana (powder massage) for weight loss
The most common Ayurvedic treatment used for losing weight is the treatment of Udvartana, a powder massage that uses herbal powders (in the form of oils or dry powders) that are rough in nature and hot in potency.
The oil used for Udvartana is sesame based and is infused with herbs that create lightness, dryness, roughness, remove blockages and stiffness, and have a ‘cutting or liquefying action’ on the fat tissue. This oil ensures that the skin does not become dry superficially and remains soft and supple after the treatment.
This herbal paste (powders and oils), when rubbed on the body in a specific manner, creates friction, which opens the pores, removes blockages in vessels, increases the heat in the tissues and percolates inside to stimulate fat metabolism.
Once the paste is rubbed on the body and the massage is over, the guest is asked to sit in a herbal steam chamber with their head remaining outside of the chamber so that they can stay in for a longer period of time. In this process, a lot of excess water is lost from the body. In addition, as the pores open, the herbal oil mixed with the paste percolates deeper into the skin inducing its fat liquefying properties, doing its work as mentioned above.
Ayurveda’s holistic approach is an antidote for almost every kind of stress and disease that ails us.
The benefits of Udvartana include:
- reduces cellulite/subcutaneous fat tissue
- clears skin complexion
- cleanses and revitalises skin
- removes body odour
- de-stresses, but at the same time also have an invigorating effect (reduces the doshas Vata and Kapha)
- removes blockages in the blood vessels, opens pores, removes body stiffness and facilitates better absorption of oils through the skin
Panchakarma (detoxification) for clearing toxins
When our digestive power, known as Agni (fire), is robust, we create healthy tissue, eliminate waste products efficiently and sleep well. On the other hand, if our Agni is weakened, digestion is incomplete, which can lead to an accumulation of toxic residue in the gastrointestinal tract, known as Ama.
The accumulation of toxins, or Ama, leads to obstructions in the flow of energy, information, and nourishment and is the basis of illness, including deposition of adipose tissue leading to weight gain.
Panchakarma therapy, an ancient form of purification developed thousands of years ago in India, can be used to remove Ama and other elemental impurities from our system entirely.
Panchakarma constitutes the foremost purification and rejuvenation therapy as it reverses the mechanisms that carry toxic waste products from the digestive tract into all the other tissues of the body. In other words, it reverses the movement of Ama, bringing it back to the digestive tract, and then gently expels it from the body.
This is done either from the oral, nasal and lower channels of the body by medicated emesis, medicated purgation, medicated herbal enemas and administration of herbal oil or smoke through the nasal route.
By cleansing and detoxifying the body, the process helps to rebuild the natural fire within the body which burns the little leftover toxins at a cellular level, preventing them from re-forming and helping to regain the normal digestive process once again, thus helping to lose and maintain weight effectively.
Internal herbal remedies
Ayurveda caters to more than 300 herbs, out of which some herbs directly and others indirectly help in losing the extra weight in the body.
These herbs are used in various permutations and combinations by the Ayurveda physician, after assessing the person’s individual body constitution, and are known as Prakruti. These herbs not only help to stop the pathology of weight gain right at the root but also help in detoxifying the body of all undigested food macroscopically in the gastrointestinal system, and microscopically at the cellular level.
Based on a consultation, the Ayurveda physician chooses the appropriate combination of herbs and oils. This combination, especially chosen for the individual (depending on his/her body constitution, climate and ailment etc.) would yield the specific result that one is looking for.
The herbal remedies change according to the level of five elements in the body and hence it is most important to take them only after the advice of an Ayurveda physician with regular follow-ups.
Some of the herbs that are commonly prescribed by Ayurvedic physicians to maintain weight include:
According to the Ayurvedic principles, there are many foods and practises that if you incorporate into your diet, will not only fill your stomach but also will help you lose and maintain weight. These include:
- Vegetables: bottle gourd, bitter gourd, bean sprouts, bell peppers, bitter melon, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, leafy lettuce greens, pumpkin, sunflower sprouts, sweet peas, turnips, carrots, squash (yellow), okra, corn, spinach and radish.
- Spices: cardamom, coriander, cumin, curry leaves, fennel, turmeric, Asafetida, black pepper, celery seed, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, ginger (dry) and sesame seeds.
- Grains: barley, cornflower, bran or jowar.
- Fruits: papaya, Indian gooseberry and pomegranate.
- Drinking lukewarm water continuously could help reduce sweet cravings after or in between meals.
- Indian chapatis made of wholemeal wheat bran and barley or plain rice/brown rice is a much better alternative to bread (and other bakery foods) which have yeast in it and are made of white flour which lacks fibre (this makes digestion sluggish resulting in bloating, acid peptic disorders or IBS).
- Avoid processed food as it lacks freshness and energy (Prana or life) in it, and becomes very heavy to digest, helping create Ama in the body. Reheating refrigerated leftovers would also have a similar effect.
- Avoid yoghurt, as it has a property that creates blockages in various channels in the body, aiding in sluggish digestion and formation of Ama.
Yoga is most important in the long run as it not only works on the physical level but also the subconscious and unconscious mind.
Yoga and exercise
Traditionally, Ayurveda recommends following a farmer’s lifestyle and diet in India if you were overweight. It meant doing a lot of physical work and eating a moderate diet. Basically, it recommended ‘stop dieting and start moving’ where a sedentary lifestyle and computer-based office jobs are a major reason for weight gain.
Stopping eating is not recommended and could be highly detrimental to your health. Instead, pay attention to your levels of exercise: you could cycle or walk to work if possible, take the stairs and avoid the lift. Evaluate your schedule and take brisk walks whenever you can squeeze them in.
It is also highly beneficial to incorporate yoga and breathing exercises into daily life. For effective results, you could follow this complete yoga routine at least four times in a week:
- subtle and dynamic postures for 40 minutes
- followed by breathing techniques or Pranayama such as Kapalbhanti and opposite nostril breathing for 10 minutes,
- relaxation techniques like Yoga Nidra or the psychic sleep and meditation
Yoga is most important in the long run as it not only works on the physical level but also the subconscious and unconscious mind, clearing all our stress and greed, thus liberating us from the captivity of our senses and creating a perfect mind-body consciousness balance.
Ayurveda’s holistic approach is an antidote for almost every kind of stress and disease that ails us. It improves digestion, metabolism, elimination, complexion, body tone and strength, bone density, and helps us stabilize weight. The whole experience is emotionally positive as it can be enjoyable, increase self-worth and bring us greater energy, freshness and success throughout.
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