Following an easy Ayurvedic lifestyle with these simple tips can aid in cleansing the body, quicker weight loss, increasing immunity and delay ageing. Jalaja Ramanunni tells us all about it.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle was easy when I lived in India. However, soon after moving to Dubai a few years ago, I fell off my holistic lifestyle wagon. We often underestimate the time and effort involved in relocating to another country. To start with, I wondered what it means to eat local, and if anything grows in the UAE apart from dates. Secondly, is the idea of seasonal ingredients relevant when there’s an abundant supply of fruits and vegetables available from every part of the world, regardless of the season? Besides, I was not prepared for the changes in my dosha as a result of moving to another location.
How can we prepare ourselves for a move to another country, and how do we deal with extreme weather transitions between summer and winter? If you have moved recently or live in the Middle East, here are some Ayurvedic practices that can help you to find your balance and get healthier.
Changes you can expect
There are many factors which affect our body and its constitution (dosha). The nature of the land, water type, temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity level and the extent of weather extremities can influence your body. Dr T S Jayan, Senior Doctor at the Kalari Kovilakom Ayurveda Centre in Kerala, India, shares his views on what we can expect. He says, “Moving to a new place can create homeostasis in the body, which may incept lifestyle disorders like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and in extreme cases even cancer. Such disorders are a result of inappropriate relationship between people and their environment. We have to maintain rithucharyas – seasonal regiments – which are elaborately explained in Ayurveda.”
One of the most important things we can do for ourselves is to eat wisely. According to Ayurveda, all healing begins with digestion. Food is medicine if consumed the right way, enabling good digestion and proper metabolism of food. Dr Jayan shares his tips with us.
1. Can you eat locally in the UAE?
You wouldn’t think that much grows in the desert, but the UAE has been investing a lot of effort into sustainability and growing produce locally. Over 70 types of fruits and vegetables are being cultivated here right now. Understanding what grows here is one of the key factors. Whether you shop online or at supermarkets, you’ll see a section for locally grown produce to choose from. It’s that simple. Dr Jayan says, “Take a cue from the local Emirati culture. Apart from vegetables and fruits, ingredients like dates, buttermilk or Laban and ghee can be used in plenty. Besides, camel milk is known for a high vitamin and mineral content. It also has unique protective proteins. Additionally, honey, leafy vegetables, light meat like chicken and fish can be consumed regardless of the climate. Ingredients you must not have daily include heavy dairy like cheese and yogurt, dry meat, vinegar, molasses, tuber root. These are difficult to digest and should be consumed sparsely.”
2. Eat for the season
Nature is wisest guide. Understanding what grows locally and when is one of the key factors. It’s no secret that the most nutrient-dense and best tasting produce are the ones in season. These are harvested at the right time to retain its full nutrient content. When we purchase out-of-season produce, a little something is added to keep it fresh – a generous serving of pesticides and preservatives. Here’s a simple suggestion from Dr Jayan, “If it gives distress to the stomach, it is most likely to be non-seasonal. For example, mangoes are harvested in the hot summer months and do not cause discomfort. But you’ll notice that mangoes are available in the UAE at any time of the year, and the ones available off-season are probably genetically modified. Consuming mangoes in December will create disturbances in the system”.
3. Keep the fire
Your digestion relies on your agni – the digestive fire of your body – which changes according to the weather conditions. When your agni is strong, it can easily break down your food, increase your metabolism and absorb nutrients into your body. Dr Jayan explains, “In colder places, your agni tends to be higher. It’s how your body keeps itself warm in the cold and you can digest heavy food like meat, potatoes and fat effortlessly. Meanwhile, in warmer conditions, you’ll have a weaker agni. Use herbs or spices as an aid for digestion. Some of the spices used commonly in the UAE are sumac, nigella seeds, mint, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, cloves and coriander.”
4. Don’t mix cuisines
With the variety of ingredients available here, it’s common to mix different types of cuisines. Instead, choose one which suits your lifestyle and stick to it for your daily meals. Occasionally, treat yourself to dishes from other countries. Choose what’s convenient for you – either the familiar and local cuisine of your home country or the Middle Eastern cuisine, because of easy access to ingredients.
5. Sip on warm water all day
Yes, even in the summer! Sipping on warm water through the day is one of the best ways to detox, increase your digestive capacity and improve metabolism. Dr Jayan explains, “Consuming cold water or food suppresses the digestive fire within the body. This results in indigested particles which produce toxins called aama. As hot water flows through your digestive tract, it dissolves the aama impurities, cleans the digestive tract, and helps with elimination.” This also means quicker weight loss, better nutrient absorption, anti-ageing and clearer skin. A little tip – steep a slice of ginger into hot water for added benefits.
6. Maintain a fixed schedule for your meals.
Turn your breakfast and dinner into smaller meals. Plan for a heavy lunch as your digestive capacity is on the higher side mid-day. If you get hungry between meals, snack on fruits and drink herbal tea. Dr. Jayan recommends a light dinner before 7.30 pm and absolutely nothing after it. Avoid being lured by dessert, or even fruits after dinner as it makes digestion difficult.
Morning Routine Tips (In a box)
- Wake up early and at the same time every day.
- Brush your teeth and scrape your tongue before you eat or drink in the morning.
- Bathe in lukewarm water as it allows your capillaries and cells to breathe. Avoid cold showers.
- Practice pranayama (breathwork and surya namaskars before breakfast.
- Maintain a regular and healthy bowel movement. Not excreting an entire day is a sign of bad health and yes, it IS a big deal.
About the writer
Jalaja Ramanunni is a certified yoga instructor and business journalist who lives in Dubai and loves it! While self-quarantining, she whips up very nutritious kitchen experiments and tops it up with a dollop of Nutella. #TrueStory.
For tips on holistic living and mommy hacks, head to her Instagram account Crawl.Walk.Yoga (https://www.instagram.com/crawl.walk.yoga/) or Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/yogaclassesindubai/).