Ayurveda. You might have heard the term pop up in conversation but have no clue what it actually IS. I recently visited KOSA Spa in Madison, WI, one of the first true Ayurveic spas in the United States, and took a deep dive into what Ayurveda is, where it originated, and why it is becoming so popular amongst Americans. It’s interesting- when you Google “Ayurvedic spa,” the top results are for Ayurvedic retreats. This is a clue that Ayurveda is more than massages and manicures, it is about going deep within oneself. Shilpa Sankaran, founder of KOSA, shares 5 simple Ayurveda practices that we can all add to our lives, even if you can’t make it to the absolute restorative space that is KOSA.
What is Ayurveda?
Yes, there is the root of the word (ayur=life; veda=wisdom), but what IS IT? Is Ayurveda a religion? A wellness method? A practice? A mindset?
Ayurveda has been in practice for over 5,000 years, and it is based on the acknowledgement that we are not separate from the universe. It is the sister practice/science to Yoga, and honestly…it is a lot of common sense.
“…it is about listening. We have forgotten how to hear our own voices because we’ve basically given authority to everyone else around us and forgotten that we have inner wisdom. We carry it in our cells, we carry it in our genetics, it’s not just in our brains, but it’s very difficult to hear in this world. We did hear, we could feel the weather. Well, we’re all stuck inside now so we don’t feel the weather. We would feel circadian rhythms and do the right thing by that, but we have artificial lighting now. We have gurus left and right telling us what to do, and lots of media. When are you listening to your own voice? For me, it’s more the practice of just hearing your own voice and giving the credibiliy and trust that you need to give it.” -Shilpa Sankaran
Like Yoga, Ayurveda is slowly making its way to the US, early adopters include Gwyneth Paltrow and Priyanka Chopra. You can dip your toe into it with these Ayurveda practices, and work up to a retreat, detox, cleanse or Panchakarma (ritual of detoxification and nourisment of mind, body and spirit). KOSA offeres a wide range of everyday and seasonal detoxes, including short 1-hour retreats at their Madison spa.
You have an oral microbiome. It includes ALL the surfaces in your mouth, not just your teeth. So yes, you brush your teeth twice per day and floss if you are an A+ student. Shilpa discussed that the purpose of sleep at night is for your body to restore and heal, and it pushes stuff out somewhere….most of it comes out onto your tongue.
If you have ever had the absolute joy of using Biore pore strips and seeing the mini forest of gunk that adheres to the strip, you will get that odd joy out of tongue scraping. It is recommended to do this in the morning, and once I saw…I can’t unsee and need to do it every day now.
KOSA sells a copper tongue scraper on their site for $6. SIX DOLLARS. I can almost guarantee that this is the best thing you can buy under $10 to improve your health (I say almost because, you know, I’m not a physician). Tongue scraping is one of the Ayurveda practices that takes less than a minute to do, so there isn’t a reason NOT to give it a try!
Drink Warm Water When Waking
Your body has done alllll the work overnight, and you want to encourage your body to move the waste out (literally, waste). In the morning, you can drink warm water with lemon (helps cleanse the liver) to continue the overnight detox work that your body has done. Ayurveda is focused on ridding your body from the accumultion of toxins. This happens over time, and Ayurveda practices like this are all about moving toxins out through all the channels possible.
Digestion…More Than Your Food
Ohhhh….this is a concept came to me in an AHA! moment when I was at KOSA Spa with my partner. We were talking about emotions and working through some feelings in our lives. Shilpa had mentioned that you digest emotions and feelings in your body like you digest food. I recently read The Body Keeps the Score, and that connection was like a lightning bold through my body. If we hold our feelings in, we aren’t helping to move them through and process/digest them. They then become stuck inside our mind and body, and act as a toxin.
You can journal, go to therapy, have a walk/talk with a friend, just find a way to digest these emotions in your life so you can use them as wisdom and let them pass through. One simple thing to do in the morning right when you are coming out of sleep is to name and focus on one thing you are grateful for.
“Tea is horrible. Absolute garbage water. Don’t know why you all do that.” -Ted Lasso
I found a kindred spirit in Ted Lasso when he likened tea to garbage water. I have multiple boxes of tea in my cabinets because I KNOW I SHOULD be drinking tea. I have tried fruit tea (Peach Cinnamon Explosion, anyone?), straight up Brit tea (PG Tips- complete garbage water), even floral tea (tastes like 80s potpourri). I do NOT like tea.
But. I can’t drink coffee all day long because I will speak even faster than I already do (which I am at Micromachine level at some points during the day). LaCroix makes my stomach ache (figured this one out after going to the doctor for severe stomach aches…she asked how many cans of LaCroix I was drinking, and when I had to hold up a second hand to count she found my problem). Regular water…blah.
Shilpa introduced me to CCF Tea, which stands for the only ingredients: Corriander, Cumin, and Fennel Seeds. At KOSA, they add seasonal spices like Rose/Chamomile, or currently Ginger for Fall. You can purchase it online here, or make your own by combining equal parts of each spice.
GUESS WHAT? I can actually drink this tea! It does not taste like hot garbage water! And it fabulous for digestive health, so again…keeping everything moving through the body. I started drinking CCF tea daily as one of the Ayurveda practices, and I have kept it up most days. SHOCKING for me.
Fall CCF Tea Recipe
Combine equal parts Corriander, Cumin and Fennel Seeds. You can mix a large batch and store in an airtight container. This is wonderful on its own!
For each serving of tea, use one rounded teaspoon of the CCF mixture, add a pinch of ground ginger or a bit of grated ginger, and a bit of dried chamomile flowers to taste.
Add to teapot with 1 cup boiling water, let steep for 5 minutes. Strain and pour.
DON’T Drink Ice Water
This is a thing to remove from your lifestyle, which in theory should be easier than adding something, right? Ice water, especially when consumed during a meal, douses your digestive “fire.” It inhibits the digestion of food, and you even want to limit the amount of liquids you drink during a meal so you can let your digestive juices do their job (as opposed to diluting them when eating).
Warm water throughout the day is excellent, especially during the cooler, dryer months of Fall and Winter. You want to counteract the seasonal elements, so water is hydrating, and warm water balances the chill.
Overall, Ayurveda is all about tuning into that inner wisdom, to your gut, to your intuition. Ayurveda practices can be simple!Doing things that balance, make you feel grounded. As with any practice, you can take or leave whatever elements work for you. If you aren’t a fan of CCF Tea, don’t drink it! Find something else that works for your taste, and for your body. I highly suggest giving all of these simple practices a try for a bit, though, and see how they impact you over a few weeks. IF at all possible, I highly recommend heading to KOSA Spa in Madison at the Garver Feed Mill. It was one of the most inspiring moments of the past few years for me, and allowed me to reconnect with myself and my partner in a calm, comfortable environment.
Cheers to trying new ways to incorporate the knowledge that is already inside!
*Disclosure: Shilpa is not an Ayurvedic Practitioner, she has a Certified Ayurvedic Health Counselor on staff.