Fascianation: CTF III – Drink More Water

Photo by Erik Dunham

6. Hydrate.  Hydrate.  Hydrate.

This is an important suggestion from Tom Myers regarding Connective Tissue Fitness.  Your body mass is about 70% water, about the same percentage as the Earth’s surface.  We can live without food for a month or more, but without water, we may perish within only a few days.  Fascia is known as “organized water,” so staying hydrated is key to maintaining good health.

Ayurveda offers some suggestions on how to remain well hydrated.  Most people should drink between 5-7 cups of water each day.  You figure a cup is 8 ounces, so that is 40-56 ounces per day.  The exact amount will be different based upon your constitution, your dosha, lifestyle and physical activity, your job, and the weather.  A vata person may require 6-8 cups per day, pitta is more in the middle with 5-7, and a kapha person more like 4-5 cups per day.

Use plain water at warm or room temperature, and in fact, the hotter the better.  Drinking one to two mugs of hot water in the morning before eating breakfast will help stimulate your digestive system so that it is ready to take on food and you may eliminate well.  Hot water specifically will help build agni, the digestive fire, and remove ama, toxic sludge that can build up in the body when we do not digest properly.  Ice water or anything colder than body temperature can be a shock to the system and your body will resist digesting and absorbing it and anything else you eat while drinking the ice water.

Coffee, tea, and soft drinks do not have the same effect as water.  Coffee and tea are both diuretics, so you may end up less hydrated after drinking them.  Green tea is high in anti-oxidants so it can be helpful to your health, just drink in moderation and make sure you continue to get enough plain water as well.  Don’t even get me started on soft drinks.  Sodas contain phosphoric acid that can leach calcium from your body, and diet soft drinks are just as bad.  Fruit juice, on the other hand, in moderation can be quite refreshing.

Can you drink too much water?  Yes.  Sometimes you will hear it is good to drink more water to flush out the kidneys, but when the kidneys are already fatigued, excess water will be like drowning so it becomes even harder for them to do their job.  That water that is not absorbed will be retained in connective tissue and lead to excess weight.  If you drink too much and “drown” the kidneys, it can cause a loss of sodium and potassium and then you are more prone to muscle cramps and gas in the colon.  These conditions are due to water toxicity which will affect cell metabolism and in extreme cases can be fatal.  (Dr. Vasant Lad, Textbook of Ayurveda, Fundamental Principles, p. 141)

Photo by Erik Dunham

So how do you improve water absorption and therefore good hydration in the body?  Stick with the average 5-7 cups of fresh water per day.  If you eat raisins or other dried fruits for breakfast, soak them in water overnight before eating them.  This goes for almonds too.  Almonds are less acidic than other nuts and they are high in protein, vitamin E, calcium, and magnesium.  Soaking them overnight does double-duty because you are basically sprouting the almonds and therefore activating enzymes that will assist your absorption of nutrients in addition to absorption of extra water.  Soak your rice overnight before cooking that as well.

Soups and stews are a great way to add more water to your diet, and because the water is inherent in the food, your body is more likely to absorb it.  One pot meals such as soups and stews are also beneficial in that they are generally easier to digest so your G-I tract is not over-taxed.

One last thing when drinking your 1-2 mugs of hot water in the morning:  experiment with herbs and spices.  If you are feeling acidic, squeeze a little lemon juice in to your water to calm your stomach.  If you have had a poor appetite lately or if you feel congested, infuse a few slices of fresh ginger root in boiling water for 10-15 minutes, and then drink.  If you are feeling weaker or fatigued, add a little honey to your ginger tea.  Cardamom, cumin, and fennel seeds together in equal proportion infused in boiling water, again 10-15 minutes, has a similar beneficial effect on your digestion as the ginger.  Strain the seeds out before you drink and add some natural sweetener like honey, maple syrup, or agave, if necessary.  Cinnamon is an all-around beneficial spice, it is warming and can break up congestion as well as bring mental clarity.  For more suggestions on spices, Eat, Taste, Heal by Yarema, Rhoda, and Brannigan, is a great text with an overview of Ayurveda as well as recipes for your dosha.

So, these are some things to think about regarding proper hydration for your body.  Your fascia will reward you with greater flexibility, elasticity, and tone.

 

Next up: Fascianation: CTF IV.
Return to Fascianation: CTF II.

I Feel Crappy

There, I said it.  Out loud.  This whole week I’ve been battling a cold; first it was the sore throat, then the congestion in my head, then the body aches…  it has subsided but it is not over yet.

Fall is a beautiful season, we’ve been having wonderfully clear days and getting some much needed rain, but fall can also aggravate dryness (despite the rain) and anxiety and because of the massive fluctuations in temperature, we become much more susceptible to germs.  It is a busy time of year — as one of my teachers, Cate Stillman, said, just look at the squirrels! — and looking at my own schedule for teaching, attending class, and social obligations, I am no exception.  In the last week, all of these things conspired against me and nature abruptly said YOU NEED TO REST.

Last weekend I did not do the things I planned to do and stayed home to be quiet.  That helped because my sore throat went away and the congestion became more bearable.  But as I continued with my regular teaching schedule this week, my brain continued to be over-busy and discontent.  It occurred to me that my cold was as much mental as physical.  I went back and forth in my head about whether I should do a cleanse because I wasn’t really feeling into it this fall.  According to Ayurveda, fall is an ideal time to detox in order to let go of the excess heat that developed over the summer and to adjust on all levels, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, to the coming cold and damp of wintertime.

When I began cleansing in the fall a few years back, one of the first things I noticed was that winter became more bearable to me.  I love winter when it snows!  But when it does not snow (which is just as likely as not in the metro DC area) it is depressing.  With a fall detox as part of my annual routine, I almost kind-of sort-of look forward to the longer nights and colder days as a way of nesting and hibernating.  Spring does become that much more sweet.

Meanwhile, busy mind still here.  To cleanse or not to cleanse?  That is the question.  I had lots of ambivalence as the week and my cold persisted.  Dr. Claudia Welch, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine practitioner and author of Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, says when your life gets more complicated, simplify your diet.  So finally on Thursday, it was almost out of the blue.  A lightning bolt of revelation — I know how much better I feel when the detox is done.  Somehow the mental chatter (which has been yelling at me lately) calms a bit, physically my digestion is easier and more efficient, emotionally I have a little more compassion for those around me and especially for those who regularly go without food.

It is decided.  Five days of juicing.  I’m beginning day three today.  Slowing down to taste the juice, I make myself sit and offer a mantra of thanksgiving – Brahmar panam, Brahma havir, Brahma agnau, Brahma nahutam, Brahma eva tena gantavyam, Brahma karma samadhina – The act of offering, the oblation itself is pure Consciousness, within Consciousness it is offered to the fire of Consciousness, and those who act in harmony with Consciousness merge with blissful peace.

 

My current favorite recipe for juice:

4-5 stems of kale

1 medium apple

1/2 cucumber

1 inch of ginger root

Juice it up and drink it down.

 

Next up: Sadhana

Go back to Ayurvedic Comfort Food

 

Ayurvedic Comfort Food

When I woke up this morning, the crisp fall air reminded me of how much I love crisp fall apples.  They are back in season and some of the best come from Rebert Farm at the Cheverly Community Market.  (Sure, shameless plug, I know.)  So, in the spirit of the season, I want to share my favorite fall breakfast.  It is warming, grounding, and rejuvenating and helps to combat the dryness of the season, plus it makes for happy digestion.

Apples and Oatmeal

The night before: soak a small handful of raisins and 10-12 almonds.

Other ingredients:

  • 1-2 apples
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • ¼ cup whole rolled oats

Wash, core, and slice the apple(s).  Heat the apples in a small saucepan with the water, cinnamon, and ginger. When water comes to a boil, add raisins and oatmeal. Boil covered for five minutes or until the water is absorbed. Meanwhile, peel skins off the almonds.

When apples and oatmeal are done cooking, transfer to a bowl and add almonds.  You may use raw honey or agave to sweeten it, though it is already pretty sweet; and if you like, add some soy or almond milk to taste.  This recipe serves one.

Enjoy!

 

Return to Full Circle in Floyd

Next up: I Feel Crappy

Hot, Clear Water

Photo by Erik Dunham

Let’s discuss hydration.  Dare I state the obvious and say that water is an important ingredient for life.  One of the things Curiosity is looking for on Mars is some sign of water, no doubt.

Health in Ayurveda is called svastha.  Sva means self and stha means to be established.  To be established in the self implies an engagement with body, mind, and heart.  It is a certain knowing of what you need and don’t need as far as food, drink, environment, and lifestyle and a certain balance among those things.  It is not static.  Health is a dynamic flow of all the parts of your own being in a balanced way.  When things get too dry inside physically, things get stuck.

In my last post I mentioned drinking two mugs of water upon waking, the hotter the better.  If you are feeling especially acidic, squeeze some lemon in there too.  This serves a couple of purposes.  But before we get there, let’s look at a particular feedback loop within our bodies.  Agni and Ama.  Agni means fire, illumination, even intelligence, and in Ayurvedic terms it represents the fire of digestion and transformation.  When we take in food, agni converts that food into nutrients and things that your body can use to nourish itself.  Ama is the toxic sludge that accumulates when food is not properly digested.  When ama builds up it can cause a whole host of issues, not only obesity but also fatigue, constipation, indigestion, bad breath and even mental confusion to name a few.  So, we take in food, agni helps digest that food, and what does not get digested or eliminated becomes ama in the body.  The stronger your agni, the less influence ama has on you.  If there is too little or too much water in your system, agni will not function well.

Most of us in the first world have an excess of ama in our systems.  It accumulates when we eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods.  Foods that are highly processed or extremely dense are difficult to digest.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, rice, other grains like quinoa and millet, and legumes are really the best choices.  Meat and dairy products are highly dense, so they should be consumed in smaller portions.  And even with healthy food choices, proper amounts are important too.

Now back to water.  Hot water with a squeeze of lemon in the morning serves two helpful purposes:  it hydrates your body and it prepares your digestive system to do its job that day.  Cold water stifles agni, and other morning beverages like coffee or tea do not have the same effect as water.  The caffeine content is a diuretic, so they can actually dehydrate your body more.  But I have to say, if you choose to drink tea, please enjoy Andrews and Dunham Damn Fine Tea.  (shameless hubby-promotion here, it’s true)  And please, soft drinks are even worse.  Have you seen this graphic making its way around the internets?  Yikes.

Hot water with lemon helps draw ama and toxins out of your body and through your digestive tract to be eliminated.  When there is less ama in your system, your internal channels are more clear.  You will be less prone to fatigue and colds and generally you will just feel better.  Your muscles will even be less likely to cramp.

To improve your health and become “established in your self,” it doesn’t take a massive overhaul of your life.  Take baby-steps.  Drinking hot lemon water in the morning is an easy thing to add to your daily routine and the benefits are almost immediate.

 

Next up: Full Circle in Floyd.

Go back to Yoga As Therapy: Fascia.

 

 

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