Most of our daily activities require some level of strength and stamina: We work, cook, clean, take care of our kids, exercise and more. Enjoying adequate strength helps us carry out these activities without fatigue or struggle. This is where Ayurvedic medicine for strength can help!
Strengthening in Ayurveda is part of the tonification therapies. However, it’s important to note that we shouldn’t jump into tonification treatments without cleansing first. This is because tonifying treatments may end up creating toxicity if we’re unbalanced or already living in a toxic state.
Ayurvedic treatment for building strength usually starts with reduction therapies to lower the dosha or doshas that are in excess. Cleansing the excess doshas is the first step to help the body go back to homeostasis, where it will be able to self-regulate and maintain a state of health and balance.
Almost all of us can benefit from some reduction methods (hello Kitchari cleanse!) since it will purify our systems so we can better assimilate the tonics and have optimum results with tonification.
However, there are some conditions where the individual is too weak for reduction methods (e.g. convalescent people, elderly people, and pregnant women or women who just gave birth), in which case we have to start with tonification methods first.
Tonification or “Santarpana” is intended to strengthen our ojas and prana or Life force. It consists of a variety of methods that bring greater nourishment (as you may know, Ayurveda healing modalities are numerous and extend beyond food and diet!). Tonification uses tools that provide care, relaxation, bliss, ease, and joy! It is aimed at making the individual feel better about themselves.
Tonification is typically recommended for the Vata dosha, because of its light and dry nature. Since Fall season is Vata season, October and November are excellent months to practice Tonification. Tonification also helps in the Winter months when we need more strength and weight and can digest heavier foods. It is less useful in the Summer as it is heavy and oily in nature and can increase toxins in the body.
So, after you do your Fall cleanse, and especially if you feel tired and are experiencing lack of muscle tone, use the following methods from Ayurvedic medicine for strength. Please note that these strengthening therapies are more constitutional than seasonal and often have to be continued over several months. Generally, the older we get, the more we need it, particularly after the age of 50 (when the Vata stage of life starts).
- Diet and Herbs: Increase intake of mono and polyunsaturated fats, ghee, honey, and Chyawanprash. Chyawanprash is an herbal remedy made from strong tonifying herbs like Cinnamon, Brahmi, Licorice, Aswagandha and Ginseng and is widely recommended for building strength and vitality. It’s also important to consume nutritive-rich warm soups and stews, and warm milk with honey, ghee and spices. Stimulant substances like coffee, tobacco and other drugs should be avoided.
- Body Care and Rest: Massage the body with oil daily (a great oil for Vata is sesame oil but you can use coconut oil or avocado oil too), take proper rest and go to bed early. Rest when you feel your body needs it. Have a regular meditation routine.
- Breathing: Nadi Shodana or alternate breathing is a great grounding practice for Vata. Just make sure you do moderate breath-increasing exercises with no effort to stop or suppress the breath.
- Lifestyle: Avoid stimulation including mass media, social media, crowds and too much noise. Your environment should be peaceful. If possible, take a vacation in nature, in a mountain cabin or in the woods. Surround yourself with supportive, loving friends or family members.
- Yoga: Overtime, yoga naturally strengthens and tones your muscles and body. Be sure to practice several times per week for best results.
Tell me: What are your favorite tonification practices?
Cecile Antoine Alfonzo
Certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant & Coach