5 Steps to Recover from Illness
Far too often, I see clients who come to me to address chronic health concerns that are the result of many years of asking their bodies to do more with less. I hear stories of people who are sick with the flu but continue to go to work every day, or people who are recovering from surgery trying to go right back to their old jogging regime. Illness is a sign—a big red flag on the highway of life—of an imbalance in our bodies. When we overlook that important state of recovery, we throw our bodies into a deeper state of imbalance that can lead to more serious issues in the long term.
About 12 years ago, I felt several lumps on my side. I had also lost a significant amount of weight but hadn’t realized it. My father had just passed and it was a drawn out event.
I knew that the most important thing I needed to do was to give myself the space to heal and not pretend that I was exactly the same as I was before this imbalance had emerged. I changed my dinacharya, daily routine, to allow more time for rest, daily abhyanga, meditation and intuitive energy practice, along with eating daily meals of kitchari or kunyi. After six months, I felt well enough to begin surfing again. And though my recovery wasn’t complete, I knew I was going to be okay.
When our bodies are healing from an illness, whether it is surgery, the flu or cancer, they are working twice as hard to bring us back to a state of balance. In order to feel better—and by better, I mean better than you felt before you got sick—it’s critical to give your body the time and space it needs to rejuvenate. That comes from changing your dinacharya during and after illness to provide your body extra support to come back to your optimal state.
A regular dinacharya consists of times for bodily care, meditation, exercise, eating and sleeping. When you are sick, a supportive dinacharya can bring your body back to a state of balance. Here’s a simple dinacharya that can help you recover from illness and feel better than ever.
1. Make rest your first priority. When you are sick, your body is hard at work healing. This means you need to give yourself plenty of time in a relaxing environment away from stressful activities. Let your work responsibilities—neither you nor your job will benefit from pushing beyond your abilities—and aim to get between 8-9 hours of sleep. Typically sleeping during the day is not recommended in Ayurveda, but in a state of recovery from acute illness or surgery, naps can help your body recover faster.
2. Nourish your body with abhyanga. Applying warm oil to your skin every morning rejuvenates your tissues. Your skin is your biggest organ, so oleating your body replenishes the unctuous elements that have been lost, plus it’s a wonderful practice in self-care. Abhyanga is especially helpful when the oil is decocted with herbs that address imbalance.
3. Drink your fluids. Start your day with a cup of hot water to liquefy any stagnant kapha and ama, or toxins, and get your agni moving. Sip ginger tea (just a couple slices of fresh ginger in warm water will do) or tea made with cumin, coriander and fennel throughout the day to improve your digestion and help your body release ama.
4. Go within to heal. Spend more time in meditation and inward contemplation. Focus on living in the present moment, releasing fear and patterns that no longer serve you. Look for the emotional aspects of the imbalance and let them go without judgment. If you have a regular pranayama practice, hold off during your recovery. In a state of weakness, your energy channels are not at their optimal level. Pranayama can push your body to expend energy that it needs for healing.
5. Eat well to feel better. You may not be hungry, but eating at regular times throughout the day gives your body the fuel it needs to heal. Be very supportive to your digestion by eating plain kitchari with no vegetables (you can find a recipe here) or kunyi, a soupy rice mixture made with a ratio of 6:1 water to white basmati rice, a teaspoon of ghee, a pinch of turmeric, and salt. Stop eating at your first burp, since that is your body’s signal that it is full and overeating taxes your body with extra work. About 10 minutes before each meal, get your body ready to digest by chewing a ginger appetizer made from ¼ tsp. fresh, grated ginger with 2–3 drops of lime juice and a pinch of mineral salt.
Recovering from illness or surgery can take time, especially if it is chronic or the result of a longstanding imbalance. When you feel anxious or scared, take 12 deep breaths to rebalance. Don’t push yourself to go back to your normal routine until you have fully recovered. And remember – no matter where you begin, there is always a path to your natural state of health.