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From when she was young, my cousin Sandra’s drink of choice has been hot water. She has always had remarkably good health and a good complexion, yet she insists that her beverage choice was not due to health concerns; she simply dislikes the taste of tea and coffee.
I used to think my cousin’s hot water foible was strange, until I came across Ayurveda and its insistence that drinking hot water is one of the best ways to detoxify your body. The regular sipping of hot water throughout the day is also useful during the cooler seasons, to keep both Vata and Kapha doshas in balance.
One of the main Ayurvedic pillars of health is the elimination of toxins from the body. These toxins can be formed internally, from the incomplete processing of food (due to overeating or low digestion) and from stress. Toxins can also be absorbed from the external world through breathing, drinking and eating.
Ayurveda’s collective name for all type of toxic impurities is Ama, and preventing the build-up of Ama in your tissues is crucial for health.
When your digestive fire, called Agni, is low, digestion is poor. Low digestion can result in incompletely digested food residing in your gut. From this mixture, toxic Ama gradually forms. If this build-up of Ama is not dealt with, it can enter the circulatory system and be transported and distributed throughout your body.
Because it disrupts the fine biochemistry within your cells and tissues, and blocks the channels of circulation and communication, Ayurveda considers the build-up of Ama to be a contributing factor in almost all diseases.
Removing seasonal toxins
Removing Ama is the main target of Panchakarma, the traditional series of Ayurvedic purification and detoxification therapies. These treatments are traditionally taken once or twice a year, as they are known to be the most effective and efficient way to remove the toxins that inevitably accumulate over the months.
When you have a consultation with a Maharishi AyurVeda practitioner, many of their recommendations will aim at preventing the accumulation of Ama in the first place and at removing any existing Ama that has built up.
Daily water purification
One of the most effective Ama-removing approaches is to drink hot water frequently through-out the day.
As the hot water flows through your digestive tract, it will cleanse the entire digestive and eliminative system and help dissolve Ama impurities. Your digestion and assimilation of food will improve, as will your elimination. Having a stronger digestive fire, and more effective elimination, will also prevent any further Ama from forming.
The hot water will also be absorbed into your circulatory system and travel throughout your body. The extra fluidity and warmth this provides helps open the circulatory channels, known as Shrotas, and helps dissolve and wash away any accumulated Ama that is blocking both tissue and cellular channels. The result is that nutrition can be delivered more effectively to your cells and cellular metabolic waste is more efficiently eliminated.
After just a few weeks of regularly hot water drinking, many people report that their digestion and elimination have improved and they feel fresher and lighter.
What’s the procedure?
Usually it’s recommended to boil some water, put it into a flask and pour out small amounts to sip frequently throughout the day — up to every 30 minutes. Even a few small sips of hot water helps clear the body channels, remove toxins and aids the appetite. (Though be careful not to have the water so hot that it burns your mouth.)
What type of water is best?
Non-chlorinated filtered tap water is best, followed by bottled spring water. We don’t recommend distilled water. Some people have reverse osmosis filtering systems, which are generally okay, though this process does remove most of the water’s mineral content.
Why heat the water?
Some Indian Vaidyas (Ayurvedic doctors) recommend that water should be boiled for about 10 minutes. This will remove any obvious impurities from the water, but this process also has more subtle effects.
Water is the universal solvent. Some even claim that water has memory and that all sorts of influences, even those that are subtle and energetic, can be imprinted in it. Fire is the great purifier and, when applied to water for a good length of time, it helps purify anything that is unwelcome within that water.
Water has a cold quality and because Kapha Dosha is cold by nature, water tends to increase our own Kapha. Boiling water for any length of time helps counteract that cold Kapha-increasing tendency. The water also becomes lighter and more cleansing.
A few herbs/spices can increase the cleansing influence of the water. In your hot water flask, you can add:
- a few slices of ginger root
- a pinch of turmeric (or a few slices of turmeric root)
- a few fennel seeds
- a little lemon or lime juice can also be added
Or instead, Maharishi AyurVeda herbal tea bags can also be added to the flask. At the same time as they help mitigate the influence of climatic conditions on your internal balance, they help cleanse Ama from your body.