Vamakukshi: Can a “Catnap” Help Your Digestion?
I’m about to tell you one of the most brill practices in Ayurveda and that is, vamakukshi!
Vamakukshi is a daily Ayurvedic catnap to be taken after lunch. Helloooo! How awesome is that?!
Some of you who are very familiar with Ayurveda might be thinking, “Wait, I thought that naps are not good because they increase kapha and can cause weight gain.” You are not wrong and that is true of long naps.
But, because lunch should be the biggest meal of the day, Ayurveda says that a little rest is good to let the body fully concentrate on digestion. Vamakukshi (say it with me! Vah-mah-KOOK-shee, vamakukshi!) is simply, laying on the left side for 20 minutes and is more of a snooze than a full on nap.
The reason vamakukshi is good to practice is because when we eat, all the blood goes to our digestive system, which makes our brains slow down and physical bodies too. This is why we feel a little sleepy after lunch. And! If the meal is too heavy, we might say we’re in a “food coma” or have a “burrito baby.”
On top of that, if we run around pushing our bodies and brains to do more while it’s trying to digest (like eating a heavy burrito on the go!), our body-mind will get confused and leave the food unattended while it answers your request to think/do more…a main cause of ama (toxins)! This is yet another reason why we need to connect our minds to our food and sit down when we eat.
Oh! And we lay on our left side because the right side is heating. We want our right side facing up (heat rises!) while the sun is hottest at lunch, to enhance the strength of our digestive fire!
I know what you’re thinking. “MonicaB, I have back to back meetings for most of the day and am lucky if I get a lunch at all, much less a va-whatever-koochi!”
I empathize. Many other cultures are allowed a break for a long lunch and rest in the afternoon, but American’s are not. We just don’t see that as “important” or “productive” enough, unfortunately. Or, maybe we do, but our bosses and companies would never tolerate us curling up under our desks with a blankie. I get it. But you still have to take a lunch…so you might as well do it up the best you can!
Here are some ways to practice vamakukshi (catnap):
- Do vamakukshi on weekends – yay! Perfect time to practice that. 2 days out of 7 is better than none at all.
- Sit on a chair and in the lounge at work for 20 minutes. Relax, maybe flip through a magazine. Not perfect, but it’s still relaxing and better than rushing to check email.
- Go for a 20 minute stroll. A stroooll, not a power walk. This is great for kapha-types.
- If there is a courtyard, park, or grassy area near your work, vamakukshi there or sit on a bench for a few minutes.
In all our American-ness, despite our crazy schedules, the most important part is to be conscious that digestion needs to take place at least 20 minutes after you eat. Ayurveda never promotes eating on the go and this is why. If you understand the principle behind vamakukshi, maybe you can find other creative ways to incorporate 20 minutes of rest after your lunch!