You may have heard about cleansing and just how good it is for you. So what now? Should you really take time out of your busy schedule to cleanse? And if so, how do you actually do a cleanse? Ayurvedic cleansing is simple and easy and can be done in the comfort of your own home. Use the information below to start unlocking the vast potential of your health and well-being.
Why to do a Cleanse
You may already be taking care of yourself by eating healthy food, doing yoga and exercising. So why do you need to do a cleanse? Because prevention is the name of the game, and even the finest instruments require tuning on a periodic basis. A cleanse based on Ayurvedic principles allows your body the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate, as well as remove toxins that may have accumulated in your system.
Most of us have some exposure to unhealthy toxins in our food, water and environment. Poorly digested food can further add to a build-up of toxins, which Ayurveda calls ama. This toxic build-up in the system causes suboptimal performance of your body’s tissues and organs, right down to the cellular level. Signs that toxic residue has accumulated in your system may include a heavy coating on your tongue, sluggishness after you eat, foggy thinking, and joint and muscle aches.
Cleansing starts the clean-up process and leaves you feeling lighter and refreshed. The benefits from doing even the simplest cleanse can be powerful.
An Ayurvedic cleanse can help:
- Usher toxic residue out of the system
- Kindle the digestive fire
- Reset the metabolism
- Support healthy weight management
- Increase energy and vitality
- Rest and rejuvenate the body’s tissues
- Balance and harmonize the doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha)
- Improve clarity of thinking and memory
- Reduce generalized aches (that are not related to other health issues)
- Support healthy flow of prana (the body’s life force)
- Boost the body’s natural ability to resist disease
There are a variety of ways to cleanse. Ayurveda’s full cleanse is called Panchakarma, which can be done with a trained practitioner. However, a simpler, less involved yet highly effective version of this is to do a whole foods cleanse at home, which is what we describe here.
How to do a Cleanse
Just a few easy steps form the foundation of your cleansing experience:
- Mono Diet
Kitchari for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Kitchari is considered a nutritionally whole food. Made from rice and yellow mung dal, this very basic Ayurvedic combination is considered one of the easiest foods to digest, allowing the digestive system to rest and reset while giving your tissues nourishment and sustenance. It is important to have cooked, easy to digest foods during a cleanse because this allows the body to turn its attention from breaking down your food to actually mobilizing and getting rid of toxic build-up. Make your kitchari with digestive spices like turmeric, cumin and ginger, which not only add great flavor, but also kindle the digestive fire and boost the immune system. Add some ghee as internal oleation helps loosen toxins. And finish the recipe with fresh seasonal vegetables of your choice, giving you valuable fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. Learn how to make kitchari with our video.
Sip hot water and hot detox tea. Hot water kindles the digestion and also helps naturally flush toxins from the system. Sip hot water throughout the day, and also hydrate yourself with plenty of room temperature water if needed, but avoid cold, iced drinks and caffeine. Start and end your day with a cup of an herbal detox tea. If you want, you can make it at home with fresh spices like cumin, coriander, fennel and fresh ginger.
Leave at least 5 hours between meals. This affords ample time for digestion and allows the body to remove the toxic stores that have been tucked away in the tissues for long periods of time. For this reason, try to avoid snacking. If you are ravishingly hungry, go ahead and have a snack that incorporates the same ingredients as the kitchari, and eat a larger portion at your next sitting to hold you over between meals. You may find that this gets easier with time.
- Self-Oil Massage
This incredibly nourishing treat for yourself also serves a vital role in the cleansing process. It helps mobilize toxins from the tissues while also calming the nervous system so that the body can move from stress-fighting functions to rejuvenating functions. Only in the parasympathetic rest and relax paradigm can the cells repair themselves, bringing healing to the body and a renewed state of well-being.
Using warm oil is key in the massage, as this allows the oil to more deeply penetrate and nourish the tissues. Plus it feels good!
Read how to do a self-massage and watch our short “how-to” video here.
The final key for any cleanse is to, well, CLEANSE! A gentle home cleanse does not have to include harsh purgatives. The most important thing is to give the body the opportunity to flush the toxins with regular, healthy bowel movements. Triphala helps gently support this type of cleansing while also being a powerful source of anti-oxidants. It rejuvenates the tissues, leaving you feeling lighter and revitalized.
Take 2 tablets at bedtime. Alternately, if you prefer the traditional method of powder, take ½ tsp at bedtime with warm water, or steep in hot water at bedtime and drink in the morning. Adjust your dose as needed according to your body’s response.
When to do a Cleanse
Ayurveda traditionally recommends cleansing at natural transition points, such as the change of seasons. As the body shifts gears to adjust to the changes in the environment, a cleanse supports a gentle removal of the buildup from the passing season, allowing the body to more easily adapt to the incoming season.
However, a gentle home cleanse can be done at almost any time that suits your schedule, whenever you feel the need to reset your digestion and remove toxicity. Make time to allow yourself to slow down and experience the benefits of the cleanse, rather than maintaining a hectic, stressful daily routine that may have contributed to the toxic build-up in the first place.
If you are new to cleansing and just want to give this a try, you can start with a mini one-day cleanse. Even this is enough to give your digestive system a break, boosting the immune system, balancing doshas and removing unwanted residue. If you are ready to really experience the benefits of the home cleanse, commit to a three- to seven-day process, following the same routine on a daily basis. Add some gentle yoga and journaling to deepen your cleansing experience and to gain insight into your healing process. During this time, you may feel ups and downs, but stay with it, and you will definitely experience the uplifting benefits by the end—in body, mind and spirit.
Once you have finished the cleanse, gently and consciously reintroduce activities into your daily routine, as quickly jumping back into your previous habits will be a shock to the system, rapidly re-building toxins and imbalancing doshas.
Take some time to re-introduce other elements back into your normal diet, waiting a few extra days if you can to have heavier foods like dairy and meat. If there are previous habits that you know weren’t serving your health, now is a great time to let them go. And if you found portions of the cleanse beneficial, like the self–massage or Triphala, feel free to incorporate them into your longterm daily routine.
The days that follow a cleanse are a great time to start taking rejuvenating herbs and formulas like Ashwagandha and Chyavanprash. They will continue to nourish the system and bolster energy and vitality. Take Ashwagandha before bed (2 tablets or ½ tsp boiled in a cup of milk with sweetner to taste). One or two teaspoons of Chyavanprash can be taken most anytime up to 2x daily.