An intentional seasonal cleanse can bring balance, harmony, and deeper self-awareness into your life. When done correctly, it can restore digestion, clear the clutter from the mind, rebuild your body from a place of true nourishment and love, and reconnect you with your inner wisdom. The experience of cleansing can be deep and profound. It can also bring emotions to the surface and challenge us along the way. Patanjali, author of The Yoga Sutras, cleverly reminds us that “Pain from suffering that has not yet arisen can be avoided.” With awareness of the road blocks that can arise during a cleanse, you can support yourself for a more connected and enjoyable experience this spring. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned cleanser, here are a few common mistakes to watch out for:
Not Knowing Your “Why”
Often times, when we’re feeling funky after overeating or adopting poor habits during travel and stressful times, we look towards a cleanse as a quick solution to losing weight or looking better. However, these quick goals are often clues into deeper desires that can be teased out and supported during your cleanse. Getting clear on these desires and setting your intentions before you embark is a powerful way to focus your energy during your cleanse. Knowing which doshas need balancing can bring more clarity to that focus, and if you aren't sure where to start, the Ayurvedic Profile™ quiz is a good place to begin. The yogic practice of sankalpa shakti gives us a tool to shape meaningful intentions that can guide our journey towards inner transformation. In its simplest term, a sankalpa is an intention or inner resolve crafted in the form of a positive affirmation. So before you embark on your cleanse, take time to reflect on your “why” and write out what you desire from your experience, setting your sankalpa to support you along the way.
Rushing in Too Quickly
The time you take to set the stage for your cleanse will impact your whole experience. Purvakarma is the essential process of preparing the body and mind for deep cleansing. It’s a time to slowly eliminate inflammatory foods and stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, and processed meals. If you have inconsistent eating habits, like eating on the go or snacking through the day, the preparation phase will help you increase agni, your essential digestive fire, and assist in establishing new foundational nourishment habits to carry with you through and beyond the cleanse. When choosing your cleanse time, plan for 1–2 weeks of preparation to give plenty of time and space to get organized, comfortable with new routines around diet and self-care, and consciously schedule down-time to rest.
We like to think we can do it all. A cleanse is a time for going inward—resting and reflecting so we can reconnect with our inner voice. When you pack your schedule full of work commitments, social events, and stimulation, your cleanse can turn into an experience of depletion rather than nourishment. As you step into the deeper stages of cleansing, it’s crucial you take the necessary time to slow down and stabilize vata with intentional routines and rest. In doing so, you support a deeper cleansing process and the rebuilding of ojas to take place.
One of the biggest hurdles to a graceful cleanse is that pesky voice of perfectionism. It will tell you there’s a right way of doing things, that you must follow every step perfectly or else your experience is a waste, and when you miss a step you might as well give up. It can create emotional stress and anxiety through the judgement and constrictive thoughts that arise from our inner critic. Let that voice go. Our bodies are as reactive to our thoughts and words as they are to our actions. Just as you release inflammatory foods from your diet, so you release the inflammatory stories. Embrace imperfection and be gentle with yourself. If you burnt the kitchari, or skipped your self-care one morning, how can you be kind instead of critical and embrace an attitude of compassion towards yourself? Correct the course by sitting down for a quiet and present meal, get to bed early so you’re rested and ready to embark on a new day of dinacharya, and maybe focus on one new self-care habit instead of six.
Skipping the Rejuvenation Process
Chocolate-covered almonds and peanut butter ice cream anyone? After ending a kitchari diet, you may feel a mental craving to binge on sweets or return to old eating patterns. Rasayana, the process of conscious rejuvenation, is equally as important as the cleanse itself. Choose to nourish the body and support agni with high-quality, nutrient-rich foods that are easy to digest and eaten with presence. Instead of processed sweets, this is a great time to explore the sweet taste through ojas-boosting foods like dates, ghee and high-quality dairy, naturally sweet vegetables such as sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, squashes and gourds, and simple sweeteners like honey. Externally, continue to support the body and mind with rest and nourishing oil massages. Spending time in nature is a great ally during the rejuvenation process. The post-cleanse time is a truly sacred space where you can continue reinforcing diet and lifestyle habits that deeply nurture you into the new season. Linger here and enjoy the final stages of your cleanse.