I write about cleansing a lot—it is one of the most profound things I do in my Ayurvedic practice because it provides pretty significant results in a short amount of time. However, shamana (our daily practices) should not be overshadowed by shodhana (Ayurveda’s purification practices). While seasonal cleansing is important, what we do after a cleanse is equally, or more, important.
Obviously, common sense tells us that after completing a cleanse, jumping into a diet full of chocolate chip cookies, potato chips, and ice cream isn’t a good idea. In fact, most people I work with on a cleanse say that they don’t crave these foods anymore—their bodies in just two weeks have given them a clear message that foods that support well-being are actually preferred. Cleansing is about clearing away ama, or toxins, that have built up in the body, in our GI tract, as well as stored in our fat cells. Once this ama is cleared away, the channels become very clear; what this means is that senses are likely to be heightened and therefore sensations can feel intense. Further, the delicate lining of the intestinal tract can be very sensitive as it is exposed, possibly for the first time in years. In the days and weeks following a cleanse, it is extremely important to take extra care of the mind, emotions, and physical body for longevity and health.
Rasayana is a Sanskrit word that translates to mean rejuvenation or longevity. In Ayurveda, this is ultimately the purpose of cleansing: to rejuvenate our bodies and promote longevity. Some sources may also translate the word to mean anti-aging. There are many rasayana practices and foods that are beneficial to add after your cleanse is over. The following five things will help you to restore your body after a cleanse:
Nurture your agni. Agni is the main digestive fire and healthy agni means excellent digestion, absorption, and assimilation of nutrients. When we digest our food properly, we are able to generate new, healthy tissues, which therefore promotes longevity and health. I recommend taking either a slice of ginger sprinkled with lemon juice and salt or a very strong lemon water before meals. Take one (or both) of these about ten to fifteen minutes before a meal.
Nourish your tissues. One of the three qualifiers to determine if a food is a rasayana or not is whether it provides proper nutrition by nourishing the dhatus, or tissues. Tissues include everything from skin and hair to blood and lymph. Some tissues regenerate more quickly than others, but all are breaking down and regenerating constantly. Often the foods that provide superior nutrition to all tissues are heavier and a little more difficult to digest. As I said before, in Ayurveda the purpose of cleansing is to rejuvenate; this is said because without first clearing the channels and cultivating healthy agni, we are not able to digest and benefit from these powerful foods. After your cleanse and when digestion is balanced, you can begin adding rasayana foods such as dates, coconut, almonds, and ghee. Rasayana pastes, such as Chyavanprash, combine many rasayana foods and herbs together.
Keep warm and out of the wind. The purification process can increase vata and the subtle qualities of the air and space elements. Therefore, it is important to decrease environmental factors that increase vata. This is especially important during fall and early winter, as this is considered vata season.
Integrate sustainable stress management and self-care practices. A big part of an Ayurvedic cleanse is keeping stress levels to a minimum and spending extra time caring for yourself. When the mind/body is relaxed, toxins are more easily released. We make an extra effort to shift time priorities in our favor for two weeks. However, for most people it isn’t realistic to keep up this level of self-care and stress management long term. The key is adding in one thing at a time until it becomes a habit. I find that by doing this, the new habit naturally reinforces other new healthy habits and the unhealthy habits seem to slowly drop away. Try to choose one or two new habits from your cleanse to continue to practice. Consider what felt most natural to you. What nourished you? It may be a daily self-massage with oil, or ten minutes of yoga each morning. Don’t feel as if you need to do a total lifestyle overhaul—allow this process to be enjoyable and easy, and the next time you cleanse again (spring, perhaps?) you can choose another new habit to integrate.
Eat what’s in season. Our bodies are most balanced when we eat what is seasonally available. These foods naturally provide us with the anecdote to the most prevalent seasonal imbalances. For example, in fall and winter, the garden gives us winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and fall-harvested grains such as rice and wheat. All of these foods are high in the earth element which balances the increased air and space elements inherent in fall and winter. By seeking these foods in their whole form, you won’t have to guess what to eat after your cleanse—mother nature gives you the answer.