An ayurvedic cleanse can take many different paths based on an individual’s needs. An ayurvedic cleanse aims to draw toxins, impurities, and excess doshas out of the tissues and into the digestive tract to eliminate. This article will explain an overview of ayurvedic cleansing to balance the body and mind.
When to do an ayurvedic cleanse?
The timing of an ayurvedic cleanse can be a crucial component. Typically, cleansing twice a year with the change of seasons is ideal, with spring or kapha season being most valuable. However, the fall or vata season can also be an excellent time to cleanse as well.
You should also be cleansing if you have excess ama or toxic build-up. It’s important to note that modern life often results in exposure to excessive toxins (e.g. improper diet, chronic stress, unresolved emotions, etc). Excess ama may show itself through:
- Digestive difficulties
- Intense cravings
- Chronic stress, anxiety, foggy brain, trouble focusing
- Fatigue, lethargy
- You feel scatterbrained and have trouble focusing
- Trouble sleeping or waking up constantly
- Skin problems
- White coating on the tongue when waking
3 Phases of an Ayurvedic Cleanse
Although the duration of your cleanse can vary depending on your individual needs, an ayurvedic cleanse should always have three phases. Each step of the cleanse plays an important role and should not be skipped.
The first phase of the cleanse is the preparation. The intention during this phase is to prepare your body for the work ahead. You will focus on a clean diet and proper hydration to draw toxins distributed throughout the body to the digestive tract to eliminate during phase two of the cleanse. A clean diet is considered one that leaves a minimal gut residue. It is ideal to consume warm, simple, and whole foods.
Steer clear of:
- Meat and fish
- Processed, packaged, or manufactured foods
- Sugar, bread, and beans
It’s important to incorporate many dark leafy greens and hydrating liquids to help cleanse the gut and lymph as you prepare for the cleanse. By hydrating well, you’ll ensure your lymph fluid optimally thins so it can easily travel to and then exit from the digestive tract. Ginger tea is excellent to hydrate while also supporting healthy digestion. For instance, try a simple diet of warm spiced oatmeal with ghee for breakfast, followed by a vegetable soup, mild curry, or a warm quinoa and veggie mixture for lunch and dinner.
The ideal duration for the preparation phase can range. One week is best for Vata, one to two weeks for pitta, and three to four weeks for kapha.
The second phase of the cleanse is the heart of it all. This phase is where you actively work towards eliminating toxins from the body. At this point, your gut will have gotten a nice rest from hard-to-digest foods, and your lymph will be nice and thin from all of the hydration. Thus, it is optimal to start doing the deep work of eliminating toxins from the body through a mono kitchari diet and oleation and swedana practices.
Kitchari is traditionally used in an ayurvedic cleanse because, according to ayurveda, it is the easiest thing for our body to digest. And when our body can simplify the main action of digesting food, it can then focus on cleaning up other areas of the body and eliminating toxic build-up. Kitchari is a classic Indian dish prepared with basmati rice, split mung dahl beans, ghee, and spices. It is best to consume kitchari at all three meals during the day. Minimal snacking is advised, so be sure to consume enough kitchari to where you are fully satisfied. Try this traditional kitchari recipe.
In addition to a mono-diet of kitchari, oleation and swedana are excellent to encourage more cleansing. Oleation is the process of ingesting healthy oils, mainly ghee. Swedana means steaming the body daily, stimulating the sweat glands to release toxins. Both oleation and swedana intend to loosen the ama (toxins) stuck deep within the tissues, so the body can readily release it.
Additional Self Care Practices During the Cleanse
Daily self-care is crucial during an ayurvedic cleanse. Just as you work towards cleansing the digestive tract, it is also essential to cleanse emotional and mental blockages. These are a few self-care practices to consider during your cleanse. Choose one or a few.
- Abhyanga is a beautiful practice of external oleation through a self-oiled massage. This type of oleation further increased your body’s vitality while putting it through such a taxing cleanse. Warm oil and massage it deeply into the skin.
- Neti pot helps clear the nasal passageways, further cleansing the entrance channel of the body.
- Nasya works to lubricate inside the nasal passageways by placing three drops of oil in each nostril. This practice offers nourishment to the mind for clear thinking.
- Dry Brushing is a powerful way to move stagnant lymph in the body. Find a stiff-bristled brush and brush towards your heart to encourage the lymph to enter your system to be eliminated through the digestive tract.
- Meditation is great to add to your self-care ritual, especially during a cleanse. Try this 5-minute grounding meditation to help stabilize you during your cleanse.
The third and final phase of an ayurvedic cleanse is the rejuvenation phase. This step may be one of the more challenging stages of the whole cleanse. However, it is arguably the most crucial. After a powerful cleanse, your body will be in a susceptible state. Thus, it is important not to immediately dive back into your old way of eating, drinking, and living. A reintroduction and rejuvenation period is necessary.
To rebuild the tissues and ojas, you may slowly start reincorporating easy-to-digest foods, similar to phase one. You may begin with rice soup, oatmeal, or steamed vegetables and eventually reintroduce common allergens like soy, nightshades, dairy, and gluten. This rejuvenation stage is also a necessary time to be consuming rasayanas such as chyawanprash. Chyawanprash helps to build ojas and strengthen your overall system.
It is best to take a few weeks for this reintroduction and rejuvenation period. You may continue your self-care practices for ultimate nourishment.
Clare Michalik, Ayurvedic Practitioner