An Ayurvedic cleanse is a detoxifying regimen that aims to draw toxins, impurities, and excess doshas out of the tissues and into the digestive tract to eliminate. It can take many different paths based on an individual’s needs. This article will provide an overview of Ayurvedic cleansing and how to get started.
Why Should You Cleanse?
Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of clear channels and subtle pathways of the body and mind. We want our food to give us nourishment (not blockages, constipation, and toxicity), and our thoughts to give us hope and happiness (not stress, worry, and sadness).
Sometimes, however, we can develop excess ama or toxic build up - especially during the change of seasons - in which case, our pathways can become blocked leading to malabsorption, symptoms, and disease.
By cleansing and removing ama we can restore agni (digestive fire) and improve overall health.
Signs and Symptoms You May Need to Cleanse
If you have excess ama or doshic build-up, it may be time to cleanse. Excess ama or imbalances in the body may show itself through:
- Digestive difficulties
- Intense cravings
- Chronic stress, anxiety, foggy brain, trouble focusing
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Feeling scatterbrained or having trouble focusing
- Trouble sleeping or waking up constantly
- Skin problems
- White coating on the tongue when waking
When Should You 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. By cleansing with the seasons, you're able to remove any ama accumulation while aligning the body and mind with the new season.
That said, modern life often results in excessive exposure to toxins (e.g. improper diet, chronic stress, unresolved emotions, etc.), which can lead to an accumulation of ama. An ayurvedic physician may recommend cleansing any time of the year if necessary for the patient.
How to Cleanse
Typically, its advisable to cleanse under the care of a physician so they can guide you in the best process for your individual dosha and state of health, but many people can gently cleanse at home with great results.
Note: If you're in need of a deeper cleanse, you will definitely want to find an ayurvedic practitioner to guide your treatment. They may ask you to consider Panchakarma, an intensive, detoxifying Ayurvedic treatment led by an expert. Depending on your specific needs, your practitioner may recommend going on a retreat to complete this ama-removing treatment, or they may craft a program that you can go through at home.
An ayurvedic practitioner can also recommend suitable herbs to help deepen your detox experience and restore balance.
Cleansing At Home
If you'd like to cleanse from the comfort of home, you can start with our simple seven-day ayurvedic cleanse.
Here's what you can expect from the seven-day cleanse:
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, easy-to-digest 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:
- Processed, packaged, or manufactured foods
- Sugar and refined carbohydrates
In the days before a cleanse, plan to stick to well-spiced, warm meals made from whole foods (like soups and stirfrys) and try to avoid snacking to give your digestion a rest.
It’s also important to hydrate well to to 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 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.
Kitchari is traditionally used in an ayurvedic cleanse because, according to Ayurveda, it is often easy 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.
You'll also want to make sure to include the six tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, astringent) in every meal to ensure that you are eating a balanced and satisfying diet.
In addition to a mono-diet of kitchari, oleation is an excellent way to encourage more cleansing. Oleation is the process of ingesting healthy oils, mainly Ghruta ghee or ghee. The benefit of consuming Ghruta ghee during a cleanse is that it increases rasa (bodily juices) and penetrates the body's tissues to loosen, dislodge, and drain ama into the gastrointestinal tract for elimination. Ghruta also deeply nourishes the tissues.
How to add ghee to your ayurvedic cleanse: Take 1 to 2 tsp of Ghruta followed by warm water in the morning on an empty stomach. Do this several days before the cleanse and each day during the cleanse itself.
Support your detox pathways
To aid the success of your cleanse, it's important to support your body's natural detoxification processes and pathways as much as possible. This will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your cleanse.
Here are a few ways you can do this:
- Hydrate to help flush and remove toxins from the body. A great way to hydrate and support detoxification is to drink warm lime or lemon water in the morning and herbal tea throughout the day. Lime is great for pacifying Pitta, which makes it particularly supportive for the end of summer. Some of the best tea options for the transition to Fall season include fresh ginger tea, tulsi tea, and CCF tea.
- Massage with oil (also known as abhyanga) to loosen deeply-embedded impurities, allowing them to flow into the digestive tract for elimination.
- Sweat (also known as svedana) to to help detoxify the system on a deeper level. The best methods to do this are either by taking a ginger bath, sauna or steam.
- Oil pull by gently swishing oil in the mouth for 5 min (and then spitting out) helps pull out deeply embedded ama and toxins from our mouths.
- 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.
- Yoga increases circulation throughout the body. Try to integrate more twists and compressions into your yoga practice to stimulate blood and oxygen flow in the digestive system to flush out toxins. You can also try a hot yoga session to get the detox benefits of sweating.
- Sleep and rest as much as possible. Much of your energy is devoted to cleansing so it's important to provide your body, mind and spirit with quiet time and relaxation.
Find your peace
Once you've addressed the fundamentals of the physical body, the next step of a cleanse is to "find your peace" and engage in activities that support the cleansing of your mind and spirit.
Here are a few ways to do this:
- Limit stress and exposure to negativity as much as possible.
- Unplug from social media and minimize screen time.
- Surround yourself with things that you find uplifting and nourishing.
- Spend time in nature.
- Practice yoga and meditation.
Incorporate Products for Detoxification
Whether you're cleansing at home or with an Ayurvedic practitioner, there are supportive ayurvedic herbs and products to aid in the detoxification process. For instance, you may consider using an herbal Digestion product that aims to improve gut health for proper food assimilation and metabolism. In addition, a Salt Tea can help the body bind and draw toxins out.
Rejuvenation Therapy and Treatment
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. Instead, spend a few weeks in a reintroduction and rejuvenation period.
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.
Herbal rasyanas, like Chyawanprash, are important in the post-cleanse rejuvenation stage because they deliver nutrients deep into the body's tissues. A cleanse flushes away toxins and impurities, leaving the channels of your body clear and prime for nourishment. Chyawanprash’s powerhouse blend of superfoods helps stimulate healthy cellular rejuvenation while supporting digestive, reproductive, respiratory, cardiovascular, and immune health.
How to use Chyawanprash post-cleanse: Take 1 to 2 tsp of Chyawanprash followed by warm water in the morning on an empty stomach. Do this for at least 1-2 weeks following your cleanse.
If you're seeking other ways to cleanse and restore your mind, body, and soul, you can explore Ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy, which is offered at many Ayurvedic spas and health centers.