Ayurvedic Spring Clean for Body and Mind
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A step-by-step guide to a seasonal Ayuredic detox
When the days get longer and the sun grows in strength, the world wakes up to the new energy. Spring is a time of transition and rebirth, which very often can feel a bit overwhelming. Months of stagnation, darkness and coldness have a visible impact on our body and emotions. To kick start the new season, we need to clean the residue from the previous one. Just as you might spring clean your home, the body and mind need some clearing from time-to-time too. The best time for this is always at the change of the seasons, when the biggest shift in nature and our bodies takes place (around spring and autumn equinox- 21.03 and 21.09). So if you're feeling that you’d had enough of winter blues, sluggish bowels, congested chest and general apathy and lethargy, now is the time to clear and revive!
Ayurvedic cleanse stands out from the standard, mainstream detoxes you may have come across. Based on ancient knowledge, it has been practiced for centuries, making it very reliable, trustworthy and effective. Since ayurvedic medicine has a very individualistic approach to health and disease, so has the cleanse, which fully complements and addresses your personal needs. It is safe, using only natural products and methods to enhance your body’s own ability to get rid of the toxins. Ayurvedic detox strengthens and supports your organs of elimination such as liver, kidneys, digestive system, skin, lungs and mind instead of depleting and weakening them, by incorporating nourishment and rejuvenation after the actual cleanse. Imagine if you were washing your face every day but never putting any cream, toner or serum; eventually your face will get dry, sensitive or rough. The same applies to approaching a cleanse – if you scrape off your body and don’t replenish it with some healthy nutrients it will create an internal shock and form space for further imbalance. Once the detox part has bee done the nourishment comes in play. This is the time to fill your body with fresh, organic, clean food that gives life! The most important though is the stage of rejuvenation to assure that the vulnerable and shaken systems of your body will be re-adjusted.
But what really makes us toxic and what even are toxins?
Toxins, in Ayurveda referred as ‘ama’; simply anything that shouldn’t be or is in excess in your body, for example being it excess of cholesterol, sugar or even vitamins and minerals! It is raw, unprocessed metabolic waste that if untreated sticks to the weakened part of the body, grows with time and pollutes it’s entire surroundings. Imagine it as a refrigerated cheese that is heavy, cold, oily, sticky, foul smelling and clogs our channels unmercifully. Pretty gross isn’t it? They are found in food and drinks we take in as well as our mental and physical actions, therefore following simple logic, the more we eat refined sugar, heavy dairy, fatty fried food, drinking cold water, constantly snacking, napping during the day, etc, the more we contaminate our inner environment. When cleansing it is important to choose an approach with opposite qualities to the ones stated above. But more on that later.
How do we know that we need a cleanse?
It is pretty straight forward. Any feeling of imbalance, mental or physical, is a sign we have accumulated toxins. Chronic or acute conditions, poor resistance to infections, lowered immunity, fatigue, repeated colds, bloating, heart burns, diarrhoea, constipation, bad breath, internal or external inflammation, poor memory, muscular pain that is not caused by injury or skin outbreaks are all signs that you need to cleanse.
Take a look at the below and if “yes” is the answer to any of the questions then definitely consider a detox:
- Do you wake up tired even after a good night sleep?
- Is your tongue coated with a thick white, yellow or brownish froth?
- Is your appetite lowered and you can easily skip meals?
- Do you feel demotivated and unenthusiastic?
- Do you feel lethargic?
- Your abdomen, legs, head or other parts of the body feel heavy?
- Has the smell of your sweat changed or you sweat at night?
- Do you have generalized aches and pains especially after eating certain heavy foods?
- Do you feel blocked anywhere in the body, including constipation, sinus congestion and difficulty breathing?
- Are your senses are diminished
The main aim in the ayurvedic detox is to liquidise our hard and cold cheese-like ama, so it can loosen up and drain easily from the body, and for that we need heat! In Ayurveda the main toxin fighter is our own digestive fire, called “agni”. It is our biological fire that governs digestion and metabolism not only of food but everything that comes into contact with our senses, memories and life itself. If the fire is strong, all the food is digested properly and any toxins will be burned. Strong agni means great health, immunity and radiance. There is an old ayurvedic saying: “Man is as old as his agni’.
The main focus in ayurvedic detox is the strengthening of our digestive fire so it can burn out accumulated toxins. But how do we do it? The secret to a successful detox is preparation and positive approach. 3 -4 days before the actual cleansing, start gradually cleaning your diet and negative habits, that may disturb your detox. This is the time to eliminate or at least reduce use of stimulants, refined sugars, processed meat, aged and hard cheese, heavy sweets and swap them for fresh, organic, whole foods.
Actual cleanse takes around a week. This is the time to follow very SIMPLE mono- diet (kichari and yellow mung dal soup are the best options as they provide you with sufficient nutrients and all amino-acids) as well as fruit and soups along with DAILY self- massage, supportive supplements and gentle exercises to enhance the cleanse.
Below is listed further information on how to enkindle our agni cleanse better:
- Upon waking, scrape the white, yellowish, greyish or even brownish coating from your tongue. These are toxins that have accumulated overnight, having travelled along your digestive track, so it is vital to remove them before you eat or drink anything to prevent them from being swallowed back. Do do this, use either a copper tongue scraper or silver spoon – not use your toothbrush as it pushes the coating deeper into the tongue.
- Start your day with a big cup of hot water followed by ginger & lemon tea to awaken your body and metabolism. Ginger is a miraculous toxin dissolvent. It strengthens your digestive fire and speeds up sluggish metabolism. Lemon is a wonderful alkalizer that balances your pH, flushes the waste products out of the system and supports your immunity. To boost the cleansing effect, top it up with a glass of water stored in a copper vessel overnight.
- Perform self-massage with the use of warm oil (sesame seed is a great choice) followed by steaming to keep the body warm and enhance the detoxification. If you don’t have access to a sauna or steam room, simply warm up your bathroom by running a hot bath or shower to create steam.
- Digestion according to Ayurveda works around the sun cycle. As the sun is at its peak around 12-1pm, that’s the best time to eat the largest meal of the day, as digestion is at its strongest. At the same time avoid food before 10:00am and after 6:00pm as that’s the time when the digestive fire is not so strong. If you have to eat during these times make sure you eliminate cold, heavy and sweet food, which require more time and energy to process.
- Regularity is extremely important when enhancing your agni. If you eat at the same time, the body is more efficient and prepared to release digestive enzymes at regular times without overstressing it.
- It is important to eat mostly fresh, unprocessed, organic and simple food. Refrain from using foods that are chemically treated, GMO, animal products that are heavily polluted with pesticides, hormones and artilleries of drugs. As a simple rule don’t eat anything that didn’t exist in nature 100 years ago. For a week, eat foods that are easy to digest such as simple vegetable soups, vegetable juices made with some ginger or steamed vegetables and rice (brown and short grain preferably as they help draw toxins out). Favour warm cooked food as it’s much easier to digest and concentrate on a vegetarian diet including leafy greens, artichokes, parsley and beetroots. As a general rule favour food that is bitter and spicy as it strengthens your digestive fire.
- Avoid alcohol, stimulants, black tea, coffee and refined sugar as much as possible. It’s possible that you will experience caffeine withdrawal headache after the first days so, gradually reduce the quantity instead of cutting everything in one day. That gives your body a chance to adjust gradually to the changes and make the detox a much smoother and pleasant experience.
- Rediscover your spice cabinet – try to incorporate warming spices such as ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, fennel or cardamom into your cooking to enhance your digestive capacity. Black pepper/cayenne pepper is ideal for chronic indigestion, toxins in the colon and slow metabolism. Cardamom is one of the best and safest digestive stimulants, it awakens spleen, agni, stimulates mind, gives clarity, joy and when added to milk neutralizes mucus formation. Dandelion and burdock are fantastic herbs to cleanse your liver, gall bladder and glands. Fennel is a fabulous digestive herbs working on indigestion, low agni, abdominal pain, cramps and gas. If you feel particularly sluggish or bloated chew some fresh ginger before or/and after each meal.
- For a more in depth detoxifier try ayurvedic berry mix called Triphala. It cleanses and balances the whole gastro-intestinal tract in a gentle yet effective way, removes excess fats, purifies the blood, the liver and skin. (Dosage for general detox: Take 2 capsules before going to bed)
- Aloe Vera Juice is a naturally cooling and nourishing plant renowned for maintaining youthful looks, healthy skin and balanced digestion. It clears inflammatory heat from the body, whilst supporting gentle detoxification of the liver. It is one of Ayurveda’s most potent cleansing and rejuvenating elixirs. (Dosage for the detox: Take 1-2 tablespoons every morning on an empty stomach for a cleansing and nourishing start to the day. Don’t use in pregnancy)
- Ayurvedic massage is a pleasurable yet effective way to flush away toxins form the system. Massaging with sesame oil effectively detoxifies the body by pulling these toxins to the surface level of the skin due to its lipophilic (attracts other oils) nature. Hence sesame seed oil is extensively used in ayurvedic detoxification process. Certain strokes and sequences following energy pathways in the body help drag out any waste and blockage from the body.
- Udvartana is a unique massage treatment that uses a fragrant blend of purifying herbs in a powder form which is gently rubbed into the body. Udvartana helps to remove stagnant toxins out of the body. This herbal paste when rubbed on the body in a specific manner creates friction, which open the pores; removes blockages in vessels, increases the heat in the tissues and percolates inside to stimulate fat metabolism. For those who wish to remove fat and dead cellulite, it is advisable to follow up Udvartana with Abhyanga moisturising massage. Regular Udvartana is good for not only cellulites but it helps to lose weight by increasing the basal metabolic rate. A minimum course of 6 treatments is recommended for intense and long lasting results.
- The abdominal area is where the digestive fire (Agni) is located. Healthy Agni governs our metabolism and is vital to our wellbeing, keeping us young and strong. Nabhi Abhyanga stimulates and regulates our inner digestive fire. This non- invasive massage tones the abdominal organs, assists in weight loss around the stomach area and beautifully detoxifies our body from stagnated toxins. It also helps with the following; constipation, IBS, obesity, bloating, gases, high cholesterol, under active thyroid, diabetes, lethargy, chronic fatigue.
- Marma massage is another great way to cleanse you. During this massage, a warm medical herbs infused oil is applied and the Marma (energy) points are stimulated to awaken and restore your inner energy and bring relief to the entire body. Marma points are considered a distribution centres in the body through which the life force energy (Prana) flows, therefore by working on them the accumulated blockage, tension and toxins are removed. Marma therapy activates agni (digestive fire) and effectively detoxifies and cleanses the whole body. Marma stimulation can improve metabolism, circulation, nutrition and rejuvenation of the tissues. It can also significantly calm the mind, reduce stress, anxiety.
- Ayurvedic Foot massage (Pada Abhyanga) is one of the most detoxifying treatments. The feet are the seat of the meridians, marma points and many nerve endings which get blocked easily due to the fact that we spend most of the time in the upright position. Stimulation of marma points in the foot restores free flow of energy in the whole body, clearing accumulated blockage. Foot massage is very helpful for people with stress and sleeping disorders, stress, anxiety, circulation disturbances, accumulation of toxins, fatigue, cramps and helps in treating varicose veins, swelling and soreness.
- Keep yourself mobile, especially after food. Walk for 15-20 min to enhance metabolism, and move every 40mins to enhance circulation, metabolism, and muscle and joint flexibility. Breath of fire and sun salutation are one of the most detoxifying practices in yoga as well as poses such as wheel, camel, tree, dancer, chair, warrior and half-moon. Enhance sweating also through more frequent visits to a sauna; banya or take hots baths with mineral salts.
- How you approach the cleanse makes a huge difference. After the damp and cold of winter your mood may still be a bit on the melancholic and lethargic side so surround yourself with uplifting and bright energies this time of year. A combination of 3 drops of bergamot, 1 drop of tulsi and 1 drop of rose geranium essential oils is a great spring cleaning blend to use during changing of the seasons. Bergamot boosts energy and mood and helps maintain focus and clarity. Sweet scents of rose geranium bring just the right dose of energy while tulsi increases vitality and purifies on both physical and emotional levels.
- Fasting is one of the best ways to detox your body and mind. It makes agni stronger, cleanses and purifies the blood, overcomes stress, increases mental clarity and improves self-esteem. Fast for a day drinking warm liquids and fruit/veg juices. If you find it difficult to last a whole day without solid food, then stop eating after 12 am.
- As we said before, agni is responsible not only for physical digestion but mental as well. In fact, long-standing emotions are as toxic as undigested food, if not more debilitating. Emotions come out to be released not supressed further, so greet them with love, compassion and objective awareness. To purify your mind, awaken awareness and concentration try candlelight meditation. Place a candle on your eye level and lighten it up. Fix your eyes on the flame for as long as you can without blinking. Keep your facial and eye muscles soft.
How do you know that you have successfully detoxified?
The first sign will be general lightness, you will feel more energised, motivated, centred and focused. The coating on your tongue should disappear or at least reduce. Your digestion should regulate itself, no more bloating, gas, cramps, constipation or diarrhoea. Your appetite will be balanced and unwholesome cravings will fade away. You will feel, taste, smell, hear and see everything more sharply as the general congestion has shifted. Isn’t it what we all crave for? It’s all in your own hands!
Once the week is over, continue to follow a clean diet that suits your dosha, eating lightly for another few days as your digestive system is still sensitive to processed, heavy and more diverse foods and requires a gentle and stable transition to achieve the best effect and keeps the body and mind at bay. The rejuvenating phase is vital as after scraping of the toxins, our body is ready for a refill of vital nourishments. Make sure you continue with freshly cooked wholesome foods (sattvic diet) such as soaked almonds, cashews, coconut, rice, quinoa, raw honey, raisins, dates, ghee, fresh unprocessed dairy and plenty of organic fruit and veg. Follow with nourishing herbs and spices such as fennel, liquorice, sesame seeds and saffron. Chyawanprash is again fantastic rejuvenating potion as one of its main ingredients is amla (indian gooseberry), which is known to be a fantastic anti-oxidant and one of the most potent sources of vitamin C. Along with that it protects the heart and reduces inflammation therefore it’s brilliant for overheated Pitta. Tulsi opens the heart and mind. It helps to bring more oxygen into the body, increases memory and strengthens the nervous system, making it a fantastic rejuvenator. Ashwaghanda increases mental and physical stamina, heals your body, balances hormones as well as inhibiting ageing. Along with a physical rejuvenation, give equal attention to your emotional and mental one, by practicing love, compassion and forgiveness.
Lastly if you’re looking for a more thorough cleanse, the absolutely best thing you can undergo is a programme called Panchakarma. It is a five-fold purifying process that is designed to assist the body in its elimination of waste products. To enhance the process to the fullest, bodily tissues must be approached when they are most relaxed and willing to let go of the excess of toxins stuck within them, usually at the junction between seasons. Panchakarma is a very powerful tool used to treat serious chronic and acute health problems but it is also used to treat any seasonal imbalances of doshas showing as minor issues of the body and mind. From infertility, diabetes, arthritis or depression to mood swings, hormonal imbalances and digestive issues, Panchakarma is THE TOOL to heal it. If you’d like to experience the healing effects of that program, we now take bookings for our Panchakarma retreat in India! In a beautiful surroundings of the sacred mountain Arunachala you’ll be in a hands of an amazing team of ayurvedic specialists in a tranquil and truly magical land of Ashok Tree Centre. For more information please contact email@example.com or simply pop in to our yoga & Ayurveda studio in Southfields to experience the ayurvedic therapies described above.
Written by Aneta Podlaska, in-house Ayurvedic therapist at Samsara Mind and Body.