Clean and Clear, the Ayurvedic Way
By Andrea Foster, Education Coordinator
The body is designed to be self-cleaning and does an elegant job of processing all that we encounter. However, technology has changed our environment much faster than our bodies have evolved, so our systems can get clogged. Our bodies can’t always compensate for food eaten hastily, convenience meals loaded with preservatives, air and water teeming with pollutants, and the subtle toll stress and emotional turmoil can take on our systems.
In Ayurveda, our gut is the starting point for health transformation. The nutrients we put into our body feed every cell of every organ and system. Therefore, a food-based cleanse is a smart approach to begin making shifts and to clean out all the accumulation. And springtime is the right time. After winter ends, there’s a powerful urge to open windows, sweep out the old, or organize your home – that’s why there’s such a phrase as “Spring Cleaning.” It’s no different in the body. Ayurveda honors rhythms and the value of doing the right thing at the right time.
There are a variety of cleanses available, from changing a component of your ordinary eating habits to mono-diets to fasting. When it comes to choosing a cleanse, make sure you are aware of your physical limitations, discuss your cleanse with your healthcare practitioner, and make a plan to make sure you are fully supported while you cleanse. This may mean taking the time to refrain from your usual level of activity, preparing in advance to make sure the days of your cleanse require minimal responsibilities, asking loved ones to check in on you, and preparing your physical space to comfort and nurture you during this time.
Preparation for a cleanse also happens internally and this is where physical self-care comes in. Can you imagine sweeping your floor, accumulating a good amount of dust and debris, intending to sweep it out the door only to find the door won’t open? This is what it’s like if organs that process waste are not open and available to allow waste to leave the body. Solid waste leaves through the large intestine. Liquid waste leaves through the bladder and skin. Leading up to your cleanse, make sure you begin a routine of clearing your intestines with magnesium (I like Natural CALM magnesium drink powders) or electrolytes and warm water. Strengthen your kidneys through effective hydration. Clear the largest organ in the body, your skin, through steams and salt scrubs.
A strategic move before your cleanse would be to have a pulse assessment done by an Ayurvedic practitioner. Every practitioner at the dhyana Center is trained to provide this in the Treatment Center. In Ayurveda, the pulse can reveal blockages and imbalances in tissues, organs, and energy of your body. This can help point the way to improve your cleansing experience.
You can make the most of your cleanse according to your personal constitution. In Ayurveda, this would refer to the doshas as they manifest in your body – vata, pitta, and kapha. If you know you’re Vata-dominant, you may want to nurture the aspects of your cleanse that touch your spirit and be prepared to be “in your head” quite a lot. Cleansing in the form of fasting or juicing naturally increases Vata feelings of being light and airy. If you’re Pitta-dominant, you might have fun setting a little structure in place, organizing what happens each day of your cleanse, so you can check in all along the way and feel a sense of accomplishment as you progress. If you’re Kapha-dominant, make sure to place an emphasis on comfort and beauty surrounding your cleanse – rest, wrap up in cozy blankets, take meditative walks outside.
Once you begin your cleanse, be prepared to be open to what unfolds physically and mentally. We aren’t traditionally taught that our emotions are held anywhere other than our mind and heart, but all systems of the body can hold on to past trauma, grief, anger, stress — from our skin to our bones. When you’re deeply affecting your body’s intake of nutrients and stirring up old waste and toxins, emotions can get stirred up, too. Go slowly through your days of cleansing, keeping curiosity and gentle watchfulness about what happens and what surfaces for you.
Remember that you don’t necessarily have to act on any emotions that come up – you can allow them to rise up and fall away in time. It can help to write down what feelings visit you. Are you experiencing physical pain and does that inspire certain feelings? Do you discover a story you have about being hungry or about taking time for yourself? Are you reminded of something from your childhood that you may not have addressed? The feelings that come up are very real and so this is when having support becomes important.
If you are acquainted with doing personal, emotional work, you may already have a support network in place. If this is new to you, you will want to discuss beforehand with someone you trust whether they are willing to be on call in case the emotions you face require some help. Asking for help is powerful. It sends a signal that strengthens your self-worth. And sometimes it’s enough to know your allies are out there, even if you don’t end up calling on them.
Please don’t neglect the time after your cleanse, where you reintegrate yourself into your routine. Honor what you feel and do what you can to continue to nurture your body and spirit gently. You may have discovered valuable information about yourself. You may immediately feel physically tired, energized, spacey, proud of finishing, or possibly nothing at all. It’s possible for the effects of a cleanse to take time to become apparent. You have definitely made changes in your body. Now it’s up to you what happens with those changes. Consider whether there are ongoing modifications to your diet you’d like to attempt to keep in place. Contemplate if there is a change you’d like to make in the activities you do. You have the power to imagine what you do with a clean you!
Photo credit: MightyBoyBrian / Foter / CC BY-NC