Ayurvedic Cleansing 101
I really love food.
A very dear friend jokes not infrequently about my diet when we first met. It consisted of cheeseburgers several times a week. Cheeseburgers were (probably still would be if it wasn't for the whole veganish thing) favorite.
I also have a ravenous sweet tooth. And never meet a carb I didn't like.
So despite whatever exercise I typically found myself doing, I generally still felt like I was struggling with my weight. Which is why the idea of a cleanse hooked me the first time I heard of concept.
I did several cleanses in my previous lives. Juice cleanses and the ones with shakes and ones that had you take 15 pills a day at very particular times. I was always doing them with a primary goal of losing weight super-fast and without really having to think about how it was happening or why it was falling off so fast (if, in fact, it actually was). They never resolved my issues with food or with my body. Or made me face why those issues might exist.
Like most of the things I did back then, the cleanses were nothing more than a band-aid attempting to stop a gaping wound from hemorrhaging.
It didn't work.
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I wasn't super excited the first time an Ayurvedic cleanse was proposed to me. I was afraid of facing the things I knew I was avoiding through food and senseless television. It took a few times for me to muster up the courage to actually do one. And it was honestly a turning point in my recovery from chemotherapy and my hysterectomy.
Part of that was because the cleanse helped me let go of a few food habits I was still clinging to. But there were larger reasons the cleanse was so powerful.
Ayurveda has plenty to do with our physical bodies, but it also helps us to delve deeper into the more subtler bodies as well. Its often encouraged during a cleanse to focus not only on what foods are going into our bodies, but what we are taking in through our eyes, ears - all of our other senses. What are we giving our energy to that does not serve us? Why are we holding tightly to those things?
We are also counseled to examine why it is we are craving certain things - whether foods or other substances or things. Do I want that chocolate because my body truly wants that chocolate? Or does it have more to do with a particular emotion that I am trying to mask? Am I turning on the television in order to take in something that truly interests me or in an attempt to ward off loneliness?
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I am going to share with you a broad-strokes overview of the protocol I typically use for myself when I am cleansing. I’m not holding details back to appear super-secret or to persuade you to eventually work with me so that you can do one too. I’m not giving you super-specific details because something I love about Ayurveda is that it recognizes that each body and system is different and needs different support at different phases of its journey. So my cleanse protocol might very well be useless to you. At the very least, it probably would not give you the same results it gives me.
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There are four main components of my personal protocol. What probably won’t surprise you is that the first one pertains to food. What will probably surprise you is that this part of the protocol has nothing to do with starving you. In fact, I have rarely found myself to be starving on an Ayurvedic cleanse.
Depending on things like the season and the particular imbalances an individual’s system may be dealing with, there are generally restrictions on the types of foods to be eaten during a cleanse. Utilizing those foods, its recommended to eat what is called a “mono-diet” during the cleanse period (which can last from 24 hours to 30 days – or longer! – depending on what feels right for the particular individual). My typical mono-diet consists of oatmeal and kitchari with roasted or steamed seasonal vegetables. I can eat as much of these during the day as I’d like, with a goal of maintaining a 12 hour fast overnight. So since I typically eat breakfast around 8am, I don’t consume anything other than hot water with lemon or herbal tea after 8pm.
The second major element is one of my favorites – hot water with lemon. This is one of the greatest detoxifying things you can nourish your system with, and I plan to continue drinking them (with a bit of ginger at times) throughout the winter. For someone like me – who prefers warm beverages over cold or room temperature ones – this is a great way to ensure I am staying hydrated as well.
Third – Twice a day I take a mix of herbs selected for me by my practitioner. These have changed at times depending on what my physical or emotional body is going through at the time. Generally I take “doses” shortly after both lunch and dinner.
Finally, my evenings end with a cup of warm cashew or almond milk with some oils mixed in that have also been selected for me by my practitioner. I’m still not totally used to drinking oils, but its getting easier and I usually drink it fast enough that I hardly notice it anyway. The oil itself tastes yummy – it’s the consistency I’m still coming around to.
So that’s the basic run down.
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A few weeks ago I noticed pretty abruptly that travel and a busy work schedule had started to cause by diet to get a bit off-kilter. I was feeling lethargic. My skin was breaking out. My sleep was broken (but really, that’s been the case since surgery) and I had mild heartburn several times a week. I was feeling bloated more often. So I decided it was time for a cleanse.
Its not an exaggeration to say that within days my skin cleared up and I was sleeping more soundly. My bloating and heartburn vanished.
I don't want to make it sound like Ayurvedic cleanses are miracle cures. But they are a great example of the ways that we can rebalance our systems and how paying attention to what our bodies are telling us can have a significant - and nearly immediate - impact on our physical health. But more than that, this type of cleanse provides a greater opportunity for long lasting impacts. If the individual takes the opportunity to really examine the patterns and habits that surround their day-to-day eating and behavior patterns, there is a greater chance that those old patterns may stay behind even after the cleanse period has ended.
And for those who might be interested in how much weight I lose each time I do one of these cleanses - the truth is I couldn't tell you. I don't even own a scale anymore. If my body feels good, thats the only sign I need these days.
** If you are interested in an Ayurvedic cleanse but don't have a practitioner to guide you, I'd recommend joining my teacher's online platform, the Lineage Of Love, where we work through a group cleanse together each spring. You can find out more information through her website: www.katiesilcox.com **