I wanted to take a few moments this week to address the “fad of cleansing” that is popular in our culture, and to differentiate the Ayurvedic approach from what feels to me like a ubiquitous modern cleanse obsession.
Ayurveda like many preventive health systems uses periodic cleansing as a form of health management, specifically to boost our immunity. We accumulate toxins from our environment, from poor dietary and lifestyle choices, from chronically over-eating (regardless of whether we gain weight), and from the excesses of a particular season. Cleansing between seasons supports our body in releasing that excess, leaving us better prepared to deal with external pathogens in our environment. Constitution-tailored cleansing is an effective way to support our body’s natural self-healing and immunity..\ And that’s the thing: constitution-tailored. Ayurveda is the opposite of one size fits all. Dietary fads are just that because they popularize something that worked very well for one type of person but doesn’t work well across the board. Not only that, but Ayurveda recognizes how the seasons affect us and makes shifts in what we’re doing based on those seasonal and environmental differences both externally, and internally (inner season = “life stage”). The same cleanse we might undertake if we were living in Hawaii in the spring would likely be completely inappropriate to engage while living in South Dakota in the winter. The same cleanse good for a post-partum mama would be wrong for one going through menopause. The same diet that would be very appropriate for a larger individual with a tendency to hold weight would be wholly inappropriate for a skinny minnie who has trouble holding weight. Get the drift?
YES! Our bodies are amazing vehicles with built-in cleansing organs, as well as times each day that those organs do the majority of their work. The problem is the way we overuse and abuse our bodies. Just like a poorly driven automobile, we tax our systems through our irregular diet and lifestyle practices, through overeating, through consuming too much bad food/drink, and so our beautiful bodies stop functioning optimally. A periodic cleansing diet that allows some nourishment, while lightening the load significantly, as well as eating at the proper times so that we can digest our food, prioritizing good rest and exercise and time outdoors, revives and revitalizes us. Like more thorough maintenance for our car not only ensures proper functioning on the road but prevents bigger problems down the line, so too does proper seasonal cleansing support our good ride. Finally, as modern people we suffer from both excess through overeating and ingesting the wrong kinds of food/drinks and depletion from stress and overwork. An ayurvedic approach properly prepares our body through pre and post protocols that are just as important as the cleanse itself. We don’t jump in and out of the cleanse, or engage it at the wrong time (middle of winter). We may engage our normal work hours, but we also reset our daily sleep, wake up and eating rhythms, and introduce more rest and restoration into our life at the same time. This rhythm for the body is THE most important thing we can do to calm our nervous system, support our immunity, and age gracefully.
Consider this: what would it be like to surrender to the pace of your body?
Rest when tired
Eat when hungry
Eliminate when you get the first call to do so
Step outdoors when you need some fresh air
Connect with your loved ones regularly
Give yourself the loving touch you need daily
The simplicity of relating and responding to our body’s needs is the real medicine for our complex times. The medicine of subtraction (Thank you, Claudia Welch), letting go of what no longer serves, is often what’s needed before we bring in anything more.
Here’s to your good health this season,