What Does Ayurvedic Cleansing Look Like?

Updated: Mar 8

Seasonal cleansing is a core component of Ayurveda. Even if we're observing a mostly healthy lifestyle and diet, our bodies and minds accumulate a certain excess over the weeks and months that becomes toxic to the body over time. And then there are those of us who aren't living the best habits or eating as well as we would like to be. For all of us, seasonal maintenance through gentle cleansing is one way to support the body in doing the release and repair needed to rid us of accumulated toxicity and get us back on track. This allows us to halt and even reverse some of the negative effects of aging.

Good at the beginning. Good in the middle. Good in the end.

The first step in cleansing is a preparatory phase called “purva karma” which means "before action." It sets the stage for the body and mind to relax and let go. In this stage we focus on:

  1. Establishing a consistent daily life-rhythm first will support any cleansing routine: regular bedtimes, wake times, mealtimes, regular hydration and elimination, etc.

  2. Add in a little more yoga and meditation practice, say 15 minutes in the am or pm, and a refreshing daily walk outdoors, maybe 20 minutes.

  3. Begin to reduce or eliminate any major toxic foods such as fast food, junk food, excessive caffeine, white sugar, white flour, alcohol, tobacco, bad oils, dairy (if you can’t digest it), etc. If you have been habituated to a certain food for a while, taper so as not to shock your system (Ayurveda recommends letting go 1/3 at a time–see what makes sense). These shifts might work best over a weekend or other time when it will be easier to bear any discomfort (usually the first few days are the hardest).

  4. Add in more of the good stuff: whole, organic, freshly prepared foods: lots of local, fresh produce, a little high-quality meat, if its part of your diet; beans, good quality oils, nuts, fresh purified water....

Once the purva karma is complete–we are ready for the cleanse itself, which consists of:

  1. A mono-diet of kitchari or another easy to digest food, for a week or so. These foods are so gentle that they take little energy to digest, but have sufficient protein to help you feel nourished.

  2. Spices and herbs to strengthen the digestive process (agni) and eliminate any toxic buildup (ama).

  3. An increase in rest and supportive and nurturing practices that are gently detoxifying. These include:  receiving massage, daily self-massage with oil before or after bathing, gentle exercise like yoga, dry skin brushing, epsom salt baths, saunas, catnaps, meditation and breathing practices and emotional clearing practices. All of these aid the body and the mind in letting go of what is no longer needed.

  4. Cleansing protocols that help the body release any built up toxicity and purge it from the system. The might include a mild purgative or one or a series of gentle home bastis (ayurvedic enema).

The last part of the cleanse, arguable the most important part, is a slow return to a whole foods, constitutionally appropriate diet. This phase is called, paschat karma, "after action."

  1. We take a week to gradually reintroduce more foods into our diet, just as we did in purva karma, so as not to overwhelm our digestive tract.

  2. Continue with the good daily habits we learned while cleansing.

  3. Introduce a rasayana, or rejuvenative food or herbal blend, to support our system.

Through living a healing lifestyle, eating good foods, and taking some tonic herbs, we support our bodies and minds to come into greater harmony and we emerge from the cleanse with healthier cravings, less toxicity and excess, and more clarity, energy, and ease.

Spring and fall are the best time for cleansing as the weather is mild. I would love to support you to a gentle and transformative cleanse this Spring.

My Ayurvedic Spring Cleanse begins on April 4th. Registration is open! You can read all about it and sign up here.

I've designed several protocols to find the intensity level that is appropriate for each person. I'd love to have you join me.

In health and love, Shannon

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