How to “Cleanse” Safely
I often get asked how to do cleanses. “Cleanse” has a very broad definition to begin with, whereby some associate cleansing with simply cleaning up their diet while others dive headfirst into elixir fasts, their high school skinny jeans but a few gulps away.
An Ayurvedic Cleanse is…
To “cleanse” using Ayurveda may not look like cleanses referred to in magazines. The premise is similar - to rid the body of excess wastes and toxins - but the method of execution is far different.
During an Ayurvedic cleanse:
- You eat and drink
- You are not hungry
- You are not miserable
- The process is tailored to you specifically
After cleansing you feel:
- Less fatigued and sluggish
- Less aches, pains, and headaches
- Less GI upset
An Ayurvedic “Cleanse” can only be prescribed by a trained practitioner. It will never be done in a group setting.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Consider this, if I were to send all of my readers a new shirt, would I assume they all wear the same size? Of course not. The same logic holds for cleansing. The type of cleanse, the herbs and modalities used vary depending on the objective of the cleanse, a person’s age, and pre-existing conditions. In Ayurveda we also take into account a person’s Dosha, what body systems are out of balance, the person’s strength, how much Ama they have, and other environmental factors, like the season. (Take a Dosha quiz here)
If you are considering joining a group cleanse, remember:
Everything is good for someone, but nothing is good for everyone.
CCF Tea - Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel - is tridoshic, meaning it pacifies all doshas. It is well known for its ability to help “detox” the blood and liver and promote urination so you feel less bloated. The health and radiance of your skin is a direct manifestation of the quality of your blood. The health of your blood is proportional to the adequacy of your diet. Did you ever hear “chocolate and grease will give you acne”? Those old wives were smart. What you eat will absolutely affect your skin.
CCF tea is sold in stores by many manufacturers. If you prefer to make your own, you can mix equal parts of each herb and brew for 5 minutes (longer if you want a stronger effect). If you know your Dosha and you’re feeling crafty, you can make these variations which more specifically balance the qualities of each Dosha:
Vata & Kapha:
2 parts Cumin
1 part Coriander
1 Part Fennel
1 part Cumin
1 part Coriander
2 parts Fennel
For Vatas and Kaphas (not Pittas), sweat therapy (Swedana), the process of inducing sweat, is a commonly used method for eliminating toxins. Generally Swedana is preceded by other detox measures - Abhyanga, herbs, diet - to loosen Ama. Swedana then dilates the channels and allows toxins to excrete with sweat. Saunas are excellent for Kaphas since it is dry heat. Steam baths are preferred for Vatas.
It is not wrong to have a steam without prepping;
no effort is ever wasted.
When Life Gives You Lemons…
This is not new: drink warm lemon water every morning. Why? Warm liquids stimulate the digestive system whereas cool/cold drinks hinder it. Lemons are acidic and when consumed trigger the stomach to secrete digestive enzymes that further encourage your gut to, simply said, get going. It’s not only a great way to start your day, but very beneficial to sip on throughout the day, especially if you’re prone to a sluggish gut (constipation).
Hack: Keep lemons, perhaps drizzled with a bit of honey, cut up and stored in the fridge. Then they are always ready.
Scrape Your Tongue
Whaaaa? Seriously, this is a game changer. I prefer a stainless steel tongue scraper but you can use plastic or even the back of a spoon. Using even strokes from the back towards the front, scrape the residue off your tongue. Notice the color, consistency, and amount (if you’re so inclined); it gives insight into what is happening within your body. Benefits of tongue scraping:
- Clears bacteria, toxins, dead cells in mouth
- Gently stimulates internal organs
- Reduces bad breath
- Improves sense of taste
I tend to scrape my tongue after brushing my teeth but other sites suggest scraping first.
My rule of thumb is:
Doing is better than not doing no matter when you do it
Here is a link to my favorite tongue scraper.
I saved the best for last. Abhyanga is a massage that can be done to yourself or by someone else. It is very delicate in touch and is meant to assist in liberating stagnant toxins (where Ama settles and causes trouble) into the lymphatic field and ushering it into drainage. With the encouragement of Abhyanga, lymph fluid is moved towards the heart where it enters circulation and is metabolized. Abhyanga is ideally followed by Swedana where Ama can be released through the sweat channel.
How to apply Abhyanga Oil
- Start at feet and work your way towards the heart
- Use gentle circular motions over joints (ankles, wrists, knees, hips, etc)
- Use long, sweeping motions over long bones towards the heart
- Over abdomen, start at the lower right and work in the shape of a rainbow up and over to the lower left - to stimulate the pattern of digestion.
- If you have time to include your head, it is a game changer! Massaging the head is very grounding.
- Let the oil soak in for as long as possible then soak in a hot bath or shower.
- The steam from the bath/shower helps create a mini swedana
If you don’t have time to do the entire production, do what you can.
Be real, not perfect.
“Detoxing” is an ambiguous concept overall. The human body is constructed to detoxify itself quite effectively via the liver, kidneys, heat, acids, the immune system, “good” bacteria and other methods. However, even the best machines need encouragement and fine tuning from time-to-time. Ayurveda offers many tools to add to your box of tricks so long as you remember not each of them is appropriate for all of us, and even the most innocuous methods may not be the right ones for you.
If you are looking for a personalized Ayurvedic cleansing plan, seek the guidance from someone who has the appropriate training.
The idea of a Safe Group Ayurvedic Cleanse is a paradox. It defies the whole premise of Ayurveda which is that none of us are the same nor should we be treated as such.