TO CLEANSE OR NOT TO CLEANSE? THAT IS NOT THE QUESTION! Because cleansing my darlings is not even in question. Imagine your car that runs every day up and down, fetching, schlepping, letting off steam, absorbing shocks, dealing with other crazy hot-headed cars, getting gassed up, parked at night in the cold, or all day in the heat, or not outside at all. Only going on a trip once in a while, or resting at a park every now and then. And worst of all NEVER getting a good service with oil changes, filters cleansed, brakes checked, fluids replenished, gunk flushed out, engine resting. Ugh imagine.
And we, just like our beloved vehicles are exposed to external toxins, unresolved emotions, misplaced anger, processed foods, not enough sleep, undigested waste, and psychological stress and the list goes on.
Well our dear old car could go for quite a while, it could keep pushing on gallantly without noticing how sluggish it feels, how tired, how drained, how cranky.
Then suddenly one day…
So no, cleansing is not a question. Ama or toxic sludge is what builds up in our body and mind through poor digestion, and other lifestyle crimes against wisdom, as well as the other external factors I mentioned.
The root of all disease in Ayurveda is undigested, unprocessed and unattended to ama or toxicity. A good cleanse helps to rest, stoke and rejuvenate our digestive fire or agni. This is what ensures the proper processing of food and keeps our metabolic processes working like a well-tuned engine. Our beautiful body temples like our vehicles on the road do need regular cleanses and tune-ups.
The question then really is: WHAT is the right cleanse, WHEN is the best time to cleanse and HOW are we cleansing?
What is the right cleanse? Are you a hottie Pitta type who loves the ‘Master Cleanse’ that includes precarious pinches of cayenne, tons of lemon juice and maple syrup? And your Pitta intensity has you do it six times a year? Or a Vata type who gets dried out from cayenne and does this cleanse randomly whenever. Or a Kapha type who actually benefits most from this type of cleanse but uses it as a quick fix and then goes back to old habits right after, pushing toxins deeper into the tissues?
The best type of cleanse from an Ayurvedic perspective, the one that is like getting your car serviced regularly twice a year, is a gentle detoxification typically done at the juncture of the seasons of Winter to Spring and Summer to Fall. Now a regular cleanse is not the same as panchakarma although you may hear that being used referring to a gentler seasonal Ayurvedic home cleanse.
Pancha means five and karma means actions or therapies and this is the deeper detoxification process in Ayurveda that involves five various elimination practices according to your constitution and current state. Panchakarma proper needs to be assisted by an Ayurvedic healthcare practitioner or done at an Ayurvedic treatment center but a gentler version of this cleanse is very effective practiced at home with the appropriate guidance. And don’t worry, it can be very simple.
In the book I co-authored, Your Irresistible Life: 4 Seasons of Self-Care through Ayurveda and Yoga Practices that Work, we have a wonderful 15 day home Spring Cleanse. Along with recipes, practices and easy to follow daily self-care suggestions where you can begin to eliminate accumulated ama and start to feel renewed and encouraged with vital new lifestyle habits. And you will feel ready to get back into the drivers seat of your health. Vroom Vroom Vavavoom!
When is the right time? Truly even though the traditional time for panchakarma is twice a year at the juncture of the seasons, a gentle home cleanse every season is ideal. But the right time is the best time for YOU. Making time in your schedule is beneficial, like scheduling a wellness vacation for yourself. Your key goal for cleansing is that it be stress-free and enjoyable so that you can assist the elimination of toxins in both the body and the mind. Cleansing is not just a quick fix magic bullet to help you lose those extra pounds and make you feel temporarily better. An Ayurvedic approach is to treat the cleanse as a continuum in your goal of good health and longevity and each cleanse builds upon an ongoing experience of vibrant wellness.
You do not want to wait for something to go wrong before beginning this holistic approach.
With all that said, in the late Winter and Spring you cleanse to assist and eliminate excess Kapha. The toxins are liquefying in the body and you can help this process with a Kapha balancing cleanse eating more energizing heating foods, active practices, bitter/pungent herbs and astringent tonics. In the Summer you would focus on a Pitta-pacifying cleanse and introduce more cooling foods, calmer activities, and bitter herbs and tonics. In the Fall and early Winter you would concentrate on balancing and eliminating excess Vata with warming, soothing foods, sweet and sour herbs and tonics, and routine restorative activities.
How are you cleansing? So many of us ‘stuff’ a cleanse into our myriad of activities as one more thing on the ‘to-do’ list. We hurriedly gulp down a super-juice four times a day or quickly slap together a salad, and slug down a green smoothie. This is binge-cleansing at it’s worst. We need to take time to allow the body to gently let go of toxins, integrate the herbs and new foods, assimilate, digest and rest. Just as we drop our car off for a day or two at the auto-shop to get proper attention, we need to ‘drop ourselves off’ the grid somewhat to facilitate an effective cleanse. This means slowing down, working less for that time and ideally making space for a short period to rest.
The best cleansing super-food in Ayurveda is kitchari. This is a one-pot stew of basmati rice and split mung beans with the appropriate aromatic spices for the season and the healing golden ghee. Along with seasonal veggies and a pinch of coconut or cilantro and a squeeze of lemon or lime, this dish is easy on digestion and keeps the digestive fire strong to assist the gathering and elimination of toxins through the digestive tract and it is delicious! You can find the Spring kichari recipe here at the end of a previous blog.
Mung beans are miraculous! They meld perfectly with the other ingredients. They are amongst the easiest of beans to digest and don’t create gas like most other beans. They’re rich in potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber, and vitamin B6. They’re considered tridoshic, working well for all body types when combined with the right spices. Mung beans are a low glycemic index food, which means they are good for diabetics and promote healthy blood sugar levels. They contain isoflavones which help regulate hormonal activity. The mung bean is also rich in soluble dietary fibers and is shown to help lower LDL cholesterol. For a tiny bean they are packed in protein. One cup of mung beans has 3.15 gms protein per cup. The astringent taste and high fiber content of mung beans helps to tone the digestive organs as well as cleansing gunk from the bowels, pulling out toxins and parasites that may be wedged in your gut.
In my previous blog I introduced the AromaDosha Blueprint™ forTridosha. MUNG BEANS are listed as one of the primary foods for the HEART. It is one of the ultimate nutritional ingredients found in kichari and an extremely healing food for the cardiovascular system. And you can sprout them!
Begin to build your intentional daily health-care routine by adding one herb, spice, essential oil, and food at a time, mindfully incorporating them into your personal daily practice as works best for you. Incorporate MUNG BEANS into your diet beginning with a gentle Spring Cleanse!
If you know someone who you think would benefit, please share this blog with them. Cleansers and drivers alike : ) We would love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
May your vehicles run ever smoothly!
With Fragrant Blessings,
Glynn and Mel