Springtime in the cycle of nature is a time of cleansing, a shedding of the excess that was needed to go through winter. Cleansing can also be an important part of healing and maintaining health when done correctly. But before you begin your cleanse, there are several important factors you need to consider for it to be effective in restoring you to health.
Ayurveda, the ancient holistic healing system from India, has a complete detoxification process called Pancha Karma designed to treat the core roots of dis-ease and illness and restore optimal health. Its principles provide an effective guide on cleansing.
The first question you need to ask is, “What is the purpose of the cleanse and do I need one?” According to Ayurveda, the purpose is to purify the body of toxins and excess which are the root cause of disease. You not only help promote healing of symptoms, illness and disease, but also restore health and rejuvenate the body and mind.
So what exactly are these toxins or excess you’re cleansing and where do they come from?
In Ayurveda we look at two interrelated concepts that require cleansing. The first is toxins created by undigested or improperly digested food which Ayurveda calls ama. These toxins coat the cells and clog the channels and organs of the body which interferes with normal functioning. Signs of these toxins include lack taste and appetite, indigestion, bad breath, a coating on the tongue, excess sticky phlegm or saliva, a general feeling of heaviness in the body, dullness in the mind and senses, fatigue, lack of strength, constipation, the inability to sweat, and difficulty urinating.
Ayurveda also restores health by cleansing the excess of doshas or life forces that naturally exist within the body systems. There are three life forces within you which govern all the biological functions for the body and mind. In excess or imbalance, however, the doshas create decay in these same systems which are experienced as symptoms, and, when left untreated, build into illness and disease.
You build these toxins and imbalances in by having a digestive system that is not functioning correctly, lifestyle habits that don’t support your unique bodytype’s needs, and improper eating habits.
There is a proper time for when to cleanse and when not to cleanse. In addition to having toxins and imbalance, you also need to be strong enough to do purification. Ayurveda gauges your inner strength or vitality in a term called Ojas. Ojas is the essence that gives the tissues strength and endurance, keeps the tissues healthy, provides a strong immune system, and helps resist stress. It is vital that the body have enough core strength because cleansing by nature is a reducing therapy. Without enough strength, a cleanse creates depletion and further imbalance.
You do NOT want to start a cleanse if you are very weak, debilitated, or have low or compromised immune function; have a current acute illness; or are postpartum, very young or very old. Others signs of low vitality which require evaluation include low sexual vitality, lack concentration and poor memory, lack of stamina, difficulty sleeping, lack of consistency to your thoughts and balance to emotions, and ongoing anxiety, depression, or self-destructive tendencies.
This brings us to the next important point – cleanses should be individually tailored. It is important to note that while ama is pretty much the same for everyone, where it has spread and which dosha(s) is/are in excess and how they have spread in the tissues, organs and body will be different for each person. As such, an accurate assessment is vital to having an effective cleanse because different therapies, herbs and procedures are needed for different people and conditions. There is no one-size-fits-all cleanse!
Finally a word on how to best treat the imbalances AND restore health. From the Ayurvedic perspective, cleansing is more of process than a procedure. The first stage is to prepare the body to bring the toxins and excess back from where they have spread in the body to the digestive area. The second stage includes techniques to eliminate the toxins from the digestive tract. If a cleanse is just aimed at the digestive system, not only will it not release the imbalance on the deeper levels, it can actually push that imbalance further into the tissues, creating more imbalance and worsening the conditions and symptoms. The last stage is rejuvenation. The body and tissues have been purified but now it is critical to slowly rebuild your digestive power and make healthy adjustments to lifestyle and eating habits. If you resume your “normal” diet too quickly, you will disturb the digestion and create toxins and imbalance again. It is important to avoid overly restrictive cleanses or fasts that often lead people into a binge phase after the purification. Such a pattern weakens rather than rejuvenates the system.
Detoxification is an excellent tool for wellness – but only if the tool is used correctly.
Learn more about Ayurveda at www.ayurvedawellness.org or contact Jamie Durner of Ayurveda Wellness with questions or to schedule a complimentary 15 minute informational consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2012, Jamie Durner, Ayurvedic Natural Health Practitioner and Wellness Educator