7-Day Gentle Cleanse
Learn to nurture and renew with a food-based ayurvedic cleanse.
By Scott Blossom
In spring, the pulse of life quickens as the weather warms and nature moves from the cold and heaviness of winter toward the warmth and lightness of summer. We throw open our windows and clean our homes from top to bottom, pushing out the old, stagnant air—ushering in crisp spring breezes, and with them, the promise of a fresh start. Our body and mind could use a good spring-cleaning and a fresh start, too, according to ayurveda. Consider doing our interactive seven-day food-based cleanse to clear out any congestion or toxins that have built up over the winter and to give your liver and your digestive tract the boost they need to work more efficiently. (See “Don’t Go It Alone” below.) By including yoga, meditation, and breathing practices, you’ll also have an opportunity to cleanse the mind of toxic thoughts and release any pent-up emotions.
Easy Does It
An ayurvedic cleanse emphasizes simple actions and gentle results. Caution is the key to enacting any kind of meaningful change. Your body no doubt took a long time to get in the shape it’s in—to accumulate excesses and deficiencies that cause physical and emotional imbalances—so take loving care in rebalancing it. A food-based cleanse will allow you to get the nutrition you need to nourish any deficiencies while reducing any excess.
An Ounce Of Prevention
Most of us have a list of bad habits we’ve grown quite fond of, or at least comfortable with—unhealthy patterns of eating and drinking too much, playing too hard, and maybe not getting the rest we need. Preventive medicine, what ayurveda calls svastha vritta, means “establishing oneself in good habits.” Temporarily changing our unhealthy habits can open us up to seeing ourselves from a different perspective and noticing behaviors that support our health and ones that undermine it.
Prepare To Cleanse
You won’t need to stop working nor will you need to fast. You’ll want to remove any non-essential tasks from your schedule and limit your exposure to all forms of media so you can reconnect with your internal rhythms. This means avoiding television and cutting back on computer use and long phone conversations once the sun has set.
What To Expect
You’ll follow an easy protocol that includes dietary instructions as well as yoga practices, self-massage, and supplements. Here’s a taste of what you can expect:
Cleansing rituals. You’ll start each morning by cleaning your tongue with a tongue scraper, cleaning and lubricating your nose using a neti pot and nasya oil, and then drinking at least six ounces of hot water (mixed with a little ghee, if you wish).
Self-massage. A daily rub, called abhyanga, with warm sesame oil before you shower or bathe, will feel grounding and nourishing for the whole body.
Exercise. Gentle yoga, tai chi, swimming, biking, or walking every day will stimulate the lymphatic system, which helps detoxify the body. Yoga and tai chi also help eliminate toxic emotions and strengthen the mind’s resolve.
Simple foods. Kitchari—a mung bean and rice soup—will be the mainstay of your diet. You may flavor it with chutneys or spice blends of your choice and, for a little variety, accompany it with steamed, baked, or lightly sautéed veggies.
Simple drinks. You’ll need to drink hot water or a digestive tea throughout the day and avoid cold or iced drinks, which slow down your metabolic fire (agni).
Rest and renew. A mental relaxation break before dinner will set the stage for a good night’s sleep. As often as possible, take time to lie down—even for 10 minutes—and practice deep breathing exercises. This will have a profound detoxifying effect on your nervous system.
Supplement. Triphala is an ayurvedic cleansing formula containing three of the most important herbs for detoxification and rejuvenation. You’ll take two capsules of this gentle blend about a half hour before bed each evening.
Day of rest. On the last day of your cleanse, you’ll drink a special potassium broth (recipe on doctorblossom.com) as you spend the day reflecting on your experiences and envisioning how your life will look going forward. Journaling, meditating, and reflection define this day.
Reintroduce foods. Since you’ll have only been eating kitchari and steamed vegetables, you’ll want to add foods back into your diet slowly to avoid creating any toxicity in the body. Use this time to appreciate the smell, look, taste, and texture of each food you add back into your diet. You may want to continue drinking your digestive tea or taking triphala, which is fine.
Don’t Go It Alone
Most people find cleanses easier to do when they can get other people to join them. So the editors of Yoga International and I have created a weeklong cleansing program everyone can participate in. We have step-by-step instructions; recipes for kitchari, digestive tea, and a lovely breakfast porridge; how-to videos on self-massage, neti pot usage, and uddiyana bandha (a purifying technique); and seven-days’ worth of asana, pranayama, and meditation practices to do.
Scott Blossom is a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a Shadow Yoga teacher, and an ayurvedic consultant. He has studied yoga for more than 18 years and taught for 12.