The ancient science of Ayurveda works on the premise that the entire cosmos is made up of a combination of three doshas – vata or wind energy, pitta or fire energy and kapha or earth energy. Since our body is a microcosm of the Universe, we are also made up of a combination of these three doshas. Every individual has a unique balance of these three doshas and the specific balance of the individual is called his “prakruthi” or constitution. In Ayurveda, the year is divide into pitta season, which covers the warm, long days of the summer months, Vata season which runs from late fall into early winter and the Kapha season which includes the cold, short days of winter up to the arrival of spring.
The Kapha season is a good time to detoxify the body as it coincides with that time of the year when most of us tend to indulge in excessive food and drink, in the festive season around Christmas and New Year and as the resolutions of the New Year start to kick in, it makes perfect sense to prepare the body for the year ahead. The body has a natural ability to detoxify itself but this is seriously impeded by various factors of modern living such as bad dietary choices, overindulgence in food, alcohol and smoking, excessive stress, lack of exercise and the accumulation of toxins due to pollution and adulteration.
Ayurveda recommends that we undertake seasonal detox programs in order to enhance the body’s ability to cleanse itself. The focus in Ayurvedic detox is on the removal of “ama” or accumulated toxins which are most often a result of improper digestion. Cleansing the body and mind of ama will result in rebuilding the metabolic fire or “agni” thereby inhibiting further accumulation of toxins and will leave you feeling refreshed in mind and body, with improved digestion, reduced pain and inflammation and possibly with some weight loss as a bonus. Ayurveda uses a highly individualized approach to healing so let your instincts guide you in making choices before, during and after the detox process.
There are three stages involved in Ayurvedic detox. The first stage involves the preparation of the body for the cleansing process, the second stage is the actual cleansing and the third stage focuses on rejuvenation and gradual movement back to the routine.
Here is how you can do a short Ayurvedic Winter Detox in the comfort of your home. (Avoid this detox if you are pregnant, lactating or just recovering from a major illness or trauma. Please check with your physician if you suffer from any underlying health conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes).
Step 1 (preparing for the detox) 3 to 5 days
You can go about your normal routine during the preparatory days. Just keep the below points in mind:
- Plan to take a few days off from work or choose a weekend in advance and mentally prepare yourself
- Gradually reduce consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, tea and sugars
- Reduce the quantity of carbohydrates and proteins from your food in the days leading up to the detox
- Introduce light stretching exercises and yoga into your daily routine. Walk for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Set aside 10 to 15 minutes each day for introspection and meditation
- Consume a tablespoon of ghee or coconut oil every morning on an empty stomach
- Take a teaspoon of triphala mixed with warm water every night after dinner
- Increase your intake of warm water, herb tea and green tea in the day
Step 2 (Actual cleansing) 3 days
- Avoid cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine and sugar completely
- Scrape your tongue before brushing and swish warm coconut or sesame oil around in your mouth for about 5 minutes to kickstart the process of elimination of ama.
- Start the day with a large glass of warm water which has been infused with ginger. Add the juice of half a lemon and a few sprigs of peppermint along with a few crystals of pink Himalayan sea salt.
- Apply Nasya oil using your little finger to the inside of your nostrils in a gentle and non invasive manner. Make sure that the nasal lining is well lubricated by repeating the process twice on each nostril. This will help develop immunity and also relieve any accumulated stress in the sinus region.
- Each day, give yourself a whole body massage using either sesame or coconut oil. Start by applying a little oil to the scalp and then continue by ensuring that the entire body is covered with oil. Leave the oil on for about 15 minutes and take a warm shower without using soap. You may use chickpea flour to wash off the stickiness if necessary.
- Try to take a steam bath and add a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil to help clear the channels.
- Take half of teaspoon of Trikatu powder half an hour before eating.Trikatu is an excellent herb to improve digestion and can help ignite the digestive fire which is a precursor ofgood health. It is also very useful inkeeping coughs and cols at bay in the Kapha season.
- Have only two meals in a day. You can eat the meals at any time but ensure that the last meal is eaten before 5 pm.
- Both meals should consist of freshly made, well cooked khichdi, served with a teaspoon of ghee.
- Through the day, you can have herb tea made with any warming spices such as ginger, cumin, fennel, pepper or coriander. This will help to eliminate ama and boost agni.
- Consume a teaspoon of castor oil mixed with dry ginger powder at night on all three days to help cleanse the bowels completely
- Spend 15 to 20 minutes a day in a quiet zone, focusing on your healing energies and trying to relax the mind and body completely.
Step 3 (Post Detox routine) 3 to 5 days
- Introduce vegetables (avoid raw food for a week) and whole grains into your meal plan gradually while continuing to eat warm, simple food for the first few days.
- Stay off alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes and sugar for as long as you can.
- Continue with the tongue scraping routine and do the oil swishing once or twice a week.
- Do a self massage once a week
- Continue to drink warm water and herbal teas for a week
Keep in mind that the detoxification program should not be a temporary break from your habits. Try to make a habit of the steps you have learnt during the process so that you continue to uphold healthy practices. Practice mindfulness at all times throughout the process and modify the steps to suit your schedules and personal needs. As the ama is eliminated from your mind and body, you will feel a greater balance in your life, with improved metabolism and immunity, clarity of thought and overall sense of rejuvenation and well being.
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