Ah the term ‘cleanse’ has been deemed glamorous in our culture. Juice cleanses, water fasts - it is hard to navigate what IS a cleanse and whose a good candidate for one? We’re here to breakdown both.
WHAT IS AN AYURVEDIC CLEANSE?
Traditionally, an Ayurvedic cleanse is called a Pancha Karma. Pancha Karma means five actions, which refers to the five treatments classically involved in a cleanse. If you go to India, it is a sacred practice that is individualized to each person and completed for at least a months span in a secluded environment. In our western culture, we use the term Pancha Karma pretty loosely. Our crazy schedules don’t permit a traditional PK, so we make it accessible for ourselves in our own versions of “Pancha Karma”.
A traditional PK has THREE PHASES:
The Post Care
I will explain each phase from a high-level perspective, but if you want all the nitty gritty details, follow our IG story these next three weeks for my personal experience.
The intention of THE PREP is to bring in all the toxins distributed throughout the body to the digestive tract, where it can be dispelled using the techniques. THE PREP involves a light diet with fresh, organic foods and avoids sugar, alcohol, fried foods, gluten, dairy, and meats. The ideal duration is one week for Vata, 1-2 weeks for Pitta and 3-4 weeks for Kapha. No matter the dosha, at least one week of the prep should follow a mono diet of kitchari.
WHY KITCHARI? Kitchari is the easiest thing for our body to digest. If the body doesn’t have to think about digesting it’s current job, it can clean up past actions or karmas it has been through. During the prep, the body also goes through Oleation and Swedana. Oleation consists of the daily intake of medicated ghee, and sometimes Abhyanga. The Swedana consists of steaming the body daily. The purpose of both is to soften and loosen the ama that is stuck interally, so it is easily removed using the techniques.
THE TECHNIQUES include the cleansing tools we are most fascinated by. If we were doing this in India, this would consist of all five- Vamana (cleanse of the stomach-seat of kapha), Virechana (cleanse of small intestine- seat of Pitta), Basti (cleanse of large intestine-seat of Vata), Nasya (deep nasal/sinus cleanse), and Blood Letting. WHOA. Crazy right?! There are detailed explanations behind the beauty and support of each therapy, but that's for another post.
Since I am doing this PK in sweet home, Chicago, emphasis on the ‘at-home’ part, I will only be participating in two cleansing techniques: Virechana and Basti under the care of my Ayurvedic doctor and mentor. Seriously, I recommend seeing an Ayurvedic Practitioner for even an at-home PK. More on the techniques in weeks to come!
Finally, THE POST CARE, which in my opinion is the hardest part. I like to think of Ayurveda as the nurturing mother who tends to her children with unconditional love, support and protection. She shelters them when they’re young and little by little as they get older, she unveils the world to them. This is the Ayurvedic approach, easing your way into everything and avoiding all extremes. The body is TAXED after the strongest purification techniques in the science. It needs time to rebuild tissue and ojas. So the POST CARE can last anywhere from 1 week to 6 weeks of reintroducing foods back into your diet. Right after the cleanse, your body is clean but your digestive fire needs to rebuild. It is best to start with light rice soup and ease your way back to kitchari. Say what?! I have to ease my way back to kitchari? Well, it’s true. Like all good mothers, some good ole fashioned tough love makes us strong and disciplined.
This week I am starting a personalized, at-home PK under the care of my Ayurvedic doctor and mentor. I will take you through the THREE PHASES of an at-home PK and share my experiences, feelings and Ayurvedic insights. But, of course, I have some disclaimers. This specific plan is individualized for my constitution and my current imbalance. I am also under the care of a certified Ayurvedic doctor. In other words, do not try this at home kiddos UNLESS you are doing a modified version that is personalized for you OR you have the care of an Ayurvedic Practitioner (oh hi, that’s me!).
SHOULD I DO A CLEANSE?
There are three different types of Pancha Karma therapies: tonification, purification and palliation that serve different imbalances and constitutions. For simplicity, we are just focused on the purification type of Pancha Karma, the one I will be taking you through. In these types of PKs, a good candidate would need to have strong ojas (energy), presence of ama (white coating on tongue, to be vague), excess dhatu (tissue) or excess kapha. PK (Purification Type) is NOT recommended for people who have low ojas, weakness, exhaustion, weight loss, mental instability, very old age, very young, pregnant or postpartum.
I really mulled over the thought of sharing the cleanse because of the stigma behind it and the adverse impact it could have. However, like everything in my life, I set an intention. My intention is to educate on the beautiful science of Ayurveda and empower others to heal themselves. This small cleanse takeover seems to fit snug like a glove to that intention.