Yup. That sounds so appealing. Doesn't it? But consider this: Imagine you've got a kitchen sink. And everyday, you use it to clean dishes, wash the dirty water down it, dispose of leftover food and waste down the garbage disposal. Day after day after day. After a while, if you put enough junk and garbage down that drain, it's going to clog up. Then the sink backs up, and it's filled with your leftover foods, sludge from the disposal, your kids breakfast cereal. This is why you do an Ayurvedic cleanse: to clean the pipes, keep things running smoothly, and consciously readjust your body to a new season of eating, living, and thriving.
The first thing you should determine is your Dosha type. This can help you to determine the direction of your particular cleanse. You don't, however, need to define a cleanse so specifically either. This truly can be a period of reset that is undergone without the goal of balancing your mind/body constitutional type. For more information on your Dosha Type: See our Article here. So, why do you need a cleanse? Aside from the grotesque idea of the kitchen sink above, we truly all do have toxic buildup in our systems. In Ayurveda, this buildup is called Ama (impurities, or toxic waste). Ama is a part of the natural cycle of waste in our bodies, but it's buildup does create a rather less than ideal environment for your body to thrive in. The goal should always be to create less of it, and clear it out when we can. Proper diet and lifestyle are a good starting place. But in the absence of a perfect diet and pristine lifestyle (and often even with these things in place) some Ama is always going to be lurking. We can determine if Ama is a problem by looking at the bowels. The colon is a big location for processing those things that become waste products in our bodies (stool/urine/sweat), and if the bowels aren't optimal then it's a clear sign that our bodies are unhappy. If there are odorous stools or flatulence, constipation or diarrhea, or inconsistent bowels than it's likely that Ama could be the culprit, and the pipes need to be cleaned.
If you think about a clogged up river, you can probably imagine other symptoms that might be present with a system that is troubled with toxic buildup. Murky water (foggy thinking), bacteria and parasite breeding grounds (SIBO or Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth), flooding out plant life (blocking energetic/liquid channels like blood, lymph and bile), and eroding the edges of the pond (thinning of the intestinal lining). Before you know it? Toxic algae bloom. And I don't have a clever comparison for that, but I'm sure your imagination can carry you. Restoring flow, reopening channels and cleaning the pipes is an excellent way to ensure that your overall health has an opportunity to flourish, and flow. That boggy pond can flow like a river.
But I eat a clean diet, and exercise and meditate and do all the things! And ya know what? I could not be prouder of you. However, the air you breathe, the water you drink, the planet we live on, the chemicals we surround ourselves with? This things affect our overall health and the toxic buildup is reflected in our bodies too. Even with the most pristine diet, we can't avoid all toxins, they're a natural part of our environment. Making proper food choices and lifestyle choices is half the battle.
What about what we take in through our other senses? We must “digest” the sights we see, the sounds we hear, the particles we inhale, and the things we absorb through our skin. While many of these things are pleasant and beneficial, many are not. We may not be aware of pollutants we are breathing in at this moment; and sometimes, we purposely inhale harmful substances, such as cigarette smoke. Likewise, we often forget about the many surfaces that touch our skin, and the possible irritants we encounter that way. And we usually don’t realize that when we see or hear disturbing sights and sounds, our bodies must process these, too. Do you remember the last time you had an argument with somebody? It is quite likely that the “sounds” created had an impact on your body—even to the point of loss of appetite, or a headache, or sweaty palms and a rapid heart rate.
Things that we experience with our senses, like emotional events, traumas, toxic relationships and environments; these all need to be 'digested' in much the same way that we digest and process food. The body has a physical reaction to good OR bad emotions and experiences, and we must also recognize that Ama is the result of toxic waste from those things as well.
“Even the wholesome food also taken in proper quantity does not get digested due to anxiety, grief, fear, anger, uncomfortable bed, and vigil.” —Caraka Samhita
In a body functioning in perfect balance and harmony, there is a system in place to deal with Ama. Our digestive furnace, our Agni (digestive fire), is responsible for burning up the bad stuff. It's job is to pull out the useful pieces and burn up the waste. Like a giant factory, it packages the good for delivery to other organs, and turns the garbage into efficient waste. The best factories can do this cleanly, with little to no pollution. The worst ones are overwhelmed with the toxic waste, and can't keep up with the tasks at hand.
Think of a campfire. When it starts out (or first thing in the morning, like breakfast time) it's small, easily extinguished if you don't treat it with care, and can quickly be overwhelmed if you add too much, too soon. Once it's 'caught' you can add fuel with abundance (mid day or lunch time), but adding too much fuel can cause a fire to large to contain. As the fire dies down, and when you're ready to go to sleep for the night, you allow the embers to burn down (the end of the day, or dinner time), the fuel still burning from earlier, and it needs very little to stay warm and lit. Imbalanced Agni manifests in many ways: for Vata types, the excess air from a rapidly burning fire can show up as gas, bloating, or belching. Pitta types, which are known for their very efficient by nature Agni's, can consume them, resulting in reflux, and an acidity to their entire system. Kapha types, when they overfeed their digestive fire, can feel heavy, weighed down, and sleepy.
Poorly digested materials form noxious residues, both gross and subtle, which can be deposited in various bodily tissues. Then if the body’s excretory mechanisms aren’t functioning optimally, these residues can get stuck and build up in these tissues. This is where an Ayurvedic cleanse comes to the rescue. It offers a way to help move things along expeditiously. At Sacred Health, we encourage you to consider a twice-yearly cleanse. The best time to plan for these is Spring and Fall, as the seasons transition from Growth and Rebirth, to Change and Transition. We will be performing a Spring Cleanse in February as a community. Stay Tuned for more information on this, and other offerings!