Is your body filled with toxins? How about your mind? What are you doing about it?
Ayurveda has long been a science that emphasizes the importance of keeping our bodies cleansed and our minds pure. Ayurveda also recognizes that rejuvenation is the flip side of purification, and that you can’t effectively rejuvenate without cleansing first, and if you cleanse, it is imperative to follow it up with some form of rejuvenation. So purification and rejuvenation go hand in hand!
At the recent Sivananda Ayurveda Conference, Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar gave a brilliant workshop on Ayurvedic practices of cleansing and rejuvenation. In his program, he explained that we are surrounded by toxins, and a result, most of us have a toxic load in our bodies and minds. This is why our endocrine systems are misbehaving, our digestive systems are misbehaving, and we are contracting autoimmune conditions and a host of other diseases, including cancer. Our organs are crumbling from the pressures of all the toxins!
What to do? Cleanse, and do so regularly! However, the cleanse must be gentle and kind, so that the toxins are separated from the healthy tissues, and no harm comes to the healthy tissues. You need to soften the body and then usher the toxins out the nearest exits. And this is exactly what panchakarma has done with extraordinary effectiveness for thousands of years.
But what are the sources of the toxins? They are all around us, and include common chemical contaminants such as herbicides and pesticides, which are the most common and most entrenched. Plastic, in which much of our food is wrapped, leaches estrogen-like substances into the food, which is resulting in early onset of menstruation for young girls. Other common toxins include hydrogenated oils, exposure to heavy metals like mercury and lead, petrochemicals, molds, bacteria, fungus, food additives, artificial colors, preservatives, water contamination from industry and farming, air pollution, drugs and more.
And yet, most of us do nothing about this toxic load. We take our car to the garage every 3-5,000 miles for an oil change and tune up, but we don’t take our most precious thing – ourselves – to get cleaned and tuned up!
Do you have “love handles”? If so, this is a sign that your body is likely carrying a toxic load. Additional symptoms include excess weight, fatigue, headaches, food cravings, allergies, frequent illness, digestive problems, tongue coating, mood swings, skin problems. More serious conditions that can result from the toxic overload includes leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, candida, gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, and more.
It’s no surprise that we would experience symptoms such as these; our bodies are trying to let us know that we need to restore balance. Are we listening?
Decide right now to make cleansing and rejuvenation a priority in your life! Every 3 months take a week and do this. A perfect time to cleanse and rejuvenate is on the solstices and equinoxes (March, June, September, December). For 3 days before the solstice or equinox, 3 days after, and the day of the solstice itself -7 days total – commit to eat right, sleep right, care for yourself. You can even do this while continuing to work and go about your normal life. Allow this to be a mindful seasonal detox. Doing this regularly is preventative medicine and will help ensure that you stay functioning at your optimal best. Just a mindful seasonal detox.
It is best to work with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner who can design a cleansing and rejuvenation program that is ideally suited to your unique constitution and state of imbalance. There are practices that you can do at home to help you to cleanse, although this is not an in-depth, all-the-way-to-the-core cleanse like panchakarma is. However, it can take care of at least some of the toxins. Part of what makes panchakarma so unique is it’s ability to remove toxins wherever they are lodged in the body – and to do so thoroughly and yet gently.
What can you do on your own? To begin with, bring conscious awareness to your environment, and make lifestyle choices that will minimize your exposure to toxins. Sip on hot spice water to enkindle your digestive fire, which will give your body an assist in ridding toxins. Good choices include tea made of fresh ginger, lemon, cinnamon, clove, and fennel.
A simple way to regularly cleanse is to fast. Actually, Ayurveda recommends fasting between meals – meaning no snacks! Have a healthy breakfast (oatmeal is generally a good choice), then eat nothing until lunch. Make lunch your biggest meal of the day, as digestion will be supported by the heat which predominates at that time. Then fast between lunch and dinner, and have a light, early evening meal (such as soup or rice and veggies), and then eat nothing again until breakfast. By “fasting” between meals, it gives your digestive system a rest and allows your body to go in search of toxins to digest.
You can also fast for one day a week. Do this on the same day each week if possible. On that day, have a light breakfast at your usual time. Then, eat a late lunch (at about 1:30 or 2:00), and skip dinner. The next morning, skip breakfast and have an early lunch – at about 11:00. This is a fairly easy way to fast, as much of the time you’re sleeping anyway, and you don’t have to go an entire day with no meal! If you do this once a week, it will help reset your digestive fire.
As mentioned previously, cleanses should always be followed with rejuvenation. Rejuvenation includes herbs; tonifying foods such as milk, ghee, almonds, honey and whole foods; oil massage (abhyanga); meditation; pranayama; and nourishing relationships. Again, you can work with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner to determine what is most suited to you.
Emotional toxicity must also be cleared along with physical toxins. Emotional “toxins” accumulate in your tissues, the result of repressed emotions, grief, trauma, etc. These can be cleared by self-reflective journaling, meditation, listening to spiritual people, and all things that make you feel good about yourself.
One final note; make sure you scrape your tongue each morning. There are lots of tongue scrapers available on the market. Scraping your tongue each day cleanses toxins from your digestive tract and is an important part of a gentle daily “cleanse.”
Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar is the author of several best-selling books, including “The Hot Belly Diet.” He currently practices in Santa Cruz, California.
By Marisa Laursen, C.A.S., P.K.S., A.Y.T., Faculty at the California College of Ayurveda