Ayurveda is the oldest, complete surviving medical system in the world. Meaning the “Science of Life”, Ayurveda is not only a collection of different health treatments, but also a deeply rich philosophy on how to live a harmonious life of wellbeing and fulfilment.
Originating in India, it was carried by travelling Buddhist monks to Nepal, Tibet, Sri Lanka, China, Mongolia and Korea around the 6th century BC. Kerala, the lush tropical state of South India has the richest history of Ayurveda that has continued to thrive up to the present day.
According to Ayurveda, there are 5 basic elements of creation: earth, fire, water, air and ether. In a human being, these elements manifest as a balance of three dosha essences known as vata, kapha and pitta. ‘Vata’ corresponds to the energy of air and ether; ‘kapha’ to water and earth, and ‘pitta’ to fire and water. We are each born with a genetically predetermined combination of the three doshas that influence our biological and psychological tendencies. The three doshas work together to maintain health, but if there is an imbalance in one of the doshas, physical or mental symptoms can result.
In fact, according to Ayurvedic physicians, certain diseases can be classified according to the respective dosha imbalance, for example insomnia, anxiety and muscle spasms are common complaints for those with excessive vata; colds, flus, oedema and obesity are examples of a kapha imbalance; while arthritis, reflux and skin disorders such a psoriasis are common pitta complaints.
Underpinning the three doshas is the concept of “agni” or digestive fire, which is the body’s natural ability to break down food and assimilate nutrients for repair and energy, as well as remove toxins through efficient elimination. When the digestive fire is working properly, the 3 doshas are in harmony, and health and wellbeing is experienced. When there is a disturbance to the doshas, the digestive fire does not function normally and ‘ama’ or toxins accumulate in the body, causing disease. Other factors that cause a build up of ‘ama’ include a poor diet, exposure to pollution and pesticides and impure drinking water.
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The original ayurvedic doctors realised 5000 years ago that if the body can expel excess or stored toxins, it will naturally return to a state of health and wellbeing. They came up with a series of natural treatments called ‘Panchakarma’ (an ayurvedic detox cleanse system) which are still used to this day to cleanse and purify the body.
The beauty of Ayurveda is that there are no one-size-fits-all treatments. How can there be when each person is composed of a unique constitution made up of differing proportions of the three doshas? For this reason each person will be given a different treatment protocol according to his or her particular imbalance.
All panchakarma programs consist of a cleansing, vegetarian diet with specific foods for different dosha imbalances.
Panchakarma treatments can include: medicated emesis or induced vomiting, herbal tonics, heat treatments like saunas and massages with warm medicated oil and colonic cleansing with herbal enemas.
Relaxation therapies are often included as stress is often noted as a major contributor to disease, so a panchakarma program may also include shirodhara, a deeply relaxing treatment where a continuous stream of warm oil is poured over the forehead to release tension and mental strain, as well as many different massage therapies to release stored muscular tension.
While many modern ayurvedic spas and resorts offer 3 to 5 day panchakarma programs, an authentic program lasts usually from 14 to 21 days, as the body needs time to rest and gently release toxins that may have built up over a long period of time. Traditional ayurvedic doctors recommend that one undergoes a panchakarma program ideally with each change of season, or at least once a year.
Spring is the perfect time of year to do a simple cleanse to lighten the body after all of those heavy winter comfort meals and months of inactivity. India’s traditional medical system, Ayurveda, is 5000 years old and places a strong emphasis on detoxification and resting the body’s ‘agni’ or digestive fire in order to boost vitality and mental clarity, as well as strengthen the immune system.
While a traditional “Panchakarma” ayurvedic detox program lasts up to 21 days, you might find it’s not possible with your current lifestyle and commitments, so the following this simple, 7-day ayurvedic detox program outlined below, is a simple version suitable for all ‘doshas’ or constitutions.
Each day, upon rising, drink some plain hot water (filtered or spring water) is a major body cleanser and is ideal for getting the lymphatic system working. Our lymphatic glands are our natural in-house cleaners that purify the blood. Start with a cup upon rising and then continue to sip throughout the day.
Your digestive system works incredibly hard to process all that you put into your mouth every single day, and it deserves a break! The philosophy behind the ayurvedic detox diet is that by only eating very simple, easily-digested foods, the body can use a minimum of energy and enzymes for digestion and can then get to work cleaning up the toxic old junk it hasn’t had a chance to get to up until now.
For the first 3 days, just consume organic fruits and vegetables. This can be as juices, raw salads (don’t add any salt or oil), or steamed vegetables or a combination of all 3. Go easy on the sweet fruit and fruit juices and make sure you are getting a lot of bitter greens, as these are the best for stimulating the liver. If you are diabetic or hypoglycaemic, skip the fruit juice altogether.
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For the final 4 days, you can add in a more substantial , traditional, ayurvedic meal called kitchari – the ultimate ayurvedic detox recipe. You can have this between one and 3 times per day depending on how hungry you are. Made from basmati rice, mung beans and coriander, it is filling and contains protein and carbohydrates while being easily digested. Coriander also has the unique ability to chelate toxic heavy metals so that they can be easily removed from the body.
Kitchari recipe below
Detoxifying Kitchari Recipe:
Try to use organic ingredients where you can, and be sure to soak the rice and mung beans overnight or for at least a few hours to improve digestibility.
Add the rice, dal and coriander to the water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes stirring occasionally and then turn down the heat and cover. Let it simmer away until tender, about 30 minutes or so, then serve warm.
(*if you are extremely weak, convalescing, pregnant or breastfeeding, seek your doctor’s permission before trying a detox diet).
Definitely the best part of the program, be sure to take some time either in the morning or evening for an indulgent self massage every second day. Known as Abhyanga, this is a very important aspect of ayurvedic detoxification to nourish the skin and nervous system and also stimulate the lymphatic and circulatory systems. Be sure to use warm oil, ayurvedic herbal oils can be purchased from some health food stores, otherwise coconut, sesame or almond oil are good choices too.
Scroll down for Step 4 / how to end each day on the cleanse
Directions for Abhyanga:
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A detox program wouldn’t be complete without some emphasis on cleansing the bowels, but don’t worry, we won’t be venturing into the world of enemas or colonic irrigation here! Triphala is a traditional Ayurvedic remedy made up of three medicinal fruits that helps to get the bowels moving as well as supply vital antioxidants. Most health food shops stock the capsules or they can be ordered online from reputable Ayurvedic retailers. Take 2 capsules before bed.
There you have it – a simple ayurvedic detox plan that you can easily do at home.
Tell me, will you give it a go? If you do, I’d love to hear how you go, let me know in the comments below.
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P.S. Do you know someone who might be interested in doing an Ayurvedic cleanse? Share this with them now via one of the big share buttons below.
This article is part of the 2015 ‘Spring Into Wellbeing’ Hub: Check it out for expert health and wellbeing tips, guides and advice from Australia’s leading wellbeing experts – inspiring and empowering you to unlock the path to true wellness this Spring.
Sharee James is a naturopath and a yoga and meditation teacher dedicated to helping people like you to live your life with more calm and less struggle. You can start now with her free cheat sheet, 'Stress-Less: 10 Quick & Easy tips to Help You Slow Down, Find Calm & Enjoy the Moment' (grab it now at http://www.ashimaliving.com/freecheatsheet).
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