Spring Cleanse

Why cleanse in the spring?

Spring is a natural time to clean out and lighten up.  Ayurveda, the science of life, uses a variety of tools to cleanse on all levels.  In the spring, we’re ready to lighten up and move out of winter hibernation.   A spring cleanse can balance blood sugar, de-stagnate the lymph and eliminate toxins.

Increased energy and vitality and enhanced assimilation of nutrients and letting go of excess weight are likely results.

Our body and mind works hard for us all year round and is constantly taking in what it can use and eliminating what is harmful.  We’re constantly being bombarded by a host of inputs that can overwhelm our natural defenses: stress, processed foods, environmental toxins to name a few.  It’s important to give our body and mind a break from the onslaught and do a deep clean on every level.

An Ayurvedic cleanse can be done using a mono-food diet, a whole food diet or a combination of both.  Cleansing is not recommended for pregnant women or those who are weak or extremely depleted.

Photo by:  Karalevna25 /Wikimedia Commons

Photo by: Karalevna25/Wikimedia Commons

Starting a Cleanse

Three to four days prior to your cleanse gather the foods, oils, herbs and you’ll need for your cleanse.  Part of the cleansing process is pausing from media, emails and quieting your life.  Let your friends know that you won’t be on social media and responding communications.  Be sure that you have a week when you have no social plans and can take time to focus on you, your health and bringing in new and nourishing foods and practices.

Have you ever started a diet with the thought “I’ll eat everything that’s bad for me and then I’ll start my diet tomorrow”?  If you’re kitchen sink was clogged you probably wouldn’t think “I’ll stuff some more of whatever created the clog down there and then when it’s really stuck, I’ll clean it out”.  Makes more sense to begin eliminating processed foods and sugars and reducing caffeine intake a few day before you’re ready to get into full cleanse mode.

Mono-food or Whole Food

Ayurveda considers our basic constitution or dosha as a guide for determining the best diet to balance and heal.  An Ayurvedic cleanse rests and resets the digestive system, eliminates toxins, and simultaneously removes excess vata, pitta, and kapha from the body.  Traditionally, kitchari, a simple dish of lentils and rice combined with digestive spices is consumed during a cleanse. 

There are advantages to this approach:

  • Simple to prepare in advance

  • Kitchari is easy to digest and provides strength

  • Excellent for detoxification and de-aging of the cells

  • Basmati rice and mung dal together create a balanced food that is a good protein combination and is tridoshic.

And some disadvantages:

  • Low in fiber and can cause constipation after several days

  • Lack of variety in taste might make it more difficult to cleanse over time

Check out this recipe with variations to make to balance your specific dosha.

Whole Food Cleanse

It might be easiest to begin cleansing with 3-4 days of whole cleansing foods, 3-4 days of kitchari and then return to the original 3-4 days of whole foods.  You can then ease your way into eating Spring foods that will continue to help you increase your vitality and health. 

Make time for each meal; chew slowly (each bite 32 times!).  Remove any distractions from your eating space (computer, tv, reading, etc).  Think about the food that is nourishing you and how your body is receiving it.   Eat enough at each meal so that you can easily make it to the next one. 

Food Cleanse

Spring cleansing foods are light, bitter, pungent and astringent.  Bitter taste drains heat from blood and help liver cleansing.   Bitters include, arugula, spinach and all the bitter greens as well as fennel bulb, watercress, chard, radicchio, kohlrabi, endive.  These foods also alleviate sluggish circulation.  Astringent foods like legumes, sprouts, raw veggies, millet, barley and buckwheat tighten and tone loose tissue, squeezing out water and reduce kapha heaviness.

Pungent foods including radishes, mustard greens, arugula, chives, raw onions and garlic will facilitate blood flow and improve circulation and combat general sluggishness due to excess earth and water as well. Spices such as cinnamon, cayenne, ginger and black pepper also increase circulation and are wonderful to use generously this time of year.

Foods to Avoid

Wheat and other glutens, dairy, coffee, alcohol, saturated fats, hydrogenated oil, cold foods, sweeteners (raw honey, maple syrup, molasses, rice syrup in small amounts are okay), eggs, fish, shellfish and meat, nuts and peanuts, all processed foods, soy. 

EACH DAY EAT 1 BEET SALAD:

  • 1 fresh beet, peeled and grated

  • Juice of ½ lemon

  • 2 TBSP flax oil

  • Combine all ingredients.

3 Meals a Day

When we eat many small meals during the day, the body doesn’t learn to burn foods efficiently.  Our digestion is much like a fire, if you keep putting small kindling on a fire, it continues to burn at a low level for a long time.  If you stoke it with a bigger log (meal) and let it burn, it burns all the fuel and nothing remains to become excess fat.   As we cleanse we want to eat enough to feel satisfied but not overfull.  It’s important to allow at least 3 hours between meals.

Eat more than 3 meals if desired, be sure that you feel satisfied and at peace. 

  • Don’t eat after 6:00 p.m.

Sip warm water or teas throughout the day, ideally between meals

  • Cumin, coriander and fennel tea for Vata and Pitta

  • Ginger, turmeric tea for Kapha

Full Body Cleanse 

Cleansing isn’t just about changing the foods we eat, we store toxic emotions and the remnants of stress in our tissue.  In order to truly clean out the negative emotions that are stored in our fat we have to change the rhythm and patterns.  Daily practices called Dinacharya help create a flow in the mind and body to facilitate letting go of these stored patterns.

Morning Cleanse

  • Rise early to allow time for your routine before breakfast

  • Upon waking, scrape your tongue and brush your teeth

  • Boil water to use in your neti pot, warm massage oil and drink.

  • Sip 8 ounces of hot water with a bit of fresh lemon juice stimulate digestion

  • Perform Abhyanga-self massage with warmed sesame oil or dosha specific oil

  • For maximum benefit, let the oil soak in for about 20 minutes-or through gentle exercise

  • Gentle Exercise-therapeutic yoga, walking, tai chi-not the time for strenuous exercise

  • Take a bath or shower

  • Use soap only where necessary leaving the oil on as much skin as possible

  • Eat Breakfast

  • Kitchari or foods from the spring cleansing list—as much as desired (do not overeat)

Afternoon Meditation

  • Three or more times per day practice Alternate Nostril Breath:  Inhale through left nostril with right closed off, then close left side and open and exhale through right.  Inhale through right with left closed off, then close both, then open and exhale left (do 10 rounds followed by at least 1 minute of silence)

  • Meditation-if you’ve never meditated, simply sit for 10 minutes concentrating on your breath.  As thoughts come in, return your awareness to your breath.  Set an alarm so that you know how long you’ve been sitting.  If you have a meditation practice sit for a minimum of 10 minutes but longer is always a treat!

  • Be gentle with yourself:  read, nap, journal, draw anything that nourishes your spirit

  • Avoid conflict of any kind including driving, work and relationships that are toxic to you

Evening Yoga

Repeat alternate nostril breathing before bed and add some gentle yoga poses before bed

  • Try to be in bed, preparing for sleep by 10:00 pm

Take time for yourself to read, journal reflect.  Practice breathing and gentle movement whenever possible.  Avoid stressful situations, driving and input of outside information.

Evening Routine

  • Triphala:

About a half hour before bed, consider taking 2 Triphala tablets with a glass of water

  • Asleep by 10:00 p.m.-the pitta time of night (10 p.m-2 a.m) is when the liver and other organs heal.  It’s important to be asleep to allow this healing process to occure.

Sleep is the body’s best time to detox so be sure to get plenty of rest during the cleanse. 

Daily Journaling

Recording your experiences, changes, questions, pain, inspiration or emotion that arises is a powerful way to shift and clear.

The best question to ask ourselves as we move into this process is "Why am I doing this?".  Pausing to reflect on where our true desires lie gives us the unique opportunity to shift all levels of our being.  Practicing the niyama of svadyaya “self study”, allows us to gain insights into what our bodies are truly telling us.  Often we have to quiet the monkey mind, get out of our own way and simplify our lives to reveal what is working and what is not.

Each day, take time to write down how you want to greet this day, this breath, this life. Notice if you begin to see clearly how you exert and divert your energy, compassion and intentions into people or practices that don’t support or serve you.

Allow life to become simpler, clearer and lighter-cleansing on all levels, moving towards joy.

Karen Quinn