Ayurvedic Cleansing Tips for Radiant Health
Cleansing twice a year during the seasonal changes of Spring and Fall is highly recommended in helping you to reduce the presence of toxic buildup in your body and mind while allowing you to build a stronger power of digestion and immunity. In Ayurveda the term for the toxins that build up in the system is Ama, while the power of digestion is called Agni. Below are some tips on how to build your Agni and reduce your Ama so that you can enjoy radiant health and wellness all year long.
What is Agni?
Agni is the Sanskrit word for the digestive fire that stimulates the breakdown of nutrients that we take into our bodies and it is considered the cornerstone of good health. In general when we speak about Agni we are speaking of the digestive capabilities of the body and specifically the Agni that is situated in the lower stomach and small intestines (Jathara Agni), but actually there are 13 different Agni’s that govern all metabolic functions and it can be said that all processes involving heat, light, transformation and conversion relate to Agni.
So a strong and healthy Agni allows for the absorption, assimilation, metabolism, and digestion of nutrients from food but also allows for proper sense perception, cellular metabolism and mental assimilation. In short a healthy Agni affects both body and mind, which means that when we are cleansing we would be wise to become conscious of all that we take in to our bodies and minds through both our diet and our environment.
Signs of healthy Agni are:
- Strong digestive capabilities & a steady appetite
- Bright eyes & vibrant skin
- Pain free joints
- A desire for nourishing foods
- An aversion to foods and substances that are unhealthy
- Steady clear moods
- Healthy immune response
- Clean smelling urine, feces, and sweat
- A strong sense of energy that carries us through the day
- Inspiration and excitement for life
- A focused mind with an ability to grasp new information
Ways to Strengthen Your Agni:
- Don’t overeat (food or information!)
- Eat at regular mealtimes and avoid eating late at night
- Avoid ice cold drinks, especially with meals
- Sip warm water throughout the day
- Get enough sleep (the hours before midnight are worth twice as much as the hours after midnight!)
- Spice your food with gentle warming herbs such as Cumin, Ginger, or small amounts of Cayenne
- Get regular exercise
- Meditate daily or at least allow time for silence and stillness in your day
What is Ama?
Ama is a toxic residue that is formed within the channels and organs of the body from our undigested food. When our Agni (digestive fire) is impaired and we are unable to break down what we take in our ability to absorb nutrients is weakened and the slower process of digestion leads to the formation of Ama in the body. In the same way if we are taking in too much information and not allowing ourselves time to digest it our minds will also become overburdened resulting in mental Ama the signs or which are confusion or depression.
Ayurveda links most health disorders to the presence of Ama in the system and views it as one of the greatest threats to good health, both mental and physical. When our Agni (digestive process) is strong than we are able to process Ama easily, and for this reason seasonal cleanses are fabulous for prevention of disease and maintenance of vibrant health as they give our systems the opportunity to clean up anything we weren’t able to digest.
Signs of Ama buildup are:
- Weak digestion resulting in chronic constipation, diarrhea, or gas
- Bad breathe and a coated tongue in the morning
- Dull skin or skin that is prone to breakouts
- Dull or irritated eyes
- Aching joints
- Lack of appetite
- Unhealthy cravings
- Strong body odor
- Fatigue that is constant
- Frequent colds and recurring infections
- Depression or lack of motivation
- Brain fog
- Lack of zest for life
- Frequent feelings of overwhelm
Ways to Reduce Ama:
- Follow the tips below for strengthening Agni
- Do seasonal cleanses in the Spring and Fall
- Eat a primarily whole foods diet
- Avoid all processed and refined foods
- Exercise regularly to increase circulation and assist your body in moving ama out of the channels of the body
- Dry brush or take steam baths as often as possible
- Drink more water and herbal tea
- Reduce clutter in your home, let go of anything you no longer use
- Allow time for emptiness each day by eating only when you are truly hungry and not filing every moment of the day with activity
- Make a practice of reviewing your year, making peace with your mistakes, and creating life-affirming intentions on your birthday or whenever you celebrate the new year.
Panchakarma: An Ayurvedic Cleansing Method
What is a Panchakarma?
The panchakarma is the crown jewel in Ayurveda’s treasure house. Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine, with roots in Hinduism, that emphasizes preventative and healing therapies along with various purification techniques. In Ayurveda, the five basic elements — ether, air, fire, water and earth — are manifested in the body as three different predominant constitutions, or doshas. Each person has one dosha that dominates, except in the extremely rare case that the three doshas — vata, pitta, and kapha — are in equal balance.
The best metaphor for a panchakarma detox is that it’s like getting an oil change — for your body. It’s kondo-ing your diet, pruning it down to only the most nourishing foods — kitcheree and ghee. It’s detox on “steroids,” combining a restrictive diet with specific massage treatments, rest, yoga, meditation, enemas, and herbs. Think total reboot plus system upgrade.
The idea behind a panchakarma, also called PK, is to bring the body back to its natural order and restore doshic balance. Typically, if one’s predominant dosha is given free reign and its preferences allowed to dominate (in Ayruveda this is known as doshic derangement), it disturbs the harmony of one’s whole being. Consciousness, digestion, and elimination all become impacted, and a mild protest starts to foment in the body, laying the groundwork for chronic disease and ill health.
Slowly, toxins accumulate while digestion weakens, creating a perfect storm for toxin retention — ence the tenacity and thoroughness of the PK protocol. You channel your inner Macbeth to wage war on your deranged doshas and declare “out, damned [toxins].”