Lighten Up An Ayurvedic Approach

In this seminar:

  • Ama and Agni
  • Working with the Rhythms of Nature
  • An Ayurvedic Cleanse

Watch the seminar here

Ama and Agni

At the beginning of the course we looked at Ama and Agni and how they may be affecting us, especially at this time of year.

In Ayurveda (the science of life), it is believed that Ama is the cause of much disease.

Ama is the build-up of undigested toxins in the body. It is all that matter that the body has been unable to process. A build-up can lead to poor functioning of the circulation, metabolism, and digestion.

It can leave us feeling sluggish, fatigued, and heavy physically as well as mentally.

Ama builds up when we take in more than we need or have too many foods that are difficult to digest. It can also be as a result of lack of movement, stress in the body, and a sluggish system in the first place.

If, by this time in the course, you are still feeling tired and heavy, it could be that your digestive system needs a reset, which is where a “cleanse” can be useful. For this course, I recommend a 3 day Ayuvedic Kitchari cleanse. It is very simple, it does not overly stress the body, it is cheap, and anyone can do it.

This cleanse will re-set the digestive system so we can then go about building Agni, the digestive fire which will help burn off all the heavy Ama.

Drinking ginger tea all day long will help keep our Agni high, as well as starting the day with some warming exercise.

Working With The Rhythms of Nature

For a state of wellbeing, we want to try to bring the body back into it’s natural state of harmony. This means working alongside the rhythms of nature, so adopting rituals and practises that support us at different times of the day.

We need to look at the big picture, not just what we eat or the exercise we do, but our lifestyle as a whole.

The Ayurvedic approach considers the 24 hour day in sections as follows:

6 – 10am  Getting Up and Getting On It!!

The body has been at rest, it is heavy (a Kapha state), so it is time to get things moving. This is the time for building and growth, stimulating and producing, and it is absolutely the best time for physical exercise.

To wake with the sunrise connects us to the biorhythms of nature, so ideally watch the sunrise, or at least, make sure the light is entering your room as the sun rises.

Your movement practise should be warming and invigorating, like sun salutations and squat based sequences, and should be done before breakfast.

This is also the time to replenish fluids lost overnight, and breakfast should be liquid-based, of a soupy consistency.

This is the time to “get **** done”. Remember, “before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”.

10am – 2pm

Throughout this time we want to continue with our productive activity, getting jobs done, the bigger tasks, although any exercise done should not be too intense.

This is the time when the digestive fire is at it’s strongest, so this is when we should eat our main meal ideally.

Try to have a soup 20 minutes before your main meal, and your meal should consist of lots of leafy greens, as well as a small portion of protein and healthy fats.

Lunch should be a leisurely affair, with time taken over it, enjoyed mindfully and slowly, with time afterwards to rest and digest.

2pm – 6pm

During this time of day you want to start winding down from the more productive phases.

At some point you should take some kind of “siesta”, even if it’s just lying down for 15 minutes.

This is an opportunity to check in with your body, and how much energy you have for the rest of the day. This will depend on how much activity you have done in the first part of the day, and you can assess how much you still need to do and what you may need to let go of.

Remember life is a balance between life and movement, so in order to strike this balance we need to be constantly assessing where we are and adapting where necessary.

This is also a good time for creative pursuits, anything calming for the mind, which puts you in a state of flow.

You may throughout this time, experience blood sugar dips, so a snack of fresh fruit with a handful of nuts may be necessary to keep you going until dinner.

Physical exercise isn’t recommended throughout this time, unless it is a gentle walk in nature, ideally to watch the sunset.

6 – 10pm

As the sun sets, we need to start reducing our exposure to bright lights, to help the body produce melatonin which aids and enhances sleep.

Our meal in the evening should be lighter, and more soup-y, so things like lentil dahl is ideal, and also ancient grains like Quinoa are good for night-time.

This is the time of day to “connect and share”, spending time with others, and maximising cuddles and cosi-ness. Think all things “hygge”, and any exercise should be more gentle and restorative.

Grounding down for bedtime you may want to consider a warm bath, with candles, some self-massage with oils, maybe some meditation time, and a warming milky drink.

Nutmeg is ideal for calming the nervous system, so perhaps add this to your bedtime drink.

10pm – 2am

This is the best time for you to be asleep as the body is naturally detoxifying.

Be mindful that if you stay up beyond 10pm, you will experience a spike in cortisol, meaning that you can get a 2nd wind, keeping you up later and later. Bear in mind that you are not naturally a “night owl”, this is just a bad habit.

2pm – 6pm

Most likely we are still sleeping, and the body is still resting and restoring.

It is also starting to prepare for sunrise and when you awaken will depend on the sunrise, so this may change from season to season. You may find yourself waking up earlier as you move into Spring.

Before 6am is not the time for an intense workout. If you are up before 6am use this time for a more introspective practise like meditation or breathing exercises, journaling and also cleansing.

This is the best time for Dinacharya, morning rituals like scraping the tongue, washing the face and emptying the bowels!

An Ayurvedic Cleanse

This is a 3 day cleanse to reset the digestive system.

Kitchari is the main recipe for this cleanse.

Kitchari is a traditional Ayurvedic dish that’s known for its ability to detox the body and balance all three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. For people that want to cleanse the body and soul in a gentle manner, kitchari provides ample nutrients while pushing the junk out of your body.

The practice of cleansing is considered a vital part of an Ayurvedic lifestyle. It provides an important means of clearing accumulated waste and toxicity from the mind and the tissues, encouraging optimal health.

These days, a periodic cleansing regimen is more vital to our health than ever before. Our bodies are being asked to process a seemingly endless barrage of harmful inputs such as environmental toxins, processed foods, unresolved emotions, and psychological stress.

Over time, these stressors can cause toxicity to build up in the system, deposit in the tissues, and compromise our health. A periodic cleanse helps to clear these accumulations from the body.

This particular cleanse is based on eating a monodiet of whole grains and kitchari, drinking plenty of detoxifying fluids, and taking

Triphala in the evening to support digestion, elimination, and the body’s natural detoxification processes. This regimen supports the physiology by slowing the flood of harmful inputs and by providing the body with an important opportunity to rest, recuperate, and repair itself.

A simple three-day cleanse can help to:

  • Improve digestion and metabolic function.
  • Promote regular and balanced elimination.
  • Support the maintenance of a healthy body weight.
  • Nurture an improved sense of energy, vitality, and enthusiasm for life.
  • Foster clarity and groundedness in the mental, spiritual, and emotional spheres.
  • Encourage a balanced sleep cycle.
  • Promote improved overall health.

The foods ingested during this cleanse are very easy to digest and therefore help to improve the strength of agni (the metabolic fire)—which is essential to optimal health.

Planning For Your Cleanse

The more completely you can clear your schedule for the entirety of your three-day cleanse, the better. More importantly, pick a time when you can minimize your exposure to stress. Ideally, you would not be working at all during the cleanse. If this is not realistic for you, we recommend scheduling the first day or two of your cleanse over your weekend so that you can get familiar with the diet and the routine before you are juggling the cleanse alongside work obligations. You’ll also want to avoid any social engagements that would make it difficult to maintain the simple diet prescribed below. In general, eliminate any unnecessary commitments and give yourself as much unstructured time to rest as possible. A menstruating woman should also schedule her cleanse around her cycle so that she is not bleeding at any point during the three-day cleanse.

Once you have found a workable timeframe, put your cleanse on the calendar and come up with a plan for acquiring the necessary supplies ahead of your start date (see our recipes and shopping lists at the end of this article). When the cleanse starts, you will want to focus your energy on the process of detoxification and renewal. In other words, aim to be finished running around gathering supplies by the time your cleanse begins.

If you are in the habit of taking coffee, caffeine, tobacco products, alcohol, or any recreational drugs on a regular basis, you may find it helpful to gradually reduce or eliminate their use in the days leading up to your cleanse. Similarly, reducing your intake of fast foods, processed foods, meat, refined sugars, and sweets ahead of the start date can be very beneficial. You might also consider enlisting the support of close friends or family members who know what you are up to, what your intentions are, and can help to encourage you through the process.

The Cleanse Itself

During the three-day cleanse, you will be eating a simplified diet of oatmeal and kitchari. This diet is substantive enough that you can maintain your essential responsibilities while resetting the digestive system, supporting the elimination of toxins, and balancing vata, pitta, and kapha. Freshly prepared foods are best, so you’ll want to cook your oatmeal, kitchari, and teas fresh each day—at whatever time works best with your schedule. While you’ll want to avoid eating leftovers from previous days, it is acceptable to prepare all of your food for the day in the morning, if that works for you. Garnishes such as cilantro chutney and sesame seed chutney can usually be kept for several days without issue.

It is not uncommon to experience mild constipation during a cleanse. If your bowel movements slow in frequency or volume, or if your stools become more difficult to pass, please see our resource on how to remedy Constipation During a Cleanse. Healthy elimination is critical to the detoxification process, so it is best to be proactive about relieving any discomfort as soon as you are aware of it.

The Diet

  • In general, eat as much as is desired at each meal—enough to feel satisfied, but be careful not to overeat.
  • Eat Simple Oatmeal or Kitchari for breakfast.
  • Eat Kitchari for lunch and dinner, allowing at least three hours between meals.
  • You can garnish your kitchari with a little melted ghee, Fresh Coriander Chutney and Sesame Seed Chutney to ensure that your system stays well-lubricated and that you continue to enjoy all six tastes in your diet.
  • It is best to avoid snacking between meals, but if you need a little something extra, you can enjoy some fresh fruit or a few raw nuts.
  • If the monodiet is causing a sense of deprivation, you can try steaming your vegetables and serving them as a separate side dish, garnished with a little melted ghee, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Or, have a side of ½ avocado with lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt.
  • Try not to eat anything after 7 p.m.
  • Drink at least 8–12 cups of room temperature, warm, or hot fluids each day to ensure adequate hydration and to help flush toxins from the system.
  • Ideally, most of your fluids should be taken between meals.
  • Appropriate fluids include water, CCF TeaRehydration Tea, and detox teas; drink as much of any of these as you like.

The Daily Routine

  • Rise early enough to give yourself a spacious and relaxed morning.
  • Upon waking, scrape your tongue and brush your teeth.
  • Sip 8–16 ounces of hot water to cleanse the system and to awaken the digestive capacity.
  • Optional: Gentle Exercise
    • Slow, gentle movements will support cleansing; more than that can be counterproductive.
    • This is not a time to push yourself physically.
    • Consider walking, tai chi, qigong, or gentle yoga such as vata-pacifying yoga (which is appropriate during a cleanse).
  • Take a bath or shower, using soap strategically (not all over the body).
  • After that, you’ll want to have plenty of time to prepare your breakfast, kitchari, and teas for the day without undue stress.
  • Eat Simple Oatmeal or Kitchari for breakfast (ideally between 7–8 a.m.).
  • Eat Kitchari for lunch (ideally between 12–1 p.m.).
  • Eat Kitchari for dinner (ideally between 5–6 p.m., but no later than 7 p.m.).
  • About a half hour before bed, take Triphala.
    • Steep ½ teaspoon Triphala powder in a cup of freshly boiled water for ten minutes. Cool and drink.
    • Or, take two Triphala tablets with a glass of warm water.
  • Retire for the night by 10 p.m.
  • Sleep is the body’s best time to detox so be sure to get plenty of rest throughout the cleanse.

A Supportive Lifestyle During Your Cleanse

  • Keep your activities as quiet and mindful as possible.
  • Surround yourself with things that you find uplifting and nourishing.
  • Minimize stress and exposure to frantic or disturbing environments.
  • If intense emotions arise during or after your cleanse, greet your emotions with compassion, observe them with detached awareness, and allow them simply to move through—honoring yourself in the process.
  • REST as much as possible. You can ensure that the bulk of your energy is devoted to cleansing by minimizing the number of resources that your body allocates elsewhere.

After Your Cleanse

After you complete this simple, three-day cleanse, your body may continue to process toxicity for a few days. And, your digestive system will have become accustomed to a very clean diet; you may even be somewhat sensitive to overly stimulating or processed foods. A slow transition back into your normal routine and a more diverse diet will help to preserve the benefits of your cleanse. For a couple of days afterwards, eat primarily simple, whole foods, gradually diversifying your menu. This is not the time to celebrate with pizza and a beer! Also, pay special attention to how you handle potentially aggravating foods like dairy, wheat, soy, and nightshades after your cleanse. Your body may have some new information to offer you about your relationship with specific foods.

A Fresh Start

While this cleansing model is incredibly short and simple, it can be quite powerful. According to Ayurveda, balanced agni is the key to optimal health and longevity. Our bodies are incredibly intelligent, and the three-day cleanse gives them an important opportunity to strengthen agni. So, while it may seem hard to believe, even a simple cleanse like this one can initiate dramatic improvements in the quality of your digestion and elimination, your cravings, your energy level, and your overall well-being.

As you wrap up the cleanse, take some time to reflect on your life so that you can move forward with whatever new intentions feel important to you. This is a potent time to cultivate a deeper level of inner awareness, to listen to your body, and to honor every aspect of your being as you transition out of the cleanse.

You might also take some time to appreciate your body for all the ways it serves and supports you. Remember too, that you’ve offered yourself a valuable gift with this cleanse—one that requires a certain level of discipline and commitment. Congratulations on your accomplishment. We hope that it serves you in a multitude of gratifying ways.