In Ayurveda the changing of the seasons is an important time to take care of your health. With the change your body needs to adjust to the new and get rid of the old to avoid getting sick. Traditional panchakarma practices are very rigorous and require specially trained Ayurvedic practitioners. I am doing a very simple home panchakarma which will hopefully clean out my system in preparation for the new season and weather. Last fall I did a guided detox with one of my teachers and this year I've decided to do one on my own. I definitely recommend doing a guided one the first time because you never know what is going to happen with your body while you are cleaning it out.
**This post mentions some bodily functions. If this makes you feel uncomfortable please go back to enjoying your hot water with lemon.
One of the main goals of panchakarma is to rid the body of excess ama. Ama is a toxic, sticky substance made up of the undigested, unabsorbed food particles accumulated in the gastrointestinal tract. Disease happens when this toxicity builds up and creates blockages in the body. Dr. Lad explains "The presence of ama in the system can be felt as fatigue, or a feeling of heaviness. It may induce constipation, indigestion, gas, and diarrhea, or it may generate bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth, stiffness in the body, or mental confusion. Ama can most easily be detected as a thick coating on the tongue."
My fall panchakarma is going to last 21 days while I work through many different stages. For the first seven days I will start by eliminating all sugars, wheat, dairy, and anything else that isn't serving my body in a beneficial way. During this stage I will be doing specific ayurvedic practices such as breath work (pranayama), asana (yoga postures), walking, and tracking exactly what I put into my body and making sure I only eat when I'm hungry.
On Day 8 I will begin the internal oil phase. This is my least favorite part but it is also the part that is the most beneficial. My diet will consist of rice, quinoa, steamed vegetables, and a few spices. I will be taking a few herbal supplements, and eating only when I'm hungry. The most important aspect of this part of the cleanse is taking ghee with milk at 5am. "The ghee provides internal oleation and lubrication, which is necessary so that the ama or toxins begin to come back from the deep tissue to the gastrointestinal tract for elimination." The ghee will hopefully lead to bowel movements as it begins cleaning out my intestines. This is the time when I will be spending time relaxing and letting my body work through any problems I encounter.
Day 11 is when things get moving, literally. After lunch of the eleventh day I will drink fresh apple juice with castor oil. A few hours later my system will be all cleaned out and ready for some warm, soothing veggie broth for dinner. This is a good time for some major rest, and maybe even a nap.
The next stage is external oil and a kitchari diet. For days 12 to 15 I will eat only kitchari, an ayurvedic rice and mung bean dish. I will also do abhyanga or self oil massage, which is by far my favorite part of the whole process. For days 15 to 21 I will start to build up my energy and reintroduce foods.
Last year my fall detox was difficult but I also felt so good after it was done that I know the hard work will be worth it. This year I am going to take longer to reintroduce foods into my diet and really pay attention to how my body reacts to them. Last year i will still having periods of dizziness from POTS but hopefully that won't happen this year since I've brought practices into my life to help with that.
I am excited to get started and even more excited to see how I am able to remove things from my life, body, and diet that aren't serving me.
If you are interested in doing a fall detox I highly recommend Maria Garre's 18 day Detox and Evolve. She is a great teacher, very knowledgeable, and experienced in leading this program. The program will change your life in many positive ways. I recommend doing a guided detox before trying one on your own.