How Cleansing is Different than Eating Well

In Ayurveda, we have two primary methods for bringing the body into balance. The first, and what Ayurveda is best known for, is called shamana, which means palliative, or calming. This is essentially calming the aggravated doshas through food, herbs and lifestyle. As long as the protocol is followed strictly, the dosha that is aggravated will remain in balance. However, once the regimen is broken, the aggravated dosha will likely become a problem again.

The second method is known as shodhana, which means purifying, or making pure. Detoxification programs are all the rage right now, and the Ayurvedic cleansing method is growing in popularity. And for good reason. Shodhana procedures from Ayurveda remove the excessive doshas from the body, offering a complete cure. Once this has occurred, you are able to get on with life and follow a healthy diet that isn’t so strict.

After a cleanse, most people are digesting better than they were before, which means they are able to tolerate more foods and live a little more freely. This is in alignment with Ayurveda’s teaching of “Sarva karmeshu madhyamam,” which means, “In all things, follow the middle path.”

Sometimes palliative care can take a lot of work – avoiding certain foods, making sure to eat specific foods, taking lots of time each day for the proper self-care procedures. Of course, mindfulness in our food choices and taking time often for self-care is essential for well-being. However, too much pressure to “do it right” or the need to follow a strict protocol for extended periods of time can quickly diminish the joy we find in these rituals.

Ayurveda’s panchakarma method of cleansing provides us with five shodhana therapies that remove the excessive doshas from the body. In the U.S. today, we only use three of the five therapies – purgation, enema and nasal administration of herbs. The five therapies are:

1.     Vamana – therapeutic vomiting – mainly to remove excess kapha and only used on a person who has a very strong constitution. The main action is on the stomach, which is the home of kapha dosha.

2.     Virechana – therapeutic purgation – acts on the entire body but is especially indicated when pitta is high; the main action is on the small intestine, which is the home of the pitta dosha.

3.     Vasti – therapeutic enema – performed using an herbal decoction and oil, rather than just water, which is very drying. This is indicated especially for vata, as the colon is the home of vata.

4.     Nasya – nasal administration of herbs which can benefit any dosha; the herbs and carrier oil is individualized by constitution.

5.     Raktamokshana – blood letting – commonly used in India and is best for excessive pitta such as skin and blood diseases.

In my cleanses we only use purgation therapy to flush out the toxins that have been mobilized from all over the body. An herbal enema and nasya therapy are optional based on constitution and current condition. The profound effects of shodhana therapies means that even if you eat well, a cleanse seasonally will still bring enormous benefit.

To read more about my cleanses or learn about upcoming cleanse groups, click here.


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