Fall Cleansing for a Cozy and Cold Free Winter
Happy Fall y'all! As much as I love summer, I just have to say that I absolutely love when fall finally arrives. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, that just happened this weekend. The Autumn Equinox. in all its glory, bringing change and a nice cleansing energy to close out summer. It was absolutely the most perfect day and I was lucky enough to spend it with my family at our lake house.
It's been definitely coming our way for the past few weeks but that often means a few 70 degree days then a random 90 degree day in the mix then back to the high 70s. Fall in the mountains is an interesting time. There's a chill in the evening breeze but it's still hot midday. This back and forth movement of the temperature causes more movement within us, too. Our bodies are craving a change of sorts to prepare us for the coming cold seasons. Autumn is the increase in cool and dry weather (think blustery, windy fall days). This is Vata season in Ayurveda. Vata brings movement and change and that is certainly true of fall. All this change of season and weather triggers a similar change in our bodies. We are now working internally to rid our bodies of excess heat accumulated in the body over the summer. For many this is also an accumulation of ama or toxins building up in the system due to excess heat (Pitta) in the tissues. Between season cleanses are helpful to remove excess ama from the body allowing for vital nutrients to be circulated through the tissues and absorbed by the body. Just like the trees drop their leaves as a signal of release from a long growing season, the trees are preparing to strengthen the vital and most important parts of the plant and letting go of what is no longer needed. We should take our signal from nature and do the same. Let go of what we don't need this fall and nourish our deepest and most vital parts to have a healthy and peaceful winter. Much work is done over the winter to nourish the body to prepare for the spring season of rebirth and growth. Before we can deeply nourish and strengthen our bodies a little cleaning and tidying up is necessary.
You know my Momma always said I couldn't mop the floor without cleaning up the dirt first by sweeping. I always thought that was silly since the mop seemed to get it... Well now as a grown up I realize if I don't sweep first, I am really just smearing the dirt all over the floor and sealing it in with polish...gross! Now apply that theory to your digestive tract...cleansing is good for us too, right?
If we do not properly clear the channels of the body that circulate our vital nutrients, then our tissues become malnourished, dry and weakened. In this weakened state, we then introduce winter, harsh, dry, cold air and more germs and pathogens than normally are present. Our body has been put under a strain from too much accumulated wastes and is more susceptible to getting sick from colds and such.
So how does one get the excess ama cleared out and prepare the body for optimal functioning throughout fall and winter??? A simple 3-5 day detox is all we need. Now, before you go off too far on the idea of a detox let me remind you that a harsh, restrictive, depleting type cleanse is not what we are talking about here. No starvation, no juice only, no raw foods only, no blah blah blah...
I'm going to teach you how to do a quick reset of your digestive system without depriving your body or spirit of what it needs to feel satisfied and nourished.
Let's get going on the basics. You're going to simplify your diet for pure ease of digestion, nutrient content and cleansing value. My favorite cleanse this time of year is a kitchari cleanse. I first discovered kitchari a few years ago after a long illness in our family. This nutrient dense meal was a staple for weeks at our house until the digestion got rolling smoothly again. Since then we prepare this dish at least once a week to keep our tummies humming along. There are many recipes available online and they are about as varied as the cooks that make them. I have read that a translation for kitchari means, mixture. So this dish is a mixture if you will of basmati rice, split lentils and ghee along with some delicious and important cleansing spices. In the purest sense this would be a monodiet, meaning you would eat kitchari for each of your three meals for the days you are cleansing. Most folks don't really seem to enjoy this type of food for breakfast so there are options if you don't like savory meals first thing in the morning. You could start the morning meal with stewed apples or a blend of apples and pears cooked with digestive spices over some creamed wheat or rice porridge with a little ghee.
Here's the hard part for some...no caffeine during this time. I know, I know...this one gets my hubby everytime. If you can start your morning with a cup of warm water with the juice of half a lemon this is an excellent daily practice, but especially helpful during a cleanse. The warm water helps get the bowels moving and warms the waste to be passed from the body more easily. The lemon acts as a sour agent getting the digestion humming after a night of pause. Lemon also thins the mucus in our body which can tend to accumulate during fall allergies (thanks ragweed). Starting the day with warm lemon water will be the first step in your morning routine. Many people find that they don't actually need coffee in the morning to have a nice poo...the warm lemon water does the trick. Try it and see. As an added bonus, the vitamin C is a great boost to the immune defenses.
If you're able to forgo the coffee then great. If not then keep it to a minimum and no sugar. Add a little whole milk if you like to balance the acidity. Along with skipping coffee, you'll want to remove all meat, sugar, processed or prepackaged foods, alcohol and recreational drugs from your routine. Some remove milk from the diet and this is an easy swap with almond milk. This just simplifies everything possible that can bog down the digestive system. Remember, this is a 3-5 day reset. You can do this!
While you are detoxifying the body of ama and accumulated gunk, it is also a good time to detoxify the mind and emotional body. These bodies get filled with toxins also and we rarely think to cleanse them. Each morning set a time limit that you will observe at least for 30 minutes after waking you will refrain from looking at your device, social media, computer or the television. Let your mind be still. If possible this time can be used for prayer, meditation, gentle yoga or a light walk to clear the mind. This is an excellent daily practice even when you are not doing a seasonal cleanse. Try to stay in your cleansing mindset all day long. If information or communication comes your way that is unpleasant or disturbing then try to remove yourself. If this situation cannot be avoided (irritating coworker or stressful commute) then take a minute to take 4-5 deep cleansing breaths and consciously let that moment go. Don't hold onto anything that you don't need right now. Let it all go.
At lunch, warm up your kitchari and try to eat while seated and not doing anything else. Give yourself at least 20 minutes to just eat. This strengthens digestion and helps the reduction of ama. If time allows, go for a short walk or do some relaxing breathwork before getting back to work. Throughout the day have warm herbal teas or room temperature infusions. You will not be having cold drinks or raw food right now as these require too much energy to digest and slow digestive function.
When you arrive back at home, change into very comfortable clothes. If you have chores or anything needing to be done then take care of it before starting your dinner meal of kitchari. As you eat your meal, eat slowly and appreciate the power the food has to heal our body and the power your body has to assimilate all you need from this meal. Rest for a bit or have a short walk after dinner. Keep dinner within the 6-7pm range if possible and not past 8pm. This allows the dinner meal to be fully digested prior to going to bed around 10pm or 11pm at the latest. If our bellies are full when we try to sleep then there is too much energy being used to try and digest at a time when the body should naturally be resting this system and repairing and being attentive to other systems. You can get more information about the body clock in relation to Ayurveda by looking on the Ayurvedic Institute site or as a reference book, take a peek at Energetic Healing by Kat Maier.
Now comes my favorite part of a good cleanse... bedtime. I often neglect my bedtime routine during busy times and a cleanse always helps me get back on track. During this cleansing period you'll want to plan on going to bed by 10pm. I like to start my nitetime routine by 8:30...and yes, I do know how crazy this sounds to busy working people. Again, give it a try for a few days and take notice of how you feel. This can reset the sleep clock and restore a healthy sleep pattern when practiced regularly.
I like to begin my nitetime routine by shutting off and putting away all electronic devices and social media. I find having an oil massage with a dosha specific oil very grounding and soothing as well as restorative for my sun parched skin. I like bacopa oil because I am quite Pitta and this is balancing for me. Coconut, almond and sunflower oils are nice and sesame oil is nice for all doshas. This massage can be a foot massage if this is all you have time for, however if you make the time for a full body oiling then you will have the time for it. This serves two purposes... the act of self massage is the ultimate in simple self care. Our nervous system is calmed and our parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This is our deep relaxation response. Begin by warming the room you are in and lying or sitting on a towel. Begin from the head and face (skip the head if you do not wish to have oily hair but still massage the scalp). Move on to the arms, torso, legs and lastly, the feet. Cover yourself with a towel or robe and relax for 15 minutes to allow the oil to soak in. This oil furthers the cleansing process as it helps to soften the wastes accumulated as well as give a method for it to be evacuated...the skin, our largest detoxification organ. These oils will continue to cleanse, hydrate and nourish the skin and the body. You may shower if you like before going to bed. Be careful to wipe the feet free of oil before getting into the shower to avoid a fall. I prefer to leave the oil on my body overnight. This makes sense to me because this is the body's time to detoxify each system. It is my thought that this oiling helps the process along. So what I like to do after the self massage is put my comfy jammies on and practice a little yoga nidra or even guided meditation. There are many 15-20 minute yoga nidra guided meditations online. Listen to a few and pick your favorite. Get your mat, pillow, bolsters and blanket and whatever else you'd like together and lie down on your mat for a nice meditation or yogic rest. Once you have finished this practice you can enjoy a cup of chamomile or lemon balm tea and snuggle down for rest. Golden milk made from coconut or almond milk is a lovely treat on cool nights.
In the morning, take note of how you feel. How did you rest? Make some notes or just try to remember each day how your body feels. You will start feeling lighter, less stressed, more focused, have more energy, better sleep quality and less anxiety to just name a few.
This is the basic framework for a gentle fall cleanse. You can be as detailed or as loose with your personal routine as you like. You get out of it the equivalent of what you put into it. If this is your first time then be gentle on yourself. Do this for yourself and your own needs. This is only for you so make it work for you.
Here is a sample of what a day of cleansing would look like. Feel free to adapt this to your own personal needs and constitution.
6am Wake, stretch, go to the bathroom as soon as you need to. Drink 8oz warm lemon water.
7am Light yoga, prayer, meditation or gentle exercise. Shower and get ready for the day.
8am Light breakfast of stewed apples, porridge or kitchari. Drink dandelion tea as a coffee substitute or enjoy a nice herbal tea. Pack lunch and head to work or start your day.
10am Have a cup of tea or herbal infusion at room temperature.
12pm Have a warm kitchari lunch and a few minutes of rest or light exercise.
2-3pmpm Have a cup of tea and a small bowl of kitchari if you are hungry.
6pm Start preparing to wind down the day. Eat a nice warm dinner of kitchari and some evening relaxation of your choice. No screen time after 7-8pm.
8pm Begin your evening ritual of self massage with an oil to support your dosha and then practice mindfulness through yoga nidra, guided meditation, breathing exercises for relaxation, prayer, journaling, etc.
9pm Have a cup of ginger tea or other herbal tea of your choice.
10pm Be in bed and settled in for a restful sleep.
This is a simple and very basic framework of how to do a gentle reset for the physical and emotional body. You are encouraged to do some additional research and find exactly what works for you. There are many great resources online.
If you would like a personalized fall cleanse guide tailored to your dosha that meets your specific goals and to help you feel your best and most vibrant going into the fall season then click below and we will work together to get you started on your best fall yet! Your fall cleanse guide is complete with recipes, shopping lists, meal plans and a daily framework, all based on your individual dosha as well as your unique needs in a very easy to follow framework.