We have now entered the heart of the fall season. Every morning that I wake up there is a new colorful blanket of leaves adorning the sidewalk and the branches on the trees are announcing their presence. I’m noticing everyone at the store stocking up on various teas and at work lunches are naturally changing over from salads to cozy soups and stews. The time has arrived to embark on the Active Phase of cleansing. If you haven’t already chosen your start date mark it on your calendar and be sure to follow the steps from my previous post on preparing for your cleanse.
As a quick recap;
There are four distinct phases of a cleanse:
Three Days Prior to the Cleanse (longer, if possible)
2. Active Cleansing
Core Seven Days of the Cleanse
Three Days Following the Cleanse (longer, if possible)
During the preparation phase you began to refine your diet and lifestyle choices eliminating that which wasn’t ultimately supportive to your overall wellbeing. By now your body and mind should be prepared to move into active cleansing.
Although active is the operative word in this phase, our actions will actually reflect a greater sense of inactivity. We will be reducing stimulation on many fronts creating space for our bodies to detoxify and rejuvenate.
Digestion is seen as one of the most vital elements to our overall health and well being according to Ayurveda. So implementing a monodiet of kitchari (basmati rice cooked with yellow mung dal) is a way to allow for a ‘pause’ to occur as the body will be offered only essential, easy to digest food. This diet is substantial enough that you can maintain your responsibilities, but it simultaneously resets the digestive system, supports the elimination of toxins, and balances vata, pitta, and kapha.
Fresh foods are best for your cleanse, so ideally you’ll want to cook your meals each day rather than consuming leftovers. Here is a wonderful link via Banyan Botanicals on what your average daily intake of food should look like during the active phase of cleansing.
Mindful Approach: We want to be gentle on ourselves throughout this process. Remember working from a space of too much diligence can also induce stress so do your best to follow the diet guidelines; but if you eat leftovers one day or consume some fruit, don’t beat yourself up. Instead approach it with an inquisitive mind and see if you can understand what caused the action. Was it driven by a lack of time, was it a lack of preparedness, was it driven by a desire for sugar etc? These questions are what it’s all about. We are getting to know ourselves on a more intimate level as well as detoxifying- but we are FRIENDS with ourselves, not enemies. Be both intentional and loving at the same time. Being gentle with yourself will get across the finish line feeling great.
Visual Stimulus: We often consider digestion as being something that occurs solely in the intestinal track- however, it’s also safe to say that we digest emotions too. Imagine for example that you are a watching a rom-com. As you intake this film, your body can have natural responses; you might cry or feel like giving away a million hugs. Now imagine watching a horror film (‘tis the season!). Your adrenaline races and you might even find yourself filled with a feeling of terror. All of these reactions are rooted as primal response(s) from our nervous system(s).
In the process of active cleansing we want to reduce what we are digesting on all fronts- not just with food. What does that look like? Evaluate all things related to entertainment and make sure that they are nurturing to your cleansing experience overall. Perhaps consider what would be the most optimal choices of stimulation for you during this process.
Stressful Relationships: Relationships, especially stressful ones can also evoke bodily responses. This is easy to understand if you can imagine how you feel after you’ve had an argument with a partner or friend. We all have relationships in our lives that are hard but we continue to engage for many reasons (work, years of friendship, a sense of obligation etc). During a time of active cleansing, nurturing is the theme, so surround yourself with people that you know will be ultimately supportive and not cause undo-stress. Seven days of space isn’t too much to ask.
Work: Ideally we would be able to suspend our work life in active cleansing, simply because of the aforementioned issues; digestion (both via food and stimulation) and stress. I would reach to say that most of us find stress in our jobs. If it’s at all possible to take a few vacation days, now would be a great time to do so. If that’s not possible, maybe consider speaking to your supervisor about what you’re doing to see if they are open to allowing you a softer work load for the week or shortened hours. If all else fails, do your best to remain conscious of how you’re feeling while at work and mitigate stressors as much as possible. Also be sure to pack some kitchari in for lunch and enjoy lots of water and CCF tea throughout the day.
Exercise/Yoga: Exercise will be minimal in this aspect of your cleanse. As the body is working on resting, we don’t want to cause over stimulation. In the Preparation Phase of cleansing we looked at postures to support detoxification. Now in the Active Phase we will focus on some postures that will cultivate a beautiful sense of well being and calm.
I’ve listed the postures in two ways. One shows variations without the use of any props and one with shows the posture with props. Please feel free to choose what variation appeals to your body the most.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This pose is incredibly supportive of the parasympathetic nervous system. If at any time you feel like you need to slow down and turn inward, this posture will be a wonderful way to do so.
Without Props: Begin kneeling on the floor with your big toes touching together and gently rest back on your toes. Separate your knees approximately hips distance apart. With an exhalation soften your torso between your thighs. Outstretch your arms in front of you with the palms turned face down for a more active variation of the pose, or rest the arms alongside your body with the palms turned upward for a more passive variation of the posture. Both variations are very restorative. From here simply close your eyes, and rest in this position for approximately 5-10 minutes, breathing with awareness.
With props: Complete the pose as listed above but simply add in a bolster beneath the torso and hug it for support. If the knees are at all sensitive, use extra padding via a blanket for increased support.
Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
This posture has benefits ranging from supporting digestion to reducing the occurrence of sleep disturbances. Also keep it in mind if you are suffering from any trouble related to discomfort in your back.
Without Props: Start seated about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall. Sit sideways with your right side facing the wall itself. Exhale and, with one smooth movement, swing your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. We ideally want to have the sit bones resting near the wall but not quite touching. The first few times you do this, it might be uncomfortable and you might not get your sit bones as close to the wall as needed. Don’t get discouraged, just know it comes with practice. Simply adjust the body until you arrive at the best approximate 90 degree angle you can muster. Let your arms sit about a foot away from the sides of your body with the palms turned face up in a receiving gesture. Let your thighs release and relax, dropping toward the back of your pelvis. Then simply close your eyes, and rest in this position for approximately 5-10 minutes, breathing with awareness.
With Props: If for any reason this causes discomfort in your lower back, please come down off the wall and grab a firm blanket or bolster for greater support. If you choose to add these props into the pose, they will go beneath your lower back and tailbone. You might also choose to add in an eye pillow that will softly rest atop the eyes allowing for a greater imbibing of Pratyahara (withdrawing of the senses).
Lightning Bolt Pose (Vajrasana)
This posture is also known for supporting proper digestion as well as offering a comfortable seat for meditation. It can take time to work it into a place of comfort in this posture. Start with short increments and work your way up appropriately.
Without Props: Begin kneeling on the floor with your hips and butt lifted off of your legs. Your knees and ankles should be together, and your thighs should be perpendicular to the floor.Un-tuck your toes and press the tops of your feet firmly and evenly along the floor. With an exhalation, come to a seated position on your heels, resting your but on the soles of your feet or your heals depending. We want to work towards having the thighs touching throughout the entirety of the posture. Appreciating the natural cuvature of the spine, sit tall here and draw the front of the chest wide, lengthening your shoulder blades down your back removing any wrinkles from the back of the neck. Rest your hands on your thighs with the palms face down for a grounding gesture, or face up for a receiving gesture. Soften the gaze forward or relax the eyes closed. You can reside in this pose anywhere from 1-10 minutes depending on your comfort level.
With Props: Complete the pose as listed above but simply lace a folded blanket beneath your knees, shins, and feet if you need the extra padding to feel more comfortable.
Seated Bound Angle Pose (Badha Konasana)
Bound angle has the ability to support an opening of the hips and chest, lengthens the spine and stimulates the reproductive, nervous and respiratory systems.
Without Props: Start in a comfortable seated position with your sit -bones resting on the floor evenly. Place the soles of the feet together creating a soft diamond shape between the feet, the legs and the groin. Work to bring the heels as close to the groin as is comfortable without strain. Reach the hands atop the ankles allowing the finger tips to wrap around towards the ankle bones. With an inhalation begin to lengthen the spine tall, straightening the arms as much as possible. As you exhale gently fold forward creating a slight anterior tilt in the pelvis. Relax the chin towards the chest as you lean forward maintaining length in the spine being mindful not to round the back.
With Props: If your hips are very tight, you can rest on a blanket offering a soft anterior tilt to your pelvis. You can also position one block beneath each knee to allow a greater support system to the structure of the posture. From here simply close your eyes, and rest in this position for approximately 5- 20 slow deep breaths.
Sleep: Sleep is something we often put off yet it’s perhaps one of the most vital elements for our health. Make sure that you are taking this time to REST and get some solid sleep. There is a saying in Ayurveda that offers the idea: “Sleep until you can’t sleep anymore”. It would be a wise consideration to practice this at least one out of the seven days that you are participating in the actice phase to allow for full rejuvenation!
Remember you’ve made a commitment to complete this task for only seven short days. Really show up for yourself and honor the parameters so that when you are on the tail end, you can look back and truly evaluate the immaculate benefits!