It’s the time of year where the leaves begin to change from green to miraculous shades of red, orange and yellow. Scarves get pulled out of the closet and blankets rest on the side of the couch. As the seasons change, so do the needs of our bodies. Transitioning from summer season (pitta) into fall season (vata) it’s an opportune time to embark on a seasonal cleanse.
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)
Up to Three Months Following the Completion of the Cleanse
Traditionally you would begin the active phase of a fall cleanse towards the beginning of November, when the air is crisp and your body is naturally calling you to make squash soup. That being said, you can begin prepping for your cleanse 1-2 weeks in advance.
Often times, it’s easy to place focus on the more active phase of cleansing, but all phases hold equal importance. In this article we are going to focus on the preparation phase and how you can support yourself on many different levels mentally, physically and emotionally; laying down the groundwork for your cleanse.
Diet: It’s good to start focusing on cleaning up your diet in preparation for an effective cleanse. That doesn’t mean that you should eat every ounce of ice cream in your freezer in just one evening (spread it out over a few weeks J), but you want to bring your awareness to what foods you do have in your house that could be tempting and cause you to break your cleanse. The major culprits to consider looking at would be:
- A) Refined sugar
- B) Fast foods
- C) Processed foods
- D) Meats
- E) Sweets
Over a couple of weeks begin to remove these items from your house and avoid purchasing more when you’re at the store. Start to lean into eating whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds).
Daily Habits: We all have our vices. In all honesty, it’s what keeps life somewhat fun right? Moderation is key. However when cleansing, we are choosing to refrain from these temptations for at least one solid week and renovating our habits. In preparation for relaxing out of these habits, it’s good to start releasing them prior to starting the active phase of your cleanse as to avoid withdrawal symtoms. Some items may prove to be more challenging than others! Be gentle on yourself. You don’t have to do this all in one fell swoop. That’s what the preparation stage is all about, baby steps. I would look at these items and define a plan for reducing or completely eliminating them from your routine:
- A) Coffee and/or caffeinated products
- B) Tobacco
- C) Alcohol
- D) Recreational drugs
It’s good to take a rest- and ideally that’s what cleansing is all about. We want to avoid the mentality that we are restricting ourselves from something. It’s not about punishing ourselves or removing every ‘fun’ or ‘good’ thing we have, but to give our bodies a chance to reset!
Exercise: As you’re humbling yourself in your daily routine, it’s great to balance out with implementing or expanding on your daily exercise regime. In the active phase of cleansing we eliminate most exercise and/or strenuous movement in order to allow the body a chance to fully rejuvenate. The preparation phase is an optimal time to practice detoxifying yoga. Below you can read through a few potential postures to incorporate into your regular practice.
- A) Twists– You can imagine that twists would be naturally detoxifying as they offer compression to the abdominal region. You might here a yoga teacher say “you are massaging your internal organs” and in essence, that’s true! Compressing and decompressing the vital organs housed in the abdomen (as you would in a twist) can help release toxins. Twisting postures can also aid in digestion, which encourages the elimination of waste.
Example Pose: Half Lord of the Fishes – Ardha Matsyasana
Sit on the ground with your left knee bent and your left foot outside your right leg. Bend your right knee and place your right foot to the mat just outside the left knee. Inhale, lift your left arm. Exhale, twist over to the right. Stay here and breathe for 5 breaths, and then switch your legs and twist left.
Example Pose: Twisting Chair Posture – Parivrtta Utkatasana
With your big toes touching and your heals slightly apart, begin to bend your knees and sink your hips down while reaching your arms into the sky, resting into chair posture. Move the weight of the body towards the heels and lighten the energy in the toes. Place the hands together in front of the heart and take a full inhalation. As you exhale, begin to hook your right elbow over and onto your outer left knee. Press the palms together firmly, rolling your left shoulder back, working to bring your thumbs towards your sternum. Stay here and take 5 breaths, then switch and twist left.
- B) Binds – Twisting and binding often go hand in hand. Most binds in fact involve a twist or are a deeper variation of a twist (but not all). Again the benefits that will shine forward in binding will be in compression of the internal organs supporting the flushing out of toxins and promoting waste elimination.
Example Pose: Bound Side Angle – Badha Parsva Konasana
Set up the body in Warrior Two position with your right foot forward. Bring the hands together in front of the heart in prayer position. Taking a full inhalation to expand the ribcage and as you exhale place your left elbow onto your right knee. If this twist feels too deep, lift your left heel from the floor, you can also drop your back knee to the mat for further support. Take a few breaths in whatever leg variation you choose settle in. On an inhale begin to reach your left arm towards the floor and the right arm towards the sky. Carefully begin to wrap your left arm under your thigh and your right arm behind your back- see if you can join the fingers together. If not- no worries!- grab a strap and use it to create the bind. Stay here and take 5 slow, deep breaths. Then switch your legs and twist to the right.
Example Pose: Twisting Chair Posture – Badha Parivrtta Utkatasana
With your big toes touching and your heals slightly apart, begin to bend your knees and sink your hips down while reaching your arms into the sky, resting into chair posture. Move the weight of the body towards the heels and lighten any energy in the toes. Place the hands together in front of the heart and take a full inhalation. As you exhale, begin to hook your right elbow over and onto your outer left knee. Press the palms together firmly, rolling your left shoulder back. Start to open your right arm towards the floor and your left arm towards the sky. Carefully begin to wrap your right arm under your thighs and your right arm behind your back- see if you can join the fingers together below the belly of the thighs, if not, use a strap to complete the bind. Stay here and breathe slowly and completely for 5 breaths, and then switch and twist left.
- C) Pranayama – Breath work can be incredibly supportive when working detoxification techniques.
Example Breath Practice: Kapalabhati Breathing – Skull Shining Breath
To learn more about this practice, you can link to this step by step outline on Kapalabhati Breathing .
Example Pose: Fists Into Abdomen Forward Fold
Sit on your shins, either directly on your heels or with a block between your heels for added knee support. Pull your belly in and lift your chest, opening your collarbones. Make fists with your hands and place the fists on your abdomen, pressing in firmly. Take a big breath in and continue to press. As you exhale, fold forward over your fists and soften your stomach to absorb your fists into your abdomen for organ stimulation. Although the fists are creating an action, the rhythm of the breath is what we want to focus on. Take full breaths, slow and deep for approximately one minute at a time.
There are many postures in yoga that can be cleansing, so feel free to continue to explore what feels best for you!
As you can see, there are many ways in which you can begin preparing for the active phase of your cleanse that will make the experience feel nourishing and revitalizing, rather than stressful or taxing! A well thought out plan is one of the essential keys that will allow this to all come together smoothly- and that happens in the preparation phase. It’s my hope that this article has provided you some inspiration for tailoring your plan!
In the next part of this series, we will begin to look at the active phase of cleansing and how we can best support ourselves in that part of the cleansing process. Pro-Tip: The more you can clear your schedule for this process the better.
You can find all of the products you might need right here on Banyan Botanicals website, from Mung Dal to Triphala– Banyan is here to support you on your journey. You can also catch the condensed version of this post on their blog!