According to Ayurveda, Fall is one of the best times of the year for performing a cleanse. In fact, a traditional Ayurvedic cleanse is only performed during the transitional seasons of the Spring and Fall, and otherwise avoided during the more intense months of the summer and winter. Since there are countless ways to perform a cleanse, it is extremely important to take into account the seasonal elements in order to perform a safe, healthy and efficient cleanse.
The fall is a great time of year to perform a cleanse for multiple reasons. The first is the idea that Fall is a symbol of transition in our environment; since our environment has a strong effect on us as individuals, this is also a great time for transition in our own lives. Another important reason to perform a cleanse during the Fall season is that Fall tends to be of milder weather, typically being neither too hot nor too cold. According to Ayurveda, cleanses should be avoided during the more extreme weather months. Performing a cleanse during these months may weaken the body which needs to be strong during times of harsh weather, and can otherwise create illness or disorder.
Summer tends to be a time of travel, late nights and more social activities. Therefore another great reason for a Fall cleanse is for resetting the system and flushing out the built-up toxins that may have accumulated during this time. Summer is also a time of Pitta (fire/heat) accumulation and by the end of summer/beginning of Fall, it can be at its worst. Therefore, a Fall cleanse should focus on flushing the accumulated toxins in the system while also addressing the accumulated Pitta that has been building up over the last several months.
Now that we know the “why” of a Fall cleanse, let us now examine the “how”. Every individual will require different treatment depending on their body-type and current issues, but there are some general rules that will remain the same. Although there may be Pitta accumulation in the body come this time of year, Fall is actually a season of Vata. Therefore we must keep this in mind along with the other elements that Fall will bring.
Fall Cleansing Tips
1. Avoid juice cleanses.
Being the season of Vata, juice cleanses should not be performed due to their cold, raw and rough nature. Taking in only juice for a several day period is most likely going to increase the Vata which is already in excess due to the qualities that Fall possesses. This can bring about consistent feelings of coldness, depletion, poor circulation, dryness, gas, constipation, lightheadedness, anxiety and sleep issues. The same holds true for other liquid cleanses such as the Master Cleanse and water fasts, as these should be avoided during this time of year as well.
2. Favor a mono-diet cleanse using warm, well-cooked foods.
The most well know dietary cleanse in Ayurvedic medicine is the infamous Kitchari Cleanse. Due to the nature of Kitchari being warm, mushy, well-cooked and well-spiced, this is a great option for a Fall cleanse. If Kitchari is not a favorite of yours, other mono-diet options for a Fall cleanse can be vegetable soup, veggie soup with quinoa, or red lentil soup with veggies. As long as the ingredients are simple, easy-to-digest, well-cooked, well-spiced (i.e. turmeric, ginger, fennel, cumin, black pepper, fenugreek, etc) and stay monotonous (meaning NO other foods), it should be a good option. Vata Churna can also be added to the kitchari or soup to increase the digestion while reducing Vata.
3. Incorporate lots of warming oils in the food.
To keep the body warm and decrease dryness, a warming oil should be added to every dish. The best oil for Vata is sesame oil or almond oil, but ghee is considered tri-doshic and can always be used as well.
4. Sip on hot-warm water throughout the cleanse.
Warm water will not only help to keep the body warm, but is a great aid in facilitating a cleanse. Believe it or not, warm water is powerful at flushing toxins from the system and increasing the digestive fire. It will also help to keep the system hydrated during this drying time of year. Begin each day with 16 ounces of hot water and continue to drink at least 6-8 cups more throughout the day; feel free to add lemon if desired. ***Always avoid all cold or iced beverages during a cleanse.
5. Sip on warm herbal tea throughout the cleanse.
Another great aid in a cleanse is drinking warm herbal tea throughout each day. The best options for the Fall season include fresh ginger tea (avoid dry ginger at this time), tulsi tea, CALM Tea, Detox Tea; cumin, coriander, fennel tea; or ginger, turmeric, tulsi tea. A cleanse should be free of all sugars, however, and therefore no honey should be added until after the cleanse. ***Please note that herbal tea should not be included in your warm water quota.
6. Take Tikta Ghrita each morning of the cleanse.
Tikta Ghrita is the medicated ghee taken before and during most Ayurvedic cleanses. It is extra essential during a Fall cleanse to balance the Pitta (heat) that has been accumulating throughout the summer season. Tikta Ghrita is a ghee infused with powerful bitter herbs specific for detoxification, pitta imbalance, liver issues and clearing the complexion. Take 1 Tbsp each morning on an empty stomach, 3-7 days before the cleanse and each day during the cleanse itself.
7. Perform a daily warm oil massage with Vata Oil.
Another important practice to aid in a Fall cleanse is the Ayurvedic self-oil massage known as Abhyanga. This is perfect for reducing Vata in the Fall season, while also aiding in detoxification by releasing the toxins that are stored in the deep tissues. This is best done with the herb-infused oil known as Vata Oil, but if this is not available refined sesame oil is the next best oil for the Fall season. Perform this self-oil massage each night before bed for 3-7 days before the cleanse, every night during the cleanse and about 3 times a week post-cleanse.
8. Sweat each day.
Sweating, also known as svedana, is a great compliment to any cleanse to help detoxify the system on a deeper level. The best methods to do this are either by taking a ginger bath, sauna or steam. Since dryness is prevalent in the Fall, it is helpful to do the oil massage directly before or after the sweating to avoid drying out the body (especially with a dry sauna). Perform one of these sweating measures every day for 3-7 days before the cleanse, every day of the cleanse and 3 times a week post-cleanse.
9. Perform gentle restorative Yoga each morning.
A great compliment to a Fall cleanse is the grounding action (or non-action) of some restorative Yoga. This can be done in a classroom setting or even better at home with some pillows or bolsters (see pictures below). Gentle forward folds, reclined seated postures (i.e. supta virasana, supta badhakonsana, supta padmasana) or “legs up the wall” are all great postures for this time. Stay in each pose for several minutes, using a pillow to hold you up. Perform a couple of these Vata-soothing, stress reducing postures each day of the cleanse and several days each week post-cleanse to work on both the body and the mind.
*Scroll down below for pictures of these restorative postures!
10. Perform the herbal enema known as Dashamula Basti.
For those looking for a more intense cleanse than simply a mono-diet, the herbal enema is a great tool for this. Dashamul Basti is extremely beneficial for clearing out the colon while reducing Vata, as you administer these grounding herbs directly into the colon. This is one of the five main cleansing therapies of the traditional Ayurvedic cleanse known as Pacha Karma, and is a must for any serious Fall cleanse. Since this is a more “invasive” therapy, it is recommended to have guidance from a knowledgeable practitioner during this therapy.
11. End the cleanse with the proper “rejuvenation therapy”.
Rejuvenation therapy is an essential part of any post-cleanse, but even more so for the Fall season to avoid Vata imbalance. A cleanse is basically an intelligent (hopefully) way to deplete the body. Therefore, the week after the cleanse the energy will still be low, and both food and activity should be greatly monitored and added in carefully. While this is occurring, the anabolic cleansing therapies should begin to be replaced with more healthy catabolic rejuvenation measures. This includes diet, lifestyle and herbal medicine that are considered rasayana (aka rejuvenative) such as Rasayana Ghrita.
Restorative Yoga Poses for a Fall Cleanse