by Prashanti de Jager
Spring is here and seemingly as a prerequisite to the sense of rebirth innate to this glorious season is the desire to cleanse out the old to allow the new. Let’s look at 5 steps we can take to ensure a healthy spring and summer.
The first step is to live a more active healthy winter with pure vitality tonics. There is a saying in Ayurveda that “those things you do daily are more important than those things you do occasionally.” For instance, brushing your teeth daily is more important than going to the dentist yearly. Healthy daily winter habits end up being a deeper cleanse than those things you do once or twice a year, for instance in this spring cleanse.
Prevention in winter means less need for a “cure” in the spring so quality digestion and diet are keys here. Winter is often a great time to deeply restore our innermost “sap.” Just look at what trees do. So you draw your energy in. This is a great time to use deep “trophorestorative” tonics, while at your “hearth” so to speak.
The second step is to decrease the congesting. Notice “the congesting” is as much of a verb as it is a noun. This alludes to the fact that so much of what is truly therapeutic, and not just symptomatic, is less the actual “things” you consume and more the “lifestyle” and actions you actually accomplish. You can pop pills all day, but you also have to do the work to optimize their power.
Here you want to reduce the heavy anabolic things. For instance, you will tend to decrease the amount of macro nutrition like carbohydrates and starches, especially starches that are typically allergens, like wheat. Ayurveda recommends fasting only in special cases. So basically you can still have lots of nutrition, but fewer calories. Eating less, eating fewer calories and eating earlier are keys. Heavy sluggish emotions hold space for heavy sluggish bodies, so let go of that.
As far as lifestyle goes you want to decrease anything that creates sedation, from sleeping after sunrise, to sitting a chair all day, to drugs, to staying awake after 10 PM. This is when the liver is doing its deep digestion, its deep transformation, and if you are awake during this time it’s often a triple whammy:
This is why going to sleep early is a form of liver cleansing, and also why liver herbs such as Turmeric, Neem, Katuki and Bhumyamalaki are essential to a spring cleanse. This why people who sleep after the sun rises, especially past 9 a.m. tend to feel congested all day.
You want to increase the fires of digestion at all levels: increase the metabolic; increase the transformation; and increase thermogenesis. Simply eating less food will often bring your metabolism up as it has time to catch up on digesting everything else. You want to assist your digestive fires as this will increase and speed up the metabolism. This increase in inner heat will be very purifying in a much more intelligent way than our conscious mind ever could be. It’s the same premise as a fever purifying the body.
Focus on your meals and avoid eating while talking, driving or reading. There is a saying in Ayurveda that if you do not focus on your food, neither will your body. Rise early with the sun so that some of that early solar activation energy enters your body and mind. Remember that although cleanses require some rest, we still need some activation.
For yoga asanas, focus on heat-generating poses such as backbends, headstands, and especially Agnisara. If you do not know Agnisara get a reliable person to teach you and start practicing. If there is one yoga technique to do daily, this is it, though take care around pregnancy and menstruation.
Some of the best herbs to increase digestion include Tulsi (Holy Basil), Black Pepper, Long Pepper, Ginger, and Amapachak. Tulsi in capsules works well here, but Tulsi as a hot tea is often better. In fact, you want to be taking your thermogenic herbs with… yes a thermogenic tea. Tulsi Ginger Tea is an excellent one.
Amapachak is a great thermogenesis herb. It is the main herb in the Complete Flexibility Formula and cleans the joints of old congestion. It also clears congestion systemically and so one of the best “spring cleanse” formulas is actually the Complete Flexibility Formula.
So what to do if your digestion is too strong in an imbalanced way, if you are not digesting your food properly because your body and mind are too acidic? Then you want to take Triphala as this will help balance your digestion in all ways. Also just Amalaki, which is one third of Triphala, is great here.
Katuki and Bhumyamalaki are also fantastic at increasing digestion even though it’s not through a mechanism of thermogenesis. They are often touted as liver and kidney purifiers, and they are, but the more I work with these herbs and the more I research them I see that Katuki and Bhumyamalaki and Punarnava for that matter, which are the three herbs of the Liver Kidney formula, do cleanse but more importantly re-organize liver and kidney physiology, essential to a deep cleanse.
Turmeric is such an amazing herb in so many ways, and without doubt, like Triphala, is a one-herb show capable of assisting practically every facet of wellness including helping digestion and cleansing in general. I recently published a book on Turmeric that you can order directly here.
The fourth step is to increase releasing, opening up the channels and making sure “things” have the space to move. You want to increase the Prana, the Chi, and the catabolic substances, because you want to open channels so that congestion can move, you want to add movement to help the congestion move, and Prana/Chi is all about movement.
Note that sometimes you have congestions not because you there is something present that tends to congest you, but rather simply because the channels are too narrow, too constricted. You may be a skinny person able to walk through any normal door, but then what happens if your door is stuck and can only open a few inches? Congestion happens in this case not by virtue that you are too big, but because the door, the passage, the channel has become too small. So don’t forget, an important part of cleansing is to open the channels and the catabolic herbs are good at this. And here you have one of the most classic and traditional aspects of the spring cleanse, the spring bitter greens like dandelion greens.
You can also eat less here but, again, I would not recommend starving yourself or fasting. It can be good and it can be counterproductive. It’s not about getting less nutrition. In fact, often a good cleanse can be attained with very high nutrition and very low caloric intake, which is exactly what bitter spring greens are.
For the mind keep your mind open and let go let go let go especially of the little stuff.
Therapies and protocols for the releasing could be purgatives, enemas and therapeutic vomiting, all guided by a qualified practitioner. Another great proven therapy for cleansing is the ancient technique of “cleaning out your closets.” Many times I have seen people’s outer “stuff” hold space for deep stubborn lingering inner dark congestion.
Yoga asanas here are Vinyasa streams of movement, and child’s pose and forward bends. Now I know you might think “why would a child’s pose be releasing?” Often we release the most when we are feeling the safest. When you are in a deep child’s pose often you can release psychologically and emotionally much of that which is holding its physical counterparts throughout your body, throughout your gastrointestinal tract, throughout your tissue. In child’s pose you can go deep into things in your mind making it so much easier to let go in your body. Same thing with forward bend, whose intensity often brings up deep emotions for people, emotions that can then move. It stretches so much around the first, second, and third chakra and so dysfunctional things that are stored around sexuality, around basic survival, around your will and other peoples will.
Neem is a very bitter herb that can cleanse the blood, tissue and so much more. It may be the most fantastic alternative to goldenseal, which is going extinct, as Neem also has a tendency to excel at cleaning/toning mucous membranes.
Katuki and Bhumyamalaki are fantastic for the liver and for the kidneys, especially as these are the deep organs that help us metabolize so much. 75% of the liver’s blood comes from the colon via the portal vein. This is why some people say that before you clean the colon you should clean the liver. There are two theories of cleansing: one is to clean upstream and work your way downstream and another theory is that you should start downstream and work your way upstream. Upstream is the higher frequency tissue, like nerves and liver first and ending in the colon. Downstream is to start in the colon and work your way deeper, upstream. Hence the fundamental importance of the Liver Kidney formula in the context of the spring cleanse as well as throughout the year.
Centella asiatica and Bacopa monnieri have a special affinity for opening the channels in the mind, both physical channels, like capillaries, as well as the subtle channels. And of course, we again have our ubiquitously helpful Triphala appearing in this category, in this step. And again, all these herbs do cleanse the body, but more importantly, then tend to re-organize physiology to optimize function, and one of those functions is purification and cleansing.
The fifth step is to increase the toning. It’s an important step – often how you end a cleanse is more important than the cleanse itself. You want to increase tone, and you want to slowly reacquaint your body with your normal food and normal life. After over 20 years of watching, guiding and doing cleanses I have no doubt that how you finish a cleanse, how you transition back to “normal” (and what that “normal” is) is often more important than the nature of the actual cleanse itself.
Typically to increase tone we use astringency, and when most people think astringent and tannins they think of black tea and pomegranates. Triphala is also loaded with astringent tannins, so much so that dried triphala tea is 40% tannins! This is the power of the antioxidant polyphenols, especially the tannins, to cleanse. For more info on this topic check out my blog post, Herbal Antioxidants as Superfoods.
Amalaki is a very cooling herb, excellent for managing acidic digestions, and is a very strong astringent while being extremely nourishing, especially for fiery tummies.
I have just given you many ideas on how you can have a successful spring cleanse. The idea is not that you have to do everything, but, because a confluence of factors is your best guarantee for success, accomplish as many of the suggestions as you can. But don’t stress about it, as stress is quite toxic to the body!
A typical person can consume at least 2-3 grams (4-6 capsules) two or three times per day. A 7-day cleanse may consist of some combination of the following:
All the capsules taken during the day can be taken with a cozy warm soup of puréed deep greens.
Why am I not mentioning complicated cleansing techniques in this newsletter?
Traditionally you do the spring cleanse right at the juncture of the seasons, as a lot of magic happens here. Traditionally in the Yoga tradition you cleanse during a period called NavRatri, the “nine nights of the Goddess.” This year, NavRatri will be from April 4th to April 12th.
Speaking of “cleansing” and “releasing,” I want to go on what may seem to be a tangent here but really is at the core of cleansing. This is the “fixation” on cleansing that some people get into. I hear it all the time: “I am going on this cleanse or that cleanse or whatever” and basically people are saying over and over again how toxic they feel themselves to be. Fixation on being toxic is brain washing yourself. Remember the reason for cleansing is to prepare for the rebirth that spring affords. So instead of saying “I am toxic” it is much better to say, “I am going to optimize the structure and function of every aspect of my body/mind/spirit to ensure a deep and profound rebirth into the fullness of who I am.”
So though a person’s (or society’s) patterns and habits may lead their body/mind into being less than pristine terrain, without a doubt their thoughts and inner dialogues that depict that they are toxic beings are likely the most toxic thing about them. Release the incessant thought of toxicity, if you have them, and just focus on getting your habits and patterns healthier and being the greatest version of who you are. It is not about denial of challenges and congestions that we may host in our individual and collective body/mind and also it is not about denial of your greatness and your ability to rebirth yourself into that Greatness.
Thanks so much,