Spring is just around the corner! In Ayurvedic traditions, a spring cleanse for your body is suggested to allow new expressions of yourself to blossom and generate creativity. It is a great time to clean out clutter in your home, and choose a diet that clears the winter stagnation from your liver and gallbladder as well. Before you begin any cleanse or new exercise regimen, I recommend checking with your health care practitioner to make sure your body is ready and able to try out these detoxifying suggestions.
Choosing to use food as renewing medicine can help remove the toxins from your liver, allowing the body and mind to feel rejuvenated. Have no fear- cleansing doesn’t mean starvation. The focus of this seasonal cleanse is to remove foods that are taxing to the liver. At a minimum, temporarily removing alcohol, caffeine, red meat, fried foods, overly spicy or creamy foods, sugar and dairy for 7-21 days can make a huge difference in how your body feels. Don’t forget water- lots of it! Try adding lemon or a teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar to encourage further detoxification.
Below are directions to the spring cleanse I do annually from my friend that is not only and amazing yoga teacher, but also a nurse practitioner that specializes in Integrative medicine. For some, this may feel like too much when we live such busy days. Please remember to take care of yourself first and foremost. Perhaps you choose to try a few of these suggestions and leave the rest. If you want to include some yoga postures that help support your spring detox I suggest lots of twists to massage your intestines and release toxins, back bends to encourage deeper breathing and push ups or more vigorous sun salutations to encourage your body to sweat.
Spring Cleanse for Liver/ Gallbladder
(When you see references speaking from “I,” please know this is my friend, mentioned above, speaking from her experience)
One week before:
- Cut caffeine intake in half. You will be off caffeine totally once the cleanse starts.
- Decrease alcohol intake to half if you consume it or stop all together.
- Gather groceries for making meals for next week. See recipes
- Obtain Triphala (contains 3 of the most important Ayurvedic herbs in one) which is considered the Mother herb in India. I use the brand from BANYAN Botanicals which you can buy online (Amazon has it or you can get it directly from BANYAN online). If you don’t want to do that, be sure to buy one that is in a dried pill form so you can taste the bitterness in it as you swallow it. Gaia makes one but it is in liquid form therefore I don’t recommend that one. Bitterness helps stimulate the colon and therefore release AMA (build up of toxins in the colon). You will take this herb 1-2 tablets at night during the cleanse. It is also safe to take at other times in your life especially if you feel constipated. It has been around thousands of years and safe.
- Obtain a tongue scraper which you will use each morning when you wake up. If you don’t want to buy one, you can use a spoon. Scrap 3-5 times each AM.
- Clear your busy schedule. Find a week (7 days) when you will not be too busy nor out of town. This is a time to pause more, become more self-reflective and observe cravings, habits, thoughts, desires, etc as they come up. This is the practice of svadhyaya (niyama of self study). If you like to journal, this is an excellent exercise to do at this time. Be prepared for whatever arises and meet it with compassion and gentleness. This can be a challenging week since we humans don’t like change but this is the season for change since it is spring!
- Obtain a DETOX TEA which you will drink in the AM or throughout your day. I like the brand by Yogi-Tea. You want to find one that does not have caffeine.
- Tell your close friends and family that you will be doing this and gather their support. If you work outside the home, you will be bringing your own meals to the workplace during this week.
- Take the DOSHA test: http://doshaquiz.chopra.com/ or http://www.whatsyourdosha.com/
- Obtain a Neti pot; use only sterile water or cooled boiled water. You will use this in the AM or you can buy OTC a Saline Nasal Wash spray. Local drugstores have them.
- Check out Scott Blossom’s website (https://www.doctorblossom.com) for further insight into Ayurveda and doing a cleanse. I am using the recipes that he gave us last year and used them for my cleanse
- The day before the cleanse make your Kitchari and morning porridge so it is ready to go.
THE CLEANSE IN MOTION
- Start your day with scraping your tongue. Use Neti Pot or Saline wash
- Get up early enough so you can practice asanas (postures) and meditate for a total of 30 minutes or more if you need to. Do whatever your body is needing in regards to the postures but leave time for savasana and 5-10 min. seated meditation. You can find a yoga practice on the internet. (I, Charlotte, enjoy Yoga International’s site for myriad options for all skill levels) End your practice with an intention (sankulpa) for your day.
- Drink your detox tea, have your morning rice porridge.
- Three days of this week you will do a self massage using oil that is specific for your dosha.
Pitta will use sunflower oil; Vata-sesame oil, Kapha-corn oil. Take 4-5 ounces of warm (not hot) oil and rub it all over your head and body. Gently massaging the scalp with oil can bring happiness into your day. This also improves circulation, calms the mind and reduces excess vata (air). The skin of the entire body becomes soft, smooth, and brightened. Place a big towel down and sit on it to apply the oil. Following the oil massage, take a bath or shower but try not to wash the oil off the skin. Be careful getting into the shower too!
- Each night take 1-2 Triphala tablets with a glass of warm water. Go to bed early or on time.
- During this cleanse you will be restricted on what you can eat/drink. If you get hungry between meals, snack on steamed vegetables, detox tea, apples, or raw vegetables. Or have a green smoothie. See recipe
- Pranayama: doing a pranayama exercise each day is important to incorporate into your yoga practice. You can do either Alternate nostril breathing or Agni Sara. The best demonstration of Agni Sara is by Sandra Anderson:
- Exercise lightly, mindful walking, or just getting out into nature feeling more alive and grateful! Observe your emotions, thoughts, actions (or reactions) without judging them, rejecting or pushing them way. Feel the AWE of life!
- For those in the Charlotte, NC area: I obtained most of my ingredients at the local Indian store Patel Brothers (Pineville) and Earth Fare.
- You can also have a green smoothie that is made of green vegetables specific to detox the liver. My favorite one I make often. See recipes below.
Recipes from Scott Blossom’s Cleanse
(you can go to his website and read more about the importance of a spring cleanse and more. Great resource!!)
Rice Porridge – Tri-doshic, but especially good for Vata & Pitta Types or imbalances.
- 1 cup basmati rice
- ½ tablespoon ghee, coconut, or sesame oil (coconut or ghee is best for pitta)
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3½ cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Wash rice thoroughly. Saute the mustard and cumin seeds for a few moments in the oil of your choice until the aroma starts to come out and then add the rice and mix these ingredients very well. Add the salt and water. Bring this to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. Turn down the heat to very low and cover. For stickier rice leave the lid ajar, for drier rice keep the lid on tight. Cook until the rice is tender- 15-20 minutes. This makes approximately 3-4 servings.
Health Benefits This is a traditional ayurvedic breakfast porridge. This recipe is tri-doshic but is especially appropriate for pitta and vata constitutions or imbalances. It slightly increases kapha if it is eaten in large quantity because it is hydrophilic. If you are suffering from constipation quinoa can be substituted for rice.
Kitchari (this will be your lunch and dinner)
- 1 cup basmati rice
- ½ cup organic whole or split mung beans (bulk section of the health food store) These need to be soaked for at least three hours before cooking.
- 4-6 cups of water
- 2 T ghee (clarified butter) An organic brand will be available at the health food store
- 1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 pinches hing (asafetida)
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 stick of kombu (seaweed) Also available at the health food store. You can substitute Wakame if need be. You just need a little. One “leaf” per pot of soup.
- ½ teaspoon of sea salt
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 – 2 cups chopped vegetables (optional)
This recipe makes 4 servings
Wash rice and mung and soak for three hours or overnight. Drain soak water.
In a saucepan warm the ghee. Add the ginger, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and hing, and sauté for one to two minutes until the mustard seeds start to pop and the aroma of the spices is released. Add rice and mung beans and sauté for 2-4 minutes or until they start sticking to the sides of the pot. Then add 4-6 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Stir in the seaweed, salt, and turmeric, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until beans & rice are tender (approx. 30-45 minutes). If you are adding vegetables to your kitchari, add the longer cooking vegetables such as carrots and beets halfway through the cooking. Add the vegetables that cook faster such as leafy greens near the end. Your finished kitchari should be the consistency of a vegetable stew as opposed to a broth. If you need to add more water, you can. Taste and add additional salt as needed. Serve with fresh cilantro.
Kitchari is a potent blood purifier. In Traditional Chinese Medicine we use the mung bean to strip environmental toxins out of the tissues which is especially helpful for the reproductive organs, liver, and thyroid gland health. Serve kitchari with yummy, fresh side dishes such as steamed vegetables are always good too. Good luck and enjoy.
GREEN SMOOTHIE for the LIVER:
2-3 leaves of kale without stem
2-3 sprigs of cilantro and/or parsley (I use both)
8 oz. of filtered water
2 stalks of celery (preferably organic)
One apple (skin on if organic)
½ of a cucumber (skin on if organic)
Ginger: use ½ inch peeled. I like ginger so I sometimes use more than that.
Depending on your blender, you might need to mix this smoothie in stages and cut veggies/apple very small. If you don’t have a high powered blender…start with the water first. Enjoy!!