Transitions between seasons are a wonderful opportunity to take a step back, evaluate what may be out of balance in life, detox and take action to restore equilibrium.
If it’s autumn, get inspired by the trees,
Let go of things that no longer serve you,
And find balance in the fall breeze.
It may be biting cold now in January, but the air has the promise of a burst of spring not too far off.
Ayurvedic literature recommends undergoing regular seasonal cleansing, known as ritu shodhana, at the start of a new season to maintain optimal health throughout the upcoming season.
It is for seasonal cleansing therapy alone that Mini Kunhiraman, an information technology professional from the US, visits India every year without fail. She tells Happiest Health, “The 14 days of detox therapy or ayurvedic cleanse during monsoon rejuvenates me physically and mentally. I have noticed that my digestion and appetite improve, and I feel relaxed.”
The two-week therapy follows a month’s pathya (prescribed diet and lifestyle pattern). “I shed a few kilos, and feel energised for the year ahead,” adds Kunhiraman.
Ayurvedic seasonal cleansing is a gradual process that removes toxins or ama from the body, resulting in a sense of being energetic, light, mentally agile, with good digestion and overall wellness.
“Toxicity in one’s body mainly pertains to diet and lifestyle discrepancies and seasonal changes, leading to ailments like respiratory illness, skin allergies and abdominal distress. Additionally, maladies like stress and anxiety, to name a few,” says Dr Sonica Krishan, author, and ayurveda consultant from Chandigarh.
According to experts, it is essential to undergo a seasonal cleansing process focussing on purification. This process eliminates any physical and emotional toxins accumulated over time. Cleansing allows the mind and body to return to a state of natural balance and optimal health.
Read about the five purificatory therapies of ayurveda here.
The ideal time for detox
“Detoxification and overhaul should be done from time to time to counterbalance and reduce the body’s toxicity. Seasonal transition is exactly the time when the body needs to detoxify,” says Dr Krishan. Ayurvedic practitioners suggest that the beginning of monsoon, spring and autumn seasons are appropriate times to undergo ayurvedic rejuvenation therapies and detoxification rituals.
Read about ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy here.
An ideal time for a detoxification therapy is while the body is getting adjusted to the external changes and toxins are also getting released in the body.
While the body is naturally undergoing changes, and the toxins are already being released from the body, thus making it the optimal time for a detox therapy session. For example, a spring cleanse is typically done before the spring season arrives. Similarly, a fall cleanse is done before autumn. Each season brings its own set of imbalances and requires cleansing accordingly.
Gaining balance, health, and immunity
Seasonal detox helps in removing the dosha accumulated over the previous season, Dr Karthik Krishna, chief ayurveda consultant and programs director, Organic Ayurveda Inc, Washington, USA.
“During ayurvedic detox, there is a noticeable gain in vigour and vitality, improved skin conditions, regular bowel movements and reduction of excess body weight. One can also see mental health gains including increased levels of clarity and feeling of cheerfulness. The benefits are plenty,” Dr Krishan says.
One can detoxify naturally by following a detoxifying ayurveda diet that includes nutritional supplements and herbs, breathing exercises, yoga, and hydrotherapy to complement the plan.
Ayurveda detox diet and therapy
“The detoxification should be tailored to the individual’s needs,” explains Dr Krishan. “We consider an individual’s unique body type, health history, and current state of health before recommending a specific diet and detox programme.”
She further adds that the ayurvedic detox `diet’ is in fact fasting, and aimed at relieving the gut with only fresh, raw fruits and steamed seasonal vegetables, water, and yoghurt. It does not allow any meat, heavy, spicy and fried meals, alcohol, tea or coffee.
Read about ayurvedic sattvic diet here.
According to research conducted by Robert E. Herron, PhD, and John B. Fagan, PhD, ritu shodhana or seasonal cleansing has shown effective results in reducing the levels of toxins present in the body because of environmental factors and bioaccumulation.
Dr Krishnan cautions that a seasonal detoxification therapy should be always taken under clinical care and supervision to avoid complications.
Things to follow during the change of season
During the first two weeks of changing seasons, experts recommend the following.
- Eat a diet appropriate for the new season, consisting mostly of freshly cooked, seasonal, and locally produced foods.
- Avoid processed, frozen, or canned foods, as well as heavy, oily, or fried foods.
- Drink plenty of warm water and herbal teas to flush toxins out of the body. Some recommended herbs are ashwagandha, ginger, turmeric, basil, and neem.
- Try gentle forms of exercise, such as yoga, tai-chi and walking which restore our mind and body.
- Stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, pranayama or yoga nidra.
- Taking a daily massage with warm herbal oils to improve circulation and skin health.
- An ayurvedic therapy such as abhyanga, panchakarma or detoxification besides rasayana to promote rejuvenation and cleansing.
- Journalling is a powerful tool that can be used for emotional detoxification and can come in handy during seasonal transitions as well. One can gain insights about oneself by taking a few minutes every day to write about one’s emotions and physical status.