Some of you know that I used to lead cleansing programs for people. I was super into it. It was a very green and clean super liver detoxifying program full of coffee enemas and garlic grapefruit olive oil drinks. Yep, really. And I saw a lot of good things happen. Like alot. So many people ready to change their lives, using this detox program to reset their direction, calm their inner world and clean out alot of past junk. People ready to end habits like 4 pizzas a week, 2 pots of coffee a day, fast food daily, sugar habits and and other fairly standard American diet styles. People ready to shift on physical, mental and emotional levels. It was a cool time of life. I was pretty high on life. The green life. And I still have great respect for many of these methods, especially for the right constitution.* But after several years of this kind of cleansing, I started to feel anxious, scattered, ungrounded, and my digestion seemed like it was weak. By that I mean I had a lot of gas, from both ends, and I felt bloated and constipated often. I was doing everything “right” in my mind, so I was quite confused.
I had heard of this yogini who taught a small group of students and offered Ayurvedic consultations. I had studied some Ayurveda when I was younger, but didn’t have a great understanding of it. I sought her out, got my consultation, and had my world turned upside down. No more green drinks, raw kale smoothies, seed and nut bars, or salads for now, she said. That alone was a lot to take in. She explained why, and it made perfect sense, it was just not the world I had been living in for the last several years. She explained to me that my digestive fire, known in Ayurveda as AGNI, had become very weak from all the raw foods I had eaten. It was like throwing cold water on a fire. All this cold, raw “healthy” food was healthy. Yes. But it was not healing. For me. You see, the super green and raw stuff is light and airy, cool and dry. (Ayurveda calls it Vatta, or having qualities of Air.) Vatta causes lightness, dryness, and coolness, and when we have too much of it, causes problems. Now, for me, I was already all these qualities. I was getting thin (light), and I lived in a very dry climate and had dry skin and dryness on the inside (constipation). I had always been cold, even though I lived in a hot climate. I had become quite nervous and fearful which are also associated with Vatta, when out of balance. And it was because of this fearfulness that seemed to be overpowering my life, that I decided to give her program a try. She offered a very different kind of “cleanse” than I had been doing. This one would be a nourishing program, giving my body plenty of what it needed so that it could do what it needed to do. It had several elements, including meditation, self-massages called Abhyanga that used warm sesame oil, ghee shots in the morning( really!) and lots of this warm soupy stuff called Kitchari. Kitchari was intimidating to me at first. I was used to blending up some fruit or veggies in my Vita-Mix and voila! I had a meal. This Kitchari stuff I had to cook step by step, cooking spices, adding seaweed, organic rice and split mung dhal. I didn’t like it at first. It took too much time. It didn’t seem cleansing. How was I going to purify my liver with all this warm food?!!? But after a few days, I began to notice a couple things. The main thing was that my belly was at ease. No bloating. Little gas. Regular bowel movements. And I felt a lot more relaxed. I wasn’t pacing while thinking. I could sit and meditate for 15 minutes and then go about my day with a lot more peace than I had felt in years.
My husband noticed I was much calmer.
I restarted my yoga practice, not because I had to, but because I was inspired to. My husband noticed I was much calmer. And I was enjoying the process. I did miss the zing and high feeling of my raw food ( and I’m not bashing raw food here at all- it was just not right for me given my constitution, life circumstances and long stretch of immense stress), and I missed the sheer deliciousness of my morning smoothies, but it was undeniable that I felt much better when not drinking these cold drinks to start my day. Instead, I was starting my day with warm water and hot teas to support gentle detoxifying as well as jumpstart my digestion. I did a 10-day program, nourishing and eating the whole time, as well as gently detoxing whatever was needed, that my body could handle. You see, if we try to pull things out of the body too fast, or that it is not prepared to deal with (like heavy metals) we can actually re-TOXIFY ourselves, causing a more complicated situation. This can be done safely under the guidance of great doctors and skilled professionals, but it is something to be aware of with deep green cleanses. You can get blood work to understand your levels of metals and then you want to make sure your body has enough of what it needs to safely transport these things out of the body. I studied this for years, and it is still an overwhelming topic to me. Seek guidance and professional oversee if you are trying to detox heavy metals or any other specific poison.
One of the biggest things with cleanses is coming OFF the cleanse. Now the cupboards are open and you can have anything you want, and it can be a challenging time! Many people find this time to be harder than the cleanse itself, because it is such a radical shift.
One of the biggest things with cleanses is coming OFF the cleanse.
After the kitchari cleanse I slowly transitioned to a bit more rice than beans ( a bit more nourishing than detoxifying) and started adding other grains, some fermented dairy like buttermilk ( Takradara) and stayed with warm soupy meals for several days because it felt so good to eat that way. I kept Kitchari as one of our mainstay meals and found the transition to be an easeful one.
These days with little ones, anytime anyone is sick or just a little off, we have kitchari. Anytime I don’t know what to make for dinner, (breakfast or lunch for that matter) I make kitchari. There are as many variations as you can think of, and you can rest knowing it will nourish, soothe and bring balance to your home.
*from an Ayurvedic perspective, the Pitta constitution can handle more cooling foods like a kale smoothie. To learn what your constitution is, take the Dosha Quiz.