As we transition from one season to another, Ayurveda recommends that we take time out to cleanse accumulated toxins from our system. This is seen to play a key role in sustaining health and longevity in our bodies and minds.
Ayurveda recognises that we are affected by the nature of each season, for better or worse. It is said that even if we were to stay in a room with no natural light, protected from the outside elements, our bodies and minds would still be impacted by the changing cycles of Mother Nature. We all know the challenges that each season can bring. Some experience SAD in winter months. And many of us find January and February the hardest months of the year: we can feel more sluggish than usual, a little depressive in mood perhaps, and susceptible to coughs, colds and flu. Perhaps if you tend towards inflammation of one sort or another, you might find that symptoms increase during hotter summer months.
Cleansing at the seasonal junctures, when we are most susceptible to the effects of each season, as our bodies and minds try to adapt to the changing environments, plays a key role in reducing these seasonal impacts on our health. Symptoms are reduced or removed, and we can traverse each season with greater strength, positivity and vitality. As we move from one season to another, cleansing the body can release any adverse effects of the previous season, such as weight gain after the Winter months, accumulation of internal heat after the summer months, dryness in the body in the autumn.
Seasonal cleansing is essential to reduce disease that has already happened, and to prevent disease from taking root. Also, it is seen to be essential for our lasting, ongoing health and longevity. Cleansing at times of seasonal junctures can also reduce excess dosha (humour) accumulated through the previous season. Our constitutional type in Ayurveda is our “dosha”. There are three doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – each one made up of varying combinations of five elements (ether, air, fire, water, earth). Animals and plants also have their own dosha: that is they are each made up of varying combinations of the five elements, with one or two dominant, to give their indivdiual dosha or Ayurveda type. Seasons also have their own dosha, as follows in our Northern hemisphare, temperate climatic regions:
Early Autumn -Winter is Vata
Later -Winter – Spring is Kapha
Summer is Pitta
We are all made up of the five elements of Ayurveda. Within our physical bodies we have earth as solid matter, we have liquids as water, we have enzymes and heat as fire, we have breath and the movement of the breath within us as air, and we have space in the various cavities and channels of the body. However, in some of us one or two elements are more dominant than they are in others and it is this that determines our Ayurveda constitutional or dosha type. For example, because of their Ayurveda type, some will have more fire element in their make up and this will show up in the person who can walk outside in winter in shorts and flip flops. Others who have less fire element will look on this person in horror. Due to their Ayurveda type, which is not so naturally warmed by a dominant fire element, they need two pairs of socks, at least two sweaters, jacket, hat and gloves to stay comfortable in the cold of the winter months. Some will have more earth elements, proportionate to fire or air and ether, which will show up in their physical structure: earth builds form and so tends to create stockier and bigger boned phsyiques when dominant. And eaerh is cool to the touch, which means these people will be more sensitive to cold. Where there is less earth element and more air and ether, a person may look more delicate in structure with little tissue mass. If you start to look at people with these elements in mind, you will begin to get a sense of what their Ayurveda type might be.
Animals, plants and different environments also have varying proportions of these elements. And also the seasons have varying proportions of the five elements which is why they have their own dosha or Ayurveda type. Summer is Pitta, being obviously dominated mostly by the fire element. Cold, dry Winter months are dominated by the air and ether elements and so this is a Vata-dominant season. In Spring when the earth becomes moist so that seeds start to germinate and shoot forth, Kapha as the earth and water elements dosha, is dominant.
When the fire element or Pitta dosha goes up in the environment, in the summer months, it will increase Pitta dosha in us also. That dosha can then move into excess and begin to create health problems. In fact, excess dosha is the root cause of symptoms of disease in Ayurveda which is why the foundation of Ayurveda treatment is lifestyle and diet to pacify excess dosha. If we have in our constitution the dosha of that season, we need to be especially cautious. We will be more susceptible to excess dosha accumulation in the season of our constiutional dosha type. For example if we are a Pitta dosha type and we eat pungent, spicy foods through the hot summer months, and if in addition we are building a different kind of internal heat also thorugh our mental-emotional streseses, then we are likely to find ourselves in trouble. Pitta will go into excess, internal heat will build triggering symptoms of inflammation. Maybe we don’t have a Pitta dosha consitutional nature, but we have symptoms of inflammation perhaps through improper diet or lifestyle, then again we need to be cautious in the summer months.
The same goes for the Spring months. For example, if you tend towards sluggishness and heaviness already due to a Kapha type of constitution, then this can be aggravated during the Spring season as Kapha moves into excess within you during a Kapha season, particularly if you do not adapt a Spring season low-fat diet. If not addressed with Spring cleansing, this heaviness can continue through the rest of the year, weight will continue to accumulate or be difficult to shift, and toxicity and congestion will build through the sluggishness in the system.
Seasonal junctures are the perfect time to release excess dosha and so to reduce symptoms of excess dosha through seasonal cleansing. And seasonal cleansing at these times of transition can also support the body and mind as they try to adjust to the changing natural environment. It means we can stave off the susceptibility to that season’s typical illnesses, such as colds, coughs and respiratory infections as transition into spring. Additionally, when you have a disease or symptoms relating to a specific dosha, cleansing at the end of that dosha’s season is crucial for your recovery and reduction of symptoms according to Ayurveda
In sum, the benefits of seasonal cleansing include:
- An increased sense of vitality
- Better sleep
- Enhanced digestion and elimination
- Greater calm in the mind and nervous system
- Improved immunity
- Better skin health
- Preparation of the body to better absorb nutrents from seasonal foods and to withstand the effects of the dosha of that season in the months ahead.
- Removal of excess dosha as an effect of the previous season’s dosha type.
At Heart of England Ayurveda, we offer 10 day seasonal cleanse and rejuvenation programmes as we transition from winter to spring, from summer to autumn, and from autum to winter.
WHAT DOES OUR AYURVEDA CLEANSE INVOLVE?
- An Introductory Assessment: In Ayurveda, we understand that “one shoe does not fit all”. And so we tailor any programme specifically to suit your individual constitutional type and current health circumstances. After an in-depth consultation and assessment, you will receive a prescription of personalised medicinal teas, spice blends to add to foods and Ayurvedic herbal formulas.
- Preparation: There will be a three day preparation stage which will involve preparing your body and mind for the cleanse by removing any processed foods and stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, and alcohol from your daily diet. This is a time for fresh, cooked fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pulses, nuts, seeds and cold pressed organic oils.Your initial consultation will guide you in this.
- The Cleanse: The cleanse itself will run for five days during which time you will be mainly on a mono-diet of kitchadi (a tasty mung bean and basmati rice porridge), with spices prescribed according to your constitutional type and state of health. As well as the personally-tailoerd kitchadi recipe, you will also receive recipes of detoxifying and balancing soups, vegetable dishes, medicinal teas including teas to help reduce sugar cravings, and herbal prescriptions to help cleanse the blood, lymph and internal organs, as well as to support good elimination throughout.
- Ayurveda Yoga Support: Nine “Cleanse and Rejuvenate” Yoga classes are included in the five day programme, all of which will be structured to support the cleansing process, the return of body and mind to a place of equilibrium, a sense of grounding, a calmer mind and improved sleep. Classes will include detoxifying Yoga posture and breathing practices, guided visualisations to support the cleansing process, yoga nidra and meditations to calm the nervous system and mind.
- Education – learning about your own metabolism and how best to cleanse and nourish for your metabolic type will be an integral part of the programme.
To find out more, please check our programme, My Radiant Body: Ayurveda Seasonal Cleanse programme, a wonderful 10-day programme which has had great results to date. FIND OUT MORE
Seasonal Cleansing in Ayurveda
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