A natural season of transition, autumn is an excellent time for a gentle cleanse. According to the ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda, the fall is when we need to slow down, restore and discard the excess heat of summer. Unlike spring, which begs for an intense fast and detoxification program to shake off the heaviness of winter, an autumnal detox is mild and nurturing as well as fortifying and replenishing. When the body is cared for in this way, the upcoming season of congestion, colds and flu is kept at a safe distance.
Ayurveda is governed by the doshic system of vata, pitta and kapha. Each of these primal energies are within every person. Vata is light and fast - the air and ether element. It's responsible for creativity and change. Ruled by water and fire, pitta embodies the forces of metabolism, achievement and transformation. Kapha is represented by water and earth, lending groundedness, growth and stability. Each person contains a mix of each dosha, yet one tends to predominate. Seasons are associated with the doshas as well. Hillari Dowdle explains the correlation in "Season of Change":
"According to Ayurvedic theory, by the time autumn rolls around, we have accumulated plenty of heat in our tissues from the summer - that's fiery pitta dosha. As the leaves dry up and the wind begins to blow, vata dosha begins to take over - the one governed by air and marked by change, instability, and anxiety."
Scott Blossom, an Ayurvedic consultant, adds ". . . when the accumulated heat of pitta is fanned by vata, it can lead to mental and physical burnout, stressing our adrenals and nervous system and putting some of the body's natural detoxification processes on hold."
As the main organ of cleansing, the liver can become imbalanced during autumn, overloaded with toxins and the excess heat of pitta. This encourages irritability, rashes, anger and migraines. Ama, a physical sludge resulting from toxins that our body cannot handle, accumulates too. Taking proactive steps to clear ama and extra heat creates a solid foundation for a healthy fall and winter.
A middle path cleanse
An autumnal detox includes a simple diet along with yoga, breathing exercises and reflection. The key here is to suspend bad habits like processed foods, sugar and alcohol as well as poor lifestyle choices which lead to stress.
Digestion - Healthy digestive fire is crucial for cleansing, as it burns away excess toxins and pathogens. Consuming a one-inch slice of peeled ginger with a few drops of lemon juice and a pinch of salt before each meal will improve digestion significantly.
Diet - Focus on simple, organic food such as fresh vegetables, sweet fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains and high-quality fish and poultry. An ideal food is kitchari, a dish of rice and mung beans that balances all three doshas and digests efficiently. Apples are another excellent option. Lubricating and rich in fiber, apples sweep ama from the system and fortify the body. Ghee (clarified butter) is also recommended, as it lubricates the digestive tract and encourages detoxification.
Yoga - Specific yoga poses support the cleansing process. Twisting asanas (poses) help to improve digestion, remove toxins and stimulate the lymphatic system. Moreover, restorative asanas relax the body and nervous system, thereby calming an overactive vata element.
Additionally, deep breathing provides an internal massage for the organs, which supports healthy digestion. Also, keep a thermos of hot water nearby and drink throughout the day. This will help settle vata-inspired instability and anxiety while flushing toxins from the system.
Photo Credit: Karen Arnold