The summer has not yet come to an end, but we can already see the darkness falling in a little earlier at night and feel that cool wind blowing….. In about a month autumn is setting in….From Ayurvedic viewpoint: a time to detox, to prepare our bodies for winter.
Often as autumn sets in we experience a dip in energy and fall sick: soar throats, running noses, coughing…..
We don’t have to take these symptoms for granted. If we learn to transit from one season to the other in a proper way we can strengthen our immune system and stay vital throughout the winter.
Why an Ayurvedic detox in fall?
Many people think about springtime as a moment for detox. We like to shake off the weight of winter, excited to go out and explore and get fit for our ‘bikini-look’ ;). At that we are good.
But fall and detox? We rather think about hunkering down and diving straight into pumpkin soups and stews and chocolate and pepernoten (now being already available in October…), skipping any kind of detox all together.
Let me explain to you why this is not the wisest thing to do. From Ayurvedic perspective all nature – including you – is made of five elements, governed by the three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
- Vata dosha is associated with the elements air and ether; it governs creativity and change, and can vary from one moment to the other due to is light and mobile qualities.
- Pitta dosha, governed by fire and water, is the energy of transformation, achievement, and metabolism.
- Kapha dosha is associated with earth and water; it provides us groundedness, stability, and growth.
Each of us is made of a unique mix of these three doshas. When you ‘get started’ with Ayurveda you will learn about the physical and mental expressions of each of these doshas and often find great recognition of the doshas in your own likes, dislikes and tendencies. This is your first step to self understanding from an Ayurvedic perspective ( I would say: continue learning if you find yourself at that spot!).
Back to the seasonal detox. The seasons, being part of nature are also governed by the three doshas:
- Summer is due to its heat and the sun shining strong and long hours a day governed by Pitta dosha. The fire element is ON.
- Autumn is governed by Vata dosha. As days get colder the wind starts blowing, leaving our hair and skin suddenly dry and its irregular and ever-changeable tendencies can leave us feeling a bit scattered, chaotic and even anxious.
- Winter time. Depending on the ‘type of winter’ either Vata or Kapha dosha prevails.
A Kapha winter is a winter with cool weather, a thick pack of snow, the air still and dull (not windy like autumn) hanging ‘heavy’ in the sky.
A Vata winter feels more like a continuation of autumn, just a little colder: the wind still blowing heavenly, sweeping us left and right. One moment it is raining, the next it is dry and the next moment their is a huge storm, breaking off branches from the trees.
- The start of spring if a lighter variation of winter time….. prevailed by Kapha and/or Vata dosha. The warmer it gets the more Pitta sets in, in anticipation to summer time.
Thus, in summer time the hot and sharp qualities of Pitta cause an increase of this dosha in our bodies. By the time autumn enters Vata dosha begins to take over – the one governed by air and marked by change, instability, and anxiety. Now what happens if you blow air into the fire? Right: that fire burns even brighter and can literally ‘burn us up’. This phenomenum 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.
So, one thing we need to do after summer: to gently pacify accumulated Pitta dosha before the wind starts blowing.
The other thing? The other thing is that we need to boost our digestive fire (called agni), which gets impaired during summer (read my blog post ‘Common mistakes made in summer time that disturb your digestion. Ayurvedic tips!‘). As temperatures rise in summer, our digestive fire does the opposite: it is impaired.
This is not a good thing, because there is a common rule in Ayurveda: a balanced agni is the key to health. Why? Because when your digestive fire burns nice and steady it enables the proper assimilation of the foods ans drinks you take in, making sure all nutrients are assimilated completely and redirected into your body, nourishing all your tissues. When all your tissues (called dhatus) are nourished properly they can all function optimally keeping your whole system vital and strong. So…. make agni your best friend 🙂
What happens when agni is not burning nice and steady? Then what you eat and drink will not be assimilated properly and undigested food particles form ‘ama’, or so called toxins. These toxins first create a layer of sticky, stinky substance inside your digestive tract: sabotaging proper digestion even more. As ama builds in the digestive tract it can come to a point where it ‘overflows’ into the rest of your system: polluting and disturbing your tissues. Impairing their function and thus impairing your health.
Back to the story. Your agni right now, transitioning to autumn:
Now visualize, this little digestive fire burning (agni) inside your stomach/small intestines, weakened in summer time due to hot temperatures outside (and because you have been extinguishing that fire by drinking ice cold drinks, ice creams and raw foods and salads..)…. And now autumn sets in. And without reinforcing that fire you start indulging yourself with warm, heavy foods and sweets (potatoes, meat stews, pumpkin, cookies, hot chocolate etc etc….All of that dropping right on top of your little fire.
Well, you can imagine: that fire is about to give up. It is just to much for that little fire…. And as your agni is unable to digest your food completely it sets stage for ‘ama’ (toxins) to be created: imparting your health.
So, the second thing we need to do as we transition from summer to autumn is to boost our agni.
An Ayurvedic fall detox aims exactly for these two.
How to detox?
“Unlike some popular cleanses that ask you to undergo dramatic fasts or to take other extreme measures, purvakarma (which literally means “up-front actions”) is designed to support, instead of shock, your system. Rather than aiming to eliminate toxins at any cost, purvakarma gently balances the whole person so that they can detox without destabilizing the body in any way. It is a middle-path cleanse that uses nourishing foods, herbs, and self-care techniques to rejuvenate the body rather than simply strip it down, which can leave you even more vulnerable going into winter.”
Since from an Ayurvedic viewpoint no two persons are alike (every one being a unique combination of the 3 doshas and influenced differently by the environment), a-one-fits-all detox program does not exist.
Depending on your constitution and current disbalance a balanced plan needs to be created – integrating dietary, lifestyle and exercise advise.
I offer private consultations to evaluate the state of your doshas and your agni. Based on this consult I will formulate a ‘detox health plan’ including daily lifestyle practices, dietary advise and specific (yoga) exercises that foster a healthy agni and the elimination of ama from your system.
Another option is to come to my workshop Ayurveda & Detox on Sunday September 23 2018. Here you will learn more about general guidelines to improve your agni and eliminate ama. For more info or to sign up, click here.
In case you are interested, feel free to contact me to make a first appointment.
Alma Yoga – by Amber