For the past many months I have been working on my yoga teaching certification. Through Andrea, my Yoga Teacher Training guru, who has been studying Ayurveda recently, I was invited into a community of people interested in participating in a detoxing cleanse. Personally, I had no familiarity with the idea of a cleanse. I have heard of fasting, but always equate that with preparation for a colonoscopy.
As I am often drawn to do – I paid attention to the opportunity presenting itself to me and decided a cleanse was right for me at this time.
A bit of backdrop: I have been living in a period of less aggressive physical activity for the past 1 – 2 years. I participated in a boot camp for two years, and injured my right shoulder, which sent me to physically therapy for the first time ever. I decided boot camp wasn’t right for me. Before the shoulder injury I also signed up for an intensive yoga training for three months and loved it. After giving up boot camp the opportunity to do a year long yoga teacher training came up and I have been doing that since August 2015. I have also been teaching yoga a couple of times a month at work. I have, slowly, been getting weightier and out of shape. For some time now I have been trying to lose a few pounds. I thought just adding boot camp to my regime would help, but no change there. After I gave up boot camp I have put on about 10 more pounds. Last fall I began to change my eating habits significantly – I have been eating my main meal at lunch time and eating the late day meal before 6 PM and very light – usually a simple salad or cup of soup. No weight loss in the months of doing that. Next I decided to give up alcohol, and did for 2 months. No weight loss. Now I’m thinking, really???
When the cleanse idea came my way, via Andrea, along with a challenge at work to lose weight, I thought okay, I will do it. The cleanse AND increase my aerobic exercise.
For those unfamiliar with a cleanse I will let the lovely people at Banyan Botanicals explain:
The traditional ayurvedic cleanse involves three distinct phases—preparation, active cleansing, and reintroduction—which are then followed by a period of rejuvenation. This structure helps to ease the body both into and out of the cleanse, and offers deep nourishment to the tissues afterwards. Much like the options outlined above, the diet consists primarily of whole grains, kitchari, and vegetables, and is supported by detoxifying herbs and teas. However, this cleanse is complemented by practices such as self-massage with oil, gentle sweating, and the administration of herbal nose drops—all of which help to loosen and release imbalances held in the tissues. Therefore, this cleanse has the capacity to initiate a slightly deeper level of detoxification.
One can do a cleanse for any number of days, but the idea is that each phase is for the same number of days, so a nine day cleanse would be three days of prep, three days of active cleanse, and three days of reintroduction. I am doing this traditional cleanse for 18 days, so each phase is six days long. I kind of jumped in at the last minute, but I think I’ve caught on quickly – I’ve done my research and shopped accordingly.
As I write this I am on day two of the active cleanse, so during the first six days, the preparation days, this is what I did not eat at all: meat (though I did have tuna salad one day); processed foods like crackers, chips, pasta; processed sugar (I have used maple syrup and honey). The following are things I gradually reduced over the six days: alcohol (had one glass of red wine on days one and two); caffeine (day four was the first no caffeine day); bread (I had just made a loaf of sourdough bread the day before I started, so I had two slices of that during the six days); dairy (I had yogurt with granola the first two days, but no dairy since).
What did I eat?
Granola for breakfast, which I started cooking because it was suggested that warmed foods would fire up my Vita , the weakest of the three doshas for me (more about that in another post). I found that it is amazingly good. Here’s a menu from one day of the preparation phase:
½ c coffee
1 c decaf coffee
1 c cooked granola
1 c veggie & white bean soup
Large fennel-apple-greens-walnut salad
2 oz cashews
fresh veggie & greens salad
1 c detox tea – 1 teas. maple syrup
plus plenty of warm water
At first I thought I would be hungry, hungry, hungry. Not the case. If I felel like I need something to eat I munch on a few cashews and that seems to satisfy me.
I am now on day two of the active cleanse and my menu is mainly the kitchari mentioned above. Again, for those who are not familiar with kitchari, like me, here is the recipe from Banyan Botanicals:
• 1 cup basmati rice
• ½ cup yellow mung dal
• 3 teaspoons kitchari spice mix
• 2 tablespoons ghee
• 6 cups water
• 1–2 cups chopped vegetables (optional)
Wash rice and mung dal and soak mung dal overnight. Drain.
In a medium saucepan warm the ghee. Add the kitchari spice mixture and sauté for one to two minutes. Add rice and mung beans and sauté for another couple of minutes. Then add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once the kitchari has come to a boil reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until it is tender (approx. 30–45 minutes). If you are adding vegetables to your kitchari, add the longer cooking vegetables such as carrots and beets halfway through the cooking. Add the vegetables that cook faster such as leafy greens near the end. Add more water if needed. Typically, kitchari is the consistency of a vegetable stew as opposed to a broth. Garnish with fresh cilantro and add salt to taste (optional).
I am having kitchari for breakfast lunch and dinner. As you can see – I am free to include veggies in there if I want to. It is recommended that you only use ‘easily digestible’ veggies. I made a batch of parsnip soup because it is 1. easily digestible and 2. very flavorful, and I thought might be a good addition if the kitchari isn’t satisfying enough. I can also continue to have fruit or smoothies. Two days ago my dinner was a tropical smoothie made with coconut milk, a banana, fresh pineapple, and fresh ginger and a little honey. So yummy!
I am not adding as much water to the kitchari as suggested – actually I have used three cups of water rather than six and the kitchari is more like regular rice usually is and less like a stew. I may change that up as the week goes on. Yesterday’s menu:
1 c. detox tea
1 c kitchari
1 ½ c kitchari w/1/4 c parsnip soup
1 c kitchari
2 teas. maple syrup (had a craving for a sweet)
1 c bedtime tea
The point of limiting the menu during the active cleanse phase to kitchari (and easily digestible fruits and veggies) is that it is a combination that is very easily digestible, and the purpose of the cleanse is to clean out the digestive system and detoxify the body.
There you have it – the three phase cleanse. I will update you later in the week.