Forget what you think you know about detoxing: juice-only diets, colonics and mega-dose herbal supplements are not the healthiest ways to cleanse the body. However, after a period of overindulging, feeling lighter is what many of us crave. So instead of going to extreme measures, why not try our Ayurvedic ritual created to encourage your body to detox and help you feel healthier and more energised.
If you haven’t come across Ayurveda before read our article, What is Ayurveda? and get inspired by this is a 5,000 year old system of natural healing. The word Ayurveda originates from two Sanskrit words; Ayur meaning 'life' and Veda meaning 'knowledge' or 'science'. This life science - often described as yoga’s sister science – helps us achieve balance of body, mind, and spirit through diet, exercise, herbal remedies and massage.
We suggest performing the ritual once or twice a week and the great thing is you will most probably have everything you need already at home.
We suggest performing the ritual once or twice a week and the great thing is you will most probably have everything you need already at home.Incorporating inner beauty rituals, herbal tea, massage, yoga and self-reflection - this is one kind of detox you will actually look forward to.
Firstly, collect everything you will need – tongue scraper, dry body brush, herbal tea, massage oil, notebook and pen, yoga mat, eye pillow and a blanket. Switch your phone on to silent and create a calm and relaxing atmosphere, maybe, play some chilled music or light a scented candle.
1. Encourage Elimination
Begin by encouraging the elimination process by using your tongue scraper (or the back of your toothbrush if you don’t have one). In Ayurveda, tongue scraping is believed to rid the tongue of undigested 'ama', the underlying cause of many health issues. Scrape gently from back to front using 7–14 strokes.
Next, dry brush your whole body to remove dead skin cells and stimulate the circulation and the lymphatic system, both of which is important for cleansing and strengthening the immune system. Brush towards the heart following the body's natural direction of lymph flow.
Regular self-massage with warm oil, an Ayurvedic ritual known as 'abhyanga' is one of the best ways to restore balance, improve wellbeing and push 'ama', or toxins, out of the tissues and into the digestive system for elimination. Follow this step-by-step massage procedure with love and patience. It should take you about 15-20 minutes. Choose any body oil you love but if you need inspiration and want a detoxifying effect that will lift your spirits, we suggest combining a few drops each of Grapefruit, Juniper, Rosemary and Geranium essential oils in a base oil such as Sweet Almond oil.
Gently warm your chosen body oil over a heat source so that it is comfortably warm but not. Apply the oil, first to the crown of your head and work slowly out from there in circular strokes—spend a couple of minutes massaging your entire scalp which is home to many important marma/energy points.
Next move on to your face. Massage in a circular motion on your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaws always moving in an upward direction. Be sure to massage your ears, especially your ear-lobes—home to essential marma points and nerve endings. Then, move on to your arms and legs. Use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the elbows and knees. Always massage toward the direction of your heart.
Afterwards, massage your tummy and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side. Finish the massage by spending at least a couple of minutes massaging your feet. Feet are a very important part of the body as they contain the nerve endings of essential organs. Leave the oil on your body for at least five minutes but up to fifteen is ideal, so that it can absorb and penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin.
Run yourself a deep warm bath. You can use a mild vegetable soap if you want to freshen up but avoid vigorously soaping or scrubbing the body. Relax and breathe. When you get out of the bath, towel dry gently, blotting instead of rubbing vigorously. Enjoy the feeling of having nourished your body, mind, and spirit and carry that with you.
4. Detox Tea
After your bath, brew yourself an Ayurvedic detox tea. When selecting a tea, look for traditional eastern ingredients such as Aniseed, Cardamom, Ginger, Fennel and Licorice root. Or try regular herbal teas containing herbs like Burdock, Dandelion or Milk Thistle which also support liver detoxification and cleansing.
5. Try Journaling
While sipping your tea, try jotting some thoughts down in a journal. In Ayurveda, detoxification is a holistic practice, cleansing both body and mind and so journaling is a good way to incorporate the mind into this ritual. Writing in a journal can compliment the cleansing process and be a productive vehicle for self-reflection, emotional release and mental purification.
6. Practice a detox Yoga Sequence
Close your ritual with yoga poses that encourage elimination and removal of toxins. While practicing, keep the breath deep and rhythmic to stimulate circulation. You can perform these poses alone in order listed below, or if you want to lengthen your practice and warm up your muscles begin with five rounds of your favourite Sun Salutation variation.
This mild inversion helps drain toxins and excess mucus from the lungs and sinuses. Come to all fours and then onto your forearms. Interlace your fingers, curl your toes under, lift your knees and hips, and straighten your legs. Hang your head, and lift your tailbone to lengthen the spine. Hold for 10–20 breaths, pausing at the end of each exhalation to mildly increase internal heat.
Working with a downward flow of energy,, this pose allows the release of toxins and waste and helps relieve constipation. Stand up and then step your feet shoulder-width apart, with toes pointing out. Bend your knees and sink into a squat. Balance between the heels and balls of your feet. Press your palms together at heart level; press elbows against your inner knees. Hold for 10–20 deep, diaphragmatic breaths to loosen the abdomen and relax the low back.
Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose/Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana
The deep stretch in this pose really gets into the side torso, which opens up the chest and lungs to support the release of mucus and congestion. Bend your right knee and place the sole of your right foot on your inner left thigh. Sidebend to the left, reaching your right arm along your right ear. If you can, hold your left foot with both hands. Do both sides, holding for 10–20 breaths on each side.
Half Wind-Relieving Pose/Ardha Pavanamuktasana
This pose helps loosen up back tension and massages the digestive organs to help move out waste (including gas and bloating— known as excess vata in Ayurvedic-terms). Lie on your back. Extend your legs flat onto the floor. Bring your right leg toward your chest and interlace your fingers behind your right thigh. Relax and lengthen through both heels. Hold for 10–20 breath cycles. Repeat on the other side.
Revolved Abdomen Pose/Jathara Parivartanasana
Jathara refers to the stomach, and this pose is all about stoking digestion and wringing out waste. Draw your knees into your chest. Extend arms to a T position. Lower legs down to the left. Turn your head and gaze to the right. Take 10–20 breaths, pausing at the end of each exhalation. Bring knees to center. Repeat pose on the other side.
Corpse Pose, supported variation of Savasana
Rest is key to proper digestion, and here it is. Rest a blanket over your thighs, cover your eyes. Let your elbows and backs of your hands rest on the floor. Breathe gently. Relax for 5–20 minutes.