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Written by Shalu Chandran,
Detoxification is a natural process of eliminating or neutralizing harmful toxins from the body. Our bodies naturally detoxify every day but sometimes it needs a little help from us to rest, clean and nourish from the inside out. While most wellness enthusiasts may be familiar with the concept of detoxification, different ways to detox and its health benefits, only a few will be aware that traditional Indian detoxification methods purify more than just the body.
Ayurvedic detoxification methods, usually accompanied by yoga and meditation, prove to be an excellent way to cleanse the body, lighten the mind and enrich soul. Ayurveda recommends a program of internal cleansing at every change of seasons to clear the channels of the body of toxins that may have built up over the previous season. Detox is particularly recommended each spring, because in the spring, your body’s natural cleansing and rejuvenating mechanisms kick into high gear in tune with all of nature. Traditional methods such as Panchakarma take into consideration the characteristics of your personality and cleanse from both inside and outside.
Symptoms like sluggishness, acne breakouts, digestion problems, tiring out easily and difficulty to lose weight are all signs that your body is calling for a detox. The benefits of detoxing are many. It immediately rids your body of impurities, making one feel lighter, while giving you an overall improved sense of well-being. Detoxing boosts your energy, rids the body of wastes, helps in weight loss, improves skin and hair, builds stronger immunity and promotes healthy changes. A detox program helps you put a stop to the old ways and encourages new habits. Detoxing is known to help practitioners think clearly and get rid of the fogginess caused by sugary and processed food and beverages.
The process of detoxification involves three phases — preparation, cleansing and post-cleansing. This is done by following a strict detox diet and detox routine that helps remove impurities from the blood in the liver, where toxins are processed for elimination. The human body also eliminates toxins through the kidneys, intestines, lungs and skin. But when the natural elimination system is out of sync, impurities are no longer properly filtered and the functioning of the body is adversely affected.
A complete Ayurvedic detox program also focuses on the mind and soul. Meditation and Yoga done together, allows you to get in touch with your body and mind during the process of cleansing. This is unlike western detoxing practices, where the focus is only on the physical process of cleansing. An Ayurvedic detox treatment requires patients to follow a strict diet during the cleanse and more importantly, show discipline. A healthy diet sans sugar, meat or fat, ensures an invigorated and focused mind that is able to connect with the body and soul.
Panchakarma, which means the use of five actions or five treatments in Sanskrit, is considered as the best body and mind detoxing practice. Panchakarma helps restore the immune system and create a balance in the body. When practiced in the correct yogic and spiritual atmosphere, Panchakarma rejuvenates all the systems. The unique practice of Panchakarma cleanses the body of ama or toxins in five ways through the body’s natural channels of elimination. The treatment of Panchakarma starts with a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor who assesses your body constitution and imbalances in the doshas. After ascertaining the cause for ama accumulation in the body, the doctor identifies the organs that need to be addressed through the procedure and prescribes the right program.
The five-fold treatment of Panchakarma, includes: Vamana (therapeutic vomiting), vireka and virechan (purgation therapy), basti (enema), nasya (nasal therapy), and rakta moksha (blood-letting). Vamana is advised for those with congestion in the lungs, as well as bronchitis, cough, cold or asthma. Virechan involves the purification of blood toxins. It is usually administered three days after Vamana. Virechan cleanses the sweat glands, small intestine, colon, kidneys, stomach, liver and spleen with the help of herbal laxatives.
In Ayurveda, medicated enemas are administrated to flush out loosened toxins through the intestinal tract. Basti involves introducing medicinal substances and herbal decoctions in a liquid medium into the rectum. Basti is recommended for vata disorders, as it relieves constipation, distention, kidney stones and even sexual problems.
The nasal administration therapy or Nasya involves inhaling vapor from medicinal herbs. This is used to eliminate problems of the eyes, nose, ear and throat disorders, as well as migraine, sinusitis and bronchitis. Rakta Moksha or blood-letting is used to eliminate toxins absorbed into the bloodstream through the gastrointestinal tract. Rakta Moksha purifies the blood and is recommended for those with skin issues like rash, eczema, acne and hives. However, blood-letting is not recommended for those with anemia or very old and young persons.
A Panchakarma treatment of a minimum of eight to 21 days is recommended for those looking for a full-body cleanse.
A typical yoga detox program involves fasting, detoxing with juices or herbal drinks and multiple yoga sessions that promote cleansing. Detoxification by Yoga helps to create attitudinal changes in ones’ body that prevent the build-up of toxins. Yoga itself has very practical purification practices that aim at the detoxification of the body and mind. These detoxification techniques, called Shatkarmas or Shatkriyas are extremely powerful in that detoxification work on specific areas of the body that have the maximum impact upon our health. Shatkarma improves the flow of prana into the organs. The six techniques used for this are Dhauti, Bhasti, Neti, Trataka, Nauli and Kapalabhat.
A Yoga detox programs can be anywhere between five to 28 days long. Meditation and breathing exercises are also usually a part of yoga detox programs.
A Naturopathic detox treatment focusses on flushing out toxins from your body through a natural diet containing fruits, vegetables, juices and water. The diet is designed to activate the various centers of elimination in your body. For example; lime, beetroot, carrot and turmeric are foods that stimulate liver function and bile flow. Onion and garlic, both known to be natural detoxifiers, also feature in the diet. Additional fibrous elements like healthy oils, probiotics and herbal supplements may also be a part of a naturopathic detox process.
Massages and mud packs also form a part of detoxing through naturopathy. Mud, one of the five elements of nature, plays a huge role in curing the body from sickness. Oil massage, hot stone massage, deep tissue massage and kairali massage are some of the popular massages done to help the body detoxify. Some centers combine this with yoga and meditation as part of the treatment.
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