My first experience of Pancha Karma, Ayurvedic seasonal cleansing, took place in Madurai, India in 2012 and involved an extensive two-week treatment program of diet, massage, detoxifying procedures and herbs. Since then I’ve observed a seasonal cleanse grounded in Ayurvedic wisdom every spring and fall to keep sickness and imbalance at bay, and maintain strong immunity, digestion and sense of well-being.
Ayurveda has long regarded the upcoming transition into fall as an important time to cleanse and regenerate your body and mind, and advises a careful sequence of cleansing and nourishing to stay balanced. To understand anything in Ayurveda, all you need to do is look deeper into nature. Right now we are concluding a cycle of peak heat and preparing to initiate a cycle that is increasingly cooler and drier. Ask a meteorologist what happens when hot air meets cold air and you’ll be met with a scientific description of what is essentially instability: cold temperature, clouds, rain, lightning, cyclones, followed by warm, dry weather.
All you need to do is look deeper into nature.
Now apply this same principle to your body: you’re coming out of a long, hot summer with perhaps excessive energy expenditure, and moving into shorter days and cooler/unpredictable weather patterns while the leaves dry up and fall from the trees. In your physiology, that instability may present as flu, colds, allergies, arthritis pain, Seasonal Affective Disorder, bloating, constipation, dry skin, anxiety, restlessness and trouble sleeping.
Ayurveda describes this as an increase of “Vata Dosha,” meaning an increase of the air and space elements that induce movement and dryness, while the earth, water and fire elements that promote stability, nourishment and energy decrease. It sees the physiology as especially vulnerable at this time, and proposes that we both fortify our health with simple, easy-to-digest foods while stripping away some of the heavy and processed foods we may have used to fuel our summer outings. This helps to stoke “Agni,” the digestive fire to maintain optimal digestion, metabolism and nutrient absorption.
In our 21-day online Fall Cleanse, this process is further supported by ancient practices such as Nasya (nasal oiling), full body oil massage, herbs to support digestion, yoga to move lymph and build strength and meditation to keep the mind centered. The program focuses on balancing the dryness and depletion of the season via the four pillars of health: diet, sleep, movement and meditation, for a well-rounded approach. Participants frequently trade in seasonal colds and exhaustion for improved digestion, increased energy and better sleep and find that the benefits last well beyond the season.
Photo by Jack Affleck.