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Ayurvedic Practices

Detox Your Life: 5-Step Holistic Ayurvedic Spring Cleanse

Cleanse all parts of your life this season with Naturopathic doctor Karuna Sabnani's comprehensive plan for detoxing your mind and body to let your soul shine.

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This may come as a surprise, but toxins aren’t only found in air pollution and unhealthy foods. So why not cleanse all parts of your life this spring to achieve a true sense of relief, renewal and clarity? Naturopathic doctor Karuna Sabnani shares a comprehensive plan for detoxing your mind and body to let your soul shine.

Step 1: Cleanse Your Diet

salad

“When we cleanse in the spring, we burn off winter, kapha, water and earth,” says Karuna Sabnani, naturopathic doctor and founder of Karuna Naturopathic Healthcare in New York City. “This is why we have the urge to eat lighter and detoxify.” As we shift into the new season, Dr. Sabnani recommends eating more cooked greens, drinking cleansing soups, and reducing heavy, toxic foods, including fried foods, saturated fats, dairy, sugar, soda, alcohol, and grains. And if you’ve overindulged recently, try a two-week detox to reset your body.

1. Eat bitter foods.

Bitter foods have cleansing properties for your blood and liver. They cut through that “stuck” feeling and ease congestion. Dr. Sabnani keeps bitter greens around all the time and eats them both cooked and raw. A few options are endives, radicchio, bitter melon, daikon radish, and dandelion greens.

See also How Bitter Foods Balance Your Diet and Your Doshas

2. Drink hot liquids.

Drink only hot liquids during the day to aid in the burning off of kapha, starting with hot water in the morning. Her favorite herbal teas are nettle, dandelion, fennel, and mint. If you run colder, you can make ginger tea by steeping fresh ginger in water for 20 minutes, draining, and drinking.

3. Add honey to your hot water.

When used properly, honey scrapes ama (toxins) from the inside of the body, according to Ayurveda. If you don’t have major Pitta or Vata imbalances or a ragweed or honey allergy, local raw honey can offer great natural allergy relief, as it delivers allergens in a small dose over time and can create natural immunity. For the most impact, get started a few months before allergy season. Add 1/2 tablespoon to warm (not hot) water in the morning between 6–10 am and drink.

4. Eat steamed vegetables and bone broth.

Make a bone broth from chicken, beef, or pork bones. Feel free to freeze some to use later as well. You can add vegetables to this broth, blend the veggies into the broth for a pureé, or sip on the broth on the side while eating your veggies. Dr. Sabnani recommends including a variety of steamed veggies and broth. Choose:1 from a root family, 1 from a green family, 1 from the cruciferous family, 1 from the bitter family. For example: Carrots, broccoli, kale, and endive.

See also Ask the Expert: Is There a Vegetarian “Bone” Broth?

5. Watch your salt and oil intake.

Use oils only after you steam your veggies. Use pink salt to season your food for it’s high mineral content.

6. Increase herb intake.

Use spices like coriander, fennel, turmeric, cumin, and fresh mint. You can add powdered spices directly to your veggies in the steamer. Dr. Sabnani also suggests seasoning with fresh lime.

See also Rejuvenate with a 4-Day Ayurvedic Fall Cleanse

Step 2: Cleanse Your Body

woman in bath

“Movement is key for cleansing. Stagnation is death,” Dr. Sabnani says. “Spring is going to move you whether you like it or not. Wake up to the force of nature.” While cleansing, you can also slow your mind by slowing your body and focusing on mindful exercise with deep breathing.

1. Move and twist your body.

Move your body between 6–10 am (kapha time) to get your energy flowing at the start of your day. Do yoga at home, hold the poses for a longer duration (at least 10 breaths), and infuse them with breath. Oxygenate your entire body and squeeze out toxins practicing more twist poses. Take walks every day, giving space to the mind and the body.

TRY A Detoxifying Holistic Yoga Flow for Spring

2. Take epsom salt baths.

Epsom salt baths activate fluid movement in the tissues and increase perspiration. The sulphur component of the salts are an excellent detoxifying agent. “This bath detoxifies your entire body, but also relaxes your muscles and is great after a hard workout or a long day!” Dr. Sabnani says. If you can find a water filter for your bath, even better. Try it:

  • Begin with ½ cup of salts, slowly increasing the amount until you can tolerate 5 cups. Stop if you experience symptoms such as heart palpations or dizziness at any level.
  • Start slowly and increase time until you can tolerate 20 minutes without symptoms.

3. Relax with castor oil packs.

“Castor oil packs relieve stagnation and stimulate the body’s natural cleansing process, helping it release toxins and deep-seated emotions held in the pelvis,” Dr. Sabnani says. Castor oil penetrates the skin to reduce inflammation, soften hardened tissues, and stimulate lymph. Warm castor oil packs also help you relax, soothing and loosening the tissues. Start with the abdomen (the neck is another good spot to try next to saturate the lymph nodes and aids detoxification).Try it:

  • Make a pack using wool or cotton flannel fabric of appropriate size for the body part you are using it on. Saturate the material with high-quality castor oil (dark glass bottles are best). Preheat the oil or use the pack with a heating pad or hot water bottle, unless an infection or fever is present.
  • Position pack over affected area and cover with a piece of plastic like saran wrap and heating pad if desired. Use a towel to help protect bedding.
  • Rest with the pack for an hour or more. Avoid falling asleep with a heating pad turned on.
  • Afterward, cleanse skin with a solution of baking soda in water (1 teaspoon/pint).
  • Store pack in plastic bag or container in a cool dry place when not in use.
  • Use pack for 2–3 consecutive days until you notice results.

See also 20 Natural Remedies for Common Aches + Pains

4. Give yourself a ginger foot bath.

A ginger foot bath is a beautiful way to help you relax, warm up your body, and prepare for sleep. Try it:

  • Wash your feet before your foot bath.
  • Fill a steel basin with semi-hot water and 1–2 teaspoons of grated ginger (more for more water). If you don’t have a basin, sit on the edge your bathtub and put your feet into the bathtub filled with water only enough to cover your feet.
  • Soak for 20–30 minutes.
  • Moisturize your feet afterwards.
  • Drink hot tea during your foot bath if you want to promote sweating.

5. Get more sleep.

Straightforward and seemingly simple, be in bed by 10 pm latest when cleansing. Give yourself a gentle foot massage before bed to ground your energy and help you sleep.

See also 6 Ayurvedic Nighttime Rituals for Better Sleep

Step 3: Cleanse Your Clutter

woman on computer

“Creating space to reflect is the first step to detox your current patterns and create new habits,” Dr. Sabnani says. Creating more space in your home, and even on your phone, is crucial to creating space in your mind.

1. Cleanse your home.

Create the following piles for everything in your home and office: 1. Trash; 2. Donate; 3. Keep. Create a new place for everything you keep. Play music you love while you clean and make it fun. Hire professional help or ask a friend to assist if you need support in the process.

See also Minimalist Living: Learn How to Declutter Your Home

2. Cleanse your products.

Rid your cabinets of chemical-laden supplies and replace with natural options. Throw out expired makeup and medication.

See also 2015 Natural Beauty Awards

3. Cleanse your devices.

Delete outdated contacts on your phone. Rid all your electronics of unneeded apps and documents.

See also 4 Ayurvedic Self-Care Practices for Spring Renewal

Step 4: Cleanse Your Thoughts

woman thinking, self-forgiveness

“You can eat all the vegetables in the world and exercise 24/7, but at the end of the day, if you’re not happy and living with self-hatred or negative self-talk, you need to change,” Dr. Sabnani says. “We all know what we want and what we need, we just need to listen.” So when you focus on cleansing, pay close attention to what you’re telling yourself. Follow these self-reflection steps for a deep mental detox:

1. Know yourself.

When it comes to letting go, are you able to drop habits cold turkey or do you prefer gradual change? Can you cut out caffeine and never look back or will you ween yourself off coffee and move to green tea first? “Knowing your type will make the way you approach all needed changes a lot easier,” Dr. Sabnani says.

2. Get rid of the poison.

Think about the most toxic habit, thought, person, or food in your life right now. What’s the number one thing you want to stop, know you should stop, and try to stop but keep doing because it’s hard or feels good in the moment? Whether it’s late-night snacking, too many hours on your phone, or a job you hate, this is the best place to start. “Focus all of your energy on your number one thing and learn ways to either cut it out or to take steps to ease it out of your life,” Dr. Sabnani says. “Once you rid yourself of the main poison, the energy you get in return is powerful.”

See also 3 Science-Backed Reasons to Put Down Your Phone

3. Identify what you love.

Imagine if everything — and everyone — in your life brought you joy and excitement. Apply this to your closet, refrigerator, friends, and even your job. “Get rid of food, clothes and people you are ‘allergic’ too,” Dr. Sabnani says. “Listen to your heart, surround yourself with what you love, and watch yourself come alive.”

4. Detox your self-talk.

What conversation do you hear on repeat in your head? Dr. Sabnani suggests checking in with yourself when you wake up and before you go to bed. When you’re silent, what do you hear that you usually try to drown out? Jot down the top three statements that show up in your thoughts each day. If these thoughts are not moving you forward toward your goals, make a point of changing your thinking and how you speak to yourself.

See also 5 Daily Ayurvedic Rituals to Feel Your Most Rested

Step 5: Cleanse Your Relationships

friends in car

“When you’re evaluating what’s toxic in your life, you have to not only look at what you’re eating, but what (or who) is eating you,” Dr. Sabnani says. “You must cleanse out what’s not working.” It’s important to evaluate and recognize the people in your life that might not be good for you, or whether you need to change something within yourself to deal with certain people.

1. Identify the toxic people in your life. Do any of these types sound familiar?

  • An ex-partner or lover you obsess over
  • Someone in your life who is hypercritical, judgmental, or abusive
  • Someone you dread speaking to or meeting up with
  • An employee, business partner, or client who brings negativity and stress to you and your work on a regular basis
  • A family member who drains your energy or puts you down (This one can be tricky, but Dr. Sabnani says do your best and apply firm boundaries with tough love if nothing else.)

2. Take steps to cleanse the toxic people out of your life (when possible).

  • Don’t talk to the person. If not possible permanently, do it for a set amount of time and figure out a plan to reduce contact on a longterm basis.
  • Don’t talk about the person. You are trying to set a new pattern. If this is too difficult and you need support, talk to only one trusted friend or therapist.
  • Avoid places frequented by this person. Avoid places that make you nostalgic about the person. Avoid any toxic environment period.
  • Avoid all social media platforms updated by the person. If you can’t resist checking this person’s updates, stop following them all together.
  • Don’t listen to music that reminds you of the person. Music triggers memories and makes them more real in the present moment. This is a good time to create new music playlists.
  • Say yes to new people and new situations to refocus your mind in a different direction. Make new friends and find new people to work with.
  • Avoid reading old emails and texts from this person. If you can’t resist doing so, delete them. This applies to photos too. Fill the void and newfound time with things that are good for you.
  • Surround yourself with people and places that love and uplift you.

See also Stoke the Digestive Fire: A Detoxifying Sequence