The Traditional Ayurvedic Cleanse

ayurveda Apr 11, 2024

In the science of Ayurveda, the primordial cause of disease is rooted in a disconnect from spirit or our highest Self. We then tend to attach this disconnection to our ego based identities. For example, "I am OCD," "I have IBS," "I have Chrons disease," etc. Although these terms are helpful in understanding and accepting our current state of being, it only serves that benefit for so long.


At a certain point, it is more productive for our growth to release the ego based identities and transcend to our highest Self. This is the journey back to connecting to spirit, and one of the most fascinating and beautiful practices to heal disease and connect back to our highest Self is an Ayurvedic cleanse.




Traditionally, an Ayurvedic cleanse is called a Pancha Karma. Pancha Karma means five actions, which refers to the five treatments classically involved in a cleanse. If you go to India, it is a sacred practice that is individualized to each person and completed for at least a month's span in a secluded environment. In our western culture, we use the term Pancha Karma pretty loosely. Our crazy schedules don’t permit a traditional PK, so we make it accessible for ourselves in our own versions of “Pancha Karma.”


A traditional PK has THREE PHASES:


  1. The Prep

  2. The Cleanse + The Techniques

  3. The Post Care

I will explain each phase from a tactile and spiritual perspective, but if you want all the nitty gritty details, follow our IG story highlights for our personal experience.

The intention of THE PREP is to bring in all the toxins distributed throughout the body to the digestive tract where it can be dispelled using the techniques in Phase 2. THE PREP involves a light diet with fresh, organic foods and avoids sugar, alcohol, fried foods, gluten, dairy, and meats. 


This phase is where we begin to release our ego based attachments. “I can’t go a day without chocolate.” “I need my coffee every morning.” “I can’t go a week, let alone a month without a glass of wine!”


When these mental tendencies surface (also known as samskaras in Yoga and Ayurveda), we have a choice. Lean into the discomfort, feel the emotion behind the unconscious habit, and release it. OR we lean away from discomfort and clutch on to our attachments. It is not always the easiest choice, but it is the path towards liberation -- freedom from our ego mind and one step closer to spirit. 


The ideal duration for the prep is one week for Vata, 1-2 weeks for Pitta, and 3-4 weeks for Kapha. No matter the dosha, at least one week of The Prep should follow a mono diet of kitchari.



Kitchari is the easiest thing for our body to digest. If the body doesn’t have to think about digesting its current meal, it can clean up past actions or karmas it has been through. During the prep, the body also goes through Oleation and Swedana. Oleation consists of the daily intake of medicated ghee and sometimes Abhyanga. The Swedana consists of steaming the body daily. The purpose of both is to soften and loosen the ama that is stuck internally, so it is easily removed during Phase 2. 


The mono diet of kitchari is one of the most spiritual aspects of the cleanse. Releasing the burden of what to cook for each meal creates great mental clarity. The body also receives a break from not having to prep the proper enzymes to digest different foods. With the mind and body on a vacation, the whispers of your spirit start to be heard loud and clear. 


During Oleation and Swedana, old mental tendencies and emotions begin to break down from the casing of their hard shells. You may notice old ways of thinking and emotions that haven’t been felt in years arise. Again, you are left with two choices: lean into discomfort, feel, and transcend or lean away and hold on to the toxins.


THE TECHNIQUES include the cleansing tools we are most fascinated by. If we were doing this in India, this would consist of all five: Vamana (cleanse of the stomach - seat of kapha), Virechana (cleanse of small intestine - seat of Pitta), Basti (cleanse of large intestine - seat of Vata), Nasya (deep nasal/sinus cleanse), and Blood Letting. There are detailed explanations behind the beauty and support of each therapy that can be found here.


Since we do not have access to all these treatments in the West, modernized PK cleanses typically include 1 or 2 cleansing techniques. Before the last release of toxins from the mind, body, and spirit, an intention is set. What am I willing to release in order to step into the seat of my highest Self? This unique experience is so personal to the cleanser and deeply transformational. 


Finally, THE POST CARE, which is debatably the hardest part. I like to think of Ayurveda as the nurturing mother who tends to her children with unconditional love, support, and protection. She shelters them when they’re young and little by little as they get older, she unveils the world to them. This is the Ayurvedic approach, easing your way into everything and avoiding all extremes. 


The body is TAXED after following the strongest purification techniques in the science. It needs time to rebuild tissue and ojas (overall energy and vitality). So the Post Care can last anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks as you reintroduce foods back into your diet. Right after the cleanse, your body is clean, but your digestive fire needs to rebuild. It is best to start with light rice soup and ease your way back to kitchari. This sounds like an uphill battle, and it may be for some. Like all good mothers, some good old fashioned, tough love makes us strong and disciplined.


The Post Care phase mirrors the waxing moon time of each month. It is when we set our intention of what life we want to build and do so with patience and awareness. This is really where we begin to embody our true nature and spirit. Who am I now that I have released my old tendencies? What are my unique gifts? Who am I being guided to serve? 


The more we interact from the seat of our highest Self, the more we connect deeper to our spirit. Our mental tendencies (samskaras) and physical disease might still show up on a subtle level, and that is not an indication that the cleanse didn’t work. We cannot always eradicate each samskara completely. Some are deep from generational traumas that need continuous smoothing or awareness brought to them. It is in these moments where we have the greatest opportunity to connect to spirit. In a moment of challenge, we are asked to respond from the seat of our highest Self. When we make the decision towards liberation, we experience the totality of the universe.