The Ultimate Yogi Detox
The weather is getting warmer and wetter and our bodies are already preparing for more activity and sun. Spring (or fall) is the perfect time to do a cleanse, it’s an opportunity to take all of the built-up gunk and congestion from the winter, and flush it out;, making way for nutrients to find their way into the deeper tissues of the body
Twelve students at our yoga studio embarked upon a 10-day Kitchari Cleanse and it was quite the experience. This was my second time participating in a group cleanse and this time was much different than the first!
The first time I felt a shift energetically, and physically. I had the strong side effects like aches, chills, lethargy and was just depressed to be honest. Second time, I still carried some of the aches and lethargy, but it was more of an experience of letting go than anything. Just trusting the process that whatever was happening was happening and to not control the outcome.
Kitchari is different than your typical juice cleanse - it’s a nourishing mono-diet that resets sugar cravings and digestion. Made of white rice, lentils and spices, Kitchari serves up a power protein serving. Plus, the white rice is easier on digestion than other grains like brown rice, which have a husk.
In southern India, Kitchari is often the first food served to infants, it is also served to aid the sick, provide nourishment to a mother after birth and generally prescribed in Ayurveda practices to reset digestion, and encourage spiritual clarity.
I tried this cleanse for the latter reason. My digestion was pretty on point. I have a daily Ashtanga practice and eat healthy whole foods. My main vice is coffee and bread, but I don’t drink alcohol, eat sweets and aim to consume a variety of veggies every day.
However, mentally I needed a shift. I was feeling foggy - unclear about my path as a Health Consultant and budding Yoga Teacher. My energy felt spread thin among my passions, career, loved ones, and myself.
Does this sound familiar to you?
It felt like the mission for growth and knowing, made my personal self-care practice take a back seat. I was angry, agitated and didn’t feel 100 percent like myself. So I went to the store, stocked up on the Kitchari essentials and settled in for another 10 days of a wild ride of ups and downs.
What is a Kitchari Cleanse?
Kitchari, also called “Khichdi”, is a balanced Ayurvedic dish made of rice, lentils, and five anti-inflammatory spices: Cumin, Coriander, Turmeric, Ginger and Mustard Seed. You can add a small handful of veggies to cook in the stew as well. (I enjoyed adding big leafy greens like chard or kale..)
Most Ayurvedic practitioners swear by Kitchari’s ability to balance the doshas, give the digestion track a rest, and detox the built up toxins in the body. What’s beautiful about this cleanse, is that it’s also an elimination diet. By peeling back everything from meat, wheat, dairy and caffeine, you can start to see what is easily assimilated by the body, and of course, what isn’t.
Everyone reacts differently to a cleanse experience, but I would highly recommend to keep your calendar easy-going the week you’re cleansing. Enjoy the downtime and try not to over-commit to plans.
I say this because during the cleanse I experienced a roller coaster of cleansing symptoms. I was tired, constantly cold, my joints were achy and it felt like I had a permanent grey cloud in between my eyes for the first three days. I also felt heavy in the heart, and slow. Towards the end of the week, my energy started to shift and I became very focused, and clear. I also experienced feeling full and balanced throughout the day.
How to do a Kitchari Cleanse
Determine the number of days you would like to cleanse for. I did three days of pre-cleansing, five days of Kitchari and two days of reintegration.
On your pre-cleanse days, eliminate all coffee, dairy, wheat, meat and processed foods. Try to only eat cooked foods if you can.
Once you’re ready for Kitchari, prepare your stew daily, so it’s fresh and doesn’t get boring. If you’re tired of Kitchari, you can always mix up your veggies. Carrots or squash can give it a little sweetness, if you’re having sugar cravings.
Drink warm water or tea throughout the day. The more you drink, the more you can flush out the system. I personally like lemon and hot water in the morning and detox tea or chai roobois throughout the day.
Practice Abyangha! This is the best part. You can do this before bed, or before a morning yoga practice. Start by dry-brushing your skin, then massage sesame oil all over your body (including your face). Then hop in the hot shower and only wash your intimate parts, when you get out, pat the skin dry and allow the skin to absorb the oil. This practice can be done even after the cleanse – it’s so special to touch and massage yourself, so enjoy it!
Once you complete the Kitchari cleanse and are starting to re-integrate foods back into your diet, take it slow. Stick to cooked foods and avoid what you originally eliminated: caffeine, meat, wheat, dairy and processed foods. After a few days you can start to add these in (except for processed foods) and see how your body reacts. You’ll know pretty quickly, what works for you and what doesn’t.
Pro-tip:! I like to eat a slice of ginger with lemon juice and salt about 20 minutes before meals, to get the digestive fire churning!
Tips for the Journey
Always prepare fresh and organic foods. The better the quality of your ingredients, the more potent the medicinal qualities of Kitchari will be!
Clear your calendar and try to get as much sleep as your body needs. I was falling asleep around 9 p.m. most nights!
Stop looking at screens after 8 p.m. I opted to also do a social media detox and it was just what I needed. Again, everyone has their own experience, but by shutting off my social media world, I was able to connect more to my center and felt a strong spiritual experience. Going back to my search of Dharma, this was key. I was able to sit with my Self and let go of outside influences.
Read, write, meditate and reflect. There will undoubtedly be lots of thoughts floating your way. Process them and let them detox out of your mind. Try to feed your mind positive thoughts and allow yourself to feel into what you are experiencing. There are no “bad” nor “good” thoughts. They just are what they are, and they come and go.
Depending on your energy, do something active every day. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood, or a vigorous yoga practice: move your body and become a witness to the mind’s thoughts. It’s amazing how powerful the mind can be. Just observe and see what’s coming up for you. I personally practice Ashtanga in the mornings, and most mornings were a challenge. I could only get through a few sun salutations before I had to retreat to Savasana.
Build in a cleanse community. It’s always easier to cleanse with a group. Get a few friends together and support one another through the ride.
If you’re interested in some great reads while you’re cleansing I would recommend:
All great reads that insight thought and transformation!
Take the post-cleanse experience very seriously. Once the body has reset itself, it’ll be vulnerable to imbalances, gently re-integrate foods back into the diet day-by-day. Stay tuned for my post cleanse protocol coming next week.
A Simple Kitchari Recipe (makes 3-4 servings)
**Adapted from Kate O'Donnell's Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook
1 Cup of basmati rice (rinsed)
½ Cup of yellow split peas (soaked overnight and rinsed)
½ teaspoon of cumin
½ teaspoon of coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon of mustard seed
½ inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
1 cup of seasonal veggies of your choice
Soak the split peas over-night and rinse with cool water. Add 6 cups of water to a pot, the split peas and rice and bring to boil. Once the water is boiling, lower to a simmer and let mix cook for 30 minutes.
While the rice and lentils are cooking, mix your spices in a bowl and add them to a pan (without oil) to lightly toast them. The second you start to smell them they are ready!
When your rice and lentil mix have 5 minutes left, add the spices and chopped veggies. Let the mix continue to cook, until you have a thick stew like consistency.
Add salt and pepper to taste and your Kitchari is ready to serve!