Preparing for an Ayurvedic detox: 5 Steps

If you’ve made the decision to go for an Ayurvedic detox in India, congratulations!

Ayurveda can be a game-changer for anyone suffering from a health problem for many years and unable to find a remedy. However, for Ayurveda to really work, it is important you commit to the process from the outset, not just when you arrive in India.

Keep in mind that people who go to health resorts are often “lone rangers” among their relatives, colleagues, and friends. It takes courage to go to a health resort and it takes effort to prepare for the trip, make the journey, follow the rules and prescriptions, practice the yoga and suggested exercises, adhere to the diet and abstain from caffeine and alcohol. In short, it’s not easy. It’s a serious ordeal. And it can be expensive.

People will question your motives. They will say it won’t work, it is unscientific or“What’s the point? You’re just going to gain all that weight back anyway.” The naysayers will line-up when you make a decision to do something good for your body. Ignore them and find the ones who will support you, if not follow you to the health resort.

Against a backdrop of naysayers and, at worse, self-doubt, the first step of preparing for an Ayurvedic detox is the most important step: staying motivated.

The Benefits of Ayurveda

One way to stay motivated is to regularly remind oneself of the many benefits of Ayurveda. The benefits of Ayurveda often go beyond one or two core objectives that you may have. People usually seek Ayurvedic treatment for pain relief or weight loss, but Ayurveda offers much more.

Here are some of intended, and often unintended, benefits of Ayurveda:

  • Relief from chronic stress
  • Improved digestion
  • Weight loss
  • Better complexion
  • Glowing skin
  • Normalization of blood pressure
  • Reduced dependency on caffeine
  • Relief from addictions
  • Improved sleep and relief from insomnia
  • Reduction or elimination of physical pain
  • Lubrication of the joints and improved mobility
  • Improved regularity of bowel movements
  • Higher energy levels
  • Fewer headaches and relief from migraines 

From time to time, revisit the above list before and during an Ayurvedic detox. Make your own list. Stay focused on the benefits of Ayurveda, particularly those that you seek. Hold in mind what you desire from Ayurveda and what you are willing to do in return. This line of thinking initiates the process of preparing for Ayurveda and manifesting better health.

Woman in a spa

Stay focused on the benefits of Ayurveda. Hold in mind what you desire from Ayurveda. This line of thinking initiates the process for manifesting better health.

Preparing for an Ayurvedic Detox

In this article, we will discuss the following 5 steps of preparing for an Ayurvedic detox:

  1. Staying motivated
  2. Knowing what’s involved
  3. Making dietary adjustments before the detox 
  4. Improving your day-to-day routine
  5. Following the doctor’s advice

Step 1. Staying Motivated

Like any other goal in life, staying motivated is the single most important step in preparing for an Ayurvedic detox and achieving your health goals. One way to stay motivated is to remember why you are going for Ayurvedic treatment in the first place and how it may be able to help you. Stay focused on “your why” and the possibilities for health transformation.

Ayurveda can transform your body in ways unexpected and unintended. Skin problems may disappear. Nagging pains may go away. Allergic reactions to certain foods may decrease in severity, if not completely self-correct. Losing weight often becomes easier because your stomach starts working again, properly. Flexibility and strength may increase dramatically after the Ayurvedic oils sink into your joints and muscles.

With Ayurveda, your future really is a white canvas: you can paint whatever picture you wish. Ayurveda may be a new and mysterious path for you, but take comfort in knowing that it is time-tested, having been practiced for over 5,000 years.

By going for an Ayurvedic detox, you stand to gain a lot, both physically and mentally. I will share here some examples from my own experience.

Overcoming back pain and chronic stress through Ayurveda | My Story

In my case, Ayurveda not only helped me to overcome back pain but also gave me greater peace of mind, control over the mind and thus relief from chronic stress.  There was a time when I could not sleep without a glass of wine or two. I could not stop the mind from thinking about work unless it was numbed by alcohol. In fact, if I woke up in the middle of the night to use the washroom, the mind would start thinking about some memo, paper, proposal or creative task that it had to do. And that was that. Sleep was over. Three or four hours were the most that I could get. Mild insomnia and frequent nights of disturbed sleep were slowly frying my brain.

Enter Ayurveda

In March 2014, I experienced my first Ayurvedic detox. Indeed it was hard to sleep without my usual nightcap. The massages did not feel as intense as my usual sports massage. Some of the herbal decoctions that I was made to drink were disgusting. The vegetarian food, day after day, got monotonous and started to bother me. And dreams of a medium-rare steak with a glass of red wine haunted me! Simply put, the detox was grueling for a pleasure seeker like me.

The detox lasted only 12 days, but after returning to Canada and playing ball hockey again, something remarkable happened: my body healed from hockey in only 2-3 days, gradually even quicker. It was suddenly possible for me to play hockey about three times a week, in addition to daily gym workouts. For a guy with a metal rod in his back, it felt pretty good about being to play hockey so frequently and with so much intensity.

The dramatic physical changes experienced after only 12 days of Ayurveda, evidenced by improved performance in sports, made me go back to India the very next month. I did another week of Ayurveda. Four months later, another week. Ayurveda then became an entrenched part of my lifestyle.

Eye Cleansing Ayurveda Treatment

Netra Tarpana is an Ayurvedic treatment to cleanse, strengthen and rejuvenate the eyes and the delicate structures around them

Today, I detox at least 3 or 4 times a year, usually with the change of seasons. Each time is different. It could be a week, two weeks or even three weeks or more. This pattern of a seasonal detox not only keeps the back healthy but also my blood tests consistently normal. Moreover, my eyes have been getting better with age, rather than worse. Yes, you read that correctly. My eyes have gotten better with Ayurveda.

Historically, I have been nearsighted. Since age 15, my eyes were getting worse and worse. However, after starting Ayurveda five years ago, something remarkable was noticed: the powers of the lenses required in each of my eyes have been dropping by a quarter-point, year after year.

Ayurveda

Coming back to Ayurveda and its impact on the mind, I will say this: today it is possible for me to sleep at night without a sedative and it is possible to sleep six or seven hours at a stretch. Better yet, the fear of not being able to sleep has been overcome. In the past, the fear of not being able to sleep was often more dominating than work-related thoughts. In short, Ayurveda has helped to quiet the mind and manage thoughts and emotions through natural means, including yoga.

When we say “Ayurveda”, we include yoga, an indispensable facet of Ayurveda. They are two branches of the same tree of knowledge. Ayurveda without yoga may be incomplete. And yoga without Ayurveda may become simply exercise. Yoga is one of many instruments in Ayurveda to reduce stress, improve blood circulation, and activate energy centers throughout the body. It is both an enabler and sustainer of results from Ayurvedic treatment.

Yoga Ayurveda Retreat in Kerala

Yoga and Ayurveda are inextricably linked. Yoga both accelerates and sustains the benefits of Ayurvedic treatment. No Ayurveda program is complete without it. 

Acknowledging the link between Ayurveda and yoga naturally brings us to the second step of preparing for an Ayurvedic detox: knowing what’s involved.

Step 2. Know What’s Involved

Knowing what’s involved helps us to manage our own expectations, avoid frustration, and minimize unpleasant surprises.

Logistical challenges

First of all, it is important to remember that many health resorts are located in developing countries, like India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Chile, and Cambodia, to name a view. They are vulnerable to challenges that may be completely foreign to city dwellers from Western countries, such as power outages, lack of hot water, mosquitoes, flooding, bumpy roads, and other logistical problems that are “par for the course” in health & wellness hospitality, even at many 5-star resorts.

Read 50 things that go wrong at health resorts.

In a health resort, there are always sacrifices to be made and some luxuries to be forgone. Be prepared to live simpler. Be prepared to eat differently and new tastes, not always pleasant. Accept that you may not get a good coffee for a long time. Carry your own, if you must. Above all else, adopt an openness to be Ayurveda and whatever is recommended or prescribed to you. Ayurveda literally means “Science of Life”, implying that it is a total way of living, not a one-off health retreat.

The doctor’s consultation

When we go to an Ayurveda resort or homestay, the first thing that happens is a detailed consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor. This consultation can last from 30 minutes to three hours, depending on the doctor’s time availability as well as the complexity of your health issue as well as your willingness to share information about your lifestyle, history, habits, needs, and concerns. During the doctor’s consultation, it is recommended to be completely open and honest. The more information that you share, the more capable the doctor will be to help you. 

Doctors consultation Ayurveda Detox

Doctor’s consultation: the more information that you share about your medical history lifestyle, and habits, the more equipped the doctor is to help you. 

Scheduling of treatments

After the consultation, the doctor will prepare a treatment program and schedule for you. Each day, you can expect to have a “major” treatment and a “minor” treatment. The two treatments can be performed concurrently or separately at different times in the day. The practice often varies from resort to resort.

The timing of treatments, the duration of each treatment, and the number of therapists involved in administering a given treatment vary from resort to resort, depending on where you go for an Ayurvedic detox. Your schedule can also vary day-to-day or week-to-week, depending on how your body responds to Ayurvedic treatment.

Tip: Nothing is cast in stone in Ayurveda. There is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. There is usually a great deal of flexibility. If you find rigidity in your dealings with any doctor, it is perhaps best to avoid that resort.

Tip: Similarly, if a resort provides a list of Ayurvedic treatments that you are “guaranteed” to receive, then something is also not right. The appropriate mix and schedule of treatments are can only be determined after a doctor’s consultation in person. This is the general rule of Ayurveda.

About Panchakarma

An Ayurvedic detox often goes by the name “panchakarma”, the Sanskrit word for “five actions.” This system of detox is designed to cleanse the body of any toxins created or left behind as a result of lifestyle choices, poor nutrition, stress, disease and even environmental factors like pollution. Ordinarily, the body can remove toxins on its own. However, over time, our body’s ability to clean itself gets weakened or hampered by energy imbalances in the body and mind. That’s why we need Ayurveda.

Most serious, non-touristic Ayurvedic programs, such as Panchakarma, are divided into four phases: preparation, detoxification, strengthening and balancing. And each phase usually requires a week, even for a healthy person. For comprehensive and effective treatment programs, a stay of 28 days is usually recommended.

Going through a proper Ayurvedic detox, like a four-week Panchakarma, dislodges toxins in your body that cannot be reached simply by “juicing” or other new-age detox diets on the market. Panchakarma treatments may involve baths, massages, scrubs, and enemas with a wide variety of medicated water, milk, oil, ointments and pastes.

Ayurvedic treatments use every cell, pore, and part of your body to detoxify and rejuvenate the body, from the sweat glands to your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, bladder, and intestines. Even bloodletting, in rare situations, is used in Ayurveda for detoxification and purification. In short, Ayurveda is not a new diet or exercise program; it is a whole-body experience. It is “holistic” in the truest sense of the word.   

Step 3. Make Dietary Adjustments Before the Detox

As mentioned earlier, the first phase of an Ayurvedic detox is “preparation”. The goal of this phase is to prepare the body to digest and absorb certain medicines – these can be internal medicines (consumed orally) or external medicines applied to the skin, scalp, and body. The preparation phase can take up to one week, even longer sometimes if you have cold or severe fatigue when you arrive.

While Ayurvedic treatment is tailored to individual needs, preparing for Ayurveda at home, one or two weeks before traveling to India, can enable you to hit the ground running when you arrive at the Ayurveda center.

Here are some rough-and-ready dietary tips for preparing for Ayurveda:

1. Avoid foods that produce toxins, such as refrigerated leftovers as well as packaged, canned, and frozen foods. Steer clear of foods with artificial additives, sweeteners, GMO and non-organic ingredients.

2. Consume light, easily digestible foods particularly during the evenings. Avoid heavy meals. Avoid deeply fried or oily foods. Minimize intake of raw foods. Avoid mixing raw and cooked foods. Avoid foods made with refined sugar, bread made with yeast, and heavy dairy products like cheese and yogurt. In short, avoid foods that are hard to digest or take long to digest.

3. Avoid microwaved foods or foods with an artificially long shelf-live. Instead of soups, bread and juices that contain preservatives, try fresh juices, freshly cooked meals, and freshly made soups with no preservatives.

wellness meal ayurveda food, salad. rice and soup

In Preparing for an Ayurvedic detox, increase your intake of vegetables and freshly cooked meals. Eat lighter. Avoid heavy meals, particularly at dinner. 

4. Certain fruits and vegetables are particularly helpful for detoxification. So, it’s a good idea to eat more of these in the preparatory phase.

• Fruits: boiled apples or pears, cooked prunes, figs, pineapples, papaya

• Vegetables: leafy greens, cabbage, brussels sprouts, steamed or boiled

• Grains: barley, rice, quinoa, rice water

• Spices: turmeric, fennel, fenugreek, coriander, ginger

 5. Ensure that your meals are very colorful. The greater the variety of colors, the more nutrients the meal is likely to contain.

 6. Minimize or reduce your intake of meat to once or twice a week. If you cannot, try to consume meat products for lunch rather than dinner.

 7. Avoid frozen or cold drinks. Increase your intake of plain hot water or hot water infused with lemon, ginger, honey, cinnamon, or fresh herbs.

 8. Avoid caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee. If you cannot avoid, then reduce the quantity and frequency. So if you drink three cups of coffee per day, reduce to two and then one.

The above dietary habits are helpful not just before an Ayurvedic detox but also after it. Of course, it is usually not possible to make radical, 180-degree changes overnight. However, the name of the game is gradual, incremental improvements – both to your diet and to your routine.

Step 4. Improving your day-to-day routine

There are three essential steps to improving your daily routine: (1) eating your meals at fixed times; (2) sleeping and waking at the same time, every day; and (3) regularizing an exercise routine.

With respect to meals, it is acceptable in Ayurveda to eat two meals per day or three meals per day, as desired. However, what is most important is to be consistent: eat the same number of meals each day, at roughly the same time. Do not skip meals. In general, it is recommended to have breakfast between 7:30 am and 9:30 am; lunch between 12 pm and 2 pm; and dinner between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm.

Ayurveda also recommends “conscious eating” – that is, being focused on the act of eating, biting, chewing and digesting one’s food rather than being distracted by conversation, television, or one’s smartphone.

Woman Eating alone

Ayurveda encourages eating alone and eating quietly without dIstraction. Being conscious of the act of eating supports good digestion.

With respect to sleeping, Ayurveda encourages people to sleep before 10 pm, so as to facilitate healthy digestion and detoxification, which usually operates most effectively in the body between 10 pm and 2 am at night.

If exercise is already a part of your daily life, keep it up. If exercise is not something that is part of your life, an Ayurvedic detox is a great opportunity to start a regular pattern of daily exercise. Daily exercise can include walking, cycling, yoga or sport. In general, the best time to exercise, according to Ayurveda, is between 6 am and 10 am when our bodies are inclined towards rest and lethargy. 

The above is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to improving your lifestyle based on Ayurvedic principles, tips, and recommendations. The essence is consistency: establishing routine and order and fixed timings for day-to-day activities

Step 5. Following the doctor’s advice

This step becomes operational usually when we enter an Ayurveda resort, but preparation can begin now. We need to be prepared to accept the doctor’s opinion about our situation and what needs to do about it.

Many Ayurvedic programs go wrong or get derailed for one simple reason: the patient or client unwittingly fails or deliberately refuses, to listen to the doctor’s advice. This is like going to university and skipping classes – you are paying someone not to teach you. 

woman is sunbathing under a white umbrella with a red bikini

Sunbathing and swimming at the beach is to be avoided at certain times during Ayurvedic treatment. Listen to the doctor’s advice. 

Here are some ways people ruin or weaken the efficacy of an Ayurvedic detox:

 

1. Cheating on the diet

There are two ways to cheat: (a) eating food from outside the resort, such as junk food, cakes, desserts, pop and chips, (b) eating items from the buffet that you have been told to avoid, and (c) consuming more quantity than what has been advised. Having food from outside the resort is usually the biggest culprit because it carries the risk of food poisoning or exposure to additives and non-natural ingredients that cause the very toxins that you are trying to eliminate through Ayurvedic treatment.

2. Swimming

During panchakarma, there are days during which swimming, whether in the pool or sea, is to be totally avoided. I have made this mistake before. I was told not to go swimming during one of the ghee-drinking days but ignored the advice. As a consequence, I got sick for three days and my treatment program had to be altered. 

3. Excessive sunbathing

Spending time in the sun is not a bad thing. In fact, it is both healthy and necessary. The problem is spending too much time in the sun and at the wrong times. A good doctor will advise you when it is okay to spend time in the sun. Usually, the best time is 2-3 hours before treatment or after treatment. The idea is to avoid dehydration, tiredness or sunstroke due to excessive exposure to the sun. 

4. Skipping yoga

As mentioned earlier, yoga enables and assists your body to realize the results of Ayurveda. Skipping yoga only slows down the process and limits the results. Participate in yoga as often as you can, except when the doctor specifically says not to do yoga.

5. Sightseeing and gallivanting at the wrong times

Many people find it hard to switch off. They find it hard to stay in one place. They want to leave the resort and go shopping or to go see some tourist attraction or monument or to visit some park or sacred place. All of this should be rigorously avoided during a serious panchakarma. If you must sightsee, do it before you start your detox, not during or after it.

The above list is provided not to discourage you from having fun during an Ayurvedic detox but to warn you of the pitfalls and common mistakes that people make. Remember that you have paid good money to be an Ayurveda center. There is no point in cheating. To get the “most bang for your buck”, trust the doctor and steadfastly follow the advice given to you. It’s in your best interest to do so.

I wish you luck and strength in preparing for an Ayurvedic detox. Should you have any questions, comments or concerns or if you need any advice about Ayurveda, please feel free to email me at aly@ayurooms.com

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