Cleansing Body & Mind with Ayurveda

Posted by – March 30, 2016
Categories: Excerpt Health & Healing

We often think of spring as the time to declutter our homes, but why not also declutter our bodies and our lives? Ayurveda—a 5000-year-old Indian wellness plan—offers a holistic approach for cleansing ourselves of anything that no longer serves us, allowing us to return to a state of balance and optimal well-being (which can be seen and felt!).

Discovering the True You with Ayurveda

Below, we’ve shared an adapted excerpt from Discovering the True You With Ayurveda by Sebastian Pole, which explains what we will be clearing out, as well as how this can be done.

For additional information on topics such as cleansing the lungs and digestive tract, a more in-depth discussion can be found in Chapter 3 of this book. You can also learn more about the herbs mentioned here at

The Concept of Ama

Central to the Ayurvedic view of cleansing is its unique concept of ama. It has no direct equivalent in modern medicine but can be loosely thought of as toxic material. Literally, the Sanskrit word ama means “unripe, uncooked, immature, and undigested.” According to Ayurveda, a toxin is an unmetabolized substance not used by your body or assimilated by your mind. It can be created from foods or experiences that are absorbed but then not used, or from ones that remain undigested, creating fermentation and imbalance. I think of a toxin as anything that does not serve my life anymore, but is still “hanging around.” It may be yesterday’s poorly digested supper, last week’s argument, last year’s shock, or last decade’s disappointment.

Ama, or toxic material, is the bed in which disease flourishes. Toxins have damp, sticky, heavy, and stagnant qualities. They cause “stuckness.” They prevent change, growth, and evolution. Toxins can mingle with heat, causing inflammation and infection. They can accumulate with cold, leading to growths and blockages. They can irritate the nervous system, leading to clouded thinking. Just think of that “heavy” feeling that persisted after you last had a cold. Remember the last time you were depressed and felt “stuck in the mud.” That is ama.


  • Industrial pollutants
  • Pharmaceutical drugs
  • Agricultural pesticides and insecticides
  • Recreational drugs
  • Trans fats and poor-quality oils
  • Intensively farmed meats
  • Refined sugar
  • Nonorganic food
  • Mycotoxins (toxins produced by fungi)
  • Stress, loneliness, depression


Signs of toxicity

Ama can cause blockages in your channels of circulation (e.g., blood clots, constipation), mucus congestion, poor immunity, loss of strength, lack of movement, obstructions to the flow of energy, accumulation of wastes, water retention, bad odors, tense muscles, low digestive fire (agni), bloating, diarrhea, itchiness, a thick tongue coating, lack of enthusiasm, and depression. Ama physically blocks cosmic intelligence from entering your body–mind and prevents your life force, or prana, from helping you to grow. It makes you dull.

The skin is a good indicator of how well your body is eliminating wastes. Skin blemishes, such as acne or boils, can be a sign that the bowels, liver, and kidneys are not removing wastes properly, forcing the body to remove them via the skin. They could also indicate that your elimination system is overloaded with too many toxins.


Herbs such as neem, guduchi, turmeric, chamomile, nettles, and burdock root and seed are known to alter the chemistry of your tissues, bringing them back to optimum function through helping the lymph, liver, kidneys, and intercellular fluid rebalance. If you take the herbs with aloe vera it will have a stronger effect, as aloe vera is a “carrier” to the skin.

How do you become toxic?

Ayurveda states that we can become toxic depending on what we eat and how we digest. When your digestive fire (agni) is low, toxins are created. In addition to poor-quality food and contaminated water, we are increasingly exposed to high levels of environmental pollutants and pharmaceutical drugs, which can have a toxic effect on the body.

In keeping with its holistic view of life, Ayurveda extends the idea of poor digestion to our emotional as well as nutritional diet. Increasing levels of stress, extreme emotions, negative images in the media, distressing world events, and the plethora of violence on television, in the cinema, and in computer games all need “digesting” or assimilating, in order to avoid ama contaminating the peace and stillness of our consciousness.

But pollution in all its forms is so pervasive that it is virtually impossible not to become overloaded unless you are very disciplined about what you expose yourself to. Once we have started on the toxic path, this can easily become a degenerative cycle, as “like increases like.” Poor digestion leads to further poor digestion. However, the opposite is also true: Benevolent cycles of good digestion, healthy tissue creation, and vital essence production (or ojas) all coalesce to improve the quality and length of life. This is why it is essential to cleanse regularly.


Turmeric (Curcuma longa) Enhances mental circulation.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Rebuilds the nervous system; also reduces anxiety.

Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) Helps restore mental balance and emotional sensitivity.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) Has natural sedative properties that counteract the long-term effects of stress and stimulants.

Guggul (Commiphora mukul) Cleanses and rejuvenates deep tissue; also scrapes away deposits from fat-soluble pesticides from the fatty tissues.

Vacha (Acorus calamus) Opens the channels of the mind and is invaluable for the treatment of addictions. Only use under guidance from a practitioner.

The detoxification pathways

Detoxification can be defined as a process that removes toxic substances or qualities by eliminating them from the system so that a healthful balance, or homeostasis, is found. The liver is a major center of detoxification, as it helps to break down much of what goes into the body, including foods, pharmaceutical drugs, hormones, and industrial pollutants. Other organs, such as the kidneys, bowels, skin, and lungs, as well as the metabolic process of every cell, are equally important. If your liver function is compromised by other factors in your health, free radicals can overwhelm your body’s elimination systems. They literally cause a “traffic jam” in your detoxification pathways. The toxins that the liver cannot metabolize often end up stored in fatty tissue, such as the brain, nerves, and endocrine glands. Hence, natural medicine notes how toxicity, at its most extreme, can be associated with neurological, fertility, metabolic, and energy imbalances.


Those shown in bold are particularly beneficial. Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and especially their germinated seed sprouts, which contain high levels of sulforaphane), onion, garlic, turmeric, chile, clove, caraway, dill, rosemary, orange, tangerine, lemon, foods high in zinc, and vitamins C, B1, and B6. Milk thistle, dandelion root, andrographis, and neem also benefit the liver.


Seasonal Detoxification and Fasting

Because we all accumulate toxins, a gentle seasonal detoxification will be beneficial. Depending on your lifestyle, you can choose a fairly simple weekend detox or a more dedicated seven-day regime.

When following any cleansing regime:

  • eat a simple, organic diet (avoid processed foods, sugar, yeast, and hydrogenated oils)
  • take plenty of rest
  • reduce strenuous exercise; practice a gentle form of yoga instead
  • have a massage or go to a steam room to sweat toxins out; do a daily self-massage
  • avoid the news and TV to keep media toxins to a minimum


Try this for a week around the time of the spring equinox and/or fall equinox. Base your diet on the principles listed below and emphasize pungent, bitter, astringent flavors.

Grains No bread or pastries. Less wheat and oats. Take barley, quinoa, millet, rye, basmati rice.

Beans Mung beans are best.

Vegetables Steamed sprouts and vegetables. Lots of greens: broccoli, spinach, kale. No mushrooms, root, or excessively sweet vegetables.

Fruits No sweet fruit, only sour, such as cranberry, lemon, lime, grapefruit.

Nuts and seeds No nuts; some pumpkin seeds.

Meat and fish No shellfish, fish, red meat, pork, or associated meat fats.

Dairy None, including eggs; some goat milk can be taken, as it is slightly astringent; ghee is fine in small quantities.

Oils None, although small amounts of mustard or flaxseed oil (which are drying) are fine.

Herbs and spices Take triphala at night with some warm water. Also take some cleansing herbs during the day.

Sweeteners None (sugar is ama-forming). Honey is fine (max. 2 teaspoons per day).

Superfoods Microalgae, especially chlorella.

Drinks No coffee or black tea; take ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and fennel teas, or dandelion root coffee.

Tags: Ayurveda Sebastian Pole
About the Author

Marina is the Marketing & Digital Programs Coordinator at North Atlantic Books. After living in New Orleans and Amsterdam, and exploring a couple of continents, she returned to the San Francisco Bay Area to work at NAB. She's passionate about astrology, nonfiction books, and sustainable living, as well as all things metaphysical.