The past moths must have been very upsetting for my body. Everything is brand new, I’m living an experience my body never coped with before: traveling and frequently changing locations for a year now, daily schedules switch up every few weeks, inconsistent yoga routine, unpredictable to do lists and a not-so-healthy diet due to our remote locations. So when I got the chance to take out the whole month for myself I immediately realized that something was really off with my body: I felt a constant lack of energy and exhaustion. My muscles cried for more stretch and movement and fresh air. I felt like eating more greens and lighter food but the same time had serious cravings for sugar and fatty salty chips. I became bloated and some terrible acne came out on my face, too. I experienced a roller coaster of feelings, sadness, and anxiety, and became frustrated for no reason. I couldn’t be present on my yoga mat.
I knew it’s time for my Ayurvedic Kitchari cleanse.
I first heard about kitchari and the cleanse on my yoga teacher training where we had introductory Ayurveda classes. Then I forgot about it for years until a few years ago when a traumatic event happened in my life. My friend, who’s a naturopath, mentioned this cleanse over dinner and it just clicked. Up until that point, I was looking for a way to be good to my body, to reverse all the mental and physical hardships I had put it through. So I dived deeper into the cleanse and learned as much about it as possible. And I had my first cleanse. It had such amazing affects on my body and mind that, over the years I started to perform a 3–4 day long cleanse at every season change and even a single day cleanse in between if I feel like I really need it. I got so into it, I even got certified so I can have the most benefit from my cleanses. To say that cleansing changed my life is an understatement.
But I didn’t do this cleanse for a year now, since I’m on the road—I normally don’t stay anywhere long enough and I do not want to carry so much stuff with me so I ditched the idea of a spice storage in my backpack. But this time I have all the ingredients handy and since my boyfriend experienced similar symptoms to me, we decided to do the cleanse together.
By this time, you might think, fine fine! But what is kitchari?
The word “kitchari” means mixture, and the kitchari dish itself is usually a combination of a grain and a legume in a warm thick soup. The dish commonly uses rice and mung beans. It is an Ayurvedic recipe that is said to balance all doshas (in Ayurvedic medicine, the doshas are 3 different energies that are said to govern physiological activity), with some variations in the recipe.
A kitchari cleanse is simply eating only kitchari for every meal for anywhere between 3–7 days, depending on your dosha type. The dish is very easily digestible, so it allows the gastrointestinal system to rest while still providing you with plenty of nourishment (unlike other cleanses).
Other than GI restoration, it can also assist in balancing your body out, boosting the immune system, and can provide opportunity for spiritual deepening.
I’m going to be super honest with how I felt during my first 3-day cleanse, as it was not always a positive experience for me. But honestly, is there any cleanse that is? The goal is to cleanse your body, that means getting rid of bad stuff, and that is not always supposed to be pleasant. But ever since my experience with each cleanse is different, like peeling an onion, I get to a new layer with each cleanse and it changes my life in a new way.
One of the biggest shifts I noticed during my fist cleanse was the dramatic decrease in anxiety. This might be also related to the fact, that I cut back on phone and laptop usage as well, and made my cleanse as relaxing as possible. I turn my attention inward. I minimize distractions and extra activity. I was only interacting with my family and closest friends once a day.
The earliest cleanses returned my energy and vitality. The first day I felt incredibly relaxed and my sleep was very deep. The second day was always the hardest, I always felt lethargic, tired, weak and kind of sad. I think this is where the emotional & spiritual release starts to kick in. The third day was when I started to come to so many realizations about myself. I stopped having the blood sugar crashes. I became aware of how much I use food to cope with my emotions and to change the way I feel. I was feeling clear and calm even though I hadn’t eaten in several hours.
The Ayurvedic cleanse also curbed my habit of overeating. This, I later learned, was also related to blood sugar crashes. I would eat until I was full, and then continue eating. I hated feeling so full that I could hardly move, but I also felt strongly compelled to eat more.
I also realized the energetics of different foods. Kitchari is so grounding and makes you feel very mellow. After the cleanse was over, all I wanted was raw fruits and veggies and could see how my energy lifted tremendously just by the shifting towards more raw food. I didn’t even want to eat sugary, oily food for days after. I still did not return to the “normal” diet I had before, instead I created a new normal for myself.
There were times where I really wanted to eat something else, but realized all these cravings were coming from a purely emotional place rather than from physical hunger. This heightened my awareness around the emotional connection we all have with food. I noticed that I simply don’t need that much food that I consumed daily, because I was eating my emotions or out of habit.
The Ayurvedic cleanse is not only about food, it helped me get back on track with my healthy daily routine. A morning ritual of yoga and pranayama, meditation—many times I just couldn’t keep up with it during the hectic travels and early work hours in the gardens but I got back my motivation to stick with it. My monkey mind is not distracting me anymore.
Every time I perform a cleanse I find new treasures—deeper connection to myself, newfound sense of abundance, more empathy and understanding towards others, heightened intuition, sharp thinking returning and a tremendous amount of peace and joy.
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Photo: Imola Toth