Fall is a natural time of transition and an ideal moment for a gentle detox cleanse that will reset your body and mind, and prime your system for a winter of wellness.
By yogajournal.com / Hillari Dowdle
Detoxing in the fall may sound counterintuitive. After all, spring—Ayurveda's other optimal time to detox—is our cultural cleaning season, whereas autumn feels like a time to hunker down and get back to work. "In the spring, it's about shaking off the weight of winter and getting revved up for summer, and we're good at that," says Ayurvedic consultant Scott Blossom. "In the fall, it's about acknowledging that we're overly busy, slowing down, and restoring the body."
The view in Ayurveda, yoga's sister science of medicine, is that all of nature—including us—is bound by the relationships among the threedoshas, or primal energies. Vata dosha is associated with the elements air and ether; it governs creativity and change, and tends to wax and wane. Governed by fire and water, pitta dosha is the energy of transformation, achievement, and metabolism. Kapha dosha is associated with earth and water; it suggests groundedness, stability, and growth. Each of us contains a unique mix of the three doshas, although we tend to be dominated by one at any given time. The seasons are also governed by doshic activity. According to Ayurvedic theory, by the time autumn rolls around, we have accumulated plenty of heat in our tissues from the summer—that's fiery pitta dosha. As the leaves dry up and the wind begins to blow, vata dosha begins to take over—the one governed by air and marked by change, instability, and anxiety. Metaphorically speaking, what happens when you add random blasts of air to a fire? It burns even brighter. Blossom says that when the accumulated heat of pitta is fanned by vata, it can lead to mental and physical burnout, stressing our adrenals and nervous system and putting some of the body's natural detoxification processes on hold.
Consider the liver, for example. It is the body's natural detoxifier and one of the primary organs in which excess pitta can accumulate and cause problems. According to Claudia Welch, anAyurvedic practitioner and the author of Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, the liver processes not only the foods and drinks we ingest but also many of the chemicals we encounter on a daily basis—from prescription and over-the-counter medications to hand soap to particulate matter in the air. And when the liver gets overloaded with excess pitta (which puts stress on the liver), so do we. An overtaxed liver can result in migraines, irritability, rashes, anger, and more. "We get tired, we get sick, we gain or lose too much weight," she says. As the two systems in the body designed to "transform" toxins—the liver and the digestive tract—become overwhelmed, we start to collect a kind of toxic sludge made up of all the waste products that the body has not been able to properly break down, digest, or otherwise expel.
The toxins our body cannot process have a name in Ayurveda: ama (Sanskrit for "that which harms or weakens"). Ayurvedic physician Robert Svoboda characterizes ama not only as a kind of physical sludge, but also as a psychosomatic sludge that pollutes the mind. Accumulated ama is the basis for much disease and emotional malaise—and from a physical standpoint, it creates an appealing host environment for cold and flu viruses that blow in on autumn's winds.
Think you don't have to worry about ama? Not so fast. We all do, Svoboda says, as a result of poor diet choices, unhealthy lifestyle habits—even just living and breathing in a polluted world. "Pretty much no matter who you are, you'll end up with ama," he says. "The question you have to ask yourself is, 'What do I do about it?' "