I’m sure my Facebook friends are tired of hearing about my fall detox, but I figured I’d write up what I experienced (and more importantly, what I learned) for the masses. It was my first time doing a detox / cleanse kind of thing and yes, I would do it again.
First, why did I decide do this?
Yes, that’s the big question! There were several reasons (in relative order of importance):
- I felt like I needed to tweak my eating habits. I was starting to think that my high protein, low fat diet was robbing me of essential fats, and that the “low carb” aspect of my diet wasn’t really as low as I thought.
- I was tired of cravings controlling me. This is most likely related to the first point, but my increasing cravings for caffeine, chocolate, ice cream and martinis were starting to feel…well, just not right. Also, I typically didn’t drink anything non-alcoholic that didn’t have some kind of artificial sweetener in it, and I figured that just couldn’t be good. I needed to get myself unhooked from that stuff.
- I was still working with some of the “inner voices” of self- (and other-) criticism that are clearly my parents still controlling me like a puppet. I want to be my own person (whom I like); someone filled with love and joy, and I continue to struggle with “stuff” from my childhood.
- I had given up on most of my techniques for improving my sleep, since none of them had worked. Would a detox help me in that department?
- I still needed to work on slowing down, being more mindful in everything that I did, instead of packing my schedule full, rushing around, and then feeling resentful, angry and depleted.
- I liked that this program had real food, rather than just juices or straight up fasting. (I still needed to manage my hypoglycemia while detoxing, and this felt safe.) On a related note, I had been wanting to learn more about Ayurveda, and this was an Ayurveda Detox Yoga and Diet program so it would be a good opportunity for me to understand more about the system.
How did I prepare?
First I took the dosha quiz on the Yoga Journal web site, to see where I was currently imbalanced. I’ve taken these quizzes before, and generally I’m a pretty strong and almost equal mix of vata (air) and pitta (fire), with little kapha (earth and water). I was a bit surprised to see I was much stronger in pitta than I had remembered ever being, but then again summer is the “pitta season”, so that could be why.
Based on my results, I spent the Sunday before the detox shopping for ingredients I’d need to make tea and fall digestive kitchari (the staple food of the program), and picked up some other approved foods like organic apples, beets, broccoli, and avocados. Kevin suggested we try the new, expansive Waltham India Grocery to get a lot of the rice, beans, and spices / seasonings I would need. I also had to pick up a few more unfamiliar things from Whole Foods. We spent most of the afternoon making a large batch of the kitchari and the coriander chutney that went with it.
What were the seven days like?
Each day I was on the detox (from Monday until Sunday), I woke up at 5:30 am, took care of the cats, and drank a glass of room temperature water with some lemon juice. After I used my netti pot for nasal irrigation, I spent about 30 minutes doing a series of restorative yoga poses, with lots of props like straps, bolsters, and blankets. After that, I went upstairs to the bathroom and did a self-massage with oil (this is called “Abhyanga”). As the oil worked its magic, I used the time to sit in meditation before paper toweling off the excess, showering and getting ready for work. Breakfast was a bowl of kitchari with a little chutney and a cup of tea. Sometimes I did some journaling if I had time before leaving, but not always.
When I drove to work, I tried not to let anyone else on the road “get to me”. I tried to drive at an even pace, and played one of my favorite albums, Nirvana Groove. When I got to work I put the kitchari, an avocado, and a baked red beet in the fridge, and left the apple and another mug of tea to come to room temperature. When I drank water, I tried to do it at room temperature, or hot. During work, I tried to stay relaxed and calm in the midst of whatever was occurring, recognizing that I was on a detox and that included a detox from stress. I could choose to get riled up about anything and everything, or not. I chose not. I usually ate the apple mid-morning, and then a half of the avocado with the kitchari for lunch, and a beet closer to the end of the day to hold me over until I got home. One other thing to mention about the food: eating started only after taking five deep, relaxing breaths, and it was (almost always) slow and mindful (even during meetings and while at my desk at work).
At the end of the work day I drove home the same way, took care of the cats, putzed around for a little bit, then sat down to another bowl of kitchari with a scoop of chutney for dinner. I sometimes drank more tea, or had a little steamed broccoli with salt too. At 8:30 pm, I did the recommended yoga sequence provided by the Yoga Journal web site (these were usually about 30 minutes), and if there were any, also did a meditation (there were two). One or two days I did a five minue breathing exercise, which is intended to strengthen digestion (this is called “uddiyana bandha kriya”). Before going to sleep…and this will sound gross…I inhaled sesame seed oil up my nose (this is called “nasya”). Right before bed I usually read something from Michael Stone’s Inner Tradition of Yoga, or Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. By 10 pm each day (including the weekend), lights were out.
The weekend added a potassium broth to the mix of foods and removed work from my activities, but other than that, it was the same as during the week.
Because I didn’t know how my body would react, I curtailed most of my usual activities. Other than the yoga sequences assigned each day, I didn’t do my typical “power yoga”. I also didn’t lift weights, run, or do any other strenuous cardio. I didn’t dance either. On Saturday and Sunday, I did end up going for a walk.
What did I enjoy about the detox?
- First, I was surprised and pleased when my husband voluntarily agreed to participate. Although he didn’t do everything I did, he did a lot more than I ever expected (especially for someone not into yoga or any of this stuff). I think it brought us much closer together. It definitely improved our communication and quality time that we spent together.
- Being more appreciative of the food I was about to eat and being more mindful every time I ate. And, I was able to notice when I was not being as attentive as I would have liked before I inhaled my food! That, and eating less processed (and more natural) foods felt good.
- I temporarily suspended my crazy social calendar. (I would have done the same for work, but I already chose to save my vacation for other things.) Still, I was able to decide how to react to work things too, and was able to catch myself before I got too wound up about anything. I hardly turned on my home computer, though I still used my devices. I didn’t watch too much TV, and when I did, they were shows I never get to see (or had positive messages).
- I was often hungry, but never really shaky like withdrawal from sugar and carbs usually makes me feel. Also, I didn’t snack or eat anything too late into the evening, and going to bed on an empty stomach was probably a good thing.
- My sleep did improve somewhat, and I’ll take any improvements! I remember one night getting up in a total stupor and falling asleep right after using the restroom instead of fully waking up and then taking another 30 minutes to get back to sleep.
- I absolutely loved the tea for vata/pitta. It was simple to make: 1tsp each of fennel seed, cumin seed, and coriander seed in 1qt water — bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes and add 1/2 tsp raw honey to each cup you drink.
- I generally felt calmer, more relaxed, and more centered throughout each day.
- I was able to finish two books that have been sitting around half read for months!
- Doing this with my husband was good, and we kept each other on track (especially when things got hard for either of us). I was also glad to find the Facebook page for this detox on Friday evening (hey, better late than never). It’s nice to have social support.
What did I / do I struggle with?
- There were moments where I could feel familiar habits trying to regain hold: either in the form of food cravings, my ego wanting to over think the past or the future, my mother’s critical voice talking in my head or out my mouth. There were times when I felt I was in a game of chess with myself (but I think that overall, I won)!
- Initially I wasn’t sure how much kitchari to be eating (the Yoga Journal instructions weren’t always that clear). And yes, after seven days, kitchari and plain water get old, even for someone like me, who normally eats the same thing most of the week. I’m sure there’s a way to do a detox with some more variety, but I haven’t looked into it yet. I can imagine that just giving up caffeine, sugars, processed foods, etc. is a very good start!
- I wanted to exercise and keep up more my activities (and at the same time, I’m glad I didn’t). I let go of the “should’s”, though they did keep popping up.
- I missed seeing people I usually hang out with (either by going out dancing or going out to dinner). Resisting temptations in work-related social situations was also very difficult. (Though at one point I did watch four people eat crepes and gelato from Melt – one of my favorite places — so it can be done!)
- There were times in the afternoon (usually between 4-6 pm) where I really struggled not to eat anything, or eat anything unapproved. Once I got through the angst, I was fine, but there was generally a period of some struggle (mental and physical) around this time for me.
- And the big one: how do I transition back into “normal life” in a way that I can retain all the benefits of doing this program, yet do more of the things I typically do? (especially when the upcoming week is already filled with at least three nights eating out, a whirlwind of work meetings, an outing, and prepping for a weekend trip!?)
Overall, I think there are aspects of this program that I definitely want to keep as part of my life going forward:
- Connecting with my husband over cooking, eating, talking, meditating, or massages would be nice to make time for and do every so often.
- Having at least a day every week with nothing planned after work would be lovely. (I tried this once before, and it did help. Just need to be better about doing it again!)
- Appreciating and being mindful with five breaths before every meal, and enjoying the nourishment the food provides, is something I hope to continue doing. I also hope to reduce my intake of fake sugars and processed foods wherever possible.
- I will definitely continue to make and drink the tea!
- The next time I’m hungry, I won’t automatically eat a ton. I know that the mental and physical discomfort can pass without needing to scarf down anything in sight.
- And, now I know it is possible for me to control my parents’ voice that used to run rampant in my head. I can do it sooner than I thought, if I pay attention. I’m pretty confident that the more I can do this, the more they will ultimately go away, and I will become the person I really want to be!