• Emily O'Brien

Beginners Guide to an Ayurvedic Cleanse

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

Hi friends!

With fall right around the corner, it is the perfect time to take on a gentle Ayurvedic cleanse! It’s recommended in Ayurveda (EYE-yer-VAY-duh) to do a simple detox at the joint of the seasons - during the transition from summer to fall and from winter to spring.

The aim of this seasonal Ayurvedic cleanse is to detox the body and mind of the excess doshas and toxins that have built up so we can experience greater joy and health with the changing seasons. It helps to strengthen the immune system during the shift in weather and relieves annoying seasonal symptoms like allergies, coughs, colds, and flus.

Ayurveda encourages us to move with nature, rather than against it, in order to live an aligned, connected, healthy, peaceful life. Because we’re moving into cold, dry, rough, windy vata season, this cleanse yields the best results from taking actions that counteract that — grounding yoga and meditation practices, setting a solid, nurturing daily routine, giving yourself oil massages, and, of course, eating lots of well-spiced kitchari.

This Ayurvedic cleanse is all about nutritious, nourishing meals made with fresh, whole foods. There is no fasting or crazy restrictions other than cutting out processed foods, caffeine, sugar, and other foods that are more difficult to digest. You can eat as much as you want so that you feel full and satisfied every day.

The cleanse can be done for varied amounts of time. If you’re newer to Ayurveda cleanses, I’d suggest choosing a shorter time frame to start with. Here’s an example of a short 3-5 day cleanse:

Preparation: 1-3 days

Cleanse: 3-5 days

Reintegration: at least 3 days, preferably longer

Rejuvenation: at least one month

Let’s look at that in some more detail.

The Phases of the Ayurvedic Cleanse:


This includes minimizing or completely cutting out the following: caffeine, sugar, soy products, dairy and meat products, canned foods, frozen meals, and processed foods that are more difficult to digest. Spend the first days of your cleanse preparing your body by reducing your intake of these foods and incorporating more whole foods like fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds. This eases your body into the cleanse and should help to offset any super harsh reactions to diet changes (like headaches from caffeine withdrawals, etc.). You will probably still feel different in your body during the preparation, but it’s more easy going than jumping straight in to the heart of the cleanse.

Heart of the Cleanse.

This is where you’ll completely cut out the foods from above, if you didn’t already. The foods you eat now will be soft, moist, mooshy, and nutrient dense. As stated above, you can eat however much you want to feel full and satisfied, as long as you stay within these food guidelines.

The staple of your cleanse is kitchari (KI-cher-ree). Kitchari is an easily digestible, super nutrient dense Indian meal that’s used in Ayurveda and Indian culture for it’s cleansing, nourishing, and tridoshic balancing effect on the mind-body. It consists of mung beans (lentils or split peas are great, too) with basmati white rice, freshly cooked vegetables, herbs, and spices.

You can eat different kitchari recipes throughout the cleanse so you don’t get totally bored of having the same thing every day. You could also consider eating other similar meals during your cleanse, such as a simple oatmeal for breakfast or a soup or stew that has the same essential ingredients and spices.

Another important component to the cleanse is drinking Detox Tea. You can sip on this as much as you’d like throughout the day and 15 minutes before/after meals. Ideally, in Ayurveda, we don’t drink anything with our meals, except maybe a few sips of water here and there to help the food go down. To make the tea, just take equal parts of each herb below and simmer in water on the stove for 10-20 minutes. I suggest breaking up the seeds a bit so the goodness really steeps into the water.

For Kapha:

Ginger - Cinnamon - Clove

For Pitta:

Cumin - Coriander - Fennel

For Vata:

Cumin - Coriander - Ginger

Breakfast Kitchari Example:

5 cups water

1 cup mung dal (split mung beans)

1/2 cup basmati rice

2-3 medium carrots, grated

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 tsp ginger powder

1/4 tsp cardamom powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

2 dates, pitted and chopped (only one or leave out completely for kapha imbalance)

1 tbsp shredded coconut

1 tbsp ghee

1-2 tsp honey to taste if necessary (use maple syrup for pitta)

How to:

Bring water to boil in medium sauce pan

Once boiling, reduce heat to low-medium

Stir in mung dal, basmati rice, cinnamon stick, salt

Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes

Add in grated carrot

Cook additional 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Add more water if necessary.

Stir in chopped dates, coconut, and ghee, stir

Scoop out and serve!

Lunch/Dinner Kitchari Example:

1 cup mung dal (split mung beans)

1/2 cup basmati rice

1 tbsp ghee

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds (1/4 tsp or completely leave out if pitta is imbalanced)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp sea salt

1 inch fresh grated ginger (less for pitta)

Option to add 1 1/2 cup chopped leafy greens and veggies (since we’re moving into autumn, root veggies are a great option. If kapha is imbalanced, focus more on onions and leafy greens)

5 cups water or vegetable stock

How to:

Heat ghee, cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, mustard seeds, ginger in medium pot until fragrant.

Add beans and rice to water, stir.

Let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add veggies and leafy greens (finely chopped) and stir

Let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add more water if necessary.

Scoop out and serve!

**If you are vegan or for whatever reason can’t eat ghee (clarified butter), you can use coconut, sesame, or avocado oil instead.

I pulled the below chutney recipes from Banyan Botanicals. They’re perfect for topping your kitchari with and will add some extra yummy flavors, digestive herbs, and moistness to your meal.

Cilantro Chutney (to be poured over kitchari if desired)

1 bunch cilantro

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup grated coconut

2 tbsp chopped ginger root

1 tsp honey or barley malt

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Blend and serve! Add water as necessary for desired consistency.

Sesame seed chutney (to be poured over kitchari if desired):

1 cup roasted ground sesame seeds

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more for kapha, less for pitta)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup water

Blend and serve! Add water as necessary for desired consistency.

Lifestyle practices to nourish your body during your cleanse:

During your cleanse, it is a good idea to add other nurturing activities to your day. After all, we are holistic beings. We want to cleanse, rejuvenate, and pour love into our body, mind, and spirit for ultimate healing and wellness.

Here are some great Ayurvedic practices you can begin to take on, if you don’t already.

-Scrape tongue first thing in the morning (to remove toxins built up on the tongue from your night’s sleep)

-Dry brush your body (from toes to head, long strokes going toward the heart. Clockwise around your belly.)

-Practice gentle yoga (nothing too strenuous here - this is a gentle cleanse, but your body is still working hard to remove toxins. Go easy on yourself! Some gentle morning yoga stretches and breathing practices or a simple walk around your neighborhood is perfect.)

-Perform abhyangha (Ayurvedic self oil massage)

-Take an epsom salt bath with the oil still on you (this will send it further into your tissues for deeper healing)

-Relaxation (take the time every day, or as many days as you can, to simply relax. Read a book, watch a movie with your loved ones, take a nap, write in your journal, etc. Minimize your stress and physical/mental activities as much as you can so your body can focus on detoxing.)

Other things to consider:

-Avoid cold drinks (stick to room temperature, warm, or hot drinks like lemon water, your detox tea, and other teas with herbs that align with your dosha. Not sure what herbs are best for you? Ask me.)

-Don’t go hungry (eat as much of your kitchari as you want! If you feel like you need a little something else, try having a handful of sprouted nuts or a piece of fruit, but minimize snacking as much as you can— kitchari is where it’s at :) )

-Sleep a full 8 hours (to aid your body in the detoxification process. Ideally you’re falling asleep before 10pm and waking no later than 6am)

3. Reintegration and Rejuvenation

This is where we start to reintroduce foods into our diet. We want to take this super slowly because the body will be somewhat sensitive to a more diverse diet after the cleanse. The longer your cleanse, the longer you’ll want to take during this process.

Ideally, only introduce one new food in one day. For example, one day, you may have some dairy. Another day you may have some wheat, and so on. When you start reintroducing foods, give yourself a minimum of 24-48 hours before introducing anything else. Notice how the body reacts as you introduce new foods and if something doesn’t feel right, pull back on it a bit. This is a gradual process, there is no reason to rush!

You still want to focus solely on whole, fresh, healthy foods during this period. Include herbs and spices that will strengthen your agni (digestive fire) and build up your ojas (immunity, strength) while adhering to your own unique constitution. Please don’t jump straight into pizza right after your cleanse! (Not sure what herbs and spices are right for agni and ojas? Reach out to me.)

During this time it’s important to keep up with your tongue scraping, abhyanga, yoga, meditation, and relaxation practices as well.

This is a very basic, simple look at an Ayurvedic cleanse for a beginner, but it is still very powerful and transformative. Be gentle and kind with yourself, and enjoy the journey!

If you have any questions or would like to set up a 60 minute consultation to find the perfect foods, herbs, and lifestyle practices for your individual needs based on the traditions of Yoga and Ayurveda, reach out to me. Or if you’d like guidance on the perfect Ayurvedic cleanse for your dosha, I can set up a program for you specifically. I’m here to support your journey in any way I can.

Cheers to wellness.


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