The Ancient Cleanse That Transformed My Body and Mind
On a rainy, freezing afternoon, I walked up to the Soho building that houses Pratima Skincare in New York, with a silent prayer that when I walked out a while later, I would have some answers. I was on the tail end of a bout with bronchitis, just the latest in what seemed like a winter of perpetual illness: Strep throat, a few bad colds, seasonal affective disorder, and at that point bronchitis had left me drained, bummed out, and beyond ready for spring—or really, anything that might indicate there was an end in sight to it all. Which is what brought me to Pratima in the first place—I sought the help of its founder and chief practitioner, Pratima Raichur, who I thought could possibly cure me by holistically overhauling my life.
Raichur specialises in Ayurveda, the ancient Hindu school of medicine that operates on the belief that wellness is achieved when a person is fully balanced in the mind and body. This is accomplished with the proper diet, herbs, and alternative therapies, and is totally personalised based on both one’s own innate, ideal state, as well as the imbalances that person might be currently experiencing based on outside factors—imbalances that usually manifest through poor wellbeing and nonstop illness. Basically, I was the perfect candidate for a full-on Ayurvedic detox.
But in spite of the sniffling and exhaustion, I only had to meet Raichur to be put at ease—her serene, calming presence was that infectious, and I knew I was in good hands. For the next two weeks, my diet and lifestyle would be under her jurisdiction.
Keep reading to see what the detox entailed and how it worked for me!
The Initial Consultation
Before sitting down with Raichur, I had to fill out paperwork—and not the typical rundown of my insurance and emergency contact info. Instead, I was asked to list my symptoms, as well as answer some questions about my personality, my mood tendencies, and my body type. This would help determine my dosha, or mind-body type. There are three main Ayurvedic doshas—vata, kapha, and pitta—and the goal is to identify your personal constitution (which usually emphasises one of these types over the other two) and try to sustain that through proper diet and lifestyle, since certain foods or environmental factors can aggravate one dosha over the others, causing an imbalance. (There are quizzes online to help determine your constitution, though an in-person consultation with an expert is ideal.)
After filling out the survey and speaking with Raichur, she determined that I was predominantly vata-kapha. However, my symptoms (sluggishness, exhaustion, and congestion, to name a few) were all heavily indicative of excess kapha—an imbalance = that she was confident could be corrected with some prescribed lifestyle changes. “It’s also perfect timing,” she noted. “Ayurvedic detoxes are most effective during a seasonal change.” Spring was on the horizon—as was, hopefully, my physical and mental health.
In Ayurveda, both seasonality and personal balance factor into an ideal diet. For the first week of my detox, I was prescribed a list of foods to eat and another list to strictly avoid. For the second week, I would be following a mono-diet—that is, eating only a healing Ayurvedic stew for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (More on that later.)
Because my kapha energy was so out of whack, it was important that I not eat foods that would aggravate it more. This meant I needed to avoid heavy, dense things like wheat, pasta, oil, cheese, and meats, and instead opt for light foods that would enhance the vata energy I needed to restore balance—lots of veggies and beans. “Not a problem,” I told Raichur. “I’m vegan.”
There were some outlying fruits and vegetables I couldn’t eat—melons, zucchinis, and cucumbers are very water-heavy, for example, and since moistness is associated with kapha, those things could aggravate that energy more. Meanwhile, alcohol and caffeine are generally out of the question in an Ayurvedic diet for all doshas. (Sigh.) I was, however, given a detox tea that I was to drink before bed every evening, and was told that it would give my digestive system a kick in the proverbial rear and completely flush out my system. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that it, um, worked—though it certainly wasn’t the most pleasant part of the experience.
Still, those small tweaks to my diet made a world of difference. My digestion, which had been sluggish and screwy for weeks, suddenly normalised, and I felt light and more energised in a matter of days.