Ask the Expert

Active cleansing

Q. What is a good detoxification plan for active people?

A. Panchakarma therapy, an Ayurvedic detoxification program, is a highly effective way to boost energy, strength, and overall health during the change of each season. Panchakarma consists of the following series of body treatments to detoxify, balance, and rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit:

snehana: internal lubrication by eating ghee (clarified butter)
abhyanga: massage using organic sesame oils and essential oils
shirodhara: pouring warm herbal oil onto the forehead to relax the nervous system
swedana: herbal steam bath
nasya: aromatic inhalation therapy
basti: medicated enema to eliminate impurities in the intestinal tract
yoga practice: gentle yoga poses, relaxation, and breathing
cleansing diet: includes khichari, an easily digestible meal of mung beans, basmati rice, ghee, and cilantro.

You can effectively do a panchakarma treatment at home by partaking in just some of these cleansing methods. For example, take a hot shower or bath using an exfoliating washcloth, followed by a light self-massage with organic, cold-pressed oils. Practice gentle yoga poses, relaxation, and breathing. Eliminate dairy products, fried foods, and meat. Instead, eat fresh fruits and fresh, cooked vegetables, beans, and whole grains, prepared with small amounts of olive oil or ghee, for several days.

However, a complete panchakarma program including all the cleansing methods may involve several hours of treatment each day over the course of three to seven days, so follow it at a yoga or Ayurvedic treatment center under the supervision of an Ayurvedic physician.

Ask the Expert is written by Elaine Gavalas, MA, MS, an exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist and author of Yogi in the Kitchen (Penguin Putnam Avery, 2004).