Between frequent five-day juice fasts and trendy coffee enemas that lend themselves to addiction, there are a lot of yogis cleansing—but, is it really necessary, and even more importantly, is it safe?
Yes, our yogi forefathers advocated the occasional fast and frequent shat kriyas, or purification exercises. But these practices were prescribed for the seriously dedicated yogis—those who lived the practice 24/7 and fueled themselves with pranayama rather than food. Many of them could also make their hearts stop beating and withstand being naked in the snow. Unless you’re one of these yogis, frequent cleansing is going to throw your body off balance.
Ayurveda offers a much safer approach, which teaches that long-term fasting and overuse of enemas create different kinds of health issues—from constipation to anxiety and arthritis. Instead, Ayurveda advocates the occasional short-term fast, which does not always involve abstaining from food.
According to yoga’s sister science, fasting is not for everyone. After finishing my yoga teacher training, where I learned the importance of fasting, I put myself on a five-day fruit fast. It was my first time abstaining from real food; I’m not one to skip a meal, ever.
After day one, I should have listened to my body’s cries for food. I became dizzy, weak, moody, and already began losing weight. As a thin vata-type, I am not a candidate for this kind of unnecessary fasting. It can throw body types like mine completely off balance. For me, the fast did more harm than good.
Since studying Ayurveda, I learned a safer way to detox that is appropriate for all body types. It involves a day-long mono diet of a balanced dish called kitchari (kichadi or kitcharee). Kitchari is a savory porridge made of rice and beans. When the two ingredients combine, they provide all 10 essential amino acids needed to form a complete protein. This allows blood sugar levels to remain stable during the detox. Because kitchari is easy enough to break down, the body can put less effort into digesting food and more effort into digesting toxins.
This version of kitchari uses white basmati rice and mung beans, which are the lightest to digest of their respective grain and legume families. Since they don’t tax the digestive system, they give the body a chance to reset and heal itself, while still receiving nourishment. Digestive spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric amplify this effect.
This recipe makes one serving of kitchari. Because leftovers lack prana and can lead to toxic buildup, it is best to make a fresh batch of kitchari for each meal.
1. Combine the rice and mung beans in a small saucepan and add some water. Stir a few times, then drain. Repeat once more.
2. Add the scant two cups of water.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover the saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes, adding more water—one or two tablespoons at a time—if needed. Make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch.
4. When the kitchari has become like a porridge, add the ginger, fennel, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and hing. Stir and cook for another minute.
5. Turn off the heat. Mix in the cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Try this Ayurvedic detox on a day when you are able to cook all three meals at home. Kitchari is delicious. Have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—you will feel light, yet satisfied.
You can go on this kitchari mono diet anytime you are feeling a little overloaded or need a reset. Because it doesn’t deprive the body of nourishment, it is safe to do weekly. You will gain all the benefits of fasting without the risk of throwing your body off balance.