What Spring “Detox” Really Means (and Why You Probably Need It)

Why do so many people get seasonal allergies, spring colds, or a sudden desire to lighten up and start exercising again right about now? Why do so many feel weighed down in early spring?

In spring, the natural world starts rising up out of the stillness and cold of winter hibernation. Compared to dry autumn, in early spring the earth starts getting wet, heavy and “mud-luscious,” to use e.e. cummings’s term – and yet the first flowers miraculously rise up, springing out of that mud. 

Nature carefully holds both qualities in balance for a moment: the enlivening, uplifting quality of surging life, and the heaviness of the moisture that’s feeding it. Our body is similarly holding both influences at this time of year. It teeters like a see-saw on a fulcrum, and if we don’t take care to keep it balanced, it can crash easily to one side, manifesting as a heavy, sludgy feeling or the mucus of a spring cold or allergies.

Part of what always keeps us in balance is a healthy digestive “fire,” or agni. Generally speaking, when our gastric acids and enzymes are sufficient and circulating well, powered by regular movement and nutritious food, the gut readily breaks down what we eat, assimilates nutrients, and eliminates bacteria, toxins, and other food-borne intruders. This healthy digestive fire maintains our internal balance between hot and cold, moisture and dryness.

However, when spring hits and inner moisture starts to rise, our digestive fire naturally diminishes. It becomes easier to overpower our digestive strength, especially if we eat too much heavy or oily foods, or simply overeat what our inner fire can manage.  Plus, many people enter this season with dampened digestion already, exacerbating spring’s particular tendency towards wet heaviness.

When the digestive fire is diminished, then excess waste is created (called āma in Ayurveda). Like a clogged sink drain, the pathways of elimination can get backed up, slowing down the system and robbing us of our energy. Depending on where the sludge settles in our body, this waste disrupts proper function and leaves us feeling cruddy, setting the stage for disease to take hold. This can happen to all of us, regardless of how “clean” or healthy our food choices are. Spring always means weaker agni.

Add to that the high level of unnatural toxins that enter our bodies – pesticides on our food, heavy metals and microparticles from coal plumes in our soil and groundwater, airborne pollution we inhale, and who doesn’t grab a preservative-rich granola bar now and then? Chemical toxins can overwhelm even an otherwise healthy digestive fire.

We must also consider the high level of mental “toxins” created by our modern, busy lifestyle. Information overload, stress, and overwhelming demands on our time produce a physical effect of stress hormones and neurotransmitters, like cortisol and norepinephrine, which directly inhibit effective digestion and elimination. Negative thinking or excessive worry clog our subtle energy network. All of these factors compromise our system’s ability to process, filter, assimilate, and eliminate. 

So how can we remove the waste backlog clogging the system AND strengthen our system for the year ahead? The reliable guidance of Ayurveda recommends specific seasonal detoxifying interventions to help us maintain balance, and even come out ahead with a stronger digestive system. We can proactively stoke our inner fires to liquify and un-clog the inner passageways, release the backlog stored in our deeper tissues, and increase digestive power for the year ahead. 

This is why every spring, I lead a group through the Spring Digestive Reset: a 9-Day Ayurvedic Cleanse and Rejuvenation. And every year, people return again and again for this clarifying, uplifting experience.

This program walks you through a nourishing process to simplify your food input for a week. This rests the GI tract, freeing up energy to detoxify. We then use herbs, specific ingredients, and certain physical practices to pull old waste from the deep tissues of the body to be eliminated. We stoke the digestive fire, strengthening it for the months ahead, boosting our immune response and our effectiveness in combatting stress, physically and mentally.

And significantly, we also REST. We take time away from obligations and quiet the mind chatter. Many choose the option to take a “digital fast,” remaining off social media and news apps for certain hours, or a few whole days, or even the full 9-day period. We discover how much time these activities are stealing from us, and create more spaciousness in our life.

We reorient towards our most important priorities and what we want to create in the season ahead. And we lean into the support of the group. We find inspiration together to propel us into the rest of the year with clarity and enthusiasm.

I hope you’ll join us.  I promise, if you join the Spring Digestive Reset, the rest of the year you’ll be grateful you did. In just over one week, you will release unneeded waste, strengthen your digestion and immunity, and focus your mind. Learn more about the Spring Digestive Reset and register here.

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