The importance of cleansing for improving health has gained immense popularity in the last decade. A wide variety of cleanses are now available with supportive programs, books and online materials. There are fruit cleanses, vegetable cleanses, “miracle” weight loss and metabolic remedies plus countless supplements on the market which claim to detoxify and strengthen the system. Most of us are invigorated to clean up our act during the new year, but for those of us in the dead of winter, we have an extra challenge.

The truth about cleansing

Cleansing – and especially many of the fads out there today – can be very depleting and even damaging to our systems.

At the Kerala Ayurveda Wellness Center, many clients come to us after trying diets or cleanses which were not personalized to their needs, or were simply too harsh and depleting for their systems, preventing any benefits. As a result, many of these individuals cannot complete the cleanses they began, or find themselves more imbalanced than when they first started them.

This is especially poignant for those of us who are in the dead of winter during the January health craze. Winter is already a harsh season due to the natural increase in cold, rough and dry qualities in nature and our environment. So, what is a safe, effective way to detoxify during winter – or any time of the year?

The Ayurvedic approach to cleansing according to Traditional Indian Medicine

One of the main processes of healing the system in Ayurveda is cleansing, and it’s more relevant today than ever before due to the increase of water and air pollutants, food contamination, pesticides, plus all of the preservatives and chemicals used in the commercialized products available today which we ingest, either from eating or putting them on our skin. 

Although cleansing can be harsh on the system, if done correctly, it is a vital process for maintaining health and preventing disease.

There are two essential methods of cleansing in Ayurveda

  1. A seasonal Spring Cleanse – a 21 day protocol like our Personalized Ayurvedic Spring Cleanse program appropriate towards the end of the Kapha season according to Ayurvedic principles, or the damp spring weather
  2. Panchakarma – a comprehensive cleansing plan under supervision of an Ayurvedic Practitioner

During January in the northern hemisphere, the Spring Cleanse approach is not an appropriate cleansing method. Alternatively, Panchakarma can be beneficial at any time of the year, though only upon referral and supervision with an Ayurvedic Practitioner. The Panchakarma programs at Kerala Ayurveda include three, five or seven day cleansing programs at our Wellness Center, plus additional time preparing and recuperating before and after the program. The entire process is four to six weeks in total.

For those of us who do not require a Panchakarma, there are still several things we can do during the winter to take cleansing actions and lighten our body’s load.

Lighten up in January with simple lifestyle changes

Ayurveda offers us many lifestyle guidelines for improving our health, many of which we can use year-round with simple adjustments for the season.

Maintain routine with your meals, exercise and sleep

Don’t get swept into an unrealistic diet or exercise regimen to lose weight quickly – these types of changes can be shocking to the body and ultimately stressful, especially when you lose steam and can’t maintain momentum. Ayurveda recommends moderation, not extremes. So try setting realistic goals that you are truly capable of maintaining, keeping in mind that the following are ideal for optimal health.

General Daily & Nightly Guidelines

One of the best things you can do for your overall health is adopt a regular routine aligned with your circadian rhythms and nature. You’ll begin to notice benefits immediately, such as better digestion, more balanced energy and mood.

  • Rising early (by sunrise)
  • Regular exercise is essential – in the morning (best time) or before dinner
  • Don’t skip meals – eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, with lunch the biggest meal
  • Bed before 11pm (10pm is even better!)
  • Eating, waking and going to bed at regular times

Self-massage with Ayurvedic oils to loosen toxins

During Panchakarma, medicated herbal oils are used in combination with Ayurvedic bodywork to prepare the body for cleansing. The herbs work with the oil to draw out toxins from the body’s deeper tissues and move them into the GI tract for elimination. You can create this ritual at home to support our body’s daily process of detoxifying by performing a self-massage using Ayurvedic oils. A warming oil such as sesame or almond is best during the winter season, or a traditional Ayurvedic oil with herbs – we recommend the following for the winter:

Pavan Oil for the body

Ksheerabala Thailam Oil for the face

Eladi Keratailam Oil for the body (coconut base)

Eladi Thailam Oil for the body (sesame base)

Pinda Thailam Oil for the feet

Kesini Oil for the hair

You can find these traditional Ayurvedic oils on the Kerala Ayurveda store.

Clean up your cupboard, medicine cabinet, linen closet and wardrobe

We all know that organic food and products are important for our overall health, as unnatural and inorganic substances are not recognized by our body’s digestive process. But did you know that the body converts what it doesn’t recognize into fat, and fat is a common location where toxins settle? Clearing out processed foods, synthetic products and fabrics from the home and office is an underrated but effective method of reducing the toxic load of your body and managing weight. The lower this toxic load, the more easily your body will metabolize food into energy.

Lighten your diet while still eating seasonally

In January, especially if you indulged in rich holiday foods and drinks, you may begin to feel sluggish and depleted. Cleaning up the diet is a two-fold process: 1) avoid processed and synthetic foods as previously mentioned, 2) increase whole foods that are nutritionally dense. For deeper detoxifying benefits, incorporate herbs such as cumin, cardamom, pepper (in moderation) and ginger to boost digestion and clear the system.

Winter is not an appropriate time to consume cold foods, such as raw salads and juices – these can be depleting to the system. Many of the harshest detox and weight loss programs out there promote raw food intake at seasonally inappropriate times. You should increase your fruit and vegetable intake at this time, but be mindful to eat those foods cooked and warm. It’s an excellent time to eat warm soups and stews full of grounding root vegetables, nourishing grains and spices. If you need a gentle reboot, try the gentle detox meal for all seasons: Kitchadi – it is an easy, one-pot recipe full of healing spices.

Make time for nourishing, restorative and replenishing

According to Ayurveda, cleansing is a three stage process, including preparation (Phase 1) prior to the cleansing actions and a rejuvenation period afterward (Phase 3). No cleanse is complete without this vital third phase. Remember – cleansing, even when safely done, is ultimately depleting to the system. When properly done with rejuvenation, the depletion from cleansing is counteracted. Rejuvenation is designed to strengthen, replenish and recuperate the individual. Here are some ideas that you can do during this season:

  • Restorative yoga
  • Warm bath with salts
  • Pranayama or deep breathing
  • Massage or energy healing
  • Carving out more “you time” by doing activities that bring you joy and peace

Commit to a Spring Cleanse

One of the best things you can do for your health now is commit to a Spring Cleanse this year! Kerala Ayurveda offers a guided, personalized cleansing program, including:

  • A 1 hour Ayurvedic Consultation with one of our practitioners (in person or online)
  • Personalized set of cleansing guidelines for sleep, diet, exercise, herbal formulations and supplements
  • 4 Informational Webinars
  • Email support from our wellness team throughout the 21 day process
  • Bonus 30 minute Follow Up Consultation

Learn more about Kerala Ayurveda’s Spring Cleanse Program here.


While the calendar new year is a popular time for cleansing and weight loss goals, remember the Ayurvedic wisdom of the season. This is the not the optimal time for cleansing or weight loss, but you can set new daily lifestyle intentions to support these goals longer term. And longer term lifestyle shifts are the most successful ways to improve health and prevent disease.

About the author

  • Jamila Colozzi

    Jamila is a certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC), Yoga Teacher (CYT) and Level I Reiki Practitioner. She earned her Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Literature & Journalism from New York University and channels her combined marketing skills, artistry and ancient wisdom to spread content seeds that elevate the attention economy, promote healing and radical planetary growth. In her dedication to...

The Ayurvedic approach to cleansing for the new year