Cleansing, Dieting, Giving up Addictions, from the Ayurvedic View
“A wise person should give up by and by unwholesome practices to which he is addicted and he should correspondingly adopt ones which are wholesome. On the first day one should give up a quarter of the unwholesome practice and correspondingly adopt a quarter of wholesome. On the second day half of the unwholesome practice is to be given up and half of the wholesome one is to be adopted; this is to be continued for the third day also. On the fourth day, three quarters of the unwholesome practice is to be given up and three quarters of the wholesome one is to be adopted. This process is to be continued on the 5th and 6th day also. The process of giving up of the unwholesome practice and adoption of the wholesome practice is completed fully on the 7th day.“
Notes: There is, however, a small difference of opinion of the process and duration so it may take longer time. Note: One should not be in a hurry to give up and to adopt the unwholesome and wholesome practices respectively. A sudden change in habits will cause immense harm to the body. Charaka Samhita: Sutrasthana Chapter 7.36 – 38
Astanga Hrdaya: Sutra 3:58, Only a slow and steady process as indicated in the text above can absolutely eradicate the effects of unwholesome practices and stabilize the effects of wholesome ones. (Sutrasthana, Chapter VII #35)
“The 7 days at the end of commencement of rtus (seasons) is known as Rtusandhi (inter seasonal period). During that period, the regimen of the preceding season should be discontinued gradually and that of the succeeding season should be adopted (gradually); sudden discontinuance or sudden adoption gives rise to diseases caused by asatmya (non-habituation)” (Astanga Hrdaya: Sutra 3:58).
The above is stated from the ancient texts of Ayurveda. In Ayurveda, changing practices or schedules of any kind are to be done in a gradual manner and not with sudden change as it creates unhealth and disease due to the disturbance of the doshas. This says alot for all the dietary cleanses that are popular in America right now and for the striving for health that is also prevalent.
Any adaptation takes time, the more time the smoother and better the effects. This has been proven with Western research. So why the misunderstanding or lack of being able to see that this applies to everything in our lives. Sudden change shocks and traumatizes. From an Ayurvedic sense it will disturb the doshas greatly and the effects are not always seen right away but most of the time take years to be seen.
When the season changes, the transition time is called ritusandhi. Ayurveda uses this slow transition idea while transitioning into that next season.
When adopting change to addictive substances, the same principle is applied.
Even when the start of learning and adopting Ayurveda into ones life, there is never a sudden stop to what was and a sudden start to eating kitchari only or any dietary shift except slow and gradual.
When adopting behavior patterns like adopting a meditation practice one doesn’t just go for a 10 day Dhamma silent meditation retreat. You may now see why this can be seriously mentally unhealthy.
This is also why in the West, most of the way we do things are so damaging and never lasting. Team in Training is a perfect example of taking people who might have never exercised before and throw them into a rigorous triathlon or marathon training routine. It is not gradual and the effects not always seen right away but they do come with time.
You can also see the effects of how well New Years resolutions work. Gym memberships go up on average by %25 percent but gym usage doesn’t actually change after the holiday season.
So do what is healthy for your body and mind. Don’t diet, don’t jump into any regime changing all your normal habits due to some desire (which is at the base of it all) to be different from how you are. You are great the way you are. Adopt the equation of change from above and slowly with happiness and success change the things you want and enjoy a healthier life.
Also, please question any “ayurvedic” diet that is suggesting a cleanse. Unless it is in conjunction with an Ayurvedic “DOCTOR” while doing real Panchakarma (which is for more than 1 week). The actual ancient verses are above. Everything else is just talk.