By Carrie Demers, MD, Yoga+
We’re obsessed with looking young. At least that’s the impression conveyed by television, billboards, and print advertisements. “Take drugs,” they urge, “apply cosmetics, undergo surgery, dye your hair, and bleach your teeth to hide the signs of encroaching age.” But will face lifts, tummy tucks, and hair implants give us more fulfilling lives? Is it really the appearance of youth that we yearn for—or is it the vigor, the energy, the mental sharpness, and the playfulness of youth? Aging is inevitable. We know that. And we believe it is inevitably accompanied by low energy, mental fuzziness, and a waning sense of purpose. The ads imply that if we look young, we’ll feel young, and we’re willing to give it a shot.
Ayurveda, the ancient science of life, says this is nonsense. Awareness—not appearance—is the key to vitality. Ayurveda insists that we can retain our vigor if we are willing to pay attention to the way we live. Instead of hiring a surgeon to remove unsightly sags or buying pills to increase sexual vigor, Ayurveda recommends that we rejuvenate ourselves by dropping the habits that siphon off our energy in favor of habits that support the body’s natural intelligence.
The key to health in general, and rejuvenation in particular, is an abundant supply of prana, the life-force that animates the natural world, flowing freely at all levels. And this, in turn, requires that we are cleansed and well-nourished.
Our bodies are designed to retain what is useful and to slough off what is not. The main routes of elimination are the lungs, colon, bladder, and skin, supported by the lymph system, which filters intracellular fluid to remove impurities, and the circulatory system. These cleansing processes are automatic—all we have to do is support them.
When our bodies are clogged with waste, our energy declines; we feel stagnant; we lose our enthusiasm for new experiences and find fault with the old. If you have ever undergone a dramatic cleansing—a juice fast, for example, or a bowel purge in preparation for a colonoscopy—you know how vital and energetic you feel when your body throws off its burden of wastes, and how clear your mind becomes. This applies on subtler levels as well.
A Morning Cleansing Routine
Yet the exhilaration that comes from fasting, colonics, liver flushes, or other intense cleansing practices is short-lived. Old habits reassert themselves and the dross gradually builds up, once again clouding our consciousness and sapping our energy. The wisest course is to live in a way that prevents the accumulation of wastes in the first place. For this, Ayurveda prescribes a daily cleansing routine, one that begins in the morning.
Next: Daily Cleansing Routine