The Equinox: The Perfect Time to Cleanse

The Equinox: The Perfect Time to Cleanse

The Vernal Equinox, which falls annually on March 20, is the start of nature’s new year according to Ayurveda. This transition—from old to new, from dormancy of winter to the new, fresh life of spring—is the most important solar transition of the year for our health. It is the time to let go of the old and bring in the new. Living seasonally is the key to maintaining year-round health, and detoxing around the spring equinox is a great way to tune into nature’s rhythms.   

Cleanse with Dr. John each spring and fall equinox with our Colorado Ayurvedic Cleanse. Can’t make those dates? The New Colorado Ayurvedic Cleanse offers step-by-step support any time of year. You’ll receive daily emails and comprehensive cleansing support whenever you choose to do your seasonal cleanses.

In This Article

Seasonal Eating for Year-Round Health

With the change of the seasons, whales migrate, birds fly south, leaves fall off their trees, and every living creature is making life-changing adjustments to their space and routine… except, it seems, for us humans, who do little more than add or remove a sweater.

Sadly, essentially the same food fills the grocery stores 365 days a year, encouraging us to eat the same basic diet year-round. In nature, this would be an impossible task. New science is suggesting that eating out of season is linked to the disappearance of beneficial bacteria in our guts which is now known as an extinction event.

Microbes in the soil change from one season to the next. They attach themselves to the roots, leaves, stems, and flowers of the foods we eat. Studies have found that the digestive microbes in the remaining hunter-gatherer tribes also change with the seasons! This means they have microbes that are better equipped to digest the harvest of each season. For example, in the Hadza tribe, their gut microbiome shifts from a predominance of Actinobacteria in the late winter and spring (for breaking down more fat and fiber) to a surge of Bacteroidetes that gobble up starches and carbohydrates during summer and fall harvests.  We truly are seasonal beings, and too few of us realize the importance of aligning our diet, lifestyle and cleansing with these circadian changes.

See also Should You Eat for Your Ayurvedic Body Type or the Season?

Seasonal Living: Ancient Wellness Wisdom

Awareness of seasonal living’s health benefits was fundamental in ancient times, though it seems almost completely forgotten today. Fifteen hundred years ago Hippocrates said, “Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly should proceed thus in the first place to consider the seasons of the year and what effect each of them produces.” A thousand years before that, it was written in the main Ayurvedic text of Caraka Samhita that “changing your diet and lifestyle with the seasons will give you physical strength (bala) and digestive power (agni), as well as balance your doshas (vata, pitta, kapha).”

The study of a seasonal lifestyle is now part of the Noble Prize-winning science called circadian medicine. In Ayurveda, the same study is called riticharya, where ritu means seasons and charya means study. Ayurveda suggests that improperly transitioning from one season to the next (during the two equinoxes and solstices) is when sickness and aging take hold of us. To maintain wellness, cleansing during the seasonal transitions is important—particularly, during the vernal or spring equinox.

The Spring (Vernal) Equinox

There are two periods each year where the sun finds itself right above the equator at 0 degrees of latitude. With the sun directly perpendicular to the equator, there are precisely 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness around the globe. In the northern hemisphere, the Spring Equinox takes place on March 21 and the Autumnal Equinox falls on September 22. While these are the two most optimal times to cleanse, Ayurveda recommends cleansing anytime during the spring and fall as this is a requirement for optimal health and longevity. The solstices, which fall on June 21 and December 22, are also important. Whenever the seasons change, we must change, and at least make seasonal dietary and lifestyle changes as well. 

Too busy to cleanse? If you don’t have time for a full cleanse, learn more about the best spring herbs and spring (kapha balancing) lifestyle to help you safely make the transition from winter into spring.

Doshic Wisdom on Cleansing During Season Changes

The doshas (kapha, pitta, and vata) refer to three basic governing principles in nature that correlate to the three major yearly harvests.

At the end of each season, there is an accumulation of that season’s properties. At the end of winter, the cold and dry of vata accumulates. At the end of spring, we experience more kapha, congestion, and allergies. At summer’s end, heat or pitta accumulates, causing the leaves to turn bright colors and dry out from the accumulated pitta. During each solstice, equinox, or change of seasons, it is crucial to cleanse or detoxify the accumulated dosha of the prior season.

Learn More and Discover Your Dosha with our Ayurvedic Body Type Quiz  

If the excessive dryness of vata were allowed to remain after the spring equinox, it would block the normal rise of kapha, whose moisture is the spark of new life each spring. If the heaviness and congestion of spring’s kapha was not detoxified before summer, the heat of summer would bake the congestive mucus of spring onto the digestive tract, altering the environment needed for a healthy gut microbiome and intestinal function. If the pitta of summer was not detoxified in the fall, the hot and dry qualities of summer would be aggravated by the dryness of fall/winter—easily causing a vata imbalance

Allowing the seasonal accumulation of the doshas to remain as the seasons change causes aggravation of the dosha and ultimately imbalances within the body. These imbalances affect more than just the physical body; they can aggravate the mind, mood, and emotions as well. During the spring equinox, as vata season transitions into kapha season, the buildup of vata can cause anxiety, worry, and sleep concerns. The heavy, soothing nature of kapha is nature’s way of preventing these imbalances. Without a proper seasonal transition or cleanse, vata will persist, making such vata imbalances and other issues more severe, potentially chronic, and harder to resolve.

We recommend the 14-Day Colorado Ayurvedic Cleanse twice per year (ideally fall and spring) and, if needed, a 4-Day Short Home Cleanse during the other two seasonal transitions. The Colorado Ayurvedic Cleanse is not just a detox. It aims to restore the function of the body’s digestive and detox pathways, which are responsible for any buildup of toxicity in the first place. The Colorado Ayurvedic Cleanse is a 14-day digestive and intestinal microbiome reset alongside lymph, liver, deep tissue, and emotional cleanse. Based on time-tested wisdom, these cleanse are also backed by modern science that measured a 14-day whopping 48% decrease in PCBs (carcinogens) and 58% decrease in beta-hexachlorocy-clohexane (β-HCH) in the Ayurvedic cleansing group after treatment compared to the control group.

See also Kitchari: Ayurveda’s #1 Superfood for Cleansing + Detox

How the Sun’s Rays Change Our Seasons

During the spring equinox, winter is transitioning into spring. In the northern hemisphere, the sun moves from the southern hemisphere to and through the equator during the spring equinox. The quality of the sunlight shifts. It moves from predominantly red and infrared light during the winter months to a mix of red, infrared, and a growing amount of ultraviolet light (UV) as the sun climbs above the equator and spring marches toward summer.

The warm red and infrared light of winter penetrates deeply into the tissues, warming and balancing vata during the cold, dark winter months (when the hot/pitta UV light is at a minimum). After the equinox, as the sun climbs into the northern hemisphere, pitta and UV light are on the rise. The equinox represents the celebration of this coming UV light that gives us all a rare mix of red, infrared, and UV light that creates the perfect environment required to spawn life and new growth every spring.

Choosing the Best Time to Cleanse for You

While cleansing during these transition periods will allow for a more thorough detox, it is not always possible to fit them into your schedule. Perhaps just as important as cleansing with the change of seasons is picking a time to cleanse when you can take rest and have time to engage with yoga, breathing, and meditation practice regularly. For some, the summer months are the only time we get that break. After administering in-residence panchakarma detox for 26 years and cleanses for almost 40 years, I have found the best time to do an Ayurvedic cleanse is always when it feels right to you.

See also Podcast Episode 122: How to Destress Your Detox

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Dr. John

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