More people are aware than ever before of how many meanings the word “toxic” has. The subject of detoxification was completely ignored when I was in medical school, but the most recent research connects blood toxins and chronic inflammation, suddenly opening up new avenues for preventing lifestyle disorders like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and perhaps even many cancers years before symptoms appear.
The need to lead a life free of toxins should begin as early as possible. That’s the main lesson urged on everyone as the wellness movement evolves. The good news is that your body is incredibly thorough at detoxification already.
- The brain clears out toxic debris as you sleep.
- The immune system seeks out and destroys toxic micro-organisms.
- Every cell is protected by defenses against foreign invaders.
- The kidneys flush out the residue of blood chemicals that might prove toxic.
These natural processes of keeping the body as pure and free of toxins as possible explain why Ayurveda focuses so much on aiding the detoxification your body is designed for. When you are sick or cut yourself, the complex healing response that kicks in uses a large proportion of its energy to eliminate the toxins that being sick or wounded builds up.
Boost Your Body's Detox Functions
The chief ways that you can boost your body’s detox functions are well known but have become more important as medical research progresses.
- Get good sound sleep every night.
- Eat organic whole foods.
- Include multiple sources of fiber in your diet.
- Engage in moderate physical activity. At the very least move around and stretch every hour for a few minutes.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
- Avoid processed and artificially enhanced foods.
- Make your water and air as pure as you can manage.
You’ll notice how many of these recommendations are physical, and yet in Ayurveda, the physical level is the final stage where imbalances of long-standing finally overcome the body’s defenses, leading to Ama, the general term for physical toxicity.
The Subtle Levels of Detox
Assuming that you are already avoiding obvious physical toxins of the kind listed above, detox needs to address the subtler levels where Ayurveda traces the invisible toxins that most people are unaware of or avoid dealing with. In modern terms these subtle levels include:
- Toxic feelings like anger, anxiety, and depression
- Toxic memories held over from the past, sometimes known as emotional debt
- Toxic relationships
- Toxic daily activity, especially under stressful conditions
In a materialistic setting of the kind people face in modern life, it is much easier to drink bottled water, pop some antioxidants and vitamins, and then go about your way as if you have dealt seriously with the issue of toxicity. You are better off resorting to effective Ayurvedic herbal remedies, but even then, deeper detox begins at the subtle level.
In the Vedic tradition, we each possess a subtle body that parallels the physical body, and wellness begins there because the state of the subtle body reflects true well-being or the lack of it.
Quiz: Check In With Your Subtle Body
To get an idea of how your subtle body is doing, answer the following questions by checking Yes or No. Be as honest with yourself as you can without going too easy or being too self-critical.
Yes ____ No ____ I am generally even-tempered.
Yes ____ No ____ I am not prone to sudden outbursts.
Yes ____ No ____ I don’t react impulsively.
Yes ____ No ____ I can take criticism pretty well.
Yes ____ No ____ I find it easy to be happy for someone else’s good fortune.
Yes ____ No ____ I don’t hold grudges.
Yes ____ No ____ I don’t indulge in revenge fantasies.
Yes ____ No ____ I can remember recent moments of joy.
Yes ____ No ____ The happiness of others is important to me.
Yes ____ No ____ I consider rivals to be competitors, not enemies.
Yes ____ No ____ I can listen patiently to someone else’s woes.
Yes ____ No ____ My emotions don’t get me into trouble, such as heated arguments.
Yes ____ No ____ I am comfortable being warm and affectionate.
Yes ____ No ____ I value being loved and lovable.
Yes ____ No ____ My parents were good examples of emotional maturity.
Yes ____ No ____ I don’t immediately strike back if someone gets angry with me.
Yes ____ No ____ I don’t care too much if I am liked or disliked.
Yes ____ No ____ I find most people likable.
Yes ____ No ____ I tend to see the best in others rather than the worst.
Yes ____ No ____ I am accepting. I am not quick to criticize others.
Yes ____ No ____ I can usually tell what someone else is feeling even when they try to hide it.
Yes ____ No ____ I feel compassion for those in trouble.
Yes ____ No ____ I laugh easily.
Yes ____ No ____ I enjoy the company of children.
Yes ____ No ____ I know what it feels like to be spiritually uplifted.
TOTAL YES ____ TOTAL NO ____
The more Yes answers you give the better, but the point of this quiz isn’t to make you feel bad about yourself. It serves to make you more aware of your actual well-being. Only the things you are aware of can be changed. Now that you have a realistic profile of yourself at the subtle level, you can start to address each area where you feel you need improvement.
Optimize Your Well-Being
The basics of change begin with the following:
- Keep up a regular meditation habit.
- Take time every day to relax and restore a sense of quiet and calm inside.
- When you feel distracted or stressed, get to a quiet place as soon as you can. Take a few deep breaths, and with eyes closed place your attention in the center of your chest. Breathe easily until you feel calm and centered once more.
- Take active steps to reduce stressful conditions at work.
- In your relationship, talk through areas of anger, anxiety, and resentment, choosing a good time for this talk when you and your partner are both calm and receptive.
- Find a confidant with whom you can really share your concerns with the assurance that you will get a sympathetic hearing.
It is up to you how deeply you want to go into these areas, but if you make the effort, your sense of wellness will improve day by day, which is the goal of Ayurveda, as it has been for centuries.
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