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Around 8 weeks ago I embarked on a “Back to Basics Cleanse” with Steph Lowe, The Natural Nutritionist. The cleanse involves cutting out alcohol, almost all caffeine (one green tea per day allowed), gluten, dairy and sugar, as well as chemicals found in body care and cleaning products. The cleanse is aimed at providing the body with a break to allow it efficiently eliminate toxins and restore gut health. See Steph’s article “Detox the Scoop” for more on why to cleanse.

Generally I eat pretty well but as usual a busy December saw too much coffee, alcohol and party food so I really wanted to kick start the year with some healthier choices. I’d given up caffeine and alcohol for significant periods before and I don’t eat a lot of sugar but dairy and bread? This was going to be interesting. So what did it all involved and how do I feel post-cleanse?

The first week mainly involved caffeine withdrawal – think head aches and then literally falling asleep wherever I happened to be at 3pm on the dot. I also noticed that I had been binging a little the week before the detox knowing that I wouldn’t have bread, cheese, chocolate for 5 weeks… Woops.  I struggled stomaching the supplement powders (a mix of various herbs and minerals designed to support and assist the digestive system during the detox process) but the food was delicious and clean, mainly veggies, salmon, eggs, salads, nuts, coconut and smoothies.

By week 3 I was on a roll with the menu and no headaches but still fairly exhausted. We entered a new phase of detoxification and new supplements (along with warnings of digestive upset) but no major issues for me. I also kept up a morning routine of drinking a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon upon waking, jala neti (cleansing the sinuses with salt water using a neti pot) and dry body brushing before showering to enhance the detoxification process. The main thing I did notice was the clarity of mind I had and my ability to take in information and to stay focussed and present. Although I picked up a cold (from the kids) in week 4 by the final week I felt clean and also much more positive and calm than usual. What’s more I was also inspired to clean out other aspects of my life – decluttering, organising computer files, donating clothes, reviewing finances, as well as taking time to sit and meditate each day.

The Niyamas in yoga are part of the ethical and moral guidelines, specifically the recommended observances, or habits, for health living and spiritual enlightenment. Saucha is usually translated as cleanliness or purity and this can extend not just cleanliness of the body but also of mind and lifestyle. By the end of the 5 weeks what I really learnt from the cleanse was how much more focussed and clear my mind was and how much stronger I felt in my body which in turn has a huge impact on my yoga and meditation practice. I felt like I was able to find a sense of calm and peace much more quickly when meditating and that even old wrist and hip injuries or niggles were not so problematic during yoga asana. With the increase in energy and focus, particularly towards the end of the cleanse, I also found I practiced more and was able to take in more information in my recent teacher training. I particularly now understand why abstaining from alcohol and caffeine and eating clean, healthy food goes hand in hand with yoga and meditation retreats, although to really get the best out of a retreat I think cleansing at least 2 weeks prior would be recommended.

I had always had a healthy criticism of detoxes and other diets. Are they really beneficial or just marketing to sell supplements or the latest book? Don’t they just make us binge before and after? However, I felt great after the B2B Cleanse. I didn’t really feel that I had given up that much, mainly all of the things that I know aren’t that good for me anyway! I feel stronger and calmer and have had the head space to read and think about things that inspire me. I have also kickstarted a new commitment to healthier choices (remembering how amazing I felt rather than reaching for those sugary chocolate eggs!) What more can you ask than that?

Let me know your thoughts about cleansing in the comments below or check out the Back to Basics cleanse online.