The Fire from Within

Summer, with its long languid warmth-filled days and nights, is upon us.

Most of us feel looser in body and limb. Stretching comes easier with balmy or dry air. Appetites are naturally less. Yang (pronounced  “Yahng“) energy is at its peak now.

Photo by Erika Burke

Yang is the endless sky. Fiery, excess, bright, heat filled days. Masculine in nature, quick moving, powerful, changeable. Yang is partially responsible for the motion of blood and Qi cursing through our bodies. Yang powers the digestive process, drives the balancing fire that charges our kidneys and adrenals. Yang promotes changes in body, mind, and nature. Life is all about movement, and change.

Alison a very fit 35-year-old can be classified as a true athlete. Not much body fat anywhere. She adheres to a rigorous workout schedule of yoga, pilates, spinning, running, hiking, and walking.

Chasen is 53 and is also very fit. He is a hard working and very successful attorney.  He competes in triathlons, spinning from a stationary bike in his office when he is unable to hit the road.

Kathy is in her late 50s‘s. She works part-time. is a bit fuller in body and exercises 4-5 days a week. rotating obstacle course work outs, running, walking, biking, barre work, and pilates. She too is in great shape.

Steven is close to 70. He is lucky to have a naturally tall athletic build, He swims, walks, and works out with resistance bands. He probably works out three times a week for his health, but really doesn’t enjoy it much, preferring to watch soccer and sports on TV. However, he knows to stay active due to a heart attack several years ago.

What Alison, Chasen, Kathy and Steven all have in common is a desire to experience the benefits of a juice cleanse or a detoxifying cleanse.

Most of us have read about, or heard about, the myriad of cleansing choices on today’s market. Advocates say juice cleanses made from raw fruits and veggies are safe as long as you check in with your doctor/acupuncturist/nutritionist first and keep it to three days at a time. Detoxes and extreme diets like the ‘master cleanse’ can be dangerous and are controversial without proper medical supervision.

Cleansing, by definition, moves us from our unconscious habits (like excessive intake of caffeine, alcohol, and fatty or sugary foods) and often helps build healthier habits -- even once we’re off them -- by raising awareness of how our bodies feel i.e.: how we are moving, thinking, sleeping, digesting, and eliminating. Cleansing allows our digestive process to slow down, while slowing us down.

There may be some immediate health benefits.  When we eliminate toxins from our system, our entire body feels better. Cleanses need not be about starving yourself or feeling deprived, rather about nourishing and recalibrating.

Summer is the ideal time to cleanse! Since days are warm and long, the body naturally has more Yang energy, with warmer nights, we use less blankets to sleep. Our bodies need less heat/ Qi/ food for power since we are absorbing the Yang energy from the warm air. Our systems are generally more on fire, especially our digestion. In the winter months, when Yin is the predominant energy force, we move more slowly. We want to curl up inside, sleep longer, wear warm sweaters, eat hearty soups and stews. Winter is deep, dark, damp and inward, feminine in energy -- the very opposite of summer’s warmth and movement.

I recommend using a variety of fresh organic vegetables and fruits of the summer season to enhance your juice cleanse. It is best to start the day with a Kale, Parsley or Spinach blend to keep your blood sugar stable. Juices can be consumed every two hours, interspersed with water. Nut juices can be used for end of the day drinking. Coconut water is great to mix with most nut waters. Drink juice or water at room temperature or lightly chilled to prevent stomach cramping. Warm water during the cleanse is fine.

There are many ways and types of cleanses. Keep in mind your body type when researching which cleanse works best for you. Juices can be made at home, delivered, or arranged to be made for you at a local juice bar, to be picked up every morning.

Some people may experience headaches, hunger, irritability, or fatigue. For the first few hours, or for the first day of the cleanse, this is normal. By the afternoon of the second day, the body generally adjusts and most people start to feel energized, lighter, recharged.

It is best if you can start your cleanse on a day when you can lay low. Sometimes, less is more on the first and second day of cleansing. This is a perfect time to go within, re-evaluate your goals and desires, reconnect with your inner balance. Maintain positive thoughts. Meditation, chanting, listening to your favorite relaxing music, Journaling, walking and stretching are great ways to connect with your inner essence. Relaxing under an umbrella in the sunshine (do not become overheated) after a dry brushing  (in upwards motions toward your heart) is great way to naturally circulate your Qi, and cleanse away dry skin to vitalize cells while cleansing. Don’t worry if you become a little constipated. Massage your belly in circular clockwise motions using light pressure. Drinking warm water can help to jump start your peristalsis. Contact your health care provider if you become uncomfortable.

After her cleanse, Alison was able to slow down a bit which helped her with an ongoing tight hamstring challenge. She felt calmer and is more willing to look at taking a day off from exercise during the week.

Chasen had a great cleanse, and used the time off for some much needed rest.

Kathy, lost five pounds and was amazed by the reduction in her overall aches and pains.

Steven realized he was addicted to coffee, and frequently felt more irritable than seemed warranted. We are working together to help him find more balance, and learn to enjoy rather than dread his exercise routine.