Skip to content

The Art of Cleansing

General cleansing wisdom to help you reach your optimum health 

As we make the transition from the Piscean Age to the Aquarian Age, many people are struggling to free themselves from old patterns and institute new ones. As yogis, we have many tools—yoga sets, meditations, foods, diets—that can help us to make positive changes. Many habits we develop, especially around food, are unconscious. They develop in the first three chakras, in the first three years of life.

If we don’t, when necessary, correct these underlying patterns that inhabit the psyche, we continue to manifest the same habits, which lead to the same behaviors that inevitably lead to the same outcomes. Cleansing is a way to help sensitize us to our patterns and enable us to use those patterns in a healthy way to build vitality.

The first step in the art of cleansing is the awareness that change is necessary. This usually occurs when we begin to notice that things aren’t right. This can be a single symptom like headaches, a more complex set of symptoms, or even a state of disease as measured by Western medicine—“dis-ease” as Yogi Bhajan used to say.

The second step is the recognition that we are willing to go through the process of change. Next, we need to consider what we would like to work on. We need to think about alkalizing the body, cleansing the liver, making sure that the large intestine is eliminating efficiently, and saturating our body with prana.

The Elements of Cleansing

Acid/Alkaline Balance

When the body is too acidic, it puts stress on the body’s resources to maintain the correct ph balance. A less alkaline, more acid metabolic environment encourages the development of both short and long term illnesses. One of the great benefits of periodic cleansing is to adjust this balance for optimum resilience. Our environments and lifestyles constantly acidify us through food, stress, and emotional patterns. Periodic cleansing turns the tide so we can be who we are and be supported by a well-functioning body. Some of the simple ways to alkalize are to take baking soda baths (1-2 cups in a warm bath for 15-20 minutes), drink one quart of the Master Cleanse instead of breakfast throughout the morning (see box for recipe), or use umeboshi plum vinegar as a salt substitute.

The Liver

The liver is the most common organ system to work on because of all the hard work it does cleaning the blood day in and day out. Over time the liver can become toxified and not work efficiently. Even pain can create a chemistry that the liver needs to clean. Lifestyle and habits can contribute to this. Common substances which can put pressure on the liver are alcohol; coffee; cigarettes; pharmaceuticals; greasy, oily, fatty foods; meat; over-eating; and eating too often. Emotions, especially anger, can injure the liver.

In Chinese medicine the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of chi in the body. Many cultures and paths have a history of working on this fascinating organ. In the tradition of Kundalini Yoga, we use yoga sets such as Let the Liver Live and How to Relieve Inner Anger. Both of these sets help to move the energy of the liver and its accompanying negative emotion, which is crucial while going through any detox or cleansing program.


Pranayam is important during cleansing because of its invigorating qualities. Sitali pranayam (see box)is especially good for cooling and soothing the liver and any agitating thoughts or feelings that arise during this process. Long deep breathing is also very powerful as it moves energy in the organ systems, the lymph, and the chi.

The Large Intestine

The large intestine is crucial to successful cleansing. The primary route by which toxins are eliminated is through bowel movements. Because a lot of stimulating foods are eliminated during cleansing, the tendency is for people’s bowel movements to slow down. Thus any program needs to supplement this activity to ensure proper elimination. Some common methods are using flax seeds, magnesium oxide, or certain teas, and taking enemas or colonics.

All of these require their own set of instructions and caution. The rule of thumb is to have a bowel movement after every meal. While you are cleansing you should have several bowel movements a day. If not, it can lead to discomfort and a reabsorbtion of the toxicity you are trying to eliminate.


To do a cleanse you need to commit to a specific process for a specific period of time. What can you reasonably manage given your current lifestyle and responsibilities? How long and how extensive a cleanse is right for you? This is important because, if you are overly ambitious in what you try to take on, it can lead to a lack of success.

A 3-day cleanse is a quick and mild cleanse, a 7-day cleanse is more intense, a 10-day cleanse is for a deeper, more thorough cleansing, and a 40-day cleanse is the length of time needed to break old habits.


Finally, we need to consider environment and support. We encourage people to cleanse in their regular environment so as to begin the process of initiating new patterns, habits, behaviors, and outcomes where they spend the most time. In cases of more severe medical problems or addictions we recommend residential programs.

You need to have a support structure around you while you go through this process. It can be friends, family, and health care practitioners. We often recommend that people let those around them know about their adventure. Don’t be surprised by people’s reactions: some may be encouraging, some may be curious, and some may tease.

Know that whenever you choose to do this type of work, it is inspiring to those around you. Your act of personal cleansing has a powerful healing effect on your environment and those around you. We also encourage people to take good care of themselves during this process. Treat yourself to healing massage and energy work, take therapeutic baths, rest, and relax.

Some people find themselves more quiet than usual as they turn inwards while doing a cleanse. Honor that. Some people are surprised that they have more or less energy than usual. If you are tired, rest. If you have extra energy, enjoy it but don’t overdo it. Moderation is the key.

General Cleansing Wisdom

Stay hydrated during this process. If you are on a juice cleanse, make your juice in the morning so it’s fresh and it will give the body the most nutrients and prana. Keep fresh water with you in all your environments. Exercise lightly during the process to keep the metabolism up. Do yoga and meditation to keep the energy and lymph moving and to begin the process of establishing new patterns in the psyche at the core level. Consider doing a cleanse with a group, which can enhance the process.

To maintain a healthy, cleansing diet, eat alkalizing foods and grains such as quinoa and millet, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat a balance of raw foods and water-sautéed or steamed foods (cooked oils cause free radical damage, which can lead to premature aging).

The art of cleansing means having an awareness of the entire cleansing process and its effect on your psyche. It is the capacity to have a strategic plan based on real assessment of where you are and where you want to be. Let the destination draw you through the process so you end up where you want to be.

Sitali Pranayam

This pranayam is said to give power, strength, and vitality. It can have a cooling, cleansing effect. Initially, the tongue may taste bitter, a sign of detoxification, and eventually may become sweet.

Posture: Sit in an Easy Pose with a light jalandhar bandh. Roll the tongue into a “U” with the tip just outside of the lips.

Breath: Inhale deeply through the rolled tongue, exhale through the nose.

Time: Continue for 3 minutes. Alternatively, you can practice this 26 times in the morning and 26 times in the evening. 108 repeti­tions is a deep meditation and a powerful healer for the body and digestive system.

Master Cleanse

1 quart of purified water

1 shaved lemon (save as much of the white pith as possible)

1 – 2 Tablespoons Grade B Maple Syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)

1 pinch of cayenne (go easy if you are sensitive to spicy)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for 20-40 seconds. No straining necessary. Sip the master cleanse throughout the day. You can drink the Master Cleanse daily for an extended period of time.


  • To dissolve and eliminate toxins and congestion that have formed in the body.
  • To cleanse the kidneys and the digestive system.
  • To purify the glands and cells throughout the entire body.
  • To eliminate all unusable waste and hardened material in the joints and muscles.
  • To build a healthy blood stream.

When to use it:

  • When sickness has developed for all acute and chronic conditions.
  • When the digestive system needs support and a cleansing.
  • When better assimilation and building of body tissue is needed.

Dr. Kartar Singh Khalsa practices acupuncture and herbology at the GRD Health Center in New Mexico. Over the last 20 years he has guided over 1,600 people through The Cleanse, a 10-day rejuvenation/detox program.

[As with any change in your healthcare regime, please consult your primary health-care practitioner before undertaking any new exercise, dietary, or herbal treatment program. The information presented here is not to be used as a diagnostic tool or as a substitute for qualified medical care. Anyone who has reason to suspect serious illness should seek appropriate medical advice.]