Relaxed and Refreshed – What is a Detox Retreat?
I have just come back rejuvenated from a detox retreat in Almería, Spain. Because I live here I thought it would be easy. It’s just a 6 hour drive across Andalucia which I’ve done a few times before. However I misjudge what a 6 hour drive takes out of you and arrive absolutely shattered. As Ali one of the leaders said ‘you arrive at 100 miles an hour and wonder why you’ve feel as though you feel as though you have hit a brick wall!’
I came on the same detox in September, however it wasn’t the same. The time of year is different. The September one was over the Autumn Equinox and this is close to the summer Solstice and with a new moon as well. All this has remarkable effects on the human body and a cleanse over a new moon and as we come in to summer is particularly powerful. Last September I was packing up my house in Bristol, UK., and phoning removal men constantly arranging to deliver my main pieces of furniture to a friend’s garage to be stored. I knew I had to get back and finish what turned out to be an arduous final phase of clearing. This time I was 7 months into my stay here in Jerez and I knew that I was facing some decisions – should I stay, should I go home? Should I sell my house, how did I feel about my flamenco dancing, what would I do about scaling up jam and marmalade production, what was happening to my daughter and her boyfriend? In summary I was in a state of fluidity and flux and there was a great big question mark over every aspect of my life. It was definitely a good time to stop and take stock, but I hadn’t reckoned on how the settling in to life in Jerez and managing strange people, strange teachers, an alien culture, speaking Spanish all the time had exhausted me.
So what is a detox? It is where we allow our bodies to cleanse of toxins that build up from eating the wrong food, stress and emotional turmoil, living a life on the run, not allowing ourselves to rest, having difficult family and work situations, and in one of our fellow travellers, recovering from a broken leg and in another suffering multiple sclerosis and other degenerative diseases. In my case drinking Oloroso, eating tostada and coffee for breakfast having to break up from a very unhealthy relationship (well two actually) and as I said all the stress of moving to a foreign culture.
How do we do this? Well for six days all we ‘ate’ was juice and water. The juices were huge and primarily green – that is mainly vegetables such as romaine lettuce, celery, and spinach mixed with carrots, ginger, lemon, apple and possibly some other fruits.
We drink lots of water – at least 1.6 litres carrying around our water bottles all the time. This allows the digestion to rest and the liver to work on just getting rid of deep toxins such as heavy metals that it doesn’t usually have a chance to access. Instead these are buffered in parts of the body building up poisonous waste products that in the end take their toll on our systems. During the juice fast the body relaxes and lets go of the toxins along with other minerals since it isn’t having to fire fight and use the minerals to fight off infections and generally be the SWAT crew of the body rather than the repair and maintenance crew.
The first evening I arrive to a delicious raw food meal cooked by Anna Middleton and then that was it – no solid food for another 6 days. Our nourishment consisted of a cup of Mullein tea (more of this later) after waking, a green juice mid morning – if you look at the pictures they are big glasses. A glass of coconut water at lunch time, a glass of green juice at tea time
and a glass of potassium broth after our yoga class at 8pm. These are all packed with nutrients and minerals and provide the body with everything it needs. It also doesn’t provide the body with all the things that it doesn’t need – empty calories such as sugar and refined carbohydrates which give the body virtually nothing of nutritional value. The water also enables the body to flush out the toxic materials without again having to rob the body of vital water supplies necessary for the cells.
That is not all. Often in detox regimes they forget that what comes out is important and many of us have compromised waste elimination systems – yes in colloquial terms wee and poo. Many people are eating so much of the wrong food with very little green vegetables and the necessary roughage required to scour he digestive system that we just don’t effectively cleanse our gut on a regular basis. One of the questions for my individual clients is ‘how often to you pass stools?’ and they answer ‘normal’ and then I asked ‘specifically what – how many times a day?’ (This often gets strange looks because most people go by the week). They have no idea what ‘normal’ is and whether their normal is actually normal. As nutritionists we learn to talk dirty and on a detox everyone gets to talk about what is happening both in, and passing and out of their digestive tract!
Last time I did this retreat I got off quite lightly but this time I felt truly dreadful and was glad that all I had to do was either lie by the pool or on my bed. At night I had cramps in my digestive tract and could feel my poor old liver literally aching. Something was going on for sure and I suspect that due to the moon’s phase, my state and the fact I could actually let myself go and relax, that I was releasing some deeply held heavy metal toxins and emotions. The body does not differentiate physically between emotions and other toxic substances. Emotions are bio-chemical reactions, no more no less, and we hold the resulting chemicals in our cells (bodies). It is common for people on yoga retreats to burst into floods of tears on about day 2 or 3. I did when I was studying in Pune, India at the Iyengar Institute. The yoga practises were dislodging my emotional detritus. On Day 4 here I was in floods of tears sobbing my heart out and thank goodness there was someone there to hold me. I had been holding on to this emotion – whatever it was – and what caused it is irrelevant but at least I had released it.
The yoga and Pilates also help to wake up the body and again facilitate internal organs to let go. Postures such as spinal twists in particular allow internal organs to be gently massaged which again allows organs such as
the liver to let go of deeply held toxicity.
As naturopathic nutritionists we also teach and use a set of what we call ‘techniques’ that facilitate the opening up of routes of elimination. Some people are squeamish about talking about topics such as castor oil packs and enemas – but it doesn’t take long to learn how to do these and even enjoy the processes. We also use herbs and concotions such as ginger zinger (a mix of ginger juice, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice) that support our immune system and helps to eliminate inflammation or as in the case of Mullein tea strengthen various body systems such as the lungs.
Rather than suppress symptoms such as swelling, allergies and colds we see these as a natural process of the body’s own healing and take steps to rest and allow these to process safely. If we suppress them through drugs then the body will push the symptoms (which are in fact solutions) deeper and into more vital organs.
Suffice it to say that each person’s experience on a retreat is different and in my case different for each time I went. This time feeling exhausted a lot of the time – it takes energy for the body to cleanse.
It was very exciting to get to the last supper – when we made the transition back with raw food again prepared by Anna Middleton. We made our own vegetable sushi rolls with vegetables we prepared ourselves in our fermentation class. These make really easy lunchtime ‘sandwhich’ rolls for busy people. As well as a great maincourse and a delicious desert made in our using non sugar sweeteners session.
Guajira. My gift to my fellow detoxers – a fair exchange since I don’t get to perform much and to do this in front of friendly supportive people is a gift for me as well.
I have come out the other side rested and rejuvenated.