Taryn Toomey has made a name for herself in the wellness world with "the class," which is one of the first workouts of its kind to bring the mind body connection to a spiritual level. Using body weight exercise with high repetitions to fatigue the physical body, Toomey is less of an "instructor" and more of a "guide" during what feels like an intense moving meditation. She hones into those moments when the going gets tough, encouraging a closer look at self-talk that inevitably comes up when we're feeling challenged.
With roots in yoga and Ayurvedic studies, Toomey offers a seasonal program that uniquely blends seasonal, anti-inflammatory, and Ayurvedic practices that, unlike the class, is accessible to everyone, everywhere. I've had my eye on this cleanse for three consecutive years for a few reasons. For one, it's refreshingly not a juice cleanse and doesn't even come close. The end goal isn't about weight loss or fitting into a pair of skinny jeans. No ma'am. This one is for the seeker who wants to feel his or her best, be radiant, and learn about the self.
Aptly named "The Layer," the cleanse really was an internal excavation of habits and patterns. With each "layer" I peeled back, I learned something new about myself. I never felt deprived or hungry, it was purely an energy shift. When you put different things into your body, you're sowing new seeds and bound to manifest different thoughts and feelings. Ultimately, the goal is to change and deepen the internal dialogue you have with yourself.
After going through this experience, I have a few points of advice for anyone embarking on a food-based cleanse.
1. Clear your social calendar. I know it sounds so lame, but I'm serious. Take it from someone who didn't, and got sick towards the end of the cleanse. You'll need the extra time to sleep, reflect, and honestly just to make your food. You'll have to prepare quite a bit on any plant-heavy diet. Give yourself permission these 10 days to pause and reflect, especially if you're working normal or crazy hours.
2. Start meal prep a few days before your cleanse begins. You don't have to stick to a regimented meal plan, but make sure you know which recipes you like, buy the ingredients and if needed, prep them (soak beans, wash greens, roast your yams, etc.). Make any recipes you can ahead of time so you're not overly taxed during the cleanse itself.
3. Commit to a daily practice. While it's a perfect time to try out new cleansing rituals, I'd recommend keeping up a practice you normally do, whether it's journaling, yoga, or running. It's cool and insightful to observe how it changes over the course of the cleanse.
Here are seven things I learned about myself on The Layer, my first Ayurvedic detox.
1. I rely on food to punctuate my day.
Instead of ritual, my day was punctuated by things I had to consume to mark the start or end of the day. For me it's always been coffee in the morning, occasional (let's be real: more-often-than-not) wine in the evening, and dark chocolate before bed. And while I do believe in the health benefits of all three of these, lifting your normal food routine reveals so much about your natural propensities. I reach for at least one of these three things when I'm stressed, for example.
2. I am super addicted to caffeine.
Before The Layer, I started tapering down from my usual two cups a day. Most mornings I have a cold brew or almond milk latte, and some days I'd have a second latte during the day. As long as I had the day's coffee before 2:00 p.m., falling asleep was never an issue. But this is: I went through five full days of withdrawal headaches before feeling "normal," and even then, I've been extremely forgetful, leaving my lunches at home or at my yoga studio in the morning, or shopping bags at friends' apartment. Even though I can function without it now, I'm looking forward to a cup and will definitely enjoy it more than I have in a long time.
3. Cravings have a shape: they're like ocean waves.
Every craving has a crescendo, a crest, a crash, and a calm. When you know what to expect, it's easier to ride the wave instead of trying to stop it. When I got a craving I couldn't ignore (hi, almond milk lattes), riding the wave took shape by going for a walk or run, engaging in yoga practice, or trying a new tincture or tea. It's a surrender, not a muscling through.
4. I need more support than I'd like to admit.
I don't think of myself as a classic type-A, but I've always had a hard time asking anyone for help. With anything. I definitely needed my husband's help to actually get through the cleanse—he helped me shop for recipe ingredients and prepare food when I was studying or working late.
And at day's end when there was no glass of wine as a "reward," I leaned on the community emails Taryn sent daily. The first few were radio silent, I'm sure because we were all withdrawing from sugar and caffeine, but after day four an open dialogue ensued. Cue the reply all conversations. They were awesome: we discussed techniques to deal with cravings and green products for beauty and home.
5. A belly roll does a body good.
When you're digesting cruciferous veggies and nuts, which are all part of The Layer protocol, you're bound to have a bit of bloating—especially if you're not drinking enough water. The belly roll ritual is simple: take a rolled up blanket and, while laying face down on the ground, put the mound between your belly button and pubis bone. Allow five or ten minutes for the release. I like to bookend the day with this now, but especially like doing it at night to release from the day.
6. Tongue scraping is gross and glorious.
Aside from the fresher-than-ever breath I've been experiencing, I was just fascinated by how much actual gunk came off my tongue. It was gross and glorious all at once, and now I know the gunk is there I can't go a morning or evening without scraping my tongue. It's addicting, in a good way!
7. A daily personal practice brings you closer to yourself.
The Layer introduced several new rituals I've come to love: specifically-formulated detox baths, the aforementioned belly roll, hydrotherapy, morning tonic, targeted supplements, and a nightly tea that I've really enjoyed. I've also found huge comfort in journaling, and meditation, and yoga practice.
I'd encourage you to try The Layer if you've been curious, or have wanted to try an extended food and ritual-based cleanse. It's a great tool for ditching habits and learning more about yourself.