One of the unique, and most beneficial, aspects of the Ayurvedic home cleanse is the technique of oleation—which is essentially the internal and external oiling of the body. In Sanskrit, oleation is called "snehana" and is part of the traditional preparation procedure for panchakarma, an Ayurvedic purification treatment that includes massage, herbal therapy, and other Ayurvedic rituals.
During a home cleanse, we oil the body from the inside by taking clarified butter (ghee) on an empty stomach upon rising for seven days, and from the outside by using oil for daily self-massage. The point of this process is to saturate the fat cells, allowing toxins that are stored in the fat cells (such as pesticides, heavy metals, and even emotions) to be released.
How Oleation Works
Liquid fats have a penetrating quality that allows them to pass through minute channels and break obstructions easily. This means they spread easily into the tissues and are quickly absorbed. They stimulate secretions in the tissues that allow greater flow, so that waste, toxins, and excessive doshas can begin to move out of the cells. In this way, the fat works like a soap to loosen that gunk that doesn't belong stored in the body.
1. Gentle Pulling
This process is profound not only because it's effective—more importantly, it is gentle. The lubricating quality of the fats we use for purification protects the tissues. Many modern cleansing methods are very harsh on the tissues and the lining of the intestinal tract, which in the long run is actually detrimental to your health. This method simultaneously pulls toxins out while protecting and nourishing the tissues, as well as soothing vata, the air and space elements in the mind and body that are normally aggravated by detoxification.
2. Achieve Saturation
In order to achieve this removal of toxins it is important to reach complete saturation of the tissues. For this reason, we take ghee in increasing amounts for seven days until saturation is achieved. Signs that the body is fully "oleated" may include soft and oily stools (possibly loose), an aversion to ghee, slight nausea that isn't relieved after a few minutes, the body feeling soft and supple, and senses being clear (i.e., sense of smell, taste, vision are very strong). By oiling the body on the outside with organic, unrefined natural oils we further support the efforts to reach complete saturation. Shirodhara (a process in which oil is poured on the forehead in a continuous stream) is another method of oleation that can support the process during a cleanse.
3. Release Emotions
It is valuable to note that the Sanskrit word snehana means much more than just oleation. Other translations of this same word include "love, lubrication, binding, cohesion, transparency, nothing to hide, coming together, flow, saturation, and opening up." With this understanding, it is easy to see that this technique also supports our ability to soften and surrender to the cleansing process. When we are able to "go with the flow" we are not building up toxins and emotional gunk like we are when we are in resistance to what is happening in our world—instead we are allowing that stuff to flow out of us. When we have complete transparency, especially to ourselves, we are able to release the negative emotions and memories that arise as these are stored in the fat cells, too, and often surface during the cleansing process. This process helps us to open ourselves up, come together with others, and we are able to be totally present in our relationships.
With this understanding, it becomes clear: Oleation is another cleansing tool that provides a mental and emotional clarity that helps us to detoxify and shift. The end goal is to live and love fully, in harmony with nature, and give ourselves the gift of focus to help achieve our highest potential. Of course, as always, check with your doctor before beginning any cleanse or new ritual that could affect your health.