Fasting Back to Vibrance: 7.5 Days of Clay and Cucumber in Koh Phangan

Have you ever felt so good, you can’t help but dance around the house? I’m talking full-on Tom Cruise Risky Business style. That’s how I spent my post-breakfast morning, but in my case, I was completely naked. 

Free from the excess weight I had gained and beaming with happiness from the sun’s vitamin-rich rays, I danced until I sweat. And then I sweat some more. 

I came to The Sanctuary in Koh Phagnon, Thailand after the thought came to me in meditation. 

I needed to go somewhere I could rehab my fractured metatarsals -- my planned trip to Nepal was the opposite of that. I could’ve stayed put in Mumbai, but I wanted to leave the oppressive oncoming summer heat. I also wanted to shed the few pounds that I gained while enjoying more than my share of delectable homemade Indian vegan food. My confidants in the US urged me to come home. One friend even offered to rehab me at his home and help me clean up my diet. 

Enticed by the offer, I even booked a return ticket to LA. But the thing was, I didn’t want to go back to LA just yet. I wasn’t ready. The contrast between India and LA, well the idea of it made me shudder. So what did I need?

Sitting there in meditation, it came to me and it couldn’t have been any clearer: I opened my eyes and reached for my phone. Despite the 2G service, I was determined to get myself to The Sanctuary in Thailand for a detox. It was just what I had to do.

My idea then was to have a detox to get me back to feeling my 100% before I immersed myself in the bustle of summertime Los Angeles. Now that I’ve experienced it, I think a detox at The Sanctuary is a good idea any time. 

Nestled in a jungle paradise, I have found everything I need within walking distance. What’s strange about that is that The Sanctuary is quite remote and because of my fractures, I haven’t been walking very far. At The Sanctuary itself, there is a luxe spa, a wellness center that holds free talks a few times each week, three daily yoga classes, meditation, two restaurants and a gorgeous beach. There are weekly workshops and events like a mandala drawing class and a cacao ceremony. At the restaurant next door, there’s a party every Friday night with such surprisingly good music that I stayed out until 4am on the 5th night of my fast. 

What holds all of this together, well that’s the people who create community here. The staff are friendly and like friends and the guests come from all over the world. The Sanctuary is sanctuary for everyone from the European backpackers staying in the dorm rooms to honeymooners in the ocean view suites and business executives taking much needed rest. 

Now the juicy part (the cucumber juice that is): what does it mean to detox?

The Sanctuary uses the words “detox” and “cleanse” interchangeably. What they aim to provide is a place to start new healthy habits and, if you choose, to rid the body of toxins. They offer a “raw fest” option for people who want to go on a raw food diet (and this menu is mouth watering) as well as several lengths of a fast. I opted for a 7.5 day fast.

Here’s what it looked like on a daily basis:

7am: Detox shake
8:30am: Herbal supplements
10am: Detox shake
11:30am: Herbal supplements
1pm: Detox Shake
2:30: Herbal supplements
2:50: Lymph flush juice
4pm: Colema
5:30: Herbal supplements
7pm: Broth
8:30pm: Herbal supplements
9:30pm: Probiotic

The schedule in itself keeps you quite busy, but still with ample free time, I quickly found ways to support the fast and the lifestyle, either with a book by the water or a regular spa visit for Thai massage. One morning, I swam out to the floating dock and enjoyed an hour plus in savasana next to my friend Dim. We were torturously sunburned the next day. Note: the sun reflects off the water into even the shady areas!

That’s how it is at The Sanctuary: you lose track of time in the beauty of being exactly where you are, with or without the scrumptious food items on their menu.

Overall, I found the detox quite easy. I didn’t experience many of the symptoms I recalled from previous fasts or juice cleanses like headaches, lethargy or irritability. On the first day of the cleanse I did feel a bit of a foggy head feeling and in this daze, I lost my passport. I knew it was the fast playing games with my own anxiety and so I had two staff members help me tear apart my bungalow to search for it. When we all came up blank, I let myself have a few minutes of freak out as if the passport was really gone. Five minutes later I decided it was time to find my passport. Within a minute, it was in my hand again. 

Following that minor incident, the rest of the fast felt almost effortless. The detox shakes were filling: cucumber juice with bentonite clay for pulling out toxins from the intestines and psyllium husk for helping the process of elimination. The herbs, a blend of Ayurvedic herbs for cleansing and superfoods for a boost, kept me feeling energetic. In fact, for the entire 8 day timeframe I never needed one daytime nap. I was able to work on my computer, read, write, do yoga and swim without feeling any out of the ordinary fatigue. 

Day by day, I felt better and better. By the end of Day 2, I felt like I could go on easily for perhaps even longer than planned. I experienced 2kg of weight loss in the first two days and watched my body transform before my eyes. My skin became brighter, the shadows under my eyes lightened. I felt childlike and energized.

On Day 6 I felt my first pang of hunger, but as I took a closer look at the feeling, I realized it was a desire for food rather than a true hunger. I desired the freedom of selecting from the expansive vegan menu. I was tired after staying out until 4 in the morning and wanted the food as comfort. Muscle memory of tired, late nights flushed back and the pang of hunger, of desire rose from my belly.

The experience of my second meal after breaking fast was the most awakening for me. At dinner I ordered steamed vegetables and was delivered a rainbow of colors to take in: green beans, beets, pumpkin and spinach. I realized I hadn’t had a relaxed and gorgeous meal like this since leaving the Chavan family house in Mumbai. I recalled the love they put into every ingredient of each meal. I remembered when Papa Chavan said to me, “Try it with your hands. It tastes better this way.”

I grabbed the coin-shaped steamed slice of beet with my right hand and pushed it down on the plate surface to sever a smaller piece. I used it like chapati bread to dip into the veggie sauce before bringing it to my mouth. Hand to mouth, feeling the texture of my nourishment; It did taste better this way.

I dropped over 4 kilograms, nearly 10 pounds. I’ve restored reverence for the relationship between my food and my body. 

It came exactly when I needed it and I know that any transition I make now will be more supported as I have taken care of supporting myself back to a truly vibrant state. In this new reality, ready to take on California again.

But do I need to right now?

There’s a lot for me at home in Los Angeles, but over the course of ten days in Thailand, I saw opportunity. Walking down the path from the ocean, past my friend’s bungalow, a labyrinth and Ni, the Thai massage therapist with magic hands, my smile is spread so wide across my face. The words I feel sing out of my lips, “I love my life!”

I can go back and I will go back, but for right now, I’m still here. 

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