Ayurvedic Cleansing for Butoh Dance

Jordan Rosin in The Ume Group’s “Facet” (2016); photo by Chris Carlone.

Ayurvedic Cleansing for Butoh Dance

Butoh: A Dance of Spirits

Butoh is a creative philosophy and post-modern dance style originating from post-WWII Japan.  Many approaches to butoh dance involve the embodiment & channeling of spirits; spirits of the living, of the dead, spirits of animals, plants, people, events. (For more of my articles about butoh click here.)

Ayurveda: The Science of Life

Ayurveda, the “science of life”, is an ancient & contemporary medicinal science developed in India. Chief among its interests are the digestive system as it relates to the overall health of every day people. Ayurvedic practitioners often recommended cleanses at the change of seasons or during major life changes.  Most of these cleanses are aimed at flushing the body of toxins (in modern society, these toxins can be leftover from caffeine, alcohol, commercially processed food, and even simple imbalances in the qualities of higher quality food we may intake) and restoring the vibrancy and power of agni, the digestive fire.

Such Ayurvedic cleanses can therefore be very useful in opening the pathways of the body for qualia (life signals necessary for butoh dance) to flow. Most of these cleanses are also based in fasting or vegetarian monodiets which – for those who generally partake of meat products – gives the body an opportunity to let go of the particular animal energies & tendencies we’ve accumulated from meat-eating, while unburdening the astral body of the souls of the animals we’ve consumed. Such purification may allow for the more specific and clear invocation of spirits for the purpose of butoh dance.

There are many different approaches and styles of cleansing one could choose to pursue and I’ve included a list of useful links at the end of this article.  Here’s an approach developed by my dance partner Yokko and I during my time as Artistic Director of The Ume Group to prepare for our butoh performances and most transformative practices.

Ayurvedic Cleanse for Butoh Dance

Anywhere from three days to one or two weeks before performing or practice…

  • Abstain from caffeine and alcohol.
  • Avoid processed food.
  • Partake of a nutritive vegetarian diet, abstaining from meat products.
  • Drink a glass of warm water before eating to stimulate the digestive system.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

Optional rituals of hygiene may also be stimulating…

  • Neti – nasal irrigation to clear the sinuses.
  • Tongue Cleaning – with a metal tongue scraper used before brushing teeth to scrape toxins and mucous from the surface of the tongue.

Other beneficial rituals during your cleanse may include…

  • Abhyanga – Ayurvedic daily self-massage with warm oil.
  • Meditation
  • Gentle exercise.
  • Chanting or Prayer.
  • Monodiet – such as Kitchari.  This nourishing vegetable stew based in rice, beans, and spices can nourish and sustain for weeks at a time during a cleanse.
Additional Resources

For more on Ayurvedic cleansing, including great products to support your cleanse, check out the following links…

Discussion Question

What other kinds of cleanses have you used in your art-making or creative practice?  Know of any other resources for Ayurvedic cleansing?  Join the conversation and leave your answer in the comments below.

Featured photo: Jordan Rosin in The Ume Group’s “Facet” (2016); photo by Chris Carlone.


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