Yoga for Cleansing and Detoxing
Despite the blast of snow and Arctic winds last week, it's almost spring, beautiful people! The perfect time for a little Yoga detox.
When we think about spring cleaning, we will often begin by examining the food we eat. And certainly, eating the wrong foods and/or more food than our system is able to cope with, can lead to a build-up of toxins. But toxicity can come from many other sources - living or working in a polluted environment, surrounding oneself with toxic people, being exposed to negative images on the TV and social media or reading the wrong type of material.
It can come from holding on to negative patterns and habits that no longer serve us, as well as excessive use of chemicals on our body and in our home. The list is endless.
But, as is so often the case, our Yoga practice can provide us with many tools to eliminate the toxicity in our life. First and foremost, it gives us the time, space and clarity to identify what it is that constitutes a toxin or toxins for us. It can then give us the resolve and determination to eliminate them. Next, it provides us with several breathing practices which, though simple, can be a powerful way to cleanse on all levels. Last but not least, it offers us the wisdom of its poses. And, when we want to emphasise cleansing in our practice, it is the Yoga twists that we will turn to.
With this in mind, I offer you a very simple Yoga detox that you can begin to work with RIGHT NOW. I ﬁrst worked with it (in a much longer form) during my Cleansing and Yoga Detox workshop at Lytham Hall in Lancashire in 2017 but several years later, it continues to stand the test of time. Practised regularly, this little sequence will wring you out and leave you feeling cleansed and refreshed!
Lie in the relaxation pose (Savasana) ensuring that you are warm and comfortable and that for the next 10 minutes you will be undisturbed. Begin by taking a few moments to tune into the toxicity in your life - the food, the people, the environment, the old habits and patterns and the stress that you need to release. Then, if appropriate, spend some time determining a positive habit you would like to foster to eliminate that toxicity - perhaps a change to your diet (a sugarfree day), reducing the amount of alcohol you consume (an alcohol-free day), spending less time with people that make you feel undervalued or unworthy. The choice is yours.
Now become aware of your breath. Feel it in the nostrils, then in the abdomen, then in the whole body. (Pause) When you are ready, begin to lengthen your exhalation. (Pause). Some people like to extend the out-breath by counting, so for example, breathing in for a count of two and then breathing out for a count of four. Others prefer not to count but to simply feel the extension of the out-breath. Work with the practice that feels best for you. Consider that, as you are letting go of your out-breath, you are both letting go of those toxins that no longer serve you as well as making space for something new. Allow the new cleansing in-breath to enter your body, bringing with it renewed energy and space for healthier practices, ideas and habits.
Sleeping Abdominal Twist (Supta Jathara Parivartanasana) is said to literally wring out waste. It compresses the liver and the ascending colon on the right side of the body and the stomach, spleen, pancreas and descending colon on the left side of the body. Furthermore, the beautiful open, outstretched arms encourage deep Yoga breathing. Generally considered to be very gentle, it should nonetheless be avoided if you have back pain or degenerative disk disease.
Supine Spinal Twist
Begin by lying down with your knees bent and arms stretched out to the sides with the palms turned down. Bring the edges of your feet together. Elevate your head on a folded blanket, if need be. Ensure the back body is long. Lift your hips off the mat and gently draw your tailbone towards your heels. Maintain the length in your back as you set your pelvis back down. Allow your body to surrender to gravity's embrace. Find your breath and on the next out-breath, release your knees to the right and your head to the left. Muscle tightness may prevent the right shoulder from releasing completely. Don't force or push the shoulder but simply soften the body and breathe. Then, as you next breathe in, bring your head and knees to centre. Breathing out, release your knees to the left and your head to the right this time and back to centre again on the in-breath. Continue to maintain the length of the spine as you breathe in and as you breathe out let the exhalation lead you to a deeper rotation. Repeat this movement 8 times to each side.
Complete this simple twist by bringing the knees onto your chest and place your hands on your knees. As you breathe in, guide your knees away from your body and, as you breathe out, guide your knees towards the body. Do this gently for several rounds of breath. When you have completed, notice the effects of this simple detox. You may feel an evenness in the body, an ability to breathe better or a sense of feeling refreshed and cleansed. If so, practise often!
And, as always, if there are any particular Yoga detox techniques that you have worked with, I'd love to hear about them!
Love, Brenda X