For thousands of years the practice of yoga has been a way to purify the body, mind and soul. For those who practice yoga regularly the detoxifying effects are clearly evident after a yoga class as you feel lighter and brighter. Although other types of physical exercise have detoxifying effects yoga gets deeper into our tissues and extremities bringing detoxing effects to our entire body.
The three main bodily systems used for detox are our circulatory system, our digestive system and our lymphatic system. Stimulating these systems through yoga poses can help move our body’s waste products more efficiently. Although all yoga poses stimulate our detox systems, the three main groups of poses which have obvious detox effects are twists, forward folds and inversions.
Twisting poses such as Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fish), wring out our abdominal organs as you twist, and encourage fresh blood flow to abdominal organs as you unwind. Twists also promote digestion and help with the release of trapped gas.
Forward folds can either be seated, such as Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold), or standing such as Prasarita Paddotanasana (Wide Leg Standing Forward Fold). In standing forward folds you bring your heart higher than your head which reverses the pull of gravity. This encourages circulation of blood through the body as well as encouraging movement of lymph fluid. In all forward folds, the gentle movement of folding forwards gently massages your abdomen which aids with digestion. Also in all forward folds we lengthen the spine, which has the effect of improving posture and encourages better breathing.
Inversions are the third group of poses which aid detoxifying processes. Full inversions such as Sirsasana (Headstand) or poses such as Viparita Kirani (Legs Up The Wall), stimulate circulation of blood and lymph from the feet and legs. If we have been sitting a lot or travelling over the festive period, it is possible we have a build up of fluid in our lower legs so taking the weight off our legs and reversing the flow of gravity can help to restore good circulation. These poses also bathe the abdomen in fresh blood which can stimulate digestion.
Two other wonderful detox poses are Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) and Dandasana (Staff Pose). Adho Mukha Svanasana brings the heart higher than the head which reverses the flow of gravity and encourages circulation. It also gently stretches the abdomen and lengthens the spine. Dandasana assists the detoxification process by encouraging the spine to lengthen which makes it easier to breathe deeply. Breathing deeply and fully allows us to get rid of waste carbon dioxide and take in more life-giving oxygen.
As well as providing a great physical detox for our bodies, another detox effect of yoga is that it gives us an opportunity to detoxify our minds and souls. By bringing our awareness to our breath we calm our crazy minds by letting go of toxic thoughts or feelings and shifting our awareness to the present moment.
This new year resolve to practice yoga regularly as part of your detox efforts. Releasing those nasty toxins as well as toxic, unhelpful thoughts and feelings will help you to feel and look your best.
words by Kathleen Fleming