It’s almost time for sugarplums and egg nog, so let’s talk about staying clean and healthy in body and mind, before we get crazy.
Any vigorous exercise can keep your system clean. And yoga, especially, can be organized into a powerful detoxifying regimen through very specific kinds of postures. “Detox yoga” has heat-building, sweat, twisting, compression, and inversion. I like to take it further with added mental benefits like meditation and relaxation; why not blow out toxic thought patterns and crabbiness too!?
Start thinking about your cleaner-living resolutions now, and hit the ground running after all the shortbread and champagne.
Here are some how’s and why’s of detox yoga:
Heat-building – “Tapas is translated as “self-discipline,” “effort,” or “internal fire,” and the Yoga Sutra suggests that when tapas is in action, the heat it generates will both burn away impurities and kindle the sparks of divinity within.” (Hillari Dowdle, Yoga Journal). A big part of yoga is “burning away” blockage, sickness, tightness, weakness, and stagnation. That’s tapas, the hard work part of asana (yoga postures) practice. In detox yoga, on a physiological level, we are heating, opening up, and expanding the body’s tissues and promoting circulation and flow of energy. If you can help it, don’t drink water during detox yoga, which will cool you down and undo your internal fire (before and after are cool).
Sweat – Sweating is elimination of toxins through the skin (in addition regulation of temperature). That’s why detox yoga involves hard work. So get your “glow” on!
Twisting – Twisting poses really give you
that “twist and soak” flushing action. When we twist our spines safely and deeply, all the muscles up and down the back and around the ribcage and even pelvis get lengthened during the twist. After release of the twist, blood and nutrients come rushing back in (that’s the “soak”). Same with the ligaments and tendons in these parts of the body. Wring it out.
Compression – Similar to “twist and soak“, compression also applies pressure to the body, but here the emphasis is on the intestinal tract and core area. Different variations of face-down rolling around and knee-to-chest poses are worked to really get digestion moving faster. Long held (static) abdominal muscle strengthening is also very effective.
Inversion – I did a whole blog post on this, because inversions are so effective at so many things! Including detoxification of the body (important for the lymphatic system) and mind. Being upside down can change your mood in seconds.
The Mind – During a detox yoga workout, I love to pause and slow my breath with eyes closed. To look at what emotions and judgements may have come up during all this wonderful internal fire tapas, sweating, cleaning out, and clearing out of stagnation. A huge part of yoga is seeing how you react to challenge in general. If you react badly, through (i) avoidance, (ii) getting moody, and/or (iii) coming up with blame and judgement, please keep your yoga practice going in order to battle this. We are human. We have active minds and imaginations, but we can win the battle with reactivity and prevent ourselves from becoming glazed-over, unconscious social robots. Yoga doesn’t always mean poses and yoga classes; you can do a million other yoga things for relaxation, including alternate nostril breathing, singing Kirtan, practicing gratitude, or taking a walk through a park and revelling in nature’s wonder. I’m sure we have all instinctively gone for walks or gotten lost in music when we have needed to.
The benefits of detoxification include reduced cravings for “bad” fats, simple carbs, and tasty but inefficient protein sources (I’m looking at you, lunch meat). Detoxification can help you get past physical and mental triggers driving you to ingest caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and medication/drugs. Plus, your newfound body and mind clarity will bring with it a reduction in racing thoughts and anxiety.
Today, Seane Corn, internationally-renowned yoga teacher,
posted a great detox yoga sequence on Facebook.
Ian Batt is a registered yoga teacher in Toronto. Sugarplum faeries sometimes dance in his head.