Whether you strongly believe in detoxing or question its benefits; whether you go hard-core on dietary cleansing with all the juices, herbs, and potions, or simply seek to cut out the baddies (aka alcohol, fatty foods, processed stuff), there’s no doubt yoga is your friend in cleansing your mind and body — not to mention uplifting your spirit.
At the start of the year the traditional approach to resolutions often focuses on giving up stuff — and a detox firmly fits that bill. But change is as much about taking up healthy, life-affirming habits as it is ditching the bad ones.
If you can flip the focus to the good stuff you are letting into your life (like more yoga), letting go of the bad stuff suddenly gets much easier. After all, yoga and life always comes back to balance.
Here's a bunch of great tips on yoga to support your detox:
Let’s Start by Breathing
Breathing is the ultimate detox — the exhalation is designed to remove waste from the body. What’s more, it’s free and automatic!
There are various pranayama techniques to support detoxing, with breath awareness in general the start. Any technique that focuses on the exhale, and particularly extends it, will emphasize detoxing.
Kapalabhati breathing or blowing is a great detoxer as it focuses on short, sharp expulsions of air, with the inhale passive and soft. The lower belly stays soft as the navel pins to the spine in repeated sucking-in motions as the air is expelled.
The practice is usually done in several rounds of between 10-20 breaths each round.
Not taking in enough oxygen and not releasing enough carbon dioxide can cause fatigue, mental fog, and decreased tissue function. Deep breathing acts as a kind of pump to power your lymphatic system (which acts as your body's drain).
It’s also a mind-game — link positive emotions to your inhale breath (love, joy, compassion etc.), and attach anything negative to your exhale breath (fear, anger, regret, etc.) and you give yourself a mental detox. What’s more, you encourage yourself to breathe out deeply so you can let everything that doesn’t serve you go, thus making room for all you want to come into your life.
Focusing on breathing out gratitude, love, and compassion will help you achieve a really uplifting and energizing respiratory cycle.
Sweat it Out
While the respiratory system is responsible for most of our body's ability to remove toxins (along with the liver and kidneys), it certainly doesn’t hurt to sweat it out to release toxins and heat — hence the popularity of Hot yoga. But the sweat process is overwhelmingly about eliminating heat.
Perspiration is mostly water, some sodium and chloride, and to a lesser extent, potassium with only trace elements of any toxins.
Compress Your Digestive and Elimination Organs
Anything that twists or compresses is going to help with detoxing. When you massage into your digestive system, liver, and kidneys, or compress and then release your joints, you promote the release of toxins and a flow of fresh, oxygenated blood throughout the body.
Ardha Pawanmuktasana (Half Gas Release Pose) or Pavanamuktasana (Wind Removing Pose in the Bikram tradition) is great for releasing toxins — the names give it away! The ascending colon is compressed on the right side aiding in the uptake of nutrients, while the descending colon is compressed on the left side (great for eliminating waste). The transverse colon is massaged when both knees are hugged together against the abdomen — and you deserve a self-love hug.
Spinal twists of all varieties (think a seated or supine Matsyendrasana (Lord of the Fishes Pose) or stronger, standing postures like Parivrttra Parsvakonasana — Revolved Side Angle Pose) will help wring out your body like a dirty sponge.
It’s your liver and kidneys that probably benefit the most from cleansing since they don’t have to deal with new toxins while still sluggish from trying to process the old ones. So give them a juicy squeeze of love (backbends are great for the kidneys and adrenals) and help them do their jobs.
Meditate to Cleanse Your Mind
A toxic mind is never going to support a healthy body. Meditation can aid in freeing your mind of thoughts, creating space for universal or divine consciousness, and also creating mindfulness through becoming aware of your thoughts, accepting them without judgment, and then letting go of anything negative.
Affirmations that support a belief in a healthy body and mind may assist a mental detox.
Yin Yoga to Release Deeply
There may still be that small matter of the gripping at your hips, a stiff shoulder, or aching lower back — the issues after all are in the tissues — and here Yin yoga, with its long-held postures and meditative style, can support the release of the gunk that clogs up and stiffens your joints and connective tissues (in very non-scientific terms).
With its slower, softer style, Yin yoga provides an amazing opportunity to link the body and mind in the healthy process of releasing toxins and negativity — making room for universal energy and love to flow freely.
And that makes detoxing sound pretty darn attractive.