The body is built to detox.
Through the circulatory, digestive, and lymphatic systems, wastes and other toxins are removed from the body. Stress, a poor diet, and a lack of movement burden the body’s processes and natural detox can become sluggish.
Many vigourous exercises help boost the functioning of the body’s circulation, digestion, and lymphatic drainage. Regular exercise supports wellness in many ways. However, while on a detox program, full-on exercise is not appropriate. This is a time for resting, when more gentle movements such as swimming may be better suited as they are restorative.
For many people, the ideal exercise is yoga.
Yoga & Detox
A well-balanced yoga practice is beneficial on many levels. The stretching, compressing, and twisting involved in the variety of asanas or poses act on all parts of the body. Internal organs are stimulated with the removal of “old” blood that is filled with metabolic wastes and other toxins and the infusion of fresh nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood. Carbon dioxide, lactic acid, and lymphatic fluids can be removed from deep tissues in a way that other exercises cannot.
Yoga doesn’t only help with detoxing physical toxins. While focused on moving in and out of a pose, the practitioner is also moving out of the mind chatter and into the present moment. Awareness is on the body, on the breath, and in the now. This promotes a mental detox, plus the many benefits of breathing properly. Stress and being in a perpetual fight-or-flight response put people in a shallow breathing pattern that doesn’t allow full oxygenation of the body or the removal of stagnation and toxins.
What Therapy caught up with Anne Hockett, who facilitates cleansing programs in Singapore and Bali, and Angela Bruhns, a certified yoga and pilates instructor, to find out what their favourite yoga asanas are for boosting a cleanse and detox, on the physical, emotional, mental, and emotional levels.
Pigeon & Heart Openers
For Anne, her favourite poses for cleansing are the Pigeon and any heart openers and here’s why.
The Pigeon beautifully and gently opens up the hip area, the area that allows large movements forward on the spiritual plane. The aim of working on the lower chakra areas is to encourage the ascension of energy to and through the heart centre.
The heart chakra is the mud from which the lotus springs forth. It is here that we touch the inalienable right of forgiveness and unconditional love….of self. As Swamiji says, love is like M&M’s…if you don’t have any yourself, how can you give any to me?
Anne Hockett, YouHealing
The spinal twist or Marichi’s Twist is called Marichiyasana. Marichi literally means a ray of light. There are several variations for this pose. Start with the simple spinal twist, either with a straight or bent leg.
For the Straight Leg Version
- Sit on your sitting bones, with your legs stretched out in front
- Bend the left leg over the right leg, outside the thigh, with the foot flat on the floor
- Sit tall and hug the bent leg with both arms
- Place your left hand on the floor behind you
- Inhale and reach up with your right arm
- Twist your upper body to the left side as your exhale and hug your left knee with your right arm. For a deeper stretch, use the tension between your right elbow and your left knee to further rotate your upper body.
- Bring your gaze behind you, without straining your neck
- Hold for 5 rounds of breath and release
- Switch sides
For the Bent Leg Version
- Start the pose the same way as for a straight-leg pose
- Bend the straight leg before moving into the rotation
Benefits » This twisting pose squeezes the abdominal organs and stimulates digestion and elimination. It detoxifies the liver and kidneys, key organs in elimination.
Bridge or Camel Pose
Known as the Bridge, this is a very calming pose. Setu bhanda sarvangasana is the beginner’s pose to work towards a full bridge.
This backbend also works the legs, opens the heart, and is good for the spine.
For the Bridge
- Lie down on your mat, facing upward.
- Bend your knees with your feet on the floor. Knees should be hips’ width apart.
Tip: To get the right distance between your shoulders and feet, try extending your hands and move your feet to where your fingers touch or almost touch your heels.
- Push your pelvis upward, keeping your knees directly over your heels. Your thighs should be strong and engaged.
- Stay in the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Exhale and lower your body gentle to come out of this pose.
* It’s important not to turn your head during this pose. After the Bridge, try hugging your knees to your chest for a counterpose.
Ustrasana or Camel Pose is an intermediate pose, and a fantastic heart opener. This is a more advanced pose than the beginner’s variation of the Bridge Pose. Exercise with caution if you have any low back or neck injury and high or low blood pressure.
Benefits » Poses that open the chest are good to counter congestion or stagnation. Backbends are also very useful to increase metabolism. The thyroid and the pituitary glands are stimulated.
Legs Against the Wall
Inversions such as headstands or shoulderstands may sound daunting. Start with this easy pose and get the benefits of an inversion. Rest your legs comfortably against the wall. It’s not only a great detox pose, but an antidote to exhaustion. Viparita Karini is a great one for the end of the day, or anytime you are feeling tired.
For this pose, you can either have your legs straight against the wall or bent at the knees. The idea is to get the legs resting comfortably against the wall, along with the backs of your thighs, and the upper body relaxing on the floor.
For the Straight Leg Version
- Fold the end of your mat for support and position it against the wall. Blankets or bolsters are also good.
- Sit with your right side of the body against the wall – your right shoulder, hip, and leg.
- Exhale. Gently swing your legs onto the wall, while lowering your back onto the ground.
- Walk your buttocks and hips towards the wall until the back of your thighs and your sitting bones are against it. For a beginner, start with bent knees and work towards straightening the legs over time. For those with lower back concerns, it helps not to have your sitting bones touching the wall.
- Keep your spine straight and relax your head on the mat.
- Rest your arms with the palms facing upwards.
- To come out of the pose, cross your legs against the wall. Bend the knees and roll to your right side.
- Come to a seated position using your arms to push up.
For the Hip Opener Version
- Start the same way as for the straight leg version; instead of having straight legs, bend your knees against the wall.
- Your back is flat and relaxed on the floor.
- For a greater stretch, place your hands on the knees for a gentle pressure. Otherwise rest your arms by the side, palms facing upwards.
- To come out of the pose, hug your knees to the chest and roll to your right side.
- Come to a seated position using your arms to push up.
Benefits » This pose brings fresh oxygen to the abdomen and refreshes the blood, stimulating the digestive organs. It helps drain accumulated lymph fluid from the legs and re-circulate it through the body. Inverting is good for increasing metabolism as it stimulates the thyroid gland. This pose is also good for the immune system.
For every pose there are contraindications and modifications, Yoga Journal provides an extensive glossary of yoga poses, along with fantastic information such as step-by-step instructions, therapeutic applications, benefits, cautions, and modifications. Yoga poses can be very subtle and it is best to participate in a foundation course or join classes led by certified and experienced instructors to ensure safety and maximum benefit.
On the fifth day of a cleanse, the lower chakras are more balanced. The heart is more available. The throat chakra then sings as it brings forth our authentic self. We no longer shy away from claiming our space and being of service. We simply sing. The chanting of OM is perhaps the most powerful practice of all!
Anne Hockett of You!Healing is based in Bali, where she teachers breathwork and meditation and offers monthly cleansing programs. She visits Singapore regularly for her 7 Day Cleansing Fast, which blends eastern and western modalities for a safe, effective, and supported experience. Anne believes not only in cleansing out physical toxins, but also in releasing the intangibles. The inclusion of eastern practices and knowledge allows for integrated healing. Contact Anne for more information or to register for the 7 Day Cleansing Fast.