This article appears in the February 2016 issue of BAMBI (Bangkok Mothers & Babies International) magazine
Each New Year many people embark on the journey to improve themselves: getting fit, losing weight, eating healthier, making changes in their lifestyles. The truth is that only a handful of them will keep their resolution for a full year. This is apparent at the swimming pool, gym or yoga studio every January, but by the time February comes around many of those people can no longer be found.
This doesn’t happen because we don’t want to change, it happens because we move ahead too quickly into new lifestyle without first reflecting and understanding our old ideas, habits and patterns. As humans we are filled with self-doubt and anxiety, these are emotions that impede us on your journey to self-improvement. A consistent yoga practice, even once or twice a week can bring you back to your true self: one that is not impeded by your preconceived limitations and weaknesses.
Every New Year we are inundated by information telling us that we need to detox, purge our bodies of all the unhealthiness that has accumulated over the past year. Drinking more water, eating healthier, non-processed food and adding some aerobic activity to your life is a good way to start to start down the journey.
To begin detoxing, you don’t need to commit to weeks of sipping expensive juice, delivered to your door. One of the easiest things you can begin to do is simply rolling out a yoga mat and practicing the following simple sequence to start to stimulate your circulatory, digestive, and lymphatic systems, helping you rid your body of waste and toxins. Practicing these simple yoga poses will help your body with its daily detox of these systems. These poses will cleanse and massage your internal organs and help with digestion, stress, sadness and fear.
The calming and centering aspects of yoga are essential for an all-over detox for your mind and body, helping release physical, mental, and emotional toxicity. In our yoga practice, each new breath is a new moment: you can restart any time, all the time. Pranayama literally means extension of life force or vital energy (breath). Yoga helps you remain in the present, moving forward, never looking back.
So…does yoga really remove toxins from your body?
Not really, our bodies are perfectly designed to engage in detoxification every single day.
Your liver and lymphatic system constantly flush harmful toxins out of your body, working much like a night club bouncer for your whole body. Although twists have benefits ranging from increased flexibility to stimulated appetite, there’s no scientific research that proves twisting yoga postures improve liver and lymphatic-system function. Practicing deep yogic breathing, however, will assist your organs in the detoxification. One of the primary ways our bodies detoxes, is through lymph flow. The Lymphatic system relies entirely on musculature movement, or turning the body, literally ‘on its head’ to reverse the flow of blood and help the body rid itself of impurities accumulated in different organs – including the liver. Many yoga postures also help send blood flow to the ‘master’ gland, the pituitary, which regulates the entire endocrine system; these include headstands, shoulder stands, handstands and wide-legged forward folds.
The added benefit of a regular yoga practice is that it burns calories, reduces water weight, tones thighs, rear, abdominals and arms. Yoga also helps release lower back and shoulder tension, as well as helping to build a strong core to support your lower back. Many poses are structured to invert and oxygenate the body for optimal detoxifying and supports stress release. Yoga will also help you build lean muscle mass for a higher rate of metabolism.
A word of note: Discomfort or tension may arise during your practice, it’s normal, but if you feel sharp pain during any of these postures, stop immediately and come out of the pose. You may also feel very emotional or overwhelmed during or after your practice, this is also normal. Allow yourself time to breathe deeply and understand all change is difficult and comes with time.
These poses can be incorporated into a simple yoga sequence or create your own short sequence by warming up with 3-5 rounds of Sun Salutations and then adding the following poses.
My model for these poses is the lovely Kru Am, who teaches at the studio Tuesdays at 8 pm, Fridays at 10 am and Sundays at 2 pm.
Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Fold) – A fantastic pose for opening tight hamstrings, as well as allowing your head to fall below your heart. This pose also reverses the pull of gravity, encouraging circulation of blood throughout the body. The folding motion squeezes the belly which also moves things along, aiding in digestion. Open your legs approximately 3 to 4 feet apart. Inhale and lift your chest. Exhaling and fold forward from the hip creases. Spread your arms wide, coming onto your fingertips, with elbows bent. You can place your forehead on a yoga block. Hold for ten to fifteen breathes.
Salabhasana (Locust Pose) –This pose strengthens the entire back of the body, opens the heart, and encourages good posture. Applying gentle pressure on your abdomen will help aide digestion. Inhale and lift your legs, arms and upper torso off the mat. Your neck remains neutral; your hands stay facing the sky as you relax your glutes and engage your thigh muscles, helping to support the “lift” you feel in your chest and legs. Repeat three times, resting between each.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Spinal Twist) – is done by extending your legs out in front of you, bringing your right leg up and over your left leg and placing your right foot on the floor. Next, inhale and lengthen out your hips as you twist and hook your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and allow your gaze to follow. Take several deep inhales and exhales here. Inhale and lengthen. Exhale and twist. Hold each side for five to ten breathes. Repeat on the other side.
Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall) – This pose is one of the most relaxing and calming Yoga poses there is, allowing you to de-stress and center yourself. I recommend incorporating this pose into your life every day, either first thing in the morning, before bed or even right when you get home from work. All you need to do is lay down on your back with your legs extended and resting on the wall. I like to have my hands resting on my stomach so I can feel my breath. Stay for 10 minutes or longer if you are comfortable.
You have come this far, why not finish your Detox Yoga Sequence with five minute mediation: Stay in either a comfortable seated position or lying down. Turn off the phone, TV and any music. Take a few moments and just listen to your breath. As you rest and breathe, take this time to let go of all the things you’ve been carrying: stress, limiting beliefs, a critical self-image, and other people’s choices and ideas about you. With every exhale, allow more past resistance to release, making room for inhales of possibility.
Now go out into the world Yogi, filled with all the new thoughts, new words and new actions that are meaningful and empowering to you and have the best year ever!
Sherri (Minh) Lowe is a 200 E-RYT teacher and co-founder of Yogatique Bangkok. She is a fifty-one year old Canadian transplant living in Bangkok. When she is not on her yoga mat, she enjoys cycling, trying new vegan recipes, a cold beer, lingering in coffee shops and exploring Bangkok. When not pursing these activities, she is writing about them