If you have a regular yoga practice, you know how good you feel after even a few poses. That’s not just a feeling. Every time you put on your YogaPaws step onto your mat, you’re helping your body’s natural systems detoxify. For example, yogic breathing delivers more oxygen to your cells and carries away carbon dioxide. Asanas that work your core stimulate your abdominal muscles and adrenals to make your metabolism and digestion more efficient. The expansion and compression of many yoga sequences aid in pumping intercellular fluids containing contaminants into your lymph nodes so that they can be filtered out of your body. And, if you practice Bikram yoga or hot yoga, you can intensify that cleansing activity as the heated room increases perspiration. After some breath work to reset your heart rate and a refreshing drink of water, your body lightens, brightens and makes room for new thoughts and possibilities.
Daily classes may still be on your wish list. But you can still make yoga’s detoxifying benefits part of your day. Start with poses like that these that can be integrated into your routine at home, at work and at play.
To start your day: Marichyasana III (Marichi’s Pose)
Benefits: This pose stimulates digestion by squeezing the abdominal organs.
How to do it: Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Bend your right knee in as close to the right sitting bone as possible, keeping the sole of your right foot on the floor. Ground your right foot and left leg into the floor. On an exhale, twist your torso to the right and wrap your left arm around your right thigh. Ground your right fingertips into the floor just behind your pelvis. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute and release on an exhale. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: This pose massages the internal organs to aid in detoxification.
How to do it: Sitting on your chair with both feet on the floor, inhale and lengthen your spin, neck and head toward the ceiling. Exhale and twist to the right. Bring your left hand to the outside of your right leg. Place your right hand on the back of your chair. Starting in your hips, twist your body to the right. Look over your right shoulder. Extend through the crown of your head as you inhale, twist deeper as you exhale. Hold here for five to ten breaths. Inhale, return to center and repeat on the other side.
Benefits: This pose stimulates the abdominal organs and opens the chest to improve breathing. This is best done before you eat lunch.
How to do it: Consider taking your Yoga-Paws to work and moving your practice into the fresh air. Begin by stepping your feet three-and-a-half to four feet apart. Inhale your arms up to shoulder height, parallel to the ground. Turn your right foot to the right so that our toes point to the front of the mat. Angle your left foot in to about 45 degrees. Turn your torso to the right. Inhale and continue turning your torso to the right, leaning over your right leg. Place your left hand on the inside or outside of your right foot or along the outside of your right leg (avoiding the knee). Extend the right arm up and straight out of the shoulder. Look up at your raised hand or, if that is uncomfortable for your neck, look down at your left hand. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Come to Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Take a few deep breaths. Then reverse.
Benefits: Putting your head below your heart reverses gravity and helps blood and lymph circulate.
How to do it: Begin on your hands and knees. Make sure your hands are aligned under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. On an exhale, turn your toes under and stretch your knees. Reach your heels toward or onto the floor. Keep your head between your arms. Remain in the pose for one to three minutes.
To cleanse before bed: Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)
Benefits: Calms the mind and refreshes the brain
How to do it: Place folded blankets or a bolster about six inches from the wall. If you tend to be tight, choose a lower support. If you tend to be flexible, try a higher support. Sit sideways with your right side again the wall, legs extended straight out in front of you. Exhale and swing your legs up the wall. At the same time, lower your shoulders and head to the floor. Your bolster or blankets should be supporting your low back and pelvis, but feel free to experiment to find a placement that’s comfortable for you. You may also a towel or thin, folded blanket under your neck to keep your spine straight. Hold for five to 15 minutes.
Like showering or brushing your teeth, yoga can be part of everyday. With each asana, you have the opportunity to put something into the fire and allow it to burn away and release on your next exhale. Will Brashear, founder of Cincinnati Yoga School and the Austin Wright and Prem Lata Memorial which teaches impoverished children in Chandigarh, India, often reminds his teacher trainees that their interior landscapes are like mirrors. At the outset or their journeys in this life, there are many impurities and mar that surface. By, by moving through the fire and cleansing, the mirrors of their true selves become more and more perfectly polished—until, eventually, they brilliantly reflect the Divine. So, find day-long ways to let yourself shine brightly.