The whole routine of fall house cleaning may have gone the way of 50s sitcom moms who wore pearls as they vacuumed their already squeaky clean homes. But idea of using this time to give a thorough cleansing to your mind, body and spirit as you transition from autumn to winter is totally “now.” Just as layers of dust dull the beauty of wood or glass, the build-up of stress, negative thoughts and draining emotions stop a human being’s full beauty from shining through. Committing to a detoxifying regimen can help clear all that debris, get you back to your center and re-energize you at every level.
You have lots of options for creating an effect cleanse. Considering what you eat and how you feel as a result of your food choices is one component. Some people take a strict view that narrows those choices only to fruit/vegetable juices for several days. Others choose a vegan or vegetarian dietary jumpstart, with an emphasis on organic foods and lighter meals. Still others favor a raw food menu, at least for the first few days. Or, maybe, the first step is simply to leave processed food and products with fillers/additives out of your shopping cart. Herbal teas may be a nice companion. There are also a wide variety of specialty supplements for detoxifying, but you should discuss them with a trusted expert so that you understand what the full impact could be on your digestive and immune systems.
While eating healthy foods is a great way to enhance your wellbeing, taking a holistic view of cleansing your system means being aware of your body at a more subtle level. That’s where your yoga practice comes in. The alternate stretching and tightening of your muscles in yoga not only helps stimulate your digestive system, but also helps your circulatory system work more efficiently. Your asana practice helps your lymphatic system collect and remove unwanted substances. And, the mind-body nature of your yoga practice can help trigger calming responses in your brain.
The upside doesn’t stop there. Yoga is a compelling tool for detoxifying your thinking. Every time you tell yourself about your tight hamstrings, bad balance, weak arms or not-model-perfect thighs, you feed your mind a diet of negative thoughts. That’s a pretty toxic way of thinking. Just walking into a yoga class or getting our your mat or Yoga-Paws stops that cycle. The choice to practice means you believe in yourself enough to take on the challenge of whatever that class or at-home session offers. Somewhere inside, you know you can move forward and grow. The more you focus on that positive attitude, the easier it will be to clean out the thought patterns that hold you back and limit you.
Before your next practice, take your detox into your practice. As you prepare for class, find a word that helps you concentrate on detoxifying your mind and body. Maybe you want to breathe in “renew” or “refresh” and exhale “staleness,” “dullness” or “complacency.” Use something that is meaningful to you. You’ll know what it is the minute you open your mind and let the word form. You’ll feel lighter, cleaner, more ready to take on the world as that word is integrated into your breath.
Then, make it physical to help start your cleanse. Here are some poses to help you help your body run at peak efficiency.
Standing Shakti Kicks
Benefits: Sadie Nardini uses these vigorous kicks to help stimulate digestion. How to do it: Standing at the front of your mat, bend over and place your hands shoulder width apart in front of your feet. Engage your core to pull your right knee into your chest. Take an inhale. On the exhale, extend your leg into a split. Inhale as you stretch your right leg, and exhale as you bend it in. Repeat five to 10 times, then switch sides.
Benefits: This pose helps boost circulation. How to do it: Start on your hands and knees. Exhale and stretch your legs, bringing your heels to or toward the floor. Keep your shoulders even and your head between your arms. Lift your right leg as far as you can toward the ceiling, keeping your hips square and reaching through your (right) heel. Hold for five breaths, then switch legs.
Benefits: This pose helps stimulate digestion. How to do it: Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). On an inhale, bend your knees as close to a right angle as possible. Press your palms together in front of your sternum, thumbs resting on your chest. Exhale and bring your right elbow to the outside of your left thigh. Rotate your head to gaze upward. Hold for three breaths, then release and repeat on the other side.
Focus on Twists. Twisting poses help stimulate your digestion, circulation, and lymphatic system. Try repeating some twisting poses each time you practice to enhance those benefits.
Breathe. No matter what kind of yoga you do, keeping your breath deep and even helps bring fresh oxygen to your muscles and expel both breath and whatever stressful thoughts you have. Make sure to keep your exhalations complete (and longer than your inhales if possible) as you practice.
And remember, even a complete physical detox won’t feel cleansing unless your mind is clear as well. Make a list of five to 10 thoughts that make you feel stuck, either physically weighted down or limited in your mind. Each time you practice, focus on letting go of one or two of them. Enjoy the possibilities of a de-cluttered self!