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Deep Cleaning: Yoga Poses for Detox

Posted on October 31 2017

The whole routine of fall house cleaning may have gone the way of 50's sitcom moms who wore pearls as they vacuumed their already squeaky clean homes.  But the 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 can 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 effective 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.  Stepping onto your mat is a great way to stop 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:


Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Benefits:  The intense engagement of the core presses the internal organs and squeezes the junk through your circulatory system.

How it's done:

  • Begin in a deep squat or sitting on your knees. 
  • Place your hands so that wrists are turned and fingers are pointed towards your core, on the mat.
  • Lean forward, tuck your elbows under your abdomen
  • As you move forward, keep your head up
  • Find balance as feet lift off of the floor. 

Shirshasana I (Headstand Pose)

Benefits:  Flipping your body also means flipping every organ in your body, including those that are a part of the digestive system, and helping to drain your lymphatic system.

How it's done:

  • Kneel down
  • Interlace your hands, bend down and place them on the mat in front of you.  Your hands will cup your head.  Tuck pinky if you tend to roll on it, or it makes your pose unsteady
  • Position your elbows so they are shoulder-width apart.
  • Come up to your toes and walk up into a dolphin-like pose.  Go up to your tippy toes. 
  • You can bring one knee, or both into your chest.  Find your balance. 
  • Slowly raise legs one at a time, or both together up to the sky. 
  • Your ankles should be over your knees, your knees over your hips, and your hips over your shoulders. 

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Benefits: This pose massages the internal organs to aid in detoxification. It helps with spinal rotation and flexibility.  It stretches the muscles in your hips, your shoulders, and neck. 

How it's done:

  • Sitting on the floor in Staff pose, inhale and lengthen your spine, neck, and head toward the ceiling.
  • Bend your right knee
  • Exhale and twist to the right.
  • Bring your left elbow to the outside of your right knee, fingertips to the sky.
  • Place your right hand on the floor near your hip.
  • 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.


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!


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