Imagine a dishtowel that’s soaked up a sink full of dirty dishwater. What would you do with the towel? Wring it out of course. You’d twist it up strongly to squeeze out the filthy suds. Just so, twists and sweat can help cleanse or detoxify the body.
Twisting postures aid the elimination process. When you twist your torso to the right, you squeeze the ascending colon; when you twist left, you compress the descending colon. Each time I teach the standing twists sequence in a 200-hour teacher training, the trainees all beeline for the bathroom as soon as savasana is over. It never fails.
And a healthy sweat releases not only physical tension, but also some of the emotional stress and angst that often builds during the holiday season.
So here’s a mini detox yoga sequence to coax your Thanksgiving meal through your digestive system and to help flush any pent up physical and emotional stagnation:
1. Jathara parivartanasana (active supine twist). Lie on your back with your arms spread in a T shape, palms facing the ceiling. Make a tabletop with your shins: stack your knees over your hips and arrange your shins parallel with the floor. Lower your legs to the left, but not all the way to the floor. Return to the starting position and lower your legs to the right. Repeat several times on both sides.
2. Surya Namaskar A (sun salute A). From tadasana (mountain pose), inhale and reach your arms overhead. Exhale and fold forward, bringing your hands to the floor. Inhale look forward. Exhale step to plank and lower half way down or jump to chaturanga. Inhale into up dog. Exhale into down dog. Stay for five breaths, then jump your feet to your hands. Inhale look forward. Exhale fold over your legs. Inhale reach up to the ceiling and exhale back to tadasana.
3. Parivrtta trikonasana (revolved triangle). From tadasana (mountain pose), step your left foot back about a leg’s distance and angle your left foot so that your toes face the front left corner of your mat. Place your right hand on your right hip and reach the left hand to the ceiling. On an exhale, fold forward at the hips and place your cupped left hand under your left shoulder on the big toe side of the front foot or, for a deeper twist, place the left fingertips on the little toe side of the front foot. You can use a block if your spine rounds when you touch the floor. Stretch the right arm to the ceiling. Stay for several breaths, deepening the twist with each exhale. To come out, place your both hands on the floor or on blocks on either side of your front foot, then lift your hands to your hips. Press your feet down and stand up. Step the back foot forward and repeat on the left side.
4. Marichyasana C (seated twist). Sit on the floor or on blankets with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend the right knee and place your foot flat on the floor. Place your right hand behind you and reach the left hand to the ceiling. Twist right and hook your left elbow outside your right knee. Face forward again, switch legs and repeat on the left side.
5. Parsva bakasana (side crow). From Marichyasana C on the right side: Tip to the right and place your hands on the floor shoulder distance apart. Bend your left knee and step the ball of your left foot onto the mat near your right foot. Transfer weight to your hands by leaning your chest way forward à la chaturanga and cantilevering your hips off the floor. Your right thigh will be perched on your left arm; your right hip should not rest on your right elbow. Pick up your right foot first, then lift your left foot off the floor and stack it on top of your right. Dismount to Marichyasana C with as much grace as you can muster and repeat on the left.
6. Setu bandha (bridge pose). Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor hip distance apart, your arms by your sides. Press your heels down and lift your hips up. Interlace your fingers beneath you and walk your shoulders underneath you. Stay for several breaths. To come out, simply release the grip of your fingers and lower your pelvis to the floor.
The twists will aid digestion and the abdominal work should help you achieve a healthy sweat. Setu bandha will then release your abdominal wall and, because it’s a heart opening backbend, it’s an opportunity to send a little holiday love to friends and family and to prepare yourself to receive their seasonal affection in return.
Jennie Cohen was first introduced to yoga through dance, and her work with Simonson technique informs her approach to teaching yoga: classes prioritize working safely and address the needs of different students. Precise instruction and focused sequencing invite students to delve into the intricacies of postures and to explore a sense of adventure. Jennie’s interest in anatomy and her studies of the texts that form the philosophical foundation of the practice infuse her classes. Jennie is 500-hour certified through YogaWorks and has studied anatomy with Irene Dowd and Leslie Kaminoff. For more information on Jennie, visit her website or like her on Facebook.