The holidays are a time when we tend to indulge a little more than we normally would. If you find that you’ve overdone it, these 6 detoxifying yoga poses can help provide some relief. Practice them independently as needed, or together as a mini-sequence.
1. Intestinal/abdominal massage. This isn’t technically a yoga asana (at least not that I’m aware of), but I find it to be an extremely helpful way to move things through my intestinal tract when I’ve eaten too much or something doesn’t agree with me. This self-massage moves up the ascending colon, across the transverse and down (and out) the descending colon. Don’t worry… it doesn’t move things out immediately! To practice: find your right hipbone or hip point and gently push your fingertips into your belly just above it. Begin to massage in a circular motion. As you massage, start to move up until you find the bottom side of your right rib cage. Then massage from the bottom right ribcage to the left, once you massage to the bottom left ribcage, begin to massage down to the left hip point. Finally continue across your belly under your naval until you get to the right hip point again. Do this 3-5 times.
2. Apanasana. This pose translates in English to “wind removing pose.” It’s a great way to get the excess gas moving out of your body. To practice, lie on your back, and draw your knees into your chest, holding the shins or the backs of your thighs. Take 5 long breaths in and out through your nose. Repeat 3-5 times.
3. Downward dog. This is a great overall pose for detoxing. Anytime the head is lower than the heart, circulation is increased, and increased circulation helps the detox process. From table position (hands under shoulders and knees under hips), walk your hands forward about a handprint, tuck your toes under and lift your knees. Straighten your legs as much as you can while keeping your spine long. Be sure your arms are shoulder distance apart and your feet are hip width apart. Spread your fingers wide and press down into the base of your fingers as you lift up through your forearms. Spin your outer upper arms (triceps) toward the back of your mat as you spin the inner arms (biceps) toward the front of your mat. Press a little extra weight into the thumb and first finger side of your hand and gently lift your shoulder blades toward your waist. Press the weight up toward your hips, moving your chest and belly toward your thighs as you draw your belly and ribs in. Straighten your legs as much as you can as you reach your heels toward the floor. Firm your leg muscles if your knees are able to straighten. Spin your inner thighs back. Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths and practice 3-5 times. Downward dog is even more effective when practiced with sun salutations.
4. Dolphin plank. I like this pose to heat up the body. Building heat helps the detoxification process by creating “Tapas” (no, not the yummy small plates of food from Spanish restaurants!). Tapas is a Sanskrit word that translates as “to burn.” Creating heat in the body helps to burn out impurities. To practice, begin in table position, on your hands and knees. Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows shoulders distance apart. Tuck your toes under and lift your knees off of the floor into dolphin pose. Keep your elbows under your shoulders and your wrists in front of your elbows and press some extra weight into the inner wrist, thumb and first finger. Step back about a foot and lower your hips into the same line as your shoulders. Your legs can be hips width apart or you can step them together. Lift through your low belly and rib cage. Bring your chest forward as you gently draw your shoulder blades toward your waist. Keep the crown of your head reaching forward as you stretch back through your heels. Press firmly in your elbows and inner forearms and wrists as you continue to lift and widen through your upper back and collarbones. Keep your breath calm and steady and lift the inner thighs and backs of the knees toward the ceiling while lengthening the tailbone toward the heels. Hold for 3-5 breaths and work up to 10 breaths. Practice 3-5 times. Please note, if your elbows continue to splay out wider than the shoulders and your wrists move close together, you can practice this asana by interlacing your fingers and pressing down through the pinky side of the hand and outer forearm, keeping the elbows under the shoulders. If the elbows continue to splay out wider than the shoulders, use a looped yoga strap just above your elbows to keep them in place.
5. Marichyasana C. This pose is a twist that helps to stimulate the digestive process. Sit on the floor or your mat in dandasana or staff pose, with your legs in front of you and ankles flexed. Place your hands on either side of your hips, lightly pressing down as you lift away from the floor with a long spine. Ground down through your sit bones as you lengthen through all four sides of your waist. If you find that your lower back is rounding and your pelvis is tilting forward toward your heels, sit up on a folded blanket or towel to lengthen your spine. Bend your right knee and bring your right heel under your knee. Place your right hand on the floor behind your back with your arm close to your back. Inhale and lift your left arm up, lengthening through the spine once again, and exhale to hook your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Keep your low belly slightly in and up. Every time you inhale, sit up tall and every time you exhale roll your right shoulder open. Hold for 5-10 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
6. Savasana. Rest lying down with your legs hips width and your feet flopping open to the sides. Take your arms away from your sides with your palms facing up to receive. Close your eyes and rest for 3-5 minutes, breathing naturally.
Now you’re all detoxed and ready for your next re-tox!
If you have more time to spend, try my full one-hour Twist & Detox practice on MyYogaWorks.com.
Lesley began practicing yoga in San Francisco in 2000 as a way to start meditating and to connect spiritually. She eventually moved to Orange County in 2005, and began teaching in 2006. In addition to the 200-hour certificate she earned from YogaWorks in 2006, she completed the 100-hour Ashtanga Primary Series training program with Tim Miller in 2008. In March 2010, Lesley completed the YogaWorks 500-hour Professional Certification Program and is now RYT E-500. She is also certified in the YogaWorks method of teaching. Lesley now has the honor and privilege of teaching the YogaWorks method to aspiring teachers as a lead trainer for the YogaWorks 200-hour teacher training program. Practice online with Lesley on myyogaworks.com, and learn more about her upcoming classes, retreats and teacher trainings at www.fightmasteryoga.com.