Four ways to shed toxins and feel healthier through Yoga
We've learned that Hatha Yoga or Union through Effort focuses on cleansing the physical body first. Unlike the practice of Raja Yoga which focuses upon the Yamas & Niyamas as the beginning of our practice, Hatha Yoga focuses on controlling the body.
If we can understand how our body works, then not only can we control it but we can respect it. Cleansing isn't necessarily about using a neti or swallowing a milk-soaked rag. It's about thinking about what you're putting into your body, how you use your body and what you do to your body. When we understand our bodies, we understand ourselves and we are better able to look upon ourselves with honesty.
Have you ever viewed yourself with honesty? Without denying the aspects that you dislike or fear to admit to? The saying "you can't make others happy unless you are happy yourself" is about how you view yourself not about how much money you make, the car you drive or the clothes you wear. Know yourself and you'll learn that these things are not you. Know your body and you will find out who you really are.
Maybe you overdid it this weekend. Perhaps you really like cheese. Somehow an entire cheesecake disappeared and you think it might be in your belly. Regardless of how the toxins got into you, your task is to now get rid of them. Yoga can help!
1) Kriya: Cleansing
One of the most important practices described in Hatha Yoga is purification. In fact, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika explains that you cannot move toward Raja (mindfulness) until you have purified yourself completely. Hatha Yoga describes the practices of Satkarma which include cleansing of the eyes, sinuses, digestive system and areas of elimination.
We must keep in mind that Yoga and the practices described in the ancient texts were identified and the practice began around 5000 years ago. I don’t recommend practicing some of the satkarma described, today, as they may not create the intended results.
Spend 5 minutes gazing upon a singular object or point of focus. Try to soften your gaze and avoid blinking. Allow your eyes to tear.
2) Parvartate: Revolve
After using a towel or sponge to soak something up, what do you do with it? I typically wring it out to squeeze out that which was soaked up. We can do the same with our bodies. Twisting, rotating or revolving in our bodies can help to move things within us. Gentle twists can massage your internal organs and change the relationship between our bones, joints and muscles.
“Reclining Waist Pose”
Lay on your right side and extend your legs and arms at a 90° angles from your torso (reach them forward). Keep your legs stacked. Lift your left arm toward the ceiling and then reach it away to the left. Turn your head to face your left hand. Breathe deeply for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
3) Viparita Karani: Inverted Process
We spend most of our lives upright. Like the plants that reach for the sun, we stand upon our two feet with our heads above our hearts. Yoga Asana, or postures, are categorized based upon the primary movement that occurs in our bodies when we do them. Inversions are described as a position in which your heart is above your head. When we invert our bodies we change the way in which we see things, the way blood flows, the way fluids in our bodies move and the way gravity affects our bodies. Gentle inversions create a shift in experience and perception of the world. I like to imagine that inverting my body is like turning a container upside-down. Everything on top dumps out and everything on the bottom is revealed. Shake things up and you might discover toxins that you didn’t know you had stored away.
Beside your sofa or bed lay a pillow. Rest your hips on the pillow and put your calves on the bed or sofa. Stretch your arms out to the sides. Rest with your eyes closed for 40 breaths.
4) Cultivate Opposites
Yoga is a practice of cultivating opposites. In order to remove the toxins that result from habits, we have to identify them. If you spend most of your day sitting, you should create opportunities for walking. If your job includes managing people you should step back and let someone else take the lead in other situations. If you really like strongly flavored foods, you should include bland foods on every dish as a compliment.
Make a list of your favorite activities and foods. Then, beside each item on the list, write down something that is opposite or complementary. Seek out opportunities to cultivate the opposite.
If you would like to learn more or receive individualized guidance in any of these techniques I would be happy to schedule a session. As with any new activity begin gently and seek out guidance from a qualified teacher.