Twisting to Detoxify

Asana Yoga

The seasonal shift from winter to spring often brings a sense of renewal to our spirits. As we begin to shed our winter clothing, we may also start to clear away things that managed to build up in the hibernation of the winter season and look to spring for a fresh and liberating start.

A popular habit that reflects this transition is “Spring Cleaning,” the practice of thoroughly cleaning one’s home in the springtime. Many people – especially yogis – might be interested in taking this cleaning and clearing out process inward. There are countless ways to approach detoxifying the body, but when it comes to your asana practice, your best bet are twisting postures.

B.K.S. Iyengar famously describes twists as a “squeeze and soak” action. The squeeze part of the action refers to the twist itself because twisting postures create a wringing (or compression) effect on the abdominal organs. This compression pushes blood out of the abdominal organs and creates a flushing effect that helps to eliminate toxins.

The soaking part of the action refers to what happens as you bring your body out of the twist. As the compression is released, fresh blood floods back into the abdominal organs bringing with it oxygen and nutrients. In essence, with the squeeze, you are clearing out and creating space, and with the soak, you are intentionally refilling the space.

A powerful way to work more deeply with twists is to use them as a tool to refine your intentions. As you move mindfully into your twist, ask yourself questions such as: What do I want to clear out of my life? What do I want to let go of? What about the way I am living my life right now is not serving me? As you unwind, shift your focus to mirror the soaking phase of the twist and explore questions such as: What am I creating space for? What do I want more of in my life?

Whether you find yourself focusing on more cleaning your kitchen, detoxifying through twisting asanas or clearing away things that aren’t serving you, remember to approach your pursuit with a balance of sthira and sukha (translated simply as effort and ease). Allow your body to twist, guide your body to twist, but don’t force your body to twist. If you would like more guidance on how to twist safety and smoothly, please come to class and ask!

Hope to see you on the mat.

Photo Credit: Chris Yakimov

Allow Your Body to Heal

Restorative Yoga Yoga

Not too long ago a picture of a little cat lying on its back was regularly showing up in my Facebook news feed. The text at the top of this image read:

I may look like I’m doing nothing but on a cellular level I’m very busy.

Not only cute and comical, but true. The practice of Restorative Yoga, which can also be described as a practice of active relaxation, is based on an awareness of what happens (on a cellular level) when we allow the body to rest, when we lay on our backs and do nothing – just like the little cat.

I want to specifically address using Restorative Yoga to address injury in the body. If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent hours (days, weeks or even months) of your life trying to “solve” your injuries. Perhaps you too have bounced from practitioner to practitioner trying one approach after another in search of something that will help you find your way to feeling healed. I don’t want to devalue to the wisdom and insight we can gain from practitioners of all different modalities, but I believe that in this outward seeking of healing we may lose sight of our greatest source of healing.

Having an injury can be very stressful. An injury might prevent you from staying active (which helps to combat stress), it might impact your ability to work (creating financial stress), and it might make day-to-day tasks more challenging and more tiring. Seeing someone for your injury can also be a large source of financial stress – especially if things don’t improve with the first practitioner you see. A number of things happen in the body when it is under stress, and one of those things is that the body directs energy away from systems that are not an immediate priority, including digestion, elimination, repair, and reproduction. Simply put, the stress of an injury can prevent our body from repairing that injury.

In contrast, the soothing and quieting poses of Restorative Yoga help our own internal healing processes to work. The body has an incredible ability to heal itself and Restorative Yoga offers us the possibility of connecting to this source of healing. By resting deeply in the poses, we can begin to release ourselves from the destructive and limiting forces of chronic stress.

Restorative Yoga often involves a paradigm shift from “doing, fixing and solving” to “being and allowing,” and if you are habitually an active problem solver, Restorative Yoga can require a leap of faith. I am incredibly grateful that I took this leap because among other things, Restorative Yoga has empowered me to believe deeply in my body’s ability to heal itself and it has taught me to value taking time to rest so that my body is able to direct its energy in this way.

If you would like to explore this approach to healing, I teach Restorative Yoga on Sunday evenings at South Granville YYoga. I would love to see you there.

Photo Credit: Chris Yakimov