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

Deepen Your Asana

Asana Awareness Class Readings Living Yoga Philosophy

Through Yoga Journal, you can sign up for Daily Insight emails.  The piece below is from the Daily Insight sent out on Apr.2, and I used it as the inspiration for one of my classes this week.  In many ways, it captures why I practice and teach yoga.

Our asana practice can have a positive impact on our lives because it constantly asks us to become more sensitive, more conscious, and more aware of our bodies, minds, feelings, and emotions. As our sensitivity increases, life becomes more rich and enjoyable because we can taste the unique flavor of each individual moment. More important, we also become more aware of what moves us toward our dharma, or life path, and what takes us away from it. This awareness makes us clearer and more peaceful, more able to elegantly handle life’s endless dilemmas without feeling overwhelmed or fearful. As a result, we become more effective in all of our actions, and our presence begins to inspire and bring out the best in people around us.

The awareness that we develop on the yoga mat, though seemingly small, affects all that is. As we become more aware in our yoga practice and in our lives, as we move away from force and violence and toward sensitivity, feeling, and awareness, we change our individual consciousness and actions. In turn, these changes influence the consciousness and the actions of everyone we meet. Slowly, we shift the direction the world is taking. As we practice each asana, whether it be a challenging twist such as Ardha Matsyendrasana II (Half Lord of the Fishes II Pose) or a simple standing pose such as Tadasana (Mountain Pose), we have the opportunity to become the embodiment of peace and to make our practice a prayer for harmony in the world.