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

Resolution Support!


Having worked as lifeguard at public pools – and now teaching yoga, I am very familiar with the “January Rush” that facilities catering to any sort of fitness activity experience at this time of year.

Recently, a friend relayed to me an experience of a coworker (who works at a very busy fitness facility) being told, “Just make it through January.”

While I understand the comment was made to bolster morale during busy times, I couldn’t help but reflect on the implication that a large percentage of the people attending fitness facilities this month will fail to follow through with their New Year’s Resolutions. I wouldn’t call myself a hopeless romantic, but in certain situations, I am undeniably a hopeless optimist. And, without a word of a lie, I thought to myself in response, “Maybe this year will be the year that everyone follows through with their fitness related resolutions.”

And, I began to consider how I could help the students in my class stay committed to their yoga-related resolutions. Two ideas I came up with were consistently guiding attention to intention and connecting the community.

Guiding attention to intention is something I already focus on in my classes, because I believe it is easier to move in the direction you want to move when you stay focused on that direction. ‎Demi Langford put it beautifully when she wrote, “Setting an intention is like setting the destination on your GPS system.”

At the beginning of every class, I ask my students to take a moment to become clear about why they are practicing. I invite and encourage them to let go of any need for their intentions to be noble or world-changing, and to find what is true in their heart, whether it is simply to escape from pressures outside the class or to build a yogalicious body.

My hope is that by cultivating more presence and awareness around yoga-related intentions the decision to step on to the mat will continue to be made with relative ease.

The second idea – connecting the community – is founded upon a belief that people are more likely to stay committed to something if they are a part of it with other people. The connection doesn’t need to be deep; simply knowing that there will be familiar faces in class can make it easier and more desirable to show up.

At the beginning of my classes, I have been taking a moment to foster this sense of community by asking my students to introduce themselves to one or two other people in the class. My hope is to cultivate enough familiarity that if two of my students ran into each other outside of class they would at least smile and nod to one another – instead of awkwardly looking down as people who recognize but do not officially know each other sometimes do.