5 Detox Yoga Poses

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It’s the perfect time to become your healthiest and whole self. You cannot extend to others what you, yourself do not contain. Become your happiest, healthiest, self this year and extend that health and joy to those around you. Don’t only focus on detoxing your physical body, but detox your relationships as well. As we cleanse our physical bodies, it is just as important to surround ourselves with healthy people.

What about your mental clarity? Your spiritual being? Are all these areas cleansed? What steps do you need to take to detox your entire life? Below are five detox yoga poses that can help you detoxify your physical body. We will focus on revolved and inverted yoga asanas as each of these asana families will detoxify your entire system. We will explore three revolved postures and two inversions.

Twists and Revolved Poses

A twist will not only leave you feeling energized and focused but will also give you mental clarity, relieve stress and deep tension and will detoxify your entire system by primarily massaging your internal organs. I like to tell students to think of a dirty washrag being wrung out; This is what we are doing to our systems as we practice revolved postures.

These can be incorporated into almost every yoga posture, whether we’re seated, standing, balancing, prone or in a supine (on your back) position. Revolved postures can be challenging. You will need patience in your journey with twists, as they can be challenging and uncomfortable in the beginning. The more you practice these demanding poses, the better you will become, so embrace where you are and enjoy the journey.

Yoga twists increase the flexibility of your entire abdominal wall including obliques and most back muscles. Inactivity can reduce the range of movement available to all your joints. Twists can assist in mobilizing the joints of your spine by rotating each vertebra gently. Any revolved pose will squeeze the internal organs and encourage the flow of oxygenated blood while eliminating toxins and metabolic waste products. The liver, kidneys, stomach, pancreas, and spleen all benefit from the twisting poses of yoga. Twisting poses can also help reduce abdominal bloating and digestive discomfort.

Revolved Triangle Pose or Parivrtta Trikonasana

Benefits:

  • Strengthens and stretches the legs( especially the thighs), knees, ankles and arches
  • Stretches and opens the chest, lungs, shoulders, groins and spine
  • Increases lung capacity
  • Stimulates abdominal organs aiding in digestion and circulation
  • Improves alignment of the spine; improving posture and increasing flexibility and mobility of the spine
  • Improves balance
  • Can be therapeutic for backache, arthritis, infertility, constipation, asthma and sciatica
  • Increases stamina and energizes
  • Improves concentration, focus, will power and mental clarity
  • Relieves, stress, anxiety and depression

Cautions:

If you have a major spinal injury you should avoid this posture. Use caution if you have a headache, high or low blood pressure, an ankle or knee injury, insomnia, or a shoulder injury. If you have a neck injury, keep your gaze either facing forward or towards the ground.

Revolved Chair or Parivrtta Utkatasana

Benefits:

  • Rejuvenates the blood system throughout the entire body
  • Stimulates and massages the abdominal organs (including ovaries, prostate gland, bladder and kidneys). This improves and relieves digestion issues and tones the abdominal wall
  • Strengthens the obliques and transverse abdominal, as well as opens the arm pits and strengthens inner and outer intercostal muscles
  • Strengthens and stretches the back muscles, aligns and awakens the spine and improves posture
  • Stretches and strengthens the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, shoulders, chest, feet, ankles, knees and spine; relieves tension in the back, neck and shoulders
  • Increases flexibility, lubricates ankle and knee joints and awakens the legs
  • Stimulates the heart, improves circulation, respiratory and lymphatic systems
  • Therapeutic for mild sciatica, backache, arthritis, osteoporosis, flatulence, menopause, menstrual discomfort and can improve infertility issues
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Stimulates and energizes the nervous system
  • Improves concentration, stamina, mental focus and relieves mild depression
  • Relieves mental and physical lethargy and exhaustion
  • Calming, centering and balancing; it brings a state of tranquility as well as can be invigorating

Cautions:

Use caution if you have high or low blood pressure; a headache or migraine; low back or shoulder injury; insomnia; a hip, knee or ankle injury, severe asthma, sciatica, degenerated or herniated disk(s); or are pregnant

Half Twist Pose or Ardha Matsyendrasana

Benefits:

  • Stimulates and massages the abdominal organs (ovaries, prostate gland, bladder and kidneys), improving and relieving digestion issues, as well as toning the abdominal wall
  • Strengthens the obliques and transverse abdominal
  • Strengthens inner and outer thighs
  • Strengthens and stretches the back muscles, aligns and awakens the spine, improves posture
  • Stretches the hips, shoulders, chest and spine, relieving tension in the back, neck and shoulders
  • Increases flexibility and lubricates ankle and knee joints, awakening the legs
  • Stimulates heart and improves circulation
  • Therapeutic for mild sciatica, backache, arthritis, osteoporosis, flatulence, menopause, menstrual discomfort and can improve infertility issues
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Stimulates and energizes the nervous system
  • Improves concentration, mental focus and relieves mild depression
  • Relieves mental and physical lethargy and exhaustion
  • Calming, centering and balancing. Brings a state of tranquility and can be invigorating

Cautions:

Use caution if you have a low back or shoulder injury; hip, knee or ankle injury; severe sciatica, degenerated or herniated disk; a headache or migraine; or are pregnant.

Inverted Yoga Postures

Inversions are postures that typically have the heart and often the feet, higher than the head. Most inversions stimulate your pituitary gland, promoting a positive state of well-being and rejuvenation. Inversions also benefit the cardiovascular, lymphatic, endocrine and nervous systems while stimulating the lymphatic system which strengthens the immune system and also improves digestion.

Cardiovascular benefits of inversion postures provide more efficient circulation caused by a fresh delivery of blood to the heart. Being inverted also increases blood flow to your head, relieving the heart of some of its duties and can lower blood pressure and heart rate. Your endocrine system is responsible for hormone delivery. Inversions, especially shoulder stands, are recommended for perimenopausal and menopausal women due to the belief that the postures will stimulate the thyroid and parathyroid glands, regulating your metabolism. The benefits to the nervous system during inverted postures include the stimulation of cerebrospinal fluid or CSF, which is the fluid of the central nervous system that flows from the brain to the spinal cord.

Plow Pose or Halasana

Benefits:

  • Stimulates abdominal organs, ovaries, prostate gland, bladder and kidneys. This improves and relieves digestion issue and tones the abdominal wall
  • Stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands which increases metabolism and stimulates the nervous, digestion and respiratory systems
  • Strengthens and stretches the back muscles, aligning spine and improving posture
  • Opens the shoulders and chest and relieves tension in the back, neck and shoulders
  • Awakens the legs
  • Stimulates the heart and improves circulation
  • Therapeutic for headaches, migraines, backache, menopause discomfort, infertility, insomnia and sinusitis
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Improves concentration, mental focus and relieves mild depression
  • Relieves mental and physical lethargy and exhaustion
  • Calming and centering, it brings a state of tranquility and over all well-being
  • Invigorating and rejuvenating

Cautions:

If you have asthma or high/low blood pressure, practice with feet on raised props. Use caution if you have severe sciatica or a herniated disk; if you have a back, neck or shoulder injury, if you’re menstruating, if you have glaucoma.

If you’re pregnant but experienced in this posture, you may continue to practice until the third trimester. If you’re inexperienced with plow after becoming pregnant, you should avoid this posture

Tripod Headstand Pose or Salamba Sirsasana

Benefits:

  • Stimulates abdominal organs, ovaries, prostate gland, bladder and kidneys. This improves and relieves digestive issues and tones the abdominal wall
  • Strengthens the entire musculoskeletal system
  • Stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands which increases metabolism and stimulates the nervous, digestion and respiratory systems
  • Strengthens and stretches the back muscles by aligning the spine and improving posture
  • Opens the shoulders and chest and relieves tension in the back, neck and shoulders
  • Awakens, stretches and strengthens the entire body and spine
  • Stimulates heart and improves circulation
  • Therapeutic for headaches, migraines, backache, menopause, menstrual discomfort, infertility, insomnia and sinusitis
  • Reduces varicose veins
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Improves balance and concentration, mental focus and relieves mild depression
  • Relieves mental and physical lethargy and exhaustion
  • Calming and centering, it brings a state of tranquility and overall well-being
  • Invigorating and rejuvenating

Cautions:

Use caution if you have high or low blood pressure; a headache or migraine; a back, neck or shoulder injury, severe sciatica or a herniated disk; and if you’re menstruating; pregnant; have diarrhea; have glaucoma.



Yin Yoga Poses

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This article is an exploration of 10 Yin yoga poses. Yin is a style that is practiced by holding poses for a long time in a relaxed state. Yin stands in contrast to other contemporary styles of yoga, such as Vinyasa or Hatha, which generally move the practitioner from pose to pose quickly. Yin yoga ‘asana’, the Sanskrit word for poses, are practiced by following the three principles that Bernie Clark explains in Yin Yoga with Bernie Clark.

Three Principles of Yin Yoga

  • Principal 1: Play with your edge
  • Principal 2: Stillness
  • Principal 3: Hold for Time

Play With Your Edge

Yin is a lunar practice, which tends to be healing and cooling. Unlike solar practices such as sun salutations, yin does not call for heating postures, breathing styles, or sequencing. Therefore the muscles are typically not warm throughout a Yin practice. Entering into poses with cool muscles requires special attention to the first edge.

The first edge is found by gently getting into the shape of a pose and noticing where the body naturally wants to stop. Yielding the natural limitations of the body prevents injury. There should be no pain at the first or any other edge, yet there may be some discomfort. Discomfort without radiating pain is a sign that the connective tissue around the joints is stretching. Reasonable discomfort is a gateway to more flexibility and greater range of motion. Props can add additional comfort and accessibility to yin yoga poses.

You may experience strong physical sensations during a Yin practice such as heat or discomfort. Finding the first edge is a method of exploring the strong sensations and sitting with them. When yoga asana is briefly mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, they are prescribed to be Sthira sukham asanam, or done with steadiness and ease. Steadiness points to the second principal, stillness, which is explored later in the article.

About 30-60 seconds into a pose, or if and when the body shows signs of being able to go deeper, it is safe to move to the second edge (or third or forth). It is important that the body, not the ego, give the signal to deepen. This humble practice never asks the yogi to prove or force anything. There is no need to try to “achieve” or to look a certain way. Gentleness, acceptance and honesty are critical in a yin practice. If the body starts to tighten, it’s a sign to slowly come out of the pose.

Stillness

Classical yoga was practiced as a means to still the mind for meditation. Sitting still in yin yoga poses lets the contemporary yogi dip their toes into the waters of deep meditation. One exception to stillness is when the body opens to a new edge. With the awareness that the body is ready to deepen, Yin yogis consciously move deeper and return again to stillness and breath. Another exception to stillness is the awareness of pain. In response to pain, it’s time to come out of the pose slowly.

Hold for Time

The third principal is to hold the poses for time. Poses can last anywhere from one minute to longer than 15 and in general are done for 5-10 minutes. Using a timer tells you how long you are staying still, which can be a way to gauge stillness from practice to practice. A timer can also ensure that both sides of the body get the same amount of time, which results in feeling delightfully balanced. The breath can continue to deepen the longer a pose is held. The lungs can expand seemingly forever. Counting breath is an interesting way to observe the expansive nature of the breath, which becomes possible during long holds. Profound experiences become accessible only when conscious and deepening pranayama is practiced.

Breathing expansively while remaining still presents the practitioner with what is rarely otherwise observed: the quiet inner dance of consciousness, an inner world so rich and mysterious, it is invisible most of the time. Holding (still) for time never seemed so tempting.

What Do You Need to Practice Yin Yoga?

  • Yoga mat or as an alternative, a thick blanket or carpet.
  • Yoga blankets and bolsters or as an alternative, towels and pillows nearby
  • Blocks or (or books if you have none)

Optional items

  • Sand timer
  • Soft music
  • Candles

10 Yin Yoga Poses

1. Chest and Shoulder Expansion

Sit cross-legged, your right side adjacent to the wall, reach your right hand back so the palm is flat against the wall at about shoulder height. Scoot your right hip in closer to the wall if you feel you can safely tolerate more stretch. Once the shoulder feels settled, bend the arm so you have the palm directly above the elbow at the height of your gaze. Sit and breathe for several moments. If you feel you can safely deepen, allow the left hand to come beside and slightly behind your left hip and press fingertips into the floor. Lift and open your chest. Slowly drop the left shoulder down and perhaps the chin and gaze point follow. Stay for 1-5 minutes breathing gently.

 

2. Lower Back Pose

Sit on a cushion if you have tight hamstrings or flat on the mat for more open hamstrings. Let the legs extend and relax so that the feet flop out gently to their respective sides. Knees can be slightly bent. Pressing the fingertips downward into the ground beside the hips, lengthen the heart higher in contrast. Then tuck the chin into the chest. Let the upturned palms fall to the outside of the thighs near the knees. Allow the upper spine to round. For your second edge, the hands may move down the legs closer to the ankles. Remember not to strive or do too much. Stay and breathe 1-5 minutes.

 

3. West-Facing Pose

This pose just like the lower back pose, sitting up legs relaxed and extended. Place one bolster over your thighs. Lift though the chest as you inhale and as you exhale fold forward and down, hinging from the hips so as to keep length in the low back. If you are not able to lay upon the cushion, add more props until you can easily lay your chest and face on them. Find your first edge. At this time you may determine to remove or reduce the props so that you can go deeper. Stay in the pose for 1-5 minutes. Note, this pose is called “west-facing” because it is cooling, like the setting sun, which sets in the west.

 

4. Wide Leg Child Pose

On your mat, add cushion beneath the knees using a blanket or towel. Bring the knees as wide or wider than the mat and big toes to touch or towards one another. Press your hips back toward the heels and walk your hands forward as you fold from the hips. Imagine a gentle anchor keeps the hips downward and the low back spreading wide. From there, stretch the arms, chest and head forward and down. If the head cannot touch the floor, put a block or folded blanket beneath it so it can rest. You may prefer to rest upon the forehead or to turn the head to one side and then the other. Let your arms and hands relax into the floor. Notice your edge and deepen if and when it feels right. Come out if the knees start to bother you, moving slowly. Practice for 1-5 minutes.

 

5. Wide Leg Child Pose, Thread the Needle Variation

From wide leg child pose, slightly raise the head and walk the right hand back. Thread the right hand under the left until the right shoulder is on the ground and put the right temple on the floor. Repeat on the left side. Practice 1-5 minutes on each side.

 

6. Lizard

Come to your hands and knees with a folded blanket under the knees for padding. Bring your right foot forward so it is just to the right on the right hand, make sure your shoulders are over the wrists. The right knee stacks over the right ankle so your shin may feel as though it is moving forward in space. If the right knee pops out to the right, redirect it over the ankle, pressing down into the right foot and imagine pressing the shin forward.

If needed, bring your hands up on blocks, lift through the chest, curl the left toes under and squeeze the left leg so the thigh lifts off the ground. This will cause the thigh to rotate internally, which means the alignment is now safe for deepening. Now , bringing the left knee down onto the blanket and then flatten the top of left foot into the mat. You may stay like that or bring your elbows onto the blocks to deepen. You may end up with no blocks, elbows on the mat beneath the shoulders or you may end up staying high on blocks. Honor where the body needs to go and remain for 1-5 minutes before repeating on the other side.

7. Pigeon

Place a flat bolster horizontally across the mat or a folded blanket about halfway down the length of the mat. Place both knees on the bolster. Bring the right knee forward of the cushion in front of the right hip and the foot toward on left side of the mat. Place the palms on blocks beneath the shoulders and bring the left leg back so that the thigh and top of left foot are pressing into or towards the floor. Let the pelvis be supported by the cushion. You may stay upright, opening the chest, or choose to ease yourself down, perhaps deepening to the point where your head rests on blocks or on the floor. Remain in the pose 1-5 minutes and repeat on the other side.

8. Supported Reclined Butterfly

The use of props to recline makes this supportive and relaxing. To do so, place a block the tall way and another the short way so they make an L. Lay a bolster or supportive cushion over the blocks so that it a slanted toward the floor. Place yourself with your back against the lower part of the cushion with the souls of your feet touching. To keep the feet together and to allow the hips to relax, use a strap or a long rolled blanket to wrap the feet.

9. Supported Gentle Fish

Place a block at medium height near the top of the mat. Sit so the block is behind you with the legs extended and relaxed. Lay your back over the blocks so they land between your shoulder blades boosted your heart up. Let your head relax back onto a block, making sure the neck is supported. Allow the arms to pour open and drip into the floor on either side. Breathe into the heart and let the body seep down onto the props. As your edge moves, notice the chest may boost higher. Remain 1-5 minutes.

10. Corpse Pose/ Savasana

Lay on the mat on your back. Let the arms and legs relax. Arms by your sides, feet slightly flop out. If your lower back is uncomfortable place blocks or a cushion under the knees. Stay as long as you wish. Let go of doing and drop into being.

Photos courtesy of author Lara Hocheiser and featuring Blair Smalls.

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