Look through the descriptions of wellness and detox retreats and you’ll often find yoga listed as an activity that supports the program. If you’re already a yogi, you’ve probably heard someone tell you to “wring out your organs” or “fire up your digestion” through the use of twisting poses or core work. But what’s the actual lowdown on how yoga supports the cleansing process? Here’s a list of 5 reasons why we think cleansing and yoga are best friends forever:
#1 They help maintain a healthy liver
So why do yoga with a detox? Although you can’t really “wring out your liver”, you can support the many other systems that work in tandem with your (hopefully) well-functioning liver, which is the body’s main filter on the daily. Your liver will only function to its best capacity if it perceives the body to be in an overall state of wellness: rested, fed, hydrated, and relaxed. Certainly, a well-draining lymphatic system and a balanced diet play important factors as well. When all of these things are in line, the body is incredibly efficient at flushing a normal level of toxicity. (Note: if there is exposure to abnormally high levels of toxins through environmental or dietary exposure, this may be beyond what the body can easily process.) This brings us to…
#2 Yoga supports the lymphatic system
Having a healthy draining lymphatic system, being well rested and being relaxed are all things that the practice of yoga supports. Through actively stretching and compressing the areas around lymphatic nodes, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, and teaching presence of mind, yoga supports a Cleanser to be calmer, rest more deeply, and flush out unwanted toxins. If you are engaged in a hot or more athletic practice, sweating is another way that the body can release those toxins.
#3 They support the nervous system which indirectly supports other systems
Why is it important to feel relaxed for a detox to actually work? Think about it: if you are always stressed, this means that you body is in fight-or-flight mode. It thinks as if you’re on the run from a predator and it responds by funneling all available energy to the mechanisms required to get the heck away. That means it withdraws energy from digestion and detoxification functions, leaving digestion sluggish. When the digestive system is inefficiently working, it makes it even more difficult for the body to absorb vitamins and minerals. At the same time, the adrenals produce cortisol and adrenaline like crazy. And what do those have a negative effect on? Sleep. See where this is going?
#4 Yoga and detox offer an emotional release
Seasoned Cleansers know: embarking on a detox, no matter if it’s a few days or a full week, brings up a lot of stuff. Not just physical release, either: emotions can seem to go on a rampage, with cycles of sadness, anger, grief, joy, fear, and basically any other imaginable feeling rushing through. Most people experience phases of general grumpiness related to caffeine or sugar withdrawals — and yoga (as well as more general meditation) can be the perfect tool to help us cope. A practice of being present with “what is” without labeling it as good or bad, right or wrong, allows the Cleanser to adopt a “this too shall pass” mentality and be ok with the difficult moments of a detox.
#5 Twisting in yoga is the real deal
It’s true: everyone talks about twists as a detoxifying asana. But how exactly does it help? Twisting stimulates the digestion, encouraging movement of potentially stagnant toxins. It also encourages the flow of blood to the organs in the center of the body, and that’s never a bad thing. The column of fascia (connective tissue) along the spine also gets a good release in twisting poses, potentially clearing up space for the blood in this area to move more freely and bathe the spinal column.
And, twisting just feels nice, don’t you agree?
So. If you’re wondering whether to include yoga in your next detox, the jury is in: it’s a great compliment. And you’ll probably feel a whole lot better if you do!