It's officially summertime. For a lot of us, that means more vacations, family outings, days off, BBQs and parties. While all of those are well deserved, I think we all know summer can lead to a lot of extra calories and a whole lot of consumption of alcohol. While I am a yogi who believes everything is OK in moderation, I also think if you are going to have a few extra cocktails, you need to combat that with some detoxification. Also, if you fall off your path of mindfulness (which we all do) remember you can always get right back on track, and don't waste energy on regret.
How does detoxification work? There are three systems that have a role in elimination of wastes - circulatory, digestive, and lymph. The circulatory is in charge of pumping blood through our bodies, delivering oxygen to the cells while carrying waste away. The digestive system processes the foods we eat by separating nutrients from waste and then eliminates what the body doesn't need, and the lymphatic system collects fluids and transports them to the lymph nodes where bacteria and other contaminants get flushed out before returning to the bloodstream.
So, the short of it is that basically the body automatically does the work for us. What a trusty friend your body can be. However, we can assist the detox process, especially during the times we put heavy stress on the body, such as poor nutrition or consumption of alcohol. Yoga is the perfect tool to jumpstart detoxification.
Most forms of vigorous exercise stimulate all three systems of elimination to some extent, helping the body in its quest to cleanse and detox. But yoga, with its focus on systematically stretching and compressing every part of the body, is particularly well-suited to keeping the waste-removal departments of the body functioning well. In a well formatted yoga class, we push, pull, twist and turn our bodies which facilitates the removal of waste such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid from deep inside the tissues of the body that a spin class or weight lifting session simply don't reach.
In a yoga class, teachers will emphasize the breath. The breath, the breath, why do we talk about breath so much? Yogic breathing plays an important role in detoxification. In yoga we breathe deeply, and pay attention to the fullness of the breath. Why? Because scientifically when we inhale, we take in fresh life-sustaining oxygen and when we exhale, we expel potentially hazardous carbon dioxide.
In addition to the physical benefits, a regular yoga practice aids in a mental detox as well. When we are in a state of stress, fear or depression, more toxins are created in the body. Doing yoga helps purge toxic thoughts by moving awareness away from the chatter in your mind, back into the present moment. As a result, you eliminate the tangible and intangible toxins that keep you from feeling your absolute best. To get optimal detoxification benefits, try a heated yoga class. The more you sweat out, the better you will feel.
If you can't fit a whole hot yoga class into your schedule, here are a couple basic moves you can do at home. But remember, the most benefit will come from taking an entire class!
Downward Facing Dog
Getting the heart higher than the head reverses the pull of gravity and aids in the circulation of blood and lymph. Also gently tones the abdomen, which stimulates digestion.
Start on your hands (shoulder width apart) and knees with the entire surface of your palms pressing into the floor and your toes tucked under. Slowly lift the knees and straighten the legs. Press equally into the hands and feet and lift your hips up towards the sky as you move the thighs back into a reverse V shape. Allow the head to hang naturally.
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