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Yoga Poses For Detoxing the Body

Updated on January 12, 2016
Ardha matsendrasana - Half lord of the fishes pose
Ardha matsendrasana - Half lord of the fishes pose | Source

Yoga Poses Help With Detoxification

Our body has its own natural detoxification mechanisms for getting rid of waste products and environmental toxins, but sometimes it's not up to the task of eliminating these toxic materials entirely.

A yoga detoxification practice can help us assist the body in cleansing itself, which will help us feel lighter, healthier, and more energetic again.

We all have excellent built-in systems to detoxify, or get rid of waste products and other toxic materials in our bodies that can otherwise make us sick. But sometimes these systems don't work as well as they should because of stress in our lives, poor diets, or exposure to environmental toxins.

Luckily we can use various methods to assist our bodies in their internal cleansing efforts. One of these methods is the practice of yoga poses.

You might benefit from a yoga detox program if you've been feeling sluggish and out-of-sorts for awhile, or have been experiencing digestion problems, extra aches and pains, or skin problems.

This article gives an overview of how the practice of yoga asanas (postures) can help us detoxify the body to bring us to better health.

Model of human torso showing different systems
Model of human torso showing different systems | Source

Yoga Assists Our Body's Natural Detoxification Processes

"Spring Cleaning" for Our Body!

The body has its own systems that work to eliminate waste products and toxic substances. Three of these systems are the:

1. Circulatory system

Pumps blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen to and carrying waste products away from the cells of the body.

2. Digestive system

Processes food, separates nutrients from waste, and eliminates what the body doesn't need.

3. Lymphatic system

Intracellular fluid is moved throughout the body, transported to lymph nodes where harmful constituents are removed, such as bacteria or other contaminants, before the lymphatic fluid is returned to the bloodstream. Lymph moves around based on how much we move around. The only way to ensure proper lymph circulation is through exercise or massage.

These systems work well on their own in a healthy body, but if we don't eat well, don't get enough exercise, or if we're stressed, then these systems don't work as efficiently. This results in a build-up of toxic material which can leave us feeling physically and mentally sluggish and sick.

The practice of yoga is one of the methods that supports the functioning of these systems.

A well-rounded practice of yoga postures systematically stretches, twists, compresses, and "upends" all parts of the body to help eliminate impurities from different organs and to allow oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood to flow through the organs.

A few of the benefits of this practice over time, include more energy, mental clarity, better sleep, better digestion, clearer skin, fewer aches and pains, and less illness.

Below are a few of the categories of yoga poses, and how they assist the body's natural detoxification systems.

Ardha matsyendrasana
Ardha matsyendrasana | Source

Yoga Twists

"Squeeze and soak" the abdominal organs

One of my yoga teachers would offer a class filled with many different twists on the day after Thanksgiving. This was to help our digestive system deal with the possible excesses we indulged in on the big feast day! I've occasionally continued with this tradition with the classes I teach.

I think Yoga twists are the most important poses to aid the body in detoxification. Yoga twists stimulate digestion and facilitate the elimination of impurities and waste products from the body. Circulation of blood and of lymph is also promoted.

Think what happens when you wring out a sponge -- the dirty water is forced out, and then the sponge can soak up clean water again.

Twists work in a similar way. The abdominal organs are squeezed during twists, stimulating the kidneys and liver, and forcing out blood filled with metabolic by-products and toxins. When the twists are released, then fresh, clean blood enters these organs, bathing the cells in nutrients and oxygen.

Twists have a cleansing, refreshing effect on the abdominal organs and the associated glands.

The Twist Marichyasana 3

This is a nice, relatively simple twist that will help you to stimulate the liver and kidneys.

Twist and Detox Yoga Sequence Video

Watch and practice along to this 20 minute Twist and Detox Yoga Sequence created by Kathryn Budig.

Nationally and internationally known yoga teacher Kathryn Budig teaches on this video while a student demonstrates the yoga postures.

Another Good Cleansing Program

The 7-day Detox program from Yoga Journal includes 4 elements:

  • Slowing down: Reduce stress and mental over-activity
  • Detox diet: There's a suggested diet to help purify the body and to improve the digestive system
  • Cleansing yoga: Twists and heat producing poses help to move toxins out of your tissues, then to be eliminated from the body. Then restorative poses to sooth the nervous system and to settle the body.
  • Self-study: Swadyaya, or self-study to observe how you are feeling during this program. What's going on in your own life. Insights from self-study help us to move forward in the direction we want to go.

Forward bend
Forward bend | Source

Forward Bends

Forward bending yoga poses / asanas

Forward bending yoga poses are also good ways to compress the abdominal organs. The kidneys and liver are stimulated and the digestive system is improved, which helps with the elimination process.

Wide Leg Standing Forward Bend

This video gives good, clear instructions for this standing forward bend. Standing forward bends are often more accessible than seated forward bends, especially for beginners.

Sirsasana (head stand)
Sirsasana (head stand) | Source

Yoga Inversions

Upside down poses

Any inverted pose, such as headstand, shoulder stand, or a simple "legs up the wall" pose helps to drain accumulated lymph fluid from the legs and re-circulate it through the body. This benefits the immune system.

Inverted poses also help to soothe the nervous system and reduce stress. When we're not stressed, it's easier for us to choose healthier choices for our bodies (including good diet and exercise) which promote the body's natural detox efforts.

Simple Inversion -- Legs Up the Wall Pose

This is a very easy yoga inversion (legs higher than the heart). Fluids that have accumulated in the legs during the day are re-circulated back to the rest of the body. Also the abdomen is bathed in fresh blood, which stimulates the digestive system.

This is also a wonderful pose to "de-stress" after a long day!

Adho mukha svanasana - downward facing dog pose
Adho mukha svanasana - downward facing dog pose | Source

Downward Facing Dog Pose

Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho mukha svanasana) has elements of forward bends, and of inversions, and is always a good addition to your yoga practice whether or not you're working to detoxify your body.

Downward Facing Dog gets the heart higher than the head, as inverted poses do, but with less strain. It aids in the circulation of blood and lymph throughout the body. And as with other forward bends, it helps to tone the abdominal muscles and organs, which help with better digestion.

This rejuvenating pose is also a good preparatory pose for inversions and for deeper forward bends.

A Well-Rounded Yoga Practice Will Help Detox the Body

A good overall well-rounded yoga practice will include many poses that will help your body cleanse itself. If you're a beginner, I highly recommend that you learn in a yoga class taught by a well-trained teacher.

But if you can't take a class for any reason, there are a number of good beginning level DVDs that will be helpful. If you are in good health, try a DVD such as Yoga for Beginners by Barbara Benagh.

For something a little gentler, try Easy Yoga by Peggy Cappy.


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