Spring is nature’s rebirth. Every year, when the soft green buds and the delicate pink blossoms appear on the cherry trees, we are given the opportunity to renew ourselves. In our yoga practice, this can be through a physical detox, a mental reboot or both.
Detoxing Through Diet
During the cold winter months, we nourish ourselves by eating rich foods that insulate our body. It’s natural for us to put on an extra pound, but when spring comes around, we want to switch to eating foods that are lighter and allow us to shed weight in preparation for the summer months. Ayurveda considers spring to be a season where kapha dosha dominates and advises us to eat light, warming foods that are easy to digest. We can do this by increasing the amount of sattvic foods we consume. Bitter roots, such as dandelion greens, chard and kale, are great at cleansing the liver of toxins. Turmeric and ginger can help stoke our inner fire and get our digestive system back in order. (Learn more in 5 Ayurvedic Recipes to Stoke Your Inner Fire.)
Drinking tulsi tea will also support the detox process. This healing ayurvedic tea is made from holy basil leaves and is an excellent blood purifier and detoxifier. (Read about The Healing Powers of Tulsi Tea.)
Another way to help your body detox is by getting your lymphatic system to drain properly. Our body's lymphatic system is like a detox superhighway, and receiving a lymphatic massage is an effective way to jump start this process. Spring is a great time of year to consider a short fast, such as a juice fast, or going on a mono food diet like eating kitchari for a week. Avoid sugar and heavy or fired foods that are difficult to digest and hold little nutritional value. (Learn how to make this Simple Kitchari Recipe.)
Asanas and Breathing Exercises That Detox
There are many asanas in yoga that will help you rid your body of toxins. The most effective are those that directly stimulate the liver, kidneys, digestive system and lymph. Here are a few versions of each that you can try at home.
These pose compresses the body’s digestive system and increase both the flow of blood and lymph into and out of the liver. Examples of forward folds include: uttanasana, head-to-knee pose and big toe pose.
All asanas that have a twisting component are great for stimulating the digestive system and helping the colon to eliminate more effectively. Eagle pose, though not technically a twist, is another option for compressing our extremities and flushing out toxins. Examples of twists include: half lord of the fishes pose, noose pose, and revolved triangle pose.
Inversions great for moving lymph through the body as well as energizing the mind and flushing out congestion in the head. Examples of inversions include: headstand, shoulder stand, legs-up-the-wall, handstand, and halasana. (Learn more in 10 Benefits of Inversions.)
Oxygenating the blood helps purify the body and moves toxins out through our exhalations, sweat, and lymph. One of the most effective pranayama breathing exercises for this is kapalabhati, or shining skull breath. Kapalabhati works by rapidly oxygenating the cells in the brain and clearing out stale air in our lungs. It increases the flow of prana (life force energy) to our subtle body and lifts our mood, clears our mind and increases our energy level. (Learn about The Practice of Pranayama.)
Renewing with Mindfulness and Meditation
While detoxing our body is an important aspect to spring cleaning, clearing out the clutter of our mind is equally beneficial. There are two ways we can do this. The first, and one of my favorites, is by enjoying a digital detox. Just like we can go on a juice fast for a few days to start our spring detox, we can also unplug from our devices, smart phones, social media accounts, Netflix and habitual email checking to gain a fresh perspective on life and what matters most to us. Unplugging also assists with anxiety and nervous disorders, as the constant bombardment of information ceases and one is left to simply work on themselves. (Read more in The Joys of Unplugging.)
The second way to detox our mind is through meditation. When we learn to mindfully watch our thoughts as they arise and allow our inner spaciousness to grow we are make room for new, more beneficial thought patterns. Spring is the perfect time to start a meditation practice. Think of it as a second chance after New Years. The best way to begin meditating is slowly. You can take the metaphor of a blossom opening over the course of a few weeks. Start with a goal of five minutes each morning and work your way up to 20 minutes everyday. Morning is a good time to meditate because it will set a positive tone for the rest of your day. (Learn how in Meditation 101.)
Just like spring is the time of year when nature renews itself, it’s also a natural time for us to detox our body and mind. Take advantage of this opportunity to do a little self care and bring your body back into balance with nature's rhythms.