It’s the time of year when the leaves begin to change from green to miraculous shades of red, orange and yellow. Scarves get pulled out of the closet and blankets rest on the side of the couch. As the seasons change, so do the needs of our bodies. Transitioning from summer season (pitta) into fall season (vata), is an opportune time to embark on a seasonal cleanse.
There are four distinct phases of a cleanse:
- Active Cleansing
Ideally, the active phase of a fall cleanse begins when the air is crisp, and your body is naturally calling you to let go of the heat of summer and get ready for the winter ahead. Often times, it’s easy to focus on the more active phase of cleansing, but all phases hold equal importance. In this article we are going to focus on the preparation phase and how you can support yourself by implementing or expanding on your daily exercise practice, laying down the groundwork for an easy and successful cleanse. Prior to the active phase, you can begin preparing for your cleanse one to two weeks in advance.
In the active phase of cleansing you will eliminate most exercise and/or strenuous movement in order to allow the body a chance to fully rejuvenate. However, the preparation phase is an optimal time to practice detoxifying yoga. Here are a few potential postures to incorporate into your exercise practice:
Spinal twists are naturally detoxifying because they offer compression to the abdominal region. You might hear a yoga teacher say “you are massaging your internal organs” and in essence, that’s true!
Example Pose: Half Lord of the Fishes (Ardha Matsyasana)
Sit on the ground with your left knee bent and your left foot outside your right leg. Bend your right knee and place your right foot to the mat just outside the left knee. Inhale, lift your left arm. Exhale, gently twist over to the right. Stay here and breathe for five breaths, and then switch your legs and twist left.
Example Pose: Revolved Chair (Parivrtta Utkatasana)
Standing with your big toes touching and your heals slightly apart, begin to bend your knees and sink your hips down while reaching your arms into the sky, resting into chair posture. Move the weight of the body towards the heels and lighten the energy in the toes. Place the hands together in front of the heart and take a full inhalation. As you exhale, begin to hook your right elbow over and onto your outer left knee. Press the palms together firmly, rolling your left shoulder back, working to bring your thumbs towards your sternum. Stay here and take five breaths, then switch and twist left.
Twisting and binding often go hand in hand. In fact, most binds involve a twist or a deeper variation of a twist. Again, the benefits of binding postures are in compression of the internal organs, supporting the flushing out of natural toxins and promoting waste elimination.
Example Pose: Bound Side Angle (Badha Parsva Konasana)
Set up your stance in Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) position with your right foot forward. Bring the hands together in front of the heart in prayer position. Take a full inhalation to expand the ribcage, and as you exhale place your left elbow onto your right knee. If this twist feels too deep, lift your left heel from the floor, or drop your back knee to the mat for further support. Take a few breaths in whatever leg variation you choose to settle in. On an inhale, begin to reach your left arm towards the floor and the right arm towards the sky. Carefully begin to wrap your left arm under your thigh and your right arm behind your back. See if you can join the fingers together. If not—no worries!—grab a strap and use it to create the bind. Stay here and take five slow, deep breaths. Then switch your legs and twist to the right.
Breath work can be incredibly supportive when working with detoxification techniques.
Example Pose: Kapalabhati Breathing – Skull Shining Breath
To learn more about this practice, follow these step-by-step instructions.
Example Pose: Fists into Abdomen Forward Fold
Sit on your shins, either directly on your heels or with a block between your heels for added knee support. Pull your belly in and lift your chest, opening your collarbones. Make fists with your hands and place the fists on your abdomen, pressing in firmly. Take a big breath in and continue to press. As you exhale, fold forward over your fists and soften your stomach to absorb your fists into your abdomen for organ stimulation. Although the fists are creating an action, the rhythm of the breath is what we want to focus on. Take full breaths, slow and deep for approximately one minute at a time.
There are many postures in yoga that can be cleansing, so feel free to continue to explore what feels best for you! Exercise is just one way to begin preparing for the active phase of your cleanse to make the experience feel nourishing and revitalizing, rather than stressful or taxing.