Yoga For Ayurvedic Cleansing
Excerpt from the new book, The Mindbody Cleanse: A 14 Day Detox and Rejuvenation Program From Ancient Ayurveda by Ronly Blau & Adrian Nowland
Stress management and self-care practices are just as important as diet and herbs in supporting a successful Ayurvedic cleansing process. Try to do some stress management and self-care practices every day. Remember this cleanse draws from traditional panchakarma, where participants are on residential retreat. Ease in the mind and body are essential to facilitate the release of stored emotions and toxins.
Yoga, meditation, pranayama (breath work) and relaxation are the most important stress-management practices to include in your cleanse. We recommend incorporating these daily practices as much as possible so that you have a consistent way to check in with yourself during the cleanse, as well as practices in place to help reduce stress.
We want to be mindful and aware of what is happening but, even with our best intentions, it is so easy to forget. A lot. This is because we are not practiced in being mindful.
There is probably no getting around it, we need to practice to reconfigure the neural pathways into ones of noticing and paying attention to what is occurring in the moment. We will introduce you to some simple do-able practices in this book. You may grow to love them!
We recommend yoga as a stress-management practice in this program because Yoga and Ayurveda have a long history of inter-enhancing ideals and practices. However, if yoga just doesn’t speak to you, find another physical practice that energizes the body while simultaneously calming the mind.
It is important to have some kind of meditative movement as a practice, be it qigong, yoga, tai chi or some other form, that enables our connection to the physical experience as it is happening. When we are aware of our body, it short-circuits the scattered, over-busy mind. The body is only present in the moment. It is not the body of 10 years ago or even 10 minutes ago and it is not the body of the future.
When you tune into your body, it immediately brings you into the present moment. As you focus on the sense experience of the body, the mind becomes stable and more focused. In addition, within the practice itself, we learn to be with what is, without reacting. For example, we learn to take a full and deep breath with a relaxed restorative pose as well as with a challenging, intense pose. The movement is organized with the breath in a manner that is conducive to creating a full, more complete breath. This alone triggers a parasympathetic response.
Additionally, the coordination of the breath with movement gives the mind a consistent anchor that we can rest our attention on. This consistency creates continuity and a meditative state of mind.
Yoga can help create stable ground to support you as you move through the detoxification process. As toxins and stored emotions begin to disentangle and move through the body, the steady, mindful practice of yoga can help you to be with any difficult emotions and changes in the body, without getting caught up in their stories.
Yoga creates a stable ground of support during the cleanse. We do this by setting an even rhythm to the practice, established by an even breath—meaning the inhale and exhale last approximately the same time.
We can also create stability in the practice by keeping this rhythm as we flow into and out of poses. In general, the practice should be slow, deliberate and even. Try holding poses a little longer than you would normally, and move slowly between them. Pay close attention to the feet and hips to help ground the practice in the stability of the earth element.
Additionally, the practice itself enhances the cleansing effects. During the cleanse, we are moving toxins from the deep tissues into the digestive system to be metabolized or ejected. To facilitate this process, the many channels of the body need to be open and unobstructed. Yoga enhances this cleansing method because the shape created by each pose, combined with deep breaths, leads to openings in the body and channels. This facilitates the movement of prana, or life energy, throughout the body.
To facilitate this, we focus on opening the digestive system in particular. The digestive organs lie under the rib cage on both sides of the body, and into the whole belly area parallel to the front of the hip bones. In the back of the body, the kidneys lie just below the rib cage.
So, focusing on the lower half of the torso is a key element in yoga practice for this cleanse. This can be achieved by movement that opens the area under the rib cage on the inhale, and closes and contracts this area on the exhale. This creates a stretching and squeezing effect on the digestive organs.
Twisting movements squeeze the digestive organs and, as you release these poses, blood flows directly back into them. This creates a nourishing effect on the organs of digestion. When the digestive organs are stimulated, we have greater capacity to digest the toxins that have been dislodged. The organs have three dimensions in the body, so we must move and stretch this area three ways: front to back, side-to-side and twisting the torso.
To summarize, a cleansing yoga practice should have two main focal points:
1. A calm, grounded quality
2. A focus on the digestive area of the body
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