Whole Body Cleanse ~ Perspectives from Ayurveda and Yoga

by Melissa Spamer

Eastside Yoga is inviting all of us into a week long detoxification process beginning January 23rd.  This is a wonderful opportunity to gather in community and cleanse the body ~ mind.  Cleansing practices have been an integral part of both yoga and ayurveda for as long as they have been in existence, reminding us that “detoxification” is not a new concept.   According to ayurveda, the root cause of all disease or imbalance in the body~mind is the presence of ama, or toxins, and the reason we have accumulated ama in the body is due to weak digestive fire, or agni.  If our digestion is weak, we cannot assimilate and distribute the proper nutrients to our body at a cellular level, and what is not “digested” accumulates as ama.

It is also important to remember that ama, or toxins in the body, are not just physical.  Often times the physical toxins are the end product of suppressed or unresolved emotions.  Ayurveda speaks to this beautifully, and encourages appropriate yoga asana, pranayama, and meditation practice to support the flow of emotions that are also clearing throughout the physical body.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, speak of the importance of cleanliness in body and environment through his description of one of the five niyamas (or attitudes toward ourselves) called saucha.  If you have ever spent time with, or even read about a great yogi or yogini, you can see through the reflection of their life that there is cleanliness in body through a pure diet, purification techniques (shatkarmas, kriyas and pranayama) and meditation.  This is reflected in the beauty and cleanliness of their personal environment as well.

One of the most important aspects of a cleanse of any kind is how you transition off of it – gently and easily.  Ayurveda will state that when a cleanse is complete you have improved digestion, clarity of mind, fragrant odor, and strength.  These feelings will hopefully help you make wise choices on how to nourish your body well beyond the initial cleanse.

Simple Ayurvedic Remedies to Reduce Ama

No matter what type of cleanse you are about to embark on, there are two tried and true practices that help clear toxins, or ama, from the body according to ayurveda.

Drinking 3-4 cups of warm water throughout the day.  This is one of the simplest remedies to help move ama.

Drinking fresh ginger tea.  The appropriate amount, and time of day, can be guided by your ayurvedic practitioner, but as a general rule you can have 1 cup – 1 hour before OR after a meal.  Drinking a maximum of 3 cups per day, based on your constitution and the amount of ama present in the body.

Ginger Tea Recipe:

1 inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated or chopped

1 ½ cups of pure water

Bring the water and ginger to a boil, and let simmer down to one cup – anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.  Let cool slightly, then strain and enjoy.  (If you find the ginger to be too pungent for your constitution you can make a weaker tea, sweeten with maple syrup, or add 1 tsp of dried fennel to the ginger.)

Best Yoga Asana for Detoxification?  Spinal Twists!

Even though one could make an argument as to how any asana can help one detoxify, I have found spinal twists to be especially helpful.  Spinal twists balance the digestive system by massaging the organs as you turn right and left.  They also help to clear the channels of the body with the correct application of pranayama directed through the spine during the twist.  Spinal twists are tridoshic and therefore appropriate for all constitutions.

Jatthara Parivartanasana (Revolved Stomach Pose)

Cautions & Contraindications – ulcers, recent abdominal surgery, disc problems

Begin by lying on your back, with your left leg extended straight to the floor and your right knee is bent with the right foot placed beside the inner left knee.  Reach your arms directly out from the shoulders on the ground, palms downward.

When you are ready to twist, press down through your right foot, lift your hips enough to turn onto your left hip, keeping the spine in one line.  Continue to bring your right knee toward the ground on the left side of your body – you can use your left hand to help guide the knee.

As your right knee continues to gravitate toward the ground on the left, reach out through your right arm and shoulder toward the right, keeping your right shoulder planted on the earth as much as is possible.  Continue to breathe deeply throughout the entire body, especially directing the breath into the abdomen and lower spine, then up through the chest, heart, and shoulders.  Stay in the twist anywhere from 5 breaths to 5 minutes.

Slowly unwind, coming out as you came in, re-aligning the spine.  Bring your knees to the chest for at least 3 breaths before you change sides.

Eastside Yoga Teacher ~ Melissa Spamer, ERYT, LMT, C. Ayu.


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About eastsideyoga

your neighborhood yoga studio! with our warm welcome, peaceful vibe and experienced yoga teachers, we aim to transform the body and bring stillness to your mind through the timeless teaching of yoga. eastside yoga is a friendly community of people who love yoga and meditation. we strive to nurture beginners and help deepen your yoga practice. our yoga studio and class schedule are convenient for residents of the east side and downtown austin.
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