Yoga of course has many, many benefits - but one of my favorite things to teach and share are detoxifying yoga poses. Not only are they good for stimulating digestion, but also for ridding the body of stale energy and toxins, all while boosting strength and flexibility. Take these one at a time or add them into a sequence!
1. Twisted Chair or Parivrtta Utkatasana
From Tadasana, bend your knees and drop your hips until thighs are almost parallel to the earth. Draw up through the lower belly to protect the lower back, and ground into the heels. Draw the palms to heart center - use the inhale to lengthen the spine and on the exhale twist to one side, hooking the elbow on the outside of the thigh. (Don’t worry if your elbow doesn't reach the leg- just twist as much as you can!) Once you’re twisting- check in with the knees and try to keep them in line. Continue lengthening through the spine. Hold for 5 breaths. Repeat on your other side!
Benefits: This shape is great for strengthening the the low back, increasing flexibility and stimulating digestive system. I always tell my students it helps them energetically wring out what they don’t need!
2. Down Dog Twist or Parivrtta Adho Mukha Svanasana
Start in downward facing dog - move your feet a foot closer (or more) towards your hands. Keep a gentle bend in the knees and work on finding a stable stance - don’t worry if your heels don’t touch the ground! Start to shift the weight into the right palm and begin tenting onto the left fingertips. From here - begin drawing the left palm to the right shin, thigh, or ankle. To deepen the stretch - bend further into the left elbow and shift your gaze under the right shoulder. Continue these deep breaths- thinking about expanding the back body. Hold for at least 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Opens the hamstrings and back body while challenging balance.
3. Twisted Low Lunge or Anjaneyasana (with Open Twist)
Start in a low lunge - right foot forward, left foot back - left leg straight. Release the back knee to the mat and use your inhale to lift the arms to frame the ears. Hello, anjaneyasa! From here -release the left hand to the inside of the front foot, and reach the right hand to the right hip crease- or up towards the sky. Think about rotating the top shoulder open, while hugging the inner thighs together and grounding through all edges of the right foot. Be mindful of the neck - if shifting the gaze towards the sky bothers the neck, shift the gaze down towards the mat. Think about finding this twist and openness through the entire torso, rather than just in between the shoulder blades. Take at least 5 deep breaths here before repeating on the other side.
4. Revolved Crescent Lunge or Parivrtta Parsvakonasana
Start in a low lunge- right foot forward, left food back. Back knee is lifted and the back leg is straight, reaching through the back heel. Inhale to lift the arms to frame the ears finding high lunge. Lengthen through the spine and draw up through the lower belly as you draw the palms to hearts center on the exhale. Use the next inhale to lengthen the spine and on the exhale twist to the right side, hooking the elbow on the outside of the thigh. (Don’t worry if your elbow doesn't reach the leg- just twist as much as you can!) Find an active press of the elbow into the thigh and continue lengthening the spine with each inhale, and deepening the twist with each exhale. Feel the back thigh and keep reaching back through the back heel - use that to also continue hugging the inner thighs towards one another. Stay here for 5 breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
Benefits: This shape is great for strengthening your lower back while increasing flexibility. It also helps to improve posture and release tension in the neck and shoulders. Like our other twists this one is also great for ridding the body of stale energy and stimulating digestion =)
5. Revolve Triangle or Parivrtta Trikonasana
Start in pyramid pose - right foot forward, left foot back. Right toes face forward and left toes are out at about a 35 degree angle. Envision your feet are on railroad tracks - so rather than on one straight line, let there be space in between the feet so that the hips have space to open. Press into the outside edge of the back foot - and the ball of the front foot. Draw the hip points back to keep them square as you lengthen the spine. Maybe use a block under the left hand as it draws to the inside of the right foot. Inhale to lengthen the spine, exhale to twist towards the right -bringing the right hand to the right hip crease or reaching it up towards the sky. Think about rotating the top shoulder open, and use the grounding stability in the feet to keep the hips square as you deepen the twist. Hold for 5 breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Great for opening the hamstring and creating more mobility in the upper back.
6. Wide Leg Forward Bend or Prasarita Padottanasana I
Start in a wide leg stance - feet are parallel with the weight shifting slightly more into the toe side edge of the feet. Draw the hands to the hips and keep a gentle bend in the knees as you fold forward. Release the hands and allow them to take any variation you wish. If grabbing yogi toe lock or for the ankles - use each exhale to travel slightly deeper into the stretch. Be mindful of the ankles and also of the knees- keep the micro bend in the knees to protect the joint! Hold for at least 5 breaths or more, and then repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Great for strengthening and stretching the inner legs and back of the legs as well as the spine. Calms the brain and can help to ease any anxiety.
7. Seated Twist or Marichyasana C
Starting with your legs straight in front of you in dandasana, bend your right knee so it’s flat on the floor close to your body (or wherever it may reach!) Sit up tall and draw your right hand behind the body, As you exhale twist to bring your left elbow across your body to hook on the outside of the right knee (you can also bring the arm around almost like hugging the leg if that’s more comfortable). Continue pressing the right foot into the earth and keep the extended foot active, flexing back towards the body. Use the inhales to continue lengthening, and exhales to continue deepening. Hold for 5 breaths, before switching to the other side.
Benefits: This shape is GREAT for the internal organs! It stimulates the liver and kidney, all while helping to release the lower back (alleviating mild backache and hip pain), stretch the shoulders, and strengthen the spine. I LOVE doing seated twists after a big meal or something indulgent (basically when I feel my digestion needs a little TLC!)
Feel free to take these poses on their own- or make them into your very own flow! Twisting in general is really detoxifying and great for not only the internal organs, but also the mind and ridding the body of stale energy. As always - listen to your body and modify as needed. Namaste!