You might wish you were better at a lot of things. Eliminating toxins from your body shouldn’t be one of them.
When it comes to detoxification, all kinds of handiwork goes on in your bod, often without you even knowing. Your lungs, liver, skin, kidneys and lymphatic and digestive systems get rid of and protect you from the onslaught of day-to-day living. Toxic stuff is everywhere, which means you eat, drink and breathe toxins. Actually, your body even produces toxins through its normal chemical reactions—and is able to get rid of them.
To that end, plenty of medical experts say you shouldn’t ever have to “detox,” despite how cool it sounds or how trendy it gets (detoxification from drugs or alcohol is a different story). Of course, if you eat lots of processed food, rarely exercise and are usually stressed you might need to “detoxify” (so to speak) your lifestyle and upgrade to healthier patterns.
Whether or not an upgrade is in order for you, practicing yoga can arguably benefit your body’s natural detox abilities. That’s mainly because the physical part of yoga—the postures—gets your digestive system moving, just like any exercise can. Plus, some postures massage the digestive tract and calm you.
Speaking of exercise, sweating doesn’t eliminate toxins much. Your skin’s main role as a detoxifier is to prevent the penetration of toxic substances—not to sweat them out. You’re more likely to pee or poop out toxins, thanks to your liver, kidneys and digestive system.
Try these three yoga postures to boost your body’s inherent detoxification ability. A 30- to 60-minute physically active practice that includes these postures, or postures with similar intentions, and ends in rest would be even better.
Why it helps: It stimulates your digestive tract.
How to do it: Lie on your belly with your forehead down, arms alongside your body. As you inhale lift your head and torso, pressing the backs of your hands into the ground, and lift your legs as you stretch them up and back. As you exhale, release down. Repeat a few times. You will hit different parts of your digestive tract, depending on which part of your torso bears weight as you lift.
2. Reclined Twist, variation
Why it helps: It squeezes your digestive tract.
How to do it: Lie on your back, legs bent, soles of your feet down and ahead of your hips. Exhale as you draw your right knee into your chest, taking hold of the back of your right thigh or shin, whichever is most available. Inhale and allow the right thigh to move away from your chest, then exhale and draw it back in. Repeat a couple times, and then use an exhale to instead twist and drop your right knee to the left. Remain for several breaths then return to your starting position, and repeat with your left knee.
3. Child’s Pose
Why it helps: It’s calming. Your system generally works best when it’s not amped up on cortisol. A restorative posture like this helps balance your nervous system. Child’s Pose also can squeeze your digestive tract: the deeper your hip flexion, the more the massaging action.
How to do it: From all fours send your hips back toward your heels, folding forward. Rest your forehead on the ground, a pillow or a yoga block, and bring your arms alongside your legs (if you need more support for your torso, place a prop under it).
Journalist and yoga teacher Mitra Malek regularly edits and creates content for wellness-focused outlets, including Yoga Journal, for which she is a contributing editor. Learn more at mitramalek.com.