Detox is a very popular term in health and wellness. And why not? Let's face it, our world today is a pretty toxic place and in order to live our lives with clarity and authenticity we must eliminate the layers of sludge and distortion that are engulfing us. Call it sludge, call it distortion; anything that inhibits optimum wellness is a toxin. To“detox” is to eliminate anything that is not conducive to the expression of one’s best self.
There are many ways in which we express ourselves to function optimally, including:
- Physical expression- Toxins show up in the body as excess weight, skin blemishes, fatigue, digestive impairment, reproductive disorders, aches and pains, chronic inflammation, headaches, etc..
- Genetic expression- When our immune system, endocrine system or really any system in the body is not working properly, our DNA can become mutated which causes disease and degeneration, the opposite of health and wellness.
- Emotional expression- Depression, anxiety, irritability, negative self-talk and ADD all show up when the body is out of balance.
- Creative expression- We can actualize our dharma, our soul’s true calling, and live to our fullest potential when our body and mind are healthy and harmonious.
When we eliminate toxins we create space to add the nutrients, habits and relationships that make us feel good, enhance our natural beauty and radiance, strengthen our immune system, temper our stress, boost our energy and promote mental clarity, motivation and inspiration.
The difference between a “regular Yoga pose” and a “detox Yoga pose” is intention. The reason that the ancient wise ones practiced Yoga was to find freedom from suffering, or in modern terms, to detox. Every single asana that I know of improves the functioning of the physical body, massages the organs and glands, improves circulation, cleanses and strengthens the energetic body and benefits the mind/body relationship. When we approach our practice with judgement, competition, egotism or lack of focus we are fueling the toxins, prolonging the suffering. When we come to our mat (or our dinner table, desk or any other place we may find ourselves) with gratitude, self-love, acceptance, mindfulness, awareness, courage and diligence we are able to loosen the grip that suffering has on us, we are able to detox.
Toxins are unavoidable, but our body is brilliantly designed to process them. We assimilate toxins from the foods we eat, the water we drink, the products we put on our face, hair and bodies, the chemicals we clean our clothing, homes, offices and cars with, the medications we take, the air we breathe, the screens we look at, the media we are bombarded with, the people we surround ourselves with and even the thoughts that we think. Our modern lifestyle has most of us on toxin overload though, and this gets compounded during the holiday season.
Along with the holiday festivities, good wishes and cheer, the holidays bring stress. Money stress, work stress, family stress, relationship stress, time management stress, travel stress, gift stress, stress that comes from over stimulation and comparing ourselves to others, stress imposed on us from the media and commercialization of Christmas...shall I keep going?
Stress has many adverse effects on our health and happiness. It is a major toxin and source of suffering. Cortisol, the “stress hormone” leads to weight gain, energy crashes, hormone imbalance and weakens the immune system. Prolonged stress prevents the healthy and normal functioning of our body and mind.
Considering a detox should not be another source of stress, another thing you “should” be doing or something to judge yourself over. It should not inhibit you from enjoying this precious time of year, a detox should be a way for you to evaluate your priorities and practice self-care. It is something to do for yourself.
A detox will teach you how it feels to be nourished. A simple way to incorporate detoxing into the post-Thanksgiving crunch is to cultivate healthy eating habits based on nutrient dense, organic whole foods. Eat tons of organic veggies. Starting here will make it easier to eliminate unhealthy foods because your body will be taking in lots of essential vitamins and minerals. When we are well nourished, food cravings and addictions disappear and we feel energized and satisfied. Your body will become accustomed to feeling good...so eating that second dessert at the holiday party won’t even be appealing. You will have a better body awareness when it comes to feeling full and will feel more sensitive when you have reached your limit of sugar, salt and alcohol. Cultivating a mindful approach to eating will remind you how to savor your food, to enjoy the flavors, aromas and the beauty of it. Bringing this level of sensuality and appreciation to eating and drinking will diminish the tendency to binge and to eat or drink out of anxiety, depression or boredom. Healthy whole foods will reboot the way your body functions so that you are not operating in a stressed-out chronic flight-or-fight mode.
Another way to stay healthy and clear and to promote the detoxification process through out the holiday season is to create a schedule and stick to it. Set a time to move, stretch and meditate every day. Give yourself at least an hour of movement; it can be a yoga class or a long walk... just move. If you are moving and not sweating, take some time in a sauna or steam room. Sweating is a major way to release toxins from the body. Wake-up and go to bed at the same time everyday and get plenty of sleep. Take 20 minutes a day to sit quietly in meditation. Focus on your breath, a mantra, an image or listen to a recording. This is the key to any detox program. The benefits of meditation are countless. I also recommend limiting TV, news and social media. Clear your mind. Cultivate positive thoughts. Spend some quiet time in Nature and with the people and animals who are important to you. Don’t over extend yourself, practice saying no. Value your own inner voice without the distortion of constant artificial stimulation.
To learn more or to experience a true detox for yourself, join Liz Lindh on a yoga retreat or one of her yoga teacher training certification programs at The Sanctuary at Two Rivers in Costa Rica's only Blue Zone.