As you prepare to embark on a yoga retreat at Anamaya, you must know this is the perfect opportunity to cleanse and detoxify your body. You imagine days filled with tropical fruits, and healthy foods, yoga and meditation; nights consisting of deep sleep lulled by the ocean breezes. And this is what you will get! Although you know that yoga is good for you (after all you are considering a yoga retreat!) you may not realize that many of the postures in your yoga practice have specific cleansing and detoxifying benefits.
Yoga, when practiced as a series of asana, has many benefits to your physical body as well as to your mental state. The postures strengthen the connection between mind and body, body and breath. This has a calming effect, reducing stress and anxiety, and inducing feelings of relaxation and exhilaration. Your pulse rate and respiratory rate decrease, as your flexibility and range of motion increase.
Some postures serve to detoxify your internal organs, some serve to flush your lymph nodes or your adrenals, some to expand your lung capacity. Some simply bring a smile to your face! Pranayama, or breath work, can serve to calm, focus, or energize. Here are descriptions of how to accomplish, as well as the benefits of two specific asana practices you are likely to encounter at a yoga retreat:
Ardha Matseyendrasana (half lord of the fishes):
Twists serve to cleanse and detoxify the liver, adrenals, and kidneys, much as twisting a dishrag before plunging into the clean water. This squeeze and release effect forces out toxin filled blood from the organs. When releasing the twist clean oxygen filled blood enters, providing rich nutrients. This particular twist is also known as a spiritual and mind detoxifier, as all seven chakras are active.
Come into a seated position, bending right leg at the knee and placing right foot by left buttocks. Sitting bones should remain equally rooted. Bend left leg and place left foot to the outside of the right knee, drawing left knee toward chest. Lengthen through the spine, extending through the crown of the head. Place your left hand on the floor behind you, at your sacrum. Initiate twist from the right abdominals, allowing your head and gaze to follow the direction of the twist. Place your right elbow on your left knee as a leverage point to deepen the twist. Keep your spine erect. With each inhale lengthen, and with each exhale deepen the twist. Remain for 5 complete breaths. On an exhale release and come center. Repeat on the other side.
Dhanurasana (bow pose):
This posture accomplishes a great deal in many parts of your body. The spine is activated in a backbend, serving to release nervous tension and rejuvenate lung capacity. Backbends also provide an overall feeling of brightness and happiness. The pressure on the abdominal area in this manner serves to make more efficient the elimination of body waste. The pancreas, which deals with insulin, is stimulated, as are the liver and spleen. The solar plexus chakra is activated here, purifying the area that holds deep seeded emotions.
Laying on your belly place your forehead on the floor in front of you. Bend both knees, bringing your heels toward your buttocks. Keeping your shoulder blades drawing down your back reach back and take hold of your ankles with your hands. Keep cervical spine long, gaze is a few feet in front of you, on the floor. On an inhale push your feet into your hands, and pull your feet with your hands. You are in a backbend now, resting on your abdomen. Keep your knees from splaying out to the side and try to root them toward the ground. Keep the buttocks muscles relaxed and tuck the tailbone. Keep the chest and heart open. Hold for three complete breaths, releasing on an exhale. Rest with your cheek on the mat. Repeat three times.