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Yoga poses and detox diet tips for spring

Julie Marx is a yoga teacher and Yoga Teacher Trainer for YogaWorks, a yoga school with locations in California and New York.

Essentials for a spring detox

Spring is a time when nature reawakens and rejuvenates. It is also a time when we, too, search for renewal. One of the best ways to clean up your body and mind is with a safe, healthy and comprehensive detox program that incorporates meaningful movement and thought, and a diet that facilitates a physical cleanse. Here are essential yoga poses and a few tips on cleaning up your diet that you can practice daily to help clean out your body and prepare you for a spirited spring.

Spring Yoga

Essential yoga poses

Movement, particularly through yoga, is an essential part of a detox program. It helps increase circulation, release tensions and toxins, and acts as a pump to move lymphatic fluids through your body, boosting your immune system and improving your overall health. The following yoga poses are especially beneficial.

1. Simple spinal twist

Why it works: Twisting your torso coils the organs that are vital to digestion. When you twist, blood flow is constricted to the liver, gallbladder, stomach, spleen and intestines, allowing newly oxygenated, clean blood to enter. This pose is great for expediting the elimination and assimilation of nutrients into your body.

How to do it: Lie flat on your back and bring your knees into your chest. Extend the arms along the floor straight out from the shoulders, turning palms up to the ceiling. Keep the inseam of the legs and feet together as you exhale, dropping your knees up and over onto the floor toward the left elbow while you keep reaching your chest and right arm to the right. Keep your gaze over either shoulder or up at the ceiling, which ever feels best on your neck. Hold pose for at least five complete inhales and exhales.

2. Legs overhead

Why it works: This is the perfect pose for calming your mind and pumping your lymphatic system. With the legs overhead, fluid drains from the feet and legs, helping to calm your mind and allowing your lymph fluid to renew and clean out your immune system.

How to do it: Sit in front of a wall with your right hip and shoulder touching the wall. Bend your knees and roll onto your left side and back, so your legs come up the wall, heels resting on the wall. Have your seat about six inches from the wall (further if hamstrings are tight). Either rest your hands on your belly or let your arms lie on the floor, palms up. Stay in this position for 5 to 10 minutes breathing full inhales and exhales the whole time.

3. Meditate and breathe

Why it works: The breath is the direct link to the mind and plays an important role in promoting detoxification. A chronic state of low-grade stress, which is common in our society, often leads to a clenched diaphragm, which results in not being able to take in enough life-sustaining oxygen when we inhale, or expel as much of the potentially hazardous carbon dioxide when we exhale. In addition, controlling the breath controls the mind. Conscious breathing calms the fluctuations of the mind, induces the parasympathetic nervous system, and aids in dispelling negative thoughts making room for positive momentum.

How to do it: Sit up on at least two well-folded blankets with your legs crossed at the ankles or shins. Make sure your knees are not higher than your hips (if so, sit on more blankets). Stack your shoulders over your hips and your ears over your shoulders so your spine is long and effortlessly in its natural state. Relax all the muscles in your face and throat. Breathe through your nose, lengthening your inhales and exhales until both the sound of your breaths and breath length are comfortable and harmonious. Absorb your attention on all the aspects of each inhale and exhale, tuning in to sound, feel, length and temperature. Do this for at least 20 breaths and you'll immediately notice a positive difference in how you feel.

Essential detox diet tips

Combine yoga poses and breathing exercises with the the following food changes for five days for an optimal mind and body cleanse.

A 5-day detox diet plan

Consider a 5-day detox to be a gentle arc, with the first two days acting as a gradual entry into the program (you change some of your foods). Days 3 and 4 are the "body" of the program (stick to only the food and drink recommended below). Day 5 and on are preparatory towards resuming a maintainable, cleaner diet with some of your usual healthy foods and some animal foods added back in.

Best detox foods

After you begin your day with the essential yoga poses, have a "green juice," and a half-cup of grains, fruit or veggies. Lunch and dinner should be the same (juice not necessary), and include a detoxifying soup.

Detox grains and beans

Acceptable grains and beans on a detox program include barley, legumes, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, millet, spelt, aduki or mung beans. Before cooking grains, always rinse first (for beans ad legumes, soak twice) and then cook in filtered water.

Detox soup

Make a broth soup early in the week (to a large pot of purified water, add onion, carrot, celery, and daikon and simmer). Have a cup of this soup before lunch and dinner each day.

Detox vegetables

Raw foods are best, and veggies should always have a green vegetable dominant in the mix. Best veggies include: asparagus, watercress, celery, carrots, Swiss chard, seaweed, dandelion greens, spinach, broccoli, endive, escarole, leaf lettuce, sprouts, kale, turnips, squash, mustard greens, collards, potatoes (white or sweet and only in small amounts this week), pumpkin, shiitake mushroom, onion and daikon. Additionally, all root vegetables should be eaten with the skin on.

Detox drinks

Green tea and yerba mate are okay, but limit your intake to two cups per day. A Detox Tea is the best choice. Micro algae in the form of blue-green algae, spirulina, chlorella, or a "greens" supplement can be added to a veggie drink for increased energy, to stabilize blood sugar levels, and/or decrease appetite, or for anyone who may have difficulty adapting to such a radical shift in the diet.

Detox snacks

The best snacks are fruit and nuts. Favorable fruits include: strawberries, cantaloupe, raspberries, grapefruit, mangos, dried figs, papaya, green apple, pomegranates, pears, avocado and clementines. Almonds, walnuts or organic raw almond butter are a great accompaniment.

Detox fats

Each meal needs a little plant fat, like olive, sunflower or sesame oils. Plant fats are permitted in small amounts, between two to three teaspoons, and preferably drizzled on veggies. (Add a squeeze of fresh lemon for added flavor.)

The detox plan for each of the five days

  • Drink two (8-ounce) cups of Detox Tea- one in the AM and one in the PM.
  • Journal (it helps clear the mind and nourish the spirit).
  • Drink only purified water, but don't use it to wash food down with meals; drink fluids after a meal.
  • Aim for only organic foods.
  • Try a shot of pulsed parsley, cayenne, lemon juice and maple syrup in the morning.
  • Consider an essential fatty acid supplement.
  • Eat your last meal no closer than two hours before bed.
  • Eat all meals sitting down with no TV, computer or books. Breathe deeply and fully engage in what you are doing – nourishing your mind and body.

Visit YogaWorks.com to find a YogaWorks location near you. YogaWorks professionals can help you merge the benefits of yoga with a specialized food plan that is proven to successfully detox and cleanse the mind and body.

More on yoga, diet and detox

Power yoga: Even wimps can do it
How to select a safe detox
Jumpstart your health: Detox your diet

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