The beginning of spring is the ideal time to clear out the clutter from our bodies, minds and our environment, to shake off any sluggishness from winter so we can embrace the change of season with a fresh perspective and and a spring in our step!
Whether or not you choose to embark on a dietary detox, this sequence will help you to lighten up, reduce physical and mental stress whilst giving your circulatory, digestive and lymphatic systems a little helping hand. A key player in aiding detoxification of our body’s systems is relaxation – to quieten down the activity of the sympathetic nervous system – also referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ stress response in the body. So this is a gentle, accessible sequence that you can also turn to any time you you feel overwhelmed or stressed out, whatever the season. Enjoy.
Then place your hands over your lower ribs so that the ring and little fingers are just underneath the ribcage. Inhale normally. Then as you exhale slowly, gently draw your navel to your spine. Let your next slow and smooth inhalation gently expand your belly with little or no muscular effort – as you do this you should feel the movement underneath your hands. As you exhale gently draw your navel to your spine.
With the hand placement over your lower ribs, visualise the breath creating space around your stomach (left side) and liver (right side) as the diaphragm contracts and presses down on the abdominal cavity.
You can also try this practice (with or without your hands as a guide) whilst sitting e.g. at your desk, before you eat a meal or snack, when you are in your car (at a red light or in traffic), or simply any time you feel any signs of stress or tension.
Full yogic breathing
Now place one hand just above your navel and the other underneath your collarbones. Breathe slowly and deeply as before, but this time filling up the ribcage from the diagphragm (bottom hand) through the ribcage and up into the upper chest (top hand), followed by a slow and full exhalation. Feel as though you can expand your ribcage in 3-dimensions – so don’t forget to breathe into the side ribs and back ribs too.
Benefits: too many to mention, but for digestion: activates parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress and therefore bringing circulation back to digestive organs. The movement of the diaphragm gently ‘massages’ the digestive organs.
Leg lock pose
Lie on your back, bring your feet to the floor, hip distance apart and parallel. Draw your right knee in towards your chest and clasp your hands at the top of your shin.
Inhale deeply; retain the inhalation; curl your head and shoulders off the floor bringing your nose towards your knee. Pause for a few seconds still holding the breath in. Be careful not to strain your neck by imagining you are holding an orange between your chin and your breastbone.
Exhale slowly lower head & shoulders to floor.
Repeat 5 or more times. Then repeat on the Left leg.
Benefits: the pressure created in the abdomen in this movement whilst retaining the inhalation helps to stimulate the ascending colon (right leg) and descending colon (left leg). This whole exercise can be repeated with both legs together (this variation is called ‘Apanasana’ or ‘wind relieving pose!)It is also a nice stretch for the lower back.
Supine dynamic twist
Lie on your back, arms at shoulder height, palms facing down. Bring your knees above your hips so your shins are parallel to the floor. Keep inner thighs, knees and feet together throughout.
Inhale and engage your abdominals – exhale lower your legs towards the floor to your right side but ensure that your back ribs, shoulders and arms are still heavy on the floor), so this may be halfway or less to the floor.
Hold the twist – Inhale and exhale while keeping legs together, shoulders stay down and try to spin your belly to the left.
Inhale back to centre. Exhale legs to left and continue for 5-10 times each side.
Benefits: The alternating stretching and compressing of the abdominal muscles and organs helps to improve digestion, aids in constipation and increases the wellbeing of the digestive system. Releases tension from the spine. A good core exercise too!
Dynamic arm and leg raises
Begin in the same base position with your feet hip width and a parallel and arms by your sides and your pelvis in a neutral position (two frontal hip bones and pubic bone are on the same horizontal plane). Be sure to draw your navel towards your spine and ‘sinch in’ around your waist. Your lower back should not feel any strain at all.
– Inhale and raise your arms over your head, palms face up (bend elbows if your shoulders are tight so your hands and forearms can rest on the floor) (pic 1)
– Exhale, navel to spine. Lift your feet so your knees come over your belly (pic 2)
– Inhale to straighten your legs so the soles of the feet face the ceiling – keep a soft bend in the knees if your hamstrings are tight pic 3)
– Exhale to bend your knees again (pic 2)
– Inhale, navel to spine. Lower your feet back to the floor being careful not to overarch your lower back) (pic 1)
– Exhale to lower your arms back by your sides (the starting position).
– Repeat 5 or more times.
Benefits: Dynamic movements stimulate the lymphatic system and circulatory systems. The abdominal muscles are strengthened. Synchronising movement with breath enhances body awareness and overall wellbeing.
Sit on the floor, placing a folded towel or cushion (in place of yoga block if you don’t have one) underneath your sitting bones. This is to ensure you can sit up with a tall spine without rounding your lower back.
Place your right heel in front of your right sit bone so there is a little space between your inner foot and your left leg, your right knee should stay above your right ankle throughout. Place your right hand on the floor behind you. Inhale and reach your left arm to the ceiling – as you do this try to lengthen your spine and create space in your belly (pic 1)
As you exhale, turn your torso to the right and either hold your right knee with your left hand or the crook of the elbow. You can gaze over your right shoulder if this is comfortable for your neck (pic 2).
Each time you inhale, lengthen up through the spine, each time you exhale try to turn your belly a little further towards your right inner thigh. Chest should stay lifted and collarbones broad throughout.
Stay for 5-10 breaths and then repeat the twist to your left.
Benefits: Twisting poses are beneficial for the healthy functioning of the digestive organs (as in the supine twist) and this variation also stretches some of the deep back muscles.
Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall pose)
Take yourself near a wall, with or without a bolster or some folded towels to place under your pelvis. Watch the instructional video here.
Stay for a minimum of 5 minutes but 20 minutes is not too long here. Enjoy!
Here is an image of Viparita Karani without raising the pelvis whereas the video shows how to set up with a bolster.
Benefits: A passive, restorative posture that is extremely relaxing yet refreshing for the body and mind. Helps to relieve tired feet and legs, aids return of blood flow from the lower body back to the heart (venous return) and aids the movement of lymphatic fluid towards the chest.
To finish – rest in Savasana – lie on your back, close your eyes and completely relax.