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Cleansing postures through yoga – by Miranda Lewis

Do you need to purify your body after Christmas overload?

Too much food, hours of sitting watching TV and excess alcohol can leave us feeling de-motivated, lazy and crabby. These exercises will help to give you some clarity, motivation and help you de-bloat. These 10 exercises include twists to wring out toxins, an invigorating backbend to fire up your metabolism, and an inversion that stimulates your digestive system and thyroid. Use each inhale to create space and each exhale to let go of anything you no longer need or want in your body or mind. Unless otherwise stated breathe in out and through your nose. Try to have your inhale and exhale each a length of 4 counts.  

1 Kapalabhati pranayama This breathing exercise is fantastic for your digestion and elimination. Imagine  bellows that you use to stoke a fire – in this exercise your breath is the bellows and your digestive fire (agni) is being stoked. Sit in any position with your back straight. Bring one hand on your tummy and let it go completely. Inhale through your nose and as you exhale through your nose pull your belly back to the spine as hard as you possibly can. Keep going – on the inhale letting the tummy go completely flabby and on the exhale pulling it back to your spine as strongly as you possibly can. Start slowly then when you have the hang of it go faster with the emphasis on the exhale. Practice 3 rounds of 20-50 breaths.  

2 Cat stretches with lions breath The cat stretches help to mobilize your spine and stretch your tummy. The breath is about letting go and releasing all toxins. Come onto your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As you inhale tilt the tailbone up to the ceiling, lift the heart and look up a little. As you exhale open your mouth wide, stick out the tongue and exhale out everything you don’t need – as you do that - round your spine like an angry cat.  5 times.  

3 Sun salutations When we create heat in the body we help to burn toxins. The sun salutations do exactly that as well as stretching the whole of the body. Either practice 5 rounds of your own style of sun salutations, or if you are new to yoga see this link  

4 Twist lunge This exercise begins to gently twist the body whilst still building heat (which helps burns toxins) and tones your legs. From standing step your left foot way back. Bend your front knee in a high lunge. On your inhale straighten the knee and lift the arms next to your ears. On your exhale bend your front knee and open arms out at shoulder height as you twist your torso to the right. Inhale to straighten and continue to exhale bend the front knee and twist. Repeat 20 times on this side and then switch sides.  

5 Twisted chair Your legs are going to burn! We are still building heat and strengthening the legs whilst coming into a deeper twist which rings out the digestive organs (think of a dish cloth full of dirty water then imagine wringing it out over the sink – that’s what a twist does to your tummy). Stand with your feet together in mountain pose. Bend both your knees, sticking your bum back as if you’re sitting on a chair – but keep your chest lifted – tuck your tail bone under so you don’t hurt your lower back. Raise your arms next to your ears and as you exhale bring your left elbow to the outside of your right knee with your right palm on top. Press down with your right hand, as if you’re trying to get the left elbow to touch the floor. Hold here for 10 s-l-o-w breaths. Lift to stand on the inhale and then repeat on the other side.

6 Seated twist This is the last twist in the sequence. It squeezes the abdominal organs and stimulates digestion and elimination. Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Bend your right knee and bring the sole of your right foot to the floor outside your left knee. Rest your right hand on the floor behind your back for support (but don’t lean back). Reach your left hand up and rotate your torso to the right bringing your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Stay for 10 deep breaths, gradually and gently using the sensation of your left elbow pressing into your right leg to encourage your torso to twist further to the right. Either look behind you, over your right shoulder or straight ahead, depending on what feels best for your neck. Repeat on the other side.

8 Bow pose This is a backbend so creates flexibility in the spine but also stretches out the front of the body, stimulating digestion and elimination and also opening the chest and shoulders. Lie down on your tummy. Bend your knees and reach behind you to hold onto your ankles. Reach your feet back and up, so your thighs lift off the floor and this should pull your head and chest away from the ground. Hold here balancing on your hips and pubic bone for 8 breaths. Rock forwards and back, massaging the tummy, if you can.  

9 Shoulderstand (intermediate) legs up the wall (beginner) This is the ‘mother of the yoga poses’, just as a mother creates health and happiness at home – likewise shoulderstand creates health and happiness in the body. Shoulderstand balances the endocrine system, soothes the nervous system, relieves constipation and strengthens the digestive fire. Lie on your back, take your legs over your head. Bring your hands onto your lower back and slowly lift your legs up to the ceiling. You should be standing on your shoulders, with your back straight, make sure you tuck your tailbone under so you are not breaking at the hips. Hold for at least 20 breaths, up to 50 if you can. DO NOT MOVE YOUR NECK IN SHOULDERSTAND. If you are new to yoga, have a shoulder injury or your period, do legs up the wall instead. It has many of the same benefits. Just scoot your bum close to a wall lie down on your back and have your legs straight up against the wall.

10 The plough The Sanskrit name for the plough is halasana – ‘hala’ means poison. The plough is the remover of poison by stimulating the digestive organs and stretching the spine. Lying on your back send your legs up and over your head. Try to have the toes touch the floor and push your heels away from the body with the legs straight. Don’t worry if your feet don’t touch the floor (keep practicing!) just keep your hands on your lower back for stability. If your feet do touch the floor, you can interlace the fingers, with the elbows straight and pull the baby fingers into the floor. Hold for 10 breaths.   Finish with a few minutes lying flat in savasana with your favourite relaxing music playing or download a yoga relaxation.

By Miranda Lewis

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