With many postures in the practice involving twisting, folding forward to compress the belly, and resting with the head below the heart (as in Downward Dog, Standing Forward Bends, Shoulderstand, etc), we encourage an increase in circulation throughout the body and move fluid to our filtering lymph nodes. The result is clarity of mind, more effective digestion as we help to move things along, and a gentle release of stress, fear, and sadness.... among many other things.
The body's natural state is health. Your body's job is to constantly eliminate what isn't necessary. When we come to really respect and acknowledge that, there is a deeper reverence for ourselves and a more intimate relationship with our bodies that often leads us towards making cleaner, healthier choices with what we put into our mouths, and also what we allow in our daily experience. When we begin our practice with a powerful intention such as "Even if nothing changed, my body is perfect - exactly as it is." we begin to remove the inner critic and make healthier choices...naturally. Instead of hating that extra weight we've gained (or lost), or feeling angry towards our body for the pain/injury that's forcing us to slow down - we honor it. We lovingly accept and pay attention to it, learning to nurture ourselves back to health. From there the body falls into place effortlessly. When we begin focusing on a compassionate respectful attitude toward ourselves, food cravings begin to subside, and the need to numb and escape lessens as well! Simply because now you are starting to get the right kind of nurturing. Now, you are focusing on yourself with admiration and compassion instead of shame or anger at the way your body is at the moment.
Aside from just the physical aspect of the practice, Detox Yoga can also start in motion a cleansing on the energetic/emotional levels as well. Truth is: your body is built to move. It wants to be active. Gentle consistent movement, regular exercise that encourages perspiration and deeper breathing naturally assists in clearing toxins. Especially emotional ones. Sometimes, when one has been avoiding exercise for whatever reason, getting active again feels somewhat agitating. Almost as if all that stagnant stress, worry, anger, resentment that's been keeping us slothing on the couch with a bottle of red - starts to get all conjured up! I've witnessed it (and experienced it) many times. This, is where a calm detached perspective becomes essential. This is why, at the end of each yoga class, we practice a full complete relaxation in Savasana....to cultivate that ability to detach from any mental chatter or that feeling of alarm as stuck emotions begin to flow again.
This Sunday, for instance, after teaching the Detox class I experienced my own little cleansing. Within an hour of finishing class I met with friends for brunch. Instead of hydrating, or choosing a gentle herbal tea, I followed the pack and ordered a Caesar. Almost instantly after my first sip I knew it wasn't a good idea. The result? Brunch came back up in a not-so-gentle way and I landed in bed for a couple of hours feeling pretty ill. Once I awoke - the rest of the evening was spent feeling weepy, cloudy and generally dis-combobulated as all my own stagnant stresses from this last year started to flow.
Your yoga practice will be Detoxifying. It's just the nature of the practice.
Help yourself along by hydrating adequately before and after class. Pay attention to the foods you fuel yourself with. Take time after each class to let the effects of the practice settle. Learn to be kind and gentle with yourself as you begin to dig deeper and get to know your body in a different way. And finally - watch the tendency to push too hard.
Practice. Be consistent. Be loving and respectful of yourself. Hydrate. Rinse. Repeat.