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You wake up 20 minutes after you hit your alarm clock to snooze several times. You barely had 5 hours sleep after coming home drunk last night, but you jump out of your bed after realizing you have 15 minutes left to eat, take a bath and dress up. You take a quick shower, dress up and run to the dining table to gorge on your pan-friend hotdogs with fried rice and instant coffee. Hearing your friend's car honking outside, you fail to finish your breakfast and just take a strong painkiller to address your hangover headache. You run to your friend's car and take a deep breath of relief you're there, not minding the second hand smoke and city smog in the air.
If this is a typical morning routine for you, then you should be alarmed. According to Registered Holistic Nutritionist Isabel Clark, people of today are exposed to extreme amounts of toxins from taking in loads of processed food or prescription drugs, inhaling polluted air, getting stressed and using household cleaning agents regularly. These toxins may insinuate into our bodies and wreak havoc until our mechanisms such as respiration, urination, perspiration, and bowel movement become successful in eliminating them.
But what if there are so many toxins in our body that our natural eliminators can't keep up? Then perhaps it's time to learn Yoga!
Toxins and free radicals
Before you can appreciate that how yoga may help flush out these harmful substances, we must first discuss what toxins are and what harm they can do to you.
The reason why toxins are so harmful to the body is because their presence help trigger creation of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that have a missing electron. These are highly unstable molecules that rob electrons from surrounding molecules to regain stability. Problem is that the resulting dysfunctional molecules create more damaged molecules. Having damaged molecules in the body causes degeneration of cells that lead to premature ageing and decay.
If cell degeneration due to free radicals is not stopped early, it can result to health disorders and degenerative diseases such as arthritis, stroke, hypertension, arteriosclerosis and other immunity disorders.
Getting rid of toxins naturally
Our body has its own way of naturally getting rid of toxins, and this is via four major organs: the skin, the intestinal tract, the kidneys and the liver. It's really amazing how a person can fight off potentially toxic substances without him even knowing it!
When you ingest toxins, say by eating food or drink with preservatives and chemical fertilizers, your digestive system brings them into the blood stream. Once in the blood, some of these toxins are captured and filtered by the liver, the main detoxifying organ that deactivates and flushes them out through the bile (i.e. digestive juice secreted by the liver that is responsible for digestion of fats) and the kidneys. Those toxins that escape the 1st pass move on to the main blood stream, reaching the rest of your organs.
Luckily, you still have other organs that eliminate those that escape. Water-soluble (i.e. those that disintegrate in water) toxins are easily captured and eliminated through the kidneys. If they are fat-soluble (i.e. those that disintegrate in fat) these toxins may escape your kidneys but may be trapped again by the liver as the blood cycle takes them on another pass. The other toxins are excreted through the skin via sweat and through your bowels via feces.
But your liver, kidneys, skin and bowels can only do so much work. Our world today has created a hodgepodge of toxic byproducts that challenge our bodily systems each and every time. When toxins are not flushed out immediately, that's when we begin to get sick - from migraines, irritability, poor digestion, chronic fatigue, lethargy, low energy or sluggishness, poor memory and loss of concentration to more serious and life-threatening diseases like cancer, immune disorders, hormonal imbalances, and other neurological conditions like Parkinson's disease.
This is why your body needs a little help from detoxification.
Detoxification and yoga
Detoxification is the process of clearing your body of harmful toxins. Your liver, kidneys, bowels and skin are your body's natural detox allies, but when they can't do the job efficiently anymore, you need to consider some dietary and lifestyle changes as part of a detox regimen.
A fantastic part of a detox regimen is the practice of meditative exercises that are said to help stimulate function of your internal organs. One of the most popular meditative exercises here in the Philippines is Yoga.
Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India. It involves the performance of a series of methods and techniques that aims to achieve optimum physical and mental health.
The branch of Yoga called "Hatha Yoga" in particular is a great exercise system for those who aim to detoxify their bodily systems. It may provides detoxification by helping rid the digestive, cardiovascular, lymphatic, pulmonary and epidermal systems of toxins and waste. Hatha Yoga also may also help stimulate brain function and balances the nervous and endocrine systems, resulting in a greater sense of well-being, increased mental clarity and emotional stability.
How Yoga detoxifies
Hatha Yoga is said to help detoxify through the practice of yoga poses or "Asanas", breathing techniques or "Pranayamas", hand gestures or "Mudras" and energy locks or "Bandhas". Yoga poses of Hatha Yoga reportedly free up blockages and obstacles that hinder energy flow in the body.
Hatha Yoga may teach you powerful detoxification techniques and poses that help increase oxygenated blood flow to the brain, relax and cleanse the body and calm the mind of stress and worries. According to Witold Fitz-Simon, a New York City yoga teacher and founder of yogaartandscience.com, every part of your body is turned, twisted, pulled, pushed, and upended in a well-rounded yoga practice. This is said to facilitate the removal of waste products like lactic acid, lymphatic fluid, and carbon dioxide that no other exercise or regimen can reach. These Yogic poses and techniques help push your body to heal itself and make it strong and pliable. Because of the said effects of Yoga to healing, many health centers and spas consider it as part of therapy in managing diseases such as hepatitis C and chronic liver diseases.
Want to start doing Yoga and see the benefits for yourself? Here are some of the easier poses for you to try:
Pose #1: Marichiyasana, also known as "Marichi's Twist"
How it is said to help detox: this squeezes your internal organs, particularly those in the abdominal area, and stimulates healthy digestion and excretion.
In a seated position with legs straight, start with your right leg. Bend your knee and bring the sole of your foot towards your right sitting bone. Support yourself by resting your right hand behind your back for support.
While in this position, reach your left hand as high as you can and feel your ribcage lift. Now slowly bring your left elbow to the outside of the right knee. Feel your torso twist to the right and make five deep breaths.
Using your left elbow locked over your right knee, try twisting your torso further to the right. While doing this, look behind your right side to aid the stretch.
Repeat on the left side.
Pose #2: Legs Up the Wall
How it is said to help detox: this calming pose encourages blood and lymph circulation from tired feet and legs. Also known to stimulate digestion and de-stress the nervous system.
Sit down with your left side against a wall, knees bent and your palms on each side of your hips.
Bring your legs up the wall while lowering your torso and your head to the floor. You should be lying down on your back with your legs high up the wall.
Stretch your arms out, palms up and relax. Take five to ten deep breaths before getting back up to sitting position.
A variation of this pose makes use of a pillow or folded blankets placed behind the lower back, which will bring your legs higher up the wall.
Pose #3: Downward-Facing Dog
How it is said to help detox: since this brings your heart on a higher position compared to your head, the pull of gravity is reversed. This stimulates healthy blood and lymph circulation and aids in digestion.
Like name suggests, start with your hands and knees on the floor. Your knees should be below your hips and your hands should be slightly positioned forward, higher than your shoulder level. Palms should be spread out and your toes should be turned under.
Now lift your knees away from the floor and bring your hips high up. Straighten your legs and support your body with your hands and feet. Your body should now resemble an inverted V.
Lift your sitting bones up while moving your thighs back. Hold this position for five to ten deep breaths.
These are three Yogic poses that you try right at the comfort of your own home. There is no need for special equipment or gear to do Yoga, just make sure you follow instructions of the poses and remember not to make any quick movements to avoid injury. Poses should be done slowly and fluidly. If at any time you feel pain (the type that tells you you've sprained or torn a muscle), stop immediately.
Apart from performing poses that stretch and twist your body, practicing Yoga also teaches you how to breathe correctly.
Taking long, deep breaths fully inflate your lungs with oxygen. You may have already studied back in school that oxygen is essential in maintaining life itself, but it also burns up toxins in our body.
Did you know that 200 years ago, the air our ancestors breathed had about 36% to 38% oxygen? Well, today some highly industrialized cities only have about 19% oxygen concentrationâ€¦.that's really alarming! That's why it's essential that you maximize every breath and get as much oxygen as possible. The more air your take in, the higher the oxygen content you get, it's that simple.
Yogic breathing also is said to help strengthen your diaphragm (i.e. a muscle that aids in respiration) and stimulate your digestive organs.
You also may not notice, but performing yogic poses can also make you sweat, which is another way of waste and toxin elimination. Perspiration may not get rid of toxins as well as the liver, but it is another but minor way of flushing out metabolic waste out of our system.
Yoga, as mentioned earlier, is a form of meditative exercise. Meditative exercises also detoxify your mind.
According to intenSati workout founder Patricia Moreno, when you're depressed, scared or stressed, your bodily functions are also affected; these attitudes create a negative sensation. Performing Yoga clears your mind of these "toxic thoughts" since you are concentrated at the present moment. When you perform the Yogic positions and maintain deep breathing, you relax and "move your awareness away from the chaos of the mind," Moreno explains.
Once your mind and body are both relaxed and detoxified, you will feel rejuvenated and renewed.
Detox for a longer, quality life
Detoxification is essential for prolong and improve the quality of life. If you lead a very hectic, toxic lifestyle, then now is the time to change.
Ask your nearest gym or fitness center for yoga classes so that you can learn more Yogic positions and techniques through a professional instructor. If there are none close to your area, you can visit a video store and buy an instructional DVD. Start with the basic ones, as the difficulty of poses increase as you advance in your skills.
As much as possible, lessen exposure to pollutants and chemicals found in processed food, smoke, cleaning agents, and the like. Stick to fresh, pesticide-free produce like organic fruits and vegetables. Avoid complicated beverages that are packed with sugars and artificial ingredients and stick with plain water or natural fruit juices.
Lastly, train yourself to stop worrying or thinking too much about things. Approach every problem or situation systematically, and if there is nothing you can do about it, then there is no point in stressing yourself about it. Changing your outlook into a positive one contributes to an overall detox plan.