Today’s practice was a Yoga With Adriene detox practice.
“Yoga” and “detox” are two words that often go hand in hand. There’s a lot of stuff out there about how certain yoga poses can put just the right pressure on internal organs to help detox the body. So-called detox diets are basically nonsense (see, for example, Ben Goldacre over at Bad Science and the Angry Chef), and although I’m no expert, I’m going to say that the same is probably true of so-called detoxifying yoga poses (as is set out in this article from the Guardian, for example). It would seem logical that certain poses, twists for example, could have a beneficial effect on digestion but I can’t really see any logic in them assisting in the expulsion of toxins.
So, why this practice? Partly because I wanted to build up a bit of a sweat, and partly because I love any practice that involves a lot of twisting. As per yesterday’s decision, I did this practice first thing in the morning and my spine really thanked me for it. On the detox theme, something I’ve heard a lot is that twists “rinse” the spine. I’ve never really been sure what that means, so I Googled “what does rinsing the spine mean?” (seriously, what did we do before the age of search engines?). Apparently, we should think of our spine as a washcloth. Twisting poses rinse off the spine and create space for fresh oxygenated blood to flow up and down the spinal column, which rehydrates, detoxifies and renews the spine. You can’t see, but I’m pulling a sceptical face right now. I’m sure that twists can do all sorts of good things for the spine, many of which I’ve experienced myself, such as releasing and stretching tight muscles and increasing range of motion. It might also make sense that they can improve blood flow, as much as any physical exercise can. Rinsing and detoxifying, though? That, I’m not so sure about.
Mentally, this practice was exactly what I needed today. I woke up feeling a bit anxious and stressed, although I’m not sure why, and a strong, heat-building practice was just what I needed to ground and calm myself. Poses that require physical strength, such as the elbow-to-knee twists from high lunge, often also require mental strength, and so can serve as a reminder that that mental strength is there and available when I need it. Sometimes, that gets forgotten.
Today’s practice was, for me, a good example of the very personal nature of a yoga practice. Everyone will take something different from their practice, and what may work for some people may not work for others. I’m never going to be able to force myself to believe something that my logical mind is resisting, in this case the detoxifying properties of certain poses. That doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t benefit from practices that have detoxification as their primary aim. It seems to me that it’s a question of taking responsibility for my own practice and what I get out of it, rather than simply taking someone else’s word for what the benefits should be. So, while I didn’t feel any less free of toxins, and my spine didn’t feel any more rehydrated than it had before, I did feel that I had been able to combine both mental and physical strength to create a beneficial practice, and that for me made for a successful half hour on the mat.