Detoxes, cleanses, you name it: People love to start each new year with a clean slate. If you are looking to kick off 2013 on a healthy, fresh, positive note, try yoga.
In the practice, each new breath is a new moment: You can re-start any time, all the time. Yoga helps you to remain in the present, moving forward, never looking back.
The right yoga routine can also help you detox your body and mind. Do these poses in order any time you feel like you need a cleansing. This sequence has a bunch of twists to remove toxins, sprinkled in with poses to stimulate digestion and the thyroid gland, build muscle, and get the digestive track moving. As you do these moves, use each inhale to lengthen and each exhale to wring yourself out like a sponge, getting rid of anything you no longer want or need.
Wide-legged Forward Fold with Twist: From a wide-legged forward fold, heel-toe feet wide, about three to four feet apart. Take left hand to right ankle or shin, reach right hand toward the ceiling, and lean back. Stay here or, if it would feel even better, bend right elbow, take hold of the top of left thigh, and lean back. Breathe for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
|High Lunge Twist Repetitions: From high lunge with left foot forward, inhale to straighten legs and lift arms high. On exhale, come back down to high lunge and twist, reaching right arm forward and left arm back. Inhale back to center. Do 10 to 20 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.|
|Side-to-Side Chair Twists: From standing, sink hips and reach arms high to chair pose. Look in front of knees and make sure you can see toes. If you can’t, sit back until you can. Take hands together at center of chest, take a big inhale to lengthen through spine, and use exhale to twist to the right, taking left elbow outside of right thigh. Inhale back to center and use exhale to twist to the left. Repeat this sequence 5 times on each side.|
|Side Crow: Squat on the balls of feet with knees together and fingertips on the ground for balance. Twist to right, hooking right elbow outside of left thigh. Breathe here for a few deep breaths to get comfortable, then place hands shoulder-distance apart on the ground, press into fingertips, and start bending elbows (both energetically reaching toward your midline and not winging out) to tip forward, looking a bit forward, not down. Eventually feet will tip off the ground (don’t force it, it will come!). Breathe here for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.|
|Side Boat Pulses: Sit with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Hold arms, palms up, in front so that hands brush the sides of knees. Lean back until torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Slowly lift feet off of the ground as you straighten legs any amount (it’s fine to have knees bent), forming a “V” with body. From boat, lower middle back to the ground as you reach knees to the right and arms to the left. Return to boat in the center, then lower knees to left and arms to right. Repeat this sequence 10 times on each side.|
|Peacock: If you have a comfortable lotus, take that and come to all fours with lotus legs. (If lotus is not comfortable for you, come to all fours and continue with next step.) Turn hands so that fingers are facing knees, and wrist creases are in line with the front edge of the mat, (if that is uncomfortable on wrists, try with wrist creases facing one another and fingertips toward either side of the mat. Anywhere between those two hand positions that feels good on wrists is where you want to be.) Bend elbows toward one another and start to lean forward, guiding elbows toward navel. (If you don’t have lotus legs, place feet together, knees apart like a butterfly.) Keep leaning forward, allowing elbows to press into abdomen, and when you feel stable, lift legs off the ground. Stay here for 5 deep breaths.|
|Bow: Lie facedown, bend knees, and take hold of ankles. Press feet into hands, keeping knees hip-width apart, and lift chest off the ground. Stay here for 5 deep breaths. (If this is uncomfortable, locust is a great alternative.)|
|Seated Twist: Sit with legs long in front of you. Bend right knee and place right foot outside of left knee. (You can keep left leg long or fold it in like a half-cross-legged seat.) Wrap left arm around right leg and place right hand on the ground behind sacrum. Use each inhale to lengthen spine and each exhale to wring yourself out of anything you no longer want or need. Do this for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.|
|Plow with Twist: Lie on back with knees bent, feet on the floor and arms on either side. Soften knees and press arms into the ground to reach feet up toward the ceiling and then back behind you any amount that feels good on your neck. When feet are on the ground behind you, take hands in a clasp on the mat. Walk feet to the left side of head and, if it feels good, bend right knee to the ground outside left ear. If that feels good, you can bend left knee as well. Breathe here for 5 deep breaths, then then walk feet to the right side of head and repeat.|
|Shoulder Stand: From plow, take hands to lower back for support and try to keep elbows about shoulder-width apart. Soften through knees and, one at a time, reach feet toward the ceiling, lengthening legs long when it feels good. Breathe here for 5 deep breaths. To come out, soften knees back toward forehead, come back to plow, and, using arms as breaks, slowly lower back onto the mat one vertebrae at a time.|
|Supported Headstand with Twist: Pile two stacks of three yoga blocks each against the wall a little more than head-width apart with blocks on their thinnest height and the medium part of the blocks against the wall. Kneel facing the wall and place hands on the ground in front of the blocks, like arms were going into a tripod headstand. Place shoulders on the blocks, pointing head toward the ground. Lengthen legs and walk feet toward hands, then slowly come up into headstand any way you like (read: Don’t jump! If the egg shape works for you, do that; if you prefer to lift one leg at a time, do that). Bend knees and tap outer right knee to left elbow. Return to center and tap outer left knee to right elbow. Do this 10 times on each side.|
|Supine Twist: Lie on the ground, hug right knee into chest, “T” arms out to either side, and allow right knee to fall to the left. You can stay with a neutral neck or, if it feels good, look to the right. You can also take left hand to right thigh to allow its weight to ground right leg. Stay here for at least 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.|
Photos: Vera Boykewich