By Rachel Land for Yoga Digest.
After the long dark nights of winter, spring is a breath of fresh air. As the days lengthen, the natural world bursts with new life, and we feel our own energy reawaken. This is the perfect time to clear cobwebs and start afresh, spring cleaning not just our homes, but our body and mind too.
Our lungs, liver, kidneys and digestive organs are beautifully engineered to manage internal and environmental toxins and maintain our vitality, but as the seasons transition why not offer these hard-working organs a helping hand.
Yoga abounds with simple ways to support our natural cleansing processes. Try these tips to refresh body and mind for spring.
1 | Breathe. The obvious place to start a spring clean is with the life-giving power of the breath, like opening the windows to air a stale room. Getting outside and taking a few deep belly breaths will help, but if you really want to kick-start spring, try Kapalabhati, a warming, energizing breath practice that clears stagnation from the lungs, massages the abdominal organs and stimulates the liver.
Kapalabhati alternates short, explosive exhalations with passive inhalations. Inhale normally into your belly and then use a quick, forceful abdominal contraction to “sneeze” the air out. Relax your belly to allow the inhalation to follow passively and then continue to expel the exhalations out, counting anywhere from 30-80 rounds of breath.
2 | Move. Spring is time to stimulate circulation, like turning the soil ready for new planting. Yoga flows like sun salutations and even cat/cow are perfect to lubricate your joints, increase blood flow and boost lymphatic drainage.
3 | Ignite. Stoke the fire further with standing yoga poses that utilize large muscle groups like the abdominals, glutes, and quadriceps: think chair pose, warrior postures and standing balances. Feel the warmth of Agni, your metabolic fire, burn away winter lethargy.
4 | Squeeze. Twisting and side-bending yoga poses like revolved triangle and reverse warrior gently massage the kidneys and liver. Compressing the belly in deep forward folds like wind-relieving pose or prone backbends like bow pose, does the same for the digestive tract. Like hitting a reset button, this gentle stimulation floods these vital detoxifying organs with a fresh supply of richly oxygenated blood.
5 | Meditate. With a disorganized mind, we remain creatures of habit and instinct. This makes the mind our most powerful organ of detoxification, because it gives us the power to choose: what we eat and drink, how we breathe, how we move, even the kinds of thoughts we dwell on. Warmer, lighter spring mornings make it easier to rise early, starting each day by sitting quietly in observation, without judgment. With this clarity, we are best able to make the choices that support our body’s natural purification processes. Our energy ebbs and flows with the seasons. It is natural to turn inward for rest during winter, to reflect and consolidate, but the change of seasons is the time start afresh — breathing deeply, moving our bodies to build purifying heat, massaging the kidneys, liver, and digestive tract, and clarifying the mind. These nurturing practices set us up for our best health moving forward into summer.
Rachel found yoga as a teenager. It challenged her body, then calmed and clarified her mind. Over the next 20 years, through a Business Degree, a stint in corporate marketing, and international travels, it became a touchstone that she returned to repeatedly until it sparked the idea of something more. In 2011 Rachel finally became a Yoga Alliance registered teacher. Since then she has completed courses in Anatomy & Physiology, Nutrition, Sports Training & Development, Mentoring and Yin Yoga, and completed a 500-hour yoga teacher training with Tiffany Cruikshank and Yoga Medicine.