Detox naturally with these 8 yoga poses
There are hundreds of yoga poses, or asanas, that strengthen, detox and balance your body. Here are a few of those poses, linked together by your breath. Together, they're called Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskara).
These poses tone your inner organ ring (liver, pancreas, spleen and kidneys), stretch your low back and hamstrings, strengthen your abdominal muscles, develop upper body strength, and activate the energy that grounds you to the earth. Oh, and they all feel pretty incredible, too.
--By Frances Murchison, HHC, AADP, Prevention
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Mountain pose (Tadasana)
The benefit: Learning how to stand is the foundation of your practice and your relationship to the ground, to gravity and to your spine. In this pose, your spine lengthens while your torso, chest and shoulders open. Just as trees and plants send roots down into the earth and branches up to the sky, you will press your feet to the earth and rise tall.
How to do it: Begin by standing with your feet together. Press into all four corners of your feet. Lift your toes. Drive your legs and feet down into the earth. Lift your chest to lengthen your spine while rooting your lower body down. Find neutral pelvis by rocking it forward and backward, tucking your tailbone under and then sending your tailbone back. Rock your pelvis back and forth to see if you can find a place right in the middle, a place that feels "just right," where your pelvis is just floating. Pull the tops of your shoulders back and broaden your shoulder blades across your back. Allow your arms to hang by your sides, palms facing forward, in a gesture of receiving. Gaze forward. Stand like a mountain.
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Upward-facing hands pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
The benefit: This pose opens your torso, neck, chest and shoulders. With hands overhead, this pose relieves gravitational compression on your body.
How to do it: From mountain pose, inhale as you sweep your arms up and out to the sides, reaching overhead, shoulder-width apart. If comfortable, bring your palms together. Straighten your elbows if possible. Take your gaze upward.
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Standing forward fold (Uttanasana)
The benefit: Standing forward fold pose is a resting pose for your heart, because when you're in it, your head is below your heart. Use the pose to stretch and relax your upper body. Like all inversions, it clears and balances your mind. If your hamstrings are tight or your lower back is weak, bend your knees softly.
How to do it: From Urdhva Hastasana, fold forward, hinging at the hips, bringing your palms to the ground. Press your chest toward your thighs and bring your chin toward your shins. Draw the crown of your head down toward the mat. Allow your neck to be long. If your palms don't reach the mat, put a soft bend in your knees. Take this pose twice more, resting for two breaths in between.
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Half forward fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
The benefit: This pose stretches your hamstrings, elongates your spine and engages your abdominals.
How to do it: From standing forward fold, keep your fingertips on the mat. Inhale as you lift your torso halfway up, keeping your back flat and neck long, bending your knees if necessary. If your hamstrings are tight, you can also bring your palms to your shins. Bend your knees as much as you need in order to keep your back flat. Gaze at a spot on the floor 6 inches ahead of your toes.
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High push-up (Plank)
The benefit: This pose builds both upper and lower body strength while coordinating and integrating the entire musculoskeletal system. Plank pose strengthens your abdominals, chest, arms and legs.
How to do it: From half forward fold, exhale as you step back so that you're at the top of a push-up. Stand on the balls of your feet. Stack your shoulders over your wrists, spread your shoulder blades apart and pull them down your back. Lift your kneecaps up to engage your quadriceps (thighs). Draw your navel up to your spine and hollow out your belly. Set your gaze between your thumbs to lengthen your neck. If this pose places too much strain on your shoulders, wrists or core, lower your knees to the mat, keeping a straight line from your knees to the crown of your head.
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Low push-up (Chaturanga Dandasana)
The benefit: Low push-up contracts your core abdominals, releases your low back and develops your upper body strength. This pose engages the entire musculature, activating and developing a connection between your core, your legs and feet, and your arms and hands. It can be challenging for yoga beginners; in that case, lower your knees to the mat for a modified low push-up.
How to do it: From high push-up, exhale and bend your elbows, drawing them backward close beside your ribs. As you lower your torso toward the floor, move your upper body forward and hover over the mat until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Draw your navel to your spine and hollow out your belly. Hug your elbows in by your sides and pull your shoulders away from your ears. Gaze forward.
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Upward-facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
The benefit: Upward-facing dog lengthens your spine and strengthens your back and arms, while expanding your entire front torso.
How to do it: From low push-up, inhale, press down on your hands, and scoop your chest forward. As you lift up your torso, roll over the tops of your toes and move your torso forward. Press the tops of your feet down into the mat. Engage your quadriceps to lift the tops of your thighs off the mat. Pull your shoulders down your back, squeezing them together, as you press your chest forward and up. Gaze forward so that your neck is in line with your spine.
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Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
The benefit: Downward-facing dog is one of the most important poses in yoga, connecting your body, mind and spirit. It lengthens your spine, extends your legs, strengthens your ankles and develops your upper body and leg strength, while easing stiffness in your neck, shoulders and wrists. Holding this pose reduces fatigue, restores energy and calms your nervous system, creating grounding energy in both your hands and feet simultaneously.
How to do it: From upward-facing dog, exhale, curl your toes and lift your sits bones high to the sky, creating an inverted V with your body. Pull your shoulders away from your ears, then spread them out, and roll them down your back. Press your palms flat and spread your fingers wide. If your wrists begin to ache, press the knuckles of your index fingers down to balance your weight and protect your wrists. Contract your quadriceps to redistribute your weight onto your legs and off of your wrists. Draw your navel up and press it back to your spine. Hollow out your belly. Take your gaze up to your thighs or navel, if you can. Remain in downward-facing dog for five complete breaths, inhaling and exhaling with long, fluid breaths.
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Step, jump or float forward to complete sun salutation A
The benefit: This motion links one pose to another and brings your feet back to the top of your mat.
How to do it: After five breaths in downward-facing dog, inhale and exhale one more time. As you exhale, press all the air out, lift your heels, bend your knees and press your thighbones back. As you inhale, look at your hands and, using your abdominal muscles, shift your weight onto your hands and spring your feet forward to the top of your mat. If this doesn't work for you, walk your feet to the top of the mat for standing forward fold. Exhale. From standing forward fold, inhale. Lift halfway up with a straight back to half forward fold. Exhale and fold forward, hinging at your hips, to arrive in standing forward fold with fingertips pressing into the mat. From here, use your abdominals to lift and lengthen your torso as you sweep to standing on an inhalation, extending your arms overhead to upward-facing hands pose. Bring your palms together. From upward-facing hands pose, exhale and bring your arms down by your sides for mountain pose. Relax your shoulders down your back and away from your ears. Soften your gaze. Repeat Sun Salutation A two to five times.