Monday, May 04, 2015

Teaching a Detoxifying Yoga Class: Inversions

spring yoga sessions
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

As the spring season begins to enter into full bloom, many Yoga students are interested in participating in a detoxifying Yoga class. The spring season is one of the most optimal times of the year for doing spring-cleaning, both externally and internally. On an external level, you may feel pulled to steam clean the carpets in your house, reorganize your closet and clean out the refrigerator. On an internal level, you may feel pulled to release physical stress and tension, as well as detoxifying negative emotions or painful experiences that are lodged in your body and mind, as part of your spring cleaning.  

A balanced practice of Yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques is a very effective way of detoxifying the physical, mental and emotional aspects of our being. On a physical level, most Yoga postures increase the flow of the lymphatic system, which helps to rid the body of metabolic waste and toxins that are often found in our food and water. A vigorous sequence of postures, such as the Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga, helps to flush new blood and oxygen throughout your entire body, which supports the detoxification of build up waste material, known in Ayurveda as “ama.” 

The pranayama or breathing exercises of Yoga help to deeply oxygenate the tissues in the body and balance the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. When these two nervous systems are balanced and working in harmony with each other, you will feel energized, calm and focused, all at the same time! As a Yoga practitioner or teacher, if you weave the practice of meditation into a class, you will be further supporting the illumination of thoughts that may be overly negative or pessimistic, so that you and/or your students will have the opportunity to witness those thoughts and choose to let the thoughts go that are dimming and negative. 

Inversions are generally defined as Yoga postures where the head is below the heart. Any inversion that places the head below the heart area will help to increase the flow of lymphatic drainage in areas of the body that often become stagnant if you don’t shake things up a bit by inverting. Inversions help to increase the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the brain, which helps to improve memory, concentration and the ability to focus. Inversions are quite energizing for this reason as well. Inversions also offer the additional benefits of fighting disease and boosting your immunity, by increase the functioning of the lymphatic system. 

* Modified Viparita Karani or Legs Up the Wall Pose

Viparita Karani is a wonderfully balancing and detoxifying moderate inversion. It is easily practiced by most students and offers many of the same benefits of some of the more challenging inversions, such as Headstand, Handstand and Plow Pose. This postures helps to ease stress and anxiety, reduce headaches, alleviate arthritis, and lower blood pressure. It also helps to energize tired legs and reduce the pain of menstrual cramps. Because this posture is an inversion, Viparita Karani also improves the functioning of the immune system, as the increased flow of the lymphatic system helps to detoxify the body. 

If you are teaching a Yoga lesson and you would like to include some postures in your class that are particularly effective for detoxification, Viparita Karani is an ideal inversion for many students to practice. Please note that there are a few contraindications for this posture, students who are menstruating or pregnant, have glaucoma, a heart condition or high blood pressure, should consult their doctor before practicing inversions. Although Viparita Karani is usually practiced against a wall, this posture can also be practiced in the middle of the room with a small pillow or folded blanket placed underneath the students’ hips for support. 

Practicing the modified version of Viparita Karani away from the wall will help to increase your students’ core abdominal strength, as well as offering them all of the benefits of practicing an inversion. For those students who have the flexibility, clasping their hands around their buttocks will further increase the stretch throughout the shoulders and neck. Modified Viparita Karani is usually practiced towards the final third of a Yoga session and just prior to a series of finishing postures. This pose may be practiced as a stand-alone inversion, in lieu of a more challenging inversion, if it is more appropriate and manageable for most of the students in your Yoga class. 

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York; where she specializes in writing customized, search engine-optimized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

© Copyright 2015 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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parvezbdjsr said...

Inversions offer the benefits of fighting disease and boosting our immunity, by increase the functioning of the lymphatic system. Thanks for sharing this nice article.

Mary Wilson said...

Viparita Karani is a wonderfully balancing and detoxifying moderate inversion. Thanks for posting this helpful article.