Will yoga help me to detoxify?
Santa Monica, CA
Yes, yoga has prescriptions for the toxicity that can occur on each of the three planes of existence that comprise the triloka: physical, mental and spiritual. Asanas do much to detoxify the body. Twists, for instance, oxygenate the kidneys and liver by delivering a rush of blood to the tissue. The organs, in turn, serve us by more effectively cleansing the blood that circulates to the rest of the physiology. Kapalabhati, a kriya known as “rapid fire breathing” or “bellow’s breath”, eliminates the metabolic waste from the bottom of the lungs, a place we rarely reach during normal respiration.
Many of us have become conscious of the toxins we absorb from our environment and lifestyle. Petroleum fumes? Certainly. Chemical preservatives? Almost unavoidably. But what about even more subtle ones such as harsh speech, unreasonable behavior, and lack of compassion with its resulting selfishness? Yoga says these are toxins that poison the spirit, that ultimately cause dukkha (suffering), too. Eliminating them is not as simple as eating organic. Yet just as we assess what we take in through our diet, we can come to understand that our lifestyle choices and habits can funnel in negativity or positivism. It is another set of conscious choices we can make along a spiritual path, and it is an imperative one for a yogi.
A man I’ve long known to be docile recently responded much like a character from the “Sopranos”, when even gently challenged. This behavior was once not part of his character, but with frequent exposure to harsh media, for instance, the verbal brutality depicted in entertainment media has become part of his own acceptable mode of expression. Integration of what is essentially nastiness, is gradual and almost imperceptible, but toxifying just the same. The negative effect on the individual spirit is significant. It is also contagious. When we are treated with severity, we tend to believe we can only be heard if we too have the same violent undertone, no matter how subtle, in our own expression. After all, we want to achieve a desired effect when we speak, so we do what we perceive will be effective.
Yoga calls for a prescription of mindfulness and practice as the antidote. Through yogic practices that purify, such as mantra and meditational kriyas, to name a few, we can wash away negativity we have already incurred. Choosing judiciously what we drink in through the media is less structured, yet a significant therapy. We can ever remind ourselves to speak with compassion, even if it is anger we rightfully need to express. No matter what the tone or substance of the messages with which we are bombarded, we can tap into our innate purity simply by habitually shifting our minds there. The goal is not fundamentalist Puritanism or New Age saccharine coating. It’s civility and evolution.
I once knew another man, who removed every cuss, each judgmental and negative word from his speech pattern. Amongst his friends he was trusted, admired and even revered. Among strangers, he was immediately perceived as being kind and understanding. When around Steven, you could step into his loving bubble, and walk away with a piece of it to carry around for yourself.
Because it is far from racy, the detoxification for which our spirit craves may seem quite square to some. Yet my experience tells me differently. From my personal view, it is a magnet for friendship, opportunity, community spirit, relationship and the feeling of connectedness to mankind. The expression of purity and goodness, is seems, is also contagious.
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