After recently posting an Elephant Journal article on yoga and food, I was struck by how many people clicked the link in a space of a few hours. Rather than the usual ‘Detoxify yourself in a day’ drab we’re becoming accustomed to on yoga sites, this piece called into question the need to detox at all when you have a regular yoga practice. And it’s true.
In Ashtanga Yoga, the Primary Series is call Yoga Chikitsa with the latter word translated as ‘cleansing’. During a practice, the digestive system is stimulated through the massaging action of forward bends, wringing-out through the twists, and moving into back bends that stimulate the nervous system, which plays a crucial part in digestion. It’s also no wonder flatulence and physical yoga go hand in hand.
After a couple of months or so of regular practice, the digestive system becomes like a well-oiled machine taking what it needs and sends the rest to the waste bin. Crucially though, we start to change psychologically: the boring apple now looks so refreshing and the croissant just seems artificial. Don’t get me wrong, the desire for treats still remains but we just want them less as we know we’ll physically feel rubbish if we were to indulge all of the time.
So this brings me back to the article that inspired this piece. Exasperated by the constant talk of fasting and detoxification, I, and I’m guessing the hundreds that read the piece, welcomed it with open arms as a counter to the accepted belief that yoga practitioners should continually ‘purify’ themselves at any cost. What’s failing to be picked up is the fact that simply practising yoga leads one towards a balanced diet, avoidance of processed foods, and cultivates an awareness of what is right for the individual in a progressive, organic way.
While there is a place for occasional cleansing if one is recovering from an illness or has been living the life of a Rolling Stone, my gripe is with the sub-conscious message running through most of the pieces that we are somehow toxic – the exact same message the beauty industry also sells to us.
Yes we want to know a good nutritious dhal recipe, or a refreshing smoothie, but what is not healthy is the innumerable articles posted everyday about detoxification. The sheer quantity and clever advertising has made ‘detox’ part of our vocabulary and is used to self-judge oneself as if we’re walking hazardous waste, which is communicated in both the mainstream and yoga community.
It’s no secret that parts of the yoga industry has become a willing participant in our consumerist society and with that has co-opted the messaging that one is not good enough unless, in this case, you detoxify yourself to become a healthier, happier, brighter you. Reading this, most of us know it is tripe but we still can’t help but click on those ‘Fast for Vitality’ articles.
So what are we to do? The real detox: from my own experience avoiding such articles by unfollowing certain people and groups who spout this nonsense helps to cleanse my mind and get back to my intuitive self. The self that loves a simple diet without commentary and would always choose chippy chips and a vegetarian sausage as a dying meal.
Charlene teaches regular classes with Yoga Manchester and Yoga Express. Visit her teacher profile for more information.