During this time of year I often hear folks talking about the need to “detox” their bodies from all the excess consumption of food, alcohol, and whatever else may have been added into the body. I get it. There is the felt need to move the body and somehow “release” all that stuff. I even teach post-holiday yoga classes on this theme and we do many twists and other postures that help the digestive system along. There is definitely the felt sense of getting back to neutral after we work the body. There is the illusion that we have somehow “gotten rid” of something. I guess the question to ask is what have we gotten rid of? Is it really the felt sense of fullness to rid or the extra piece of pumpkin pie, the extra glass of wine?  Or is it what we have held in mind about it all?

I call the mind the great trickster. It is full of illusions about experiences of the past or the fears of the future. So therefore, after a day/night of indulgence, even after the body has settled and come back to neutral, the mind is still attached. It is still attached to what was, what you wished you had done, and critical thought of how it should have been. When in reality, those moments are gone. It is the critical mind that will prevent you from moving on, moving forward, and making present choices that will support you in going forward.

The critical mind also blocks one of the most important components of self-growth, compassion. When we indulge, and “over consume” critical thought, we leave ourselves depleted, and blocked from seeing any ability for change and/or growth. Critical thought blocks all learning, or wisdom. We become stuck both in body and in mind. Compassion, on the other hand, is spacious. It allows for growth and movement. It involves cleansing through acceptance, facing what is, and moving forward. The Buddha spoke of compassion, Karuna as the alleviation of suffering. He also taught that compassion and wisdom go together. They are the two wings of the bird. One needs the other. Therefore, when critical thought is present, it is not enough to just replace it with a kind thought. One must recognize it, have some wisdom about it and then offer self-compassion.

When it comes to detoxing the body, maybe instead of grabbing for a special diet, cleanse, food group, exercise, etc., instead, become curious about the nature of your mind. What is being held there that needs to be detoxed? What old, patterned thoughts need to be cleared? What old, critical mind-sets are rotting your mind and body? To embody this teaching, sit down with your sitting bones planted firmly into the ground. Straighten both legs and now cross your right leg over your left. Reach your arms up above and twist to your right with your left arm hugging your right leg and your right hand planted gently behind you. Deeply inhale, straighten your spine, and twist a little more, allowing your right side rib cage to move toward the right and your eye gaze in line with your torso. Ask yourself, what do I feel in my body right now? What sensations do I notice? What am I releasing in my body right now? What do I need to let go of and restore? Repeat this with the left leg feeling the benefit of the twist in your body and how your body appreciates the assistance to its muscles, bones and organs. This time, question what do I need to let go of in mind to rebalance and restore? What is blocking my growth and the letting in of compassion and wisdom? How may I treat my body and mind with more compassion, wisdom, and ease?

Never again will we detox the body unless we are also planning to detox the mind!