Exercise during a cleanse? (or, why can’t I nap all day?)

Cleansing is not easy – it’s the hunger that gets to me. Your jaw can get pretty tired “chewing” all that juice, and unless everyone else in my house is cleansing, too – I still have to look at food and smell it and prepare it!

Some coping strategies that I’ve adopted (for better and for worse) include my annual Lord of the Rings marathon (special edition, of course!) dusting off all my health books (the motivation factor), and blogging about cleansing (a great distraction from my grumbly tumbly)!

But don’t overlook the importance of exercise during a cleanse! Here’s why:

  • gentle exercise gets the blood flowing
  • the metabolism is still working to break down fats and carbohydrates to keep you going
  • sweating is one of the quickest ways to detoxify your body
  • focus on taking deep breaths as you move gently
  • t’ai chi, chi gong, and gentle yoga during a cleanse actually “massage” and stimulate the internal organs
  • if you don’t exercise at all during your cleanse, a good deal of stored toxins will stay in your body

Obviously, your energy will be significantly lower than usual because of your restricted calories. Deepak Chopra in his book “What are you hungry for?” recommends a safe fasting level of 1100-1500 calories per day for the average guy, and 700 to 1100 calories per day for the average gal. Yes, schedule an afternoon siesta, yes, move slower and with greater awareness, and YES incorporate gentle exercise into your cleanse!

What kind of exercise is right for me?

During a cleanse it is crucial to pay attention to your body, and to be ever so gentle with yourself. (Shouldn’t we always be gentle with ourselves?) Jogging, kickboxing, cycling, skiing and dancing are not recommended. Although I am not diabetic, my blood pressure drops so low when I’m cleansing that sometimes it’s hard to stand up without feeling faint. CONSULT YOUR DOC BEFORE DOING A CLEANSE IF YOU HAVE ANY SERIOUS CIRCULATORY OR METABOLIC CONDITIONS!

Start with the breath

Go to theartofliving.org for a wonderful, in-depth article about pranayama (cleansing breath)

Go to theartofliving.org for a wonderful, in-depth article about pranayama (cleansing breath)

The yogic tradition has a practice called “cleansing breaths” and you can find many good examples of it online. Here’s how I learned it from the Tibetan tsa lung kyil khor tradition:

  1. Sit straight on the floor or in a chair with the legs crossed or feet flat on the floor. Take three full breaths allowing your body to release tension and to relax deeply.
  2. Gaze gently toward the tip of the nose. Place the thumbs at the base of the ring finger and gently fold the fingers down into a fist. Place your fists facing down on your knees.
  3. Starting with the left side, close off the left nostril with the left index finger and inhale through the right nostril. Open the left nostril, bringing the right index finger to the side of your nose and closing off the right side to exhale through the left nostril.
  4. Keeping the right index finger on the right nostril, inhale, switch closing the left side with the left index finger and exhale.
  5. Repeat the full cycle, left and right, three times.
  6. Bring both fists into the pelvic crease and press down with the fists turned upward. Forcefully breathe in and out through the nose three times, on the third exhale empty the lungs completely and don’t inhale again for a few moments.
  7. Bring the gaze toward your third eye, relax your jaw, empty your mind. When you have to, inhale long and deep and with the final exhale say “Haaaaaaa”.

Cleansing Yoga Poses

After completing the cleansing breaths, move on to a gentle yoga or chi gong routine. I personally go for the chi gong during my cleansing because it focuses more on moving the subtle energy moving at a slower pace. Yoga is a bit too up and down (even something as low impact as surya namaskar) and I find myself getting faint easily.

Seated yoga poses, however, are extremely beneficial for toning, stretching and cleansing the abdominal organs. Shape magazine featured 10 yoga poses for detoxifying, seven of which would be great to incorporate into your spring cleanse routine. (I would omit the inversions and advanced poses like peacock and crow.)

The seated twist is low impact and improves digestion

The seated twist is low impact and improves digestion

Cleansing T’ai Chi

breathing in, lift the palms up

From a rooted, grounded, wide standing position, relax the knees and let the arms dangle at your sides. Breathing in, lift your hands, palm upward toward the heart center. Pause at the top. As you exhale, lower the hands pressing downward and sinking slightly into your knees. Repeat several times, following the natural rhythm of your breath.

breathing out, press the palms down

Organ massage

The kidneys, liver, and adrenals can be stimulated through gentle self massage. Starting with the kidneys, make fists and gently tap your lower back with your knuckles. Use a moderate amount of force, just enough so that if you said “aaaahhhh” your voice would “bounce” with your tapping.

For the liver and adrenals, tap your right flank and brush downward starting under the armpit and swiping down toward the hip flexors. Repeat three times on the right side and then switch to the left.

These exercises can be done seated or standing. A most joyful way to end your exercise session is with a supine twist. Laying flat on your back, inhale bringing your right knee into your chest. As you exhale, draw the knee across your chest over to the left side and hold. Breathe deeply and relax into this pose for as long as it is comfortable.

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