Rituals of the West mark the return of spring as a time to air out and scrub our homes. After hibernating for months, most of us welcome a breath of fresh air and the chance to toss out winter’s clutter. The Western tradition of spring cleaning suggests that cleansing starts on the outside, whereas ancient yogic traditions emphasized that cleaning starts on the inside. When we purify our bodies and energy, we till and cultivate new growth for spring. Cleansing gives us the chance to shake off the dormant energy of winter and arrive as an open vessel for spring’s potential.
From Ayurvedic remedies to yoga poses to breathing, there are thousands of years of study grounded in the practice of cleansing the body from the inside out. As you welcome spring, incorporate these practices to begin with a fresh start.
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1. Cleansing Asanas
Yoga poses are one of the easiest pathways to cleansing the body. Tailor your yoga practice to include postures that help stimulate circulation and digestion. Twisting asanas gently squeeze the kidneys, liver, and spleen. Though there are many myths surrounding twists and detoxification, twisting poses do have optimal benefits. They put slight pressure on the organs, which increases the blood flow in the organs upon release. Additionally, twisting stimulates digestion. Postures such as Garudasana (Eagle pose), Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand), and Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall) encourage movement of lymphatic fluid that filters bacteria and viruses.
With spring comes blooming flowers and the congestion of seasonal allergies. A simple practice such as neti can clean out spring’s congestion. Ayurvedic practitioners and yogis have used nasal irrigation or Jala Neti for thousands of years to alleviate congestion and respiratory ailments. According to The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, neti is one of the six Shatkarmas or cleansing rituals a yogi should practice to purify the body. It’s important to note that ancient yogis used neti everyday. But modern science suggests one should neti only when necessary to avoid irritation and dryness in the sinuses. Check out our article on how to neti safely.
3. Kapalabhati Pranayama
One way to cleanse for spring is to bring heat and energy into the body through specific breathing practices. Of the six Shatkarmas, the final cleansing ritual is Kapalabhati Pranayama or Skull Shining Breath. Kapalabhati Pranayama builds heat or agni in the body, eliminates congestion, and stimulates digestion and circulation. Check out this video for a demo. Keep in mind the emphasis is on a forceful exhale out the nose by engaging uddiyana bandha. The integrity of the abdominal muscles induce an internal, cleansing fire. This pranayama is best performed after Jala Neti, so keep tissues close by.
Spring cleansing isn’t just about purging physical impurities from the body. Winter’s dormant energy can leave our personal energy feeling sluggish. Mantra is a powerful tool to help cleanse and revitalize energy and clear out energetic blocks in the chakras. Bija mantra (seed mantra) is the repetition of specific vibrations that correlate with the chakras so the subtle energies of prana can flow. You can work with one bija mantra at a time or you can repeatedly chant through all seven: Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam, Ham, Om, silent Om. Also, a daily guided bija mantra meditation can help clear the chakras.
5. Purify Speech
Your grandma may have resorted to a bar of soap to clean up your dirty mouth, but yoga reminds us that if we purify our thoughts and words, we purify our lives. Incorporate purified speech into your spring cleansing practice to clean out negative energies. Pay close attention to what you think and say. What connotations or energies do your words have?
Taking a short vow of silence can assist in purifying speech. The vow does not have to take place in an ashram in some far off land. Simply, commit to one hour at work or home without speaking. Instead, write down what you want to say. Study your words. Notice the choice of words and energy. Do they imply divisiveness? Ask yourself how you could rephrase your diction to be inclusive and positive. Purified speech empowers the self and others and reinforces yoga’s foundational principle of unity or oneness.
Whether you are brand new to cleansing rituals or if you are a seasoned yogi, start small. Cleansing isn’t an act we perform all at once. It is a ritual we embody through daily, consistent practice. Pick one of these methods and practice for a few weeks. When you are ready, move on to the next.
How do you plan on cleansing for spring? Share below!