What is Detox Flow?

What is Detox Flow?

For the next couple of months on this blog, we are focusing on IAM Yoga’s signature class styles: Flow, Core Flow, Detox Flow, Detox Core Flow, and Classic Yoga. We’re also going to do a primer on Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga. In the past, we have covered Hatha and Ashtanga – check out their respective posts for more. The intention of these articles is to help you choose the right class for you at the right time – every day is different, so you will need different styles on different days.

Understanding each style of yoga can also help you choose an intention for each practice that is best supported by the class style. For example, ending up in a fast-moving Flow class in the hot studio when you’re feeling ungrounded or anxious can be counterproductive if you weren’t sure what to expect or aren’t familiar with the sequence. However, knowing what to expect in the class can help you set an intention and a focus that can help you get grounded even when the class moves quickly. 

Detox Flow is another popular style of class here at IAM Yoga. The point of a Detox Flow is to do just what the name says – stimulate the detoxification of your body. There are lots of products out there that claim to “detox,” so how is Detox Flow different? Simple – we’re stimulating processes that already work within your body. You don’t need to add anything to your system or take anything away; we’re not asking for a diet change and we’re not selling you a product. Your body is a detoxification machine, and Detox Flow is meant to support the processes that naturally happen within your different internal systems.  

I’ll start by going through a quick explanation of the systems we’re looking to stimulate, and then I’ll review the style of the class and how it stimulates each system. The main system we focus on in a Detox Flow is the digestive system. The large intestine is the final part of the digestive system; this is where your body absorbs any leftover water in the indigestible food matter and forms feces to excrete from the body. The large intestine forms a half-circle around the small intestine; the half-circle starts low on the right and moves upward, crosses over the abdomen to the left, and then moves downward.  

The secondary system that we focus on in Detox Flow is the lymphatic system, which is part of the circulatory (heart and blood vessels) and immune systems. The lymphatic system is made up of tissues and organs that rid the body of unwanted toxins and also transport infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body. The largest organ in the lymphatic system is the spleen, and there are many lymph nodes throughout the body where the primary lymphatic system responsibilities are carried out.

Thirdly, we have the integumentary system; specifically, the skin. Detoxification through the skin is through sweat; however, the level of detoxification is VERY minor, relatively speaking. You do far more detoxification through the kidneys, which help in the production of urine than you do through sweating. Either way, the key here is to make sure your fluid intake is high enough.

When you’re stressed, your body shifts energy away from effective digestion and immunity and towards keeping your heart rate elevated, your pupils dilated, and your sweat glands open, among other things. The reason for this focus is to ensure that you can fight or run away – the “fight or flight” response. Our bodies only know one type of stress response, which is the response to being under physical threat. This means that when you’re stressed, your body is trying to ensure that you physically survive, and digestion is not essential when your life is in danger. Unfortunately, modern life means many of us are stressed all the time, and that constant hum of stress hormones prevents the digestive and other systems from working as they should.

 Here’s where Detox Flow comes in. First off, it’s a yoga class. Hopefully, yoga is something that relaxes you, even if you’re working hard. That relaxation is the first key to getting your digestive and lymphatic systems working as they should. As you move and breathe in your yoga class, your body’s energy shifts from a fight-or-flight response to a rest-and-digest response, re-routing energy from fighting or running away into digestion and the immune system. Obviously, this is a benefit you can get from any style, not just Detox Flow.

Second, the style of Detox Flow is focused on twists along with back- and forward-bending. Those twists put physical pressure onto the large intestine. You might notice that your teacher creates very specific and unusual sequences in a Detox Flow, and that’s intentional. The idea is to twist and put pressure on the right side, then fold or compress to put pressure in the centre of the belly, and then twist the opposite way to put pressure on the left of the abdomen. That sequence is repeated several times throughout the class to manually encourage matter to move through the large intestine.  

Third, Detox Flow is meant to be a very challenging class. We want you to move quickly and get your heart rate up in order to stimulate your circulation and therefore your lymphatic system. Muscle contractions also stimulate the lymphatic system to move fluid throughout your body. Ideally, this class will also make you sweat lots and want to drink more water – stimulating both the urinary system of toxin removal and the small number of toxins that exit through your skin via sweat.

When it comes to the sequence, you can expect to start with a floor sequence of compression on the right, compression in the centre, and then compression on the left. This might be a sequence of core work or a “wind-removing pose,” where you draw in the right knee while lying on your back, then both knees, then the left knee. Then you’ll start to move through sun salutations to get warm and sweaty. These will be followed by a sequence of standing poses, possibly interspersed with seated or lying-down poses, that put pressure on the abdomen in the same order – right-centre-left – several times throughout the practice. Finally, you’ll spend the last 10-15 minutes on the floor in easier stretches, which should include a few backbends to open up the front of the body after all that compression.

Detox Flow is meant to be a challenge, but like any class at Iam Yoga, you are welcome to modify and rest as you need so that you feel great at the end of the practice. If you have any questions, feel free to ask your teachers. Happy practicing!