Newcomers to yoga many times comment on how surprisingly physical, even strenuous their first experiences of this ancient practice have been. Particularly with Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, as there is a lot of emphasis placed on detoxifying the body. Through the use of ‘muscle seals’, and deep chest breathing, you build up a good sweat. Long exhalations are an important part of the detox, as well as linking – sometimes challenging – movement to breath. Old yoga scripts even advise to rub the sweat back into the body to further the detoxification.

Dedicated yogis take one aspect of what is contained in the eight-fold path of yoga – the Eight Limbs – to a somewhat more extreme level. ‘Saucha’ or cleanliness involves an understanding of the way we move through the world; keeping our environment clean as well as ourselves, is an external aspect of this concept. At the same time we aim to keep ourselves internally clean on all levels; the way we think, speak and act. It is important to eat clean, healthy food, containing a high level of nutrients, and a lot of what the yogis call ‘prana’ – life force. What one also easily overlooks is what we apply to our skin; the shampoo and cosmetics we use often contain toxins. The more yoga we practice the more connected we feel with our own body, and also with the people, world, and environment etc, around us. One begins to become very sensitive to the fact that every action we make has a wider influence outside of ourselves. So it becomes important to put into and onto our bodies, foods and products that cause the least impact and harm to both ourselves and the wider environment.

In earlier times skilled yogis used to cleanse and purify their system to great extent on a daily basis with ‘kriyas’ – cleansing practices; one of which involves regular enemas. To flush themselves out, they immerse themselves into a river in a squatting position, and by ‘churning the abdomen’ with a practice called ‘Nauli’ they suck up water into their intestines, and then eliminate again into the river.

We might not want to go to that extreme, but paying attention to what we eat and drink, and the products we treat our skin and hair with, will make a big difference to the way we feel in our yoga practice, and in general.

Practice Yoga! It makes you sweat out all those impurities. Your skin will be beautifully smooth to the touch, and it will have that special glow. More so – and this is what differentiates it from any ordinary exercise regime – you will gradually develop a peaceful, calm, charismatic, and loving demeanor.