When I am asked to design a liver detox for my students, I always refer to the five elements in Traditional Chinese Medicine and their relationship to the organ systems.
Amazingly, the liver is endlessly filtering and detoxifying the blood and it plays a significant role in digestion and metabolism. But the liver also synthesizes protein, produces critically important enzymes and hormones, breaks down and recycles tired blood cells, and regulates glycogen storage. As our primary organ of detoxification, the liver has the important job of protecting the deeper tissues from impurities in the blood that might otherwise cause harm. However, over-exposure to toxins such as alcohol, prescription or recreational drugs, environmental pollutants, and the like, has the potential to adversely impact the liver itself.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver is the organ responsible for the smooth flow of emotions as well as Qi and blood. It stores the blood in the vessels and is the organ that is most affected by excess stress or emotions. The liver’s partner organ is the Gallbladder. So when I create the asana menu, I make sure that both organ are stimulated and purged. The liver is the spiritual housecleaning in the body; the spleen is our ability to judge wisely. So the asana sequence is very much about filtering away excess, purging on a deeply emotional level to gain insight and clarity and make the right choices in life.
Interestingly, the sensory organ related to the Liver is the eyes. If you have any eye issues, including blurry vision, red or dry eyes, itchy eyes, it’s a sign that your liver function is compromised. So eye exercises are very beneficial to restore optimal liver function. They come in conjunction with asanas that stimulate the fascia and elongate the tendons before stretching them. The tendons are the tissue associated with the Liver, because according to Traditional Chinese Medicine real strength comes from the tendons, not muscles.
In a yoga class this translates into a push-pull-curl mechanism of compound asana where you get to forward bend to stretch the tendons, contract to massage the filter organs while twisting to cleanse the liver, kidneys and the spleen. It is the best way to get deep into the body’s tissue network and give a healthy squeeze to the organs, promoting glandular secretion while flooding them with vital energy.
I always find it fascinating how Traditional Chinese Medicine works with correspondence and interconnectedness of body parts, organs, systems and functions to restore the balance. It is very much like the Auyerveda mechanism of pacifying deranged doshas by integrating all elements into the body’s constitution.
Similar to TCM, in Ayurveda the liver is a seat of assimilating and filtering away emotions. Just as the liver is critical to the digestion of food and nutrition, it plays an important role in the digestion of emotions—particularly those that are closely aligned with the liver. In both Chinese and Indian healing systems the liver is considered the seat of anger, hate, and resentment. It is also tied to feelings of envy, irritability, frustration, impatience, and excessive ambition. Not surprisingly, all of these fiery emotions are imbalanced expressions of pitta dosha. But the liver is associated with the healthier expressions of pitta as well: will power, courage, confidence, contentment, satisfaction, enthusiasm, cooperation, acceptance, and surrender. You can learn a lot about the health of your liver by the flavor of emotions you encounter on a regular basis. It is also telling to notice how well you are able to respond to, and move through, the more challenging range of these emotions. Do they quickly and completely overpower you? Are you able to fully release them after some time? Or are you someone who can harbor anger and resentment for years on end? If the liver is impaired, it can be harder to process and release these emotions.
Similarly, pent up anger and resentment can undoubtedly damage the liver. If you are often irritable, get angry easily, have trouble unwinding from the day’s activities, have trouble reasoning or going with the flow and letting things go, you are experiencing a Liver function problem. Experiencing these emotions chronically or excessively can seriously unbalance the function of your Liver. That’s why, perhaps, the taste that corresponds to and supports the Liver is sour. If you crave sour foods that may be your Liver communicating that it needs an extra boost.
And that is precisely what we are giving it with Yogea’s most recent Liver Detox routine. As we read the signs of the liver, we can promote healthy housecleaning and restore the lost vital balance and flow.
Liver Detox Yoga Routine: Filter Away (open level)
This Liver Detox applies Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda to Hatha Yoga and offers the most valuable asanas to restore optimal liver function. The smart combination of deep purging twists coupled with abdominal contractions and spinal arching offers a deep housecleaning of all filter organs while promoting circulation and enhancing vital flow.