Most people are drawn to yoga for a myriad of reasons: to build strength, increase flexibility, improve athletic performance, prevent injury or enhance spiritual well-being. Not many practice yoga solely for their liver, even though it's one of the best methods to improve or maintain the health of the largest organ in our bodies.
Our liver serves as a storage site for minerals, nutrients and vitamins. Toxic chemicals, such as alcohol, are broken down by the liver and then flushed out of the body. We want to do whatever we can to keep our liver in tip-top shape to produce chemicals that heal our bodies and allow us to perform at our best.
In a study published by European Scientific Journal, researchers examined the effects yoga had on the livers of adults between the ages of 20 and 50, practicing yoga for six weeks. Not only did the participants lose weight, but their globulin and ALP (alkaline phosphatas) levels significantly decreased -— enzymes that can be dangerous to the health of your liver when elevated.
Almost all yoga poses aid the proper functioning and well-being of our liver, especially the poses below.
1. Spinal Twist (Matsyendrasana)
Feel bloated? Fatigued? Help release this by revitalizing the liver with a sit and twist.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit with legs extended in front of you. Engage your core and sit up straight. Bend your left knee and place your left foot outside of your right knee. Place your right hand on the ground next to the right side of your bottom, fingers facing away from your body. Place your left arm on the inside of your left knee. Gently rotate your torso to the right.
To deepen the twist, walk your right fingers out behind your body. To go even deeper, place the left shoulder outside of the bent knee and wrap the left arm are the bent leg. Wrap the right arm behind the back to meet the left hand or wrist.
On every inhale, lengthen your spine, reaching your crown toward the ceiling; and on every exhale, twist deeper sending your gave over your right shoulder. Stop when you can't twist any further, hold for at least 30 seconds and breath. Repeat on the opposite site.
2. Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
Stretch and massage your stomach and spine to protect the liver by practicing cat pose. It's usually practiced with Cow pose (see #3).
HOW TO DO IT: Come into a table-top position on your hands and knees, with your hips directly over your knees and shoulders above your hands. Relax your neck and head to the ground. Start with a straight back.
Press the ground away with your palms as you slowly round your back and curve it toward the ceiling. Draw your navel in toward your spine. Lower to the starting position and repeat the pose 10 times.
3. Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
Stretch and heat the spine to protect the liver with the counter to cat pose (see #2) — cow pose. A relaxed and loose back will enable proper functioning and detoxification of the liver. It also allows the stomach muscles around the kidneys to relax during the pose.
HOW TO DO IT: Stay on your hands and knees in a table-top position. Relax your head and look at the ground. Lift your hips, tailbone and chest toward the ceiling, while letting your stomach relax towards the mat. While you lift your body, lift your head and look straight ahead of you. Return to the start position and repeat 10 times.
4. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Bridge pose fires up and strengthens all the muscles in your core to detoxify the liver.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your legs bent and your arms by your sides. Walk your feet close to meet the tips of your fingers and your feet close to your bottom. Rest your arms next to your legs, palms on the mat.
Squeeze your glutes, push up through your heels and lift your hips and lower back. Stop when you form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Maintain a straight back throughout the lift. Lift your arms overhead and hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.
5. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Open your heart and protect your liver in cobra pose by stretching and strengthening the abdominal wall.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your belly with our hands directly underneath your shoulders. Press your legs together and the tops of your feet and thighs firmly into the mat. Inhale and slowly lift your chest toward the ceiling as you straighten your arms, keeping your elbows slightly bent.
Don't shift your weight to your hands or wrist. Lift through your sternum as you expand the sides of your ribs to protect the liver. Firm your shoulder blades and hold the pose for 30 seconds as you breath.
Note: Don't forget to breathe deeply throughout the exercises and drink water to flush toxins out after the practice to detoxify the liver.