It seems everyone is talking about how to detox and how to cleanse the body lately.  From body wraps to juice drinks, you can find tools everywhere you llook to help you “detoxify” and lose weight.  While these might be well and good, I think the true meaning and importance of body cleansing has been lost in this fever of advertising and marketing and the next quick fix.

Your body is a living, breathing organism, with thousands and thousands of moving parts.  Think of a beautiful and complex city.  It has a government building/courthouse (our brains), gyms and fitness centers (our bodies), and gorgeous outdoor spaces (our spirits).  Underneath the streets and tucked in the outskirts of the towns are the sewer system and waste management components of the city.  While we don’t ever want to explore this in detail or actually look through the sewer pipes, we need them to live in a clean society.  Well, our bodies have a complex waste management system as well.  This includes our lymph system, spleen, gall bladder, kidneys, stomach, intestines, bladder and colon. There is no way to avoid all toxins in life, so our body is set up to process and rid itself of these chaos producers.  When the toxins become stagnant or too much for our body to handle, health problems can occur.  These can include fatigue, headaches, chronic joint pain, memory loss, bloating, intestinal issues, stomach pain and depression.

Our bodies are meant to work as a balanced system and not let toxins build up, but, because of environmental, emotional and physical stresses, this doesn’t always happen.  The obvious causes include alcohol, smoking, mercury from certain foods, asbestos, fatty foods and processed sugar.  There are also lesser known, but just as harmful, causes of toxin build-up in the body.  A sedentary life, emotional stress, surgery, medication and sun exposure can all cause our bodies to build up toxins that it can’t easily remove.

I used to associate “detoxing” with all my granola-type friends.  They either promoted yoga (which I didn’t like 10 years ago) or colonics (no thank you) or the master cleanse (double no thank you).  Then I went through my fair share of health issues, and was told I had scar tissue built up in my abdomen.  I also was suffering from bloating, stomach pain and a good deal of emotional stress.  I was learning more and more about this “detox” thing when I read a quote by Joseph Pilates:

“As a heavy rainstorm freshens the water of a sluggish or stagnant stream and whips it into immediate action, so does the Pilates Method purify the bloodstream.” 

Plank Jessica Valant Pilates Happy Hour

I was teaching and doing Pilates as my profession and I had totally missed the boat on one of Pilates’ most valuable characteristics!  The breathing and spinal movement was specifically in place to help cleanse our bodies internally.  The deep flexion of the abdominal work was there not just to give us a six pack, but to massage our organs.  There is actually an exercise called stomach massage!  Once I embraced this concept of using exercise as a detox for my body, I noticed huge changes in how I looked and felt.

Don’t let the word “detox” scare you!  While there are many different things you can do to help detoxify your body, I’m giving you four specific recommendations you can start TODAY.

How to detox:

1) Drink more water.  One of the best ways to help your body eliminate waste is to increase how much you actually eliminate throughout the day!  I am amazed how many people tell me they don’t drink more water because they don’t want to pee more.  Um, that’s kind of the point.  You should urinate regularly throughout the day, and it should be a very light yellow or clear color.  You should also poop/deficate at least one time every day.  Yes, one time a day minimum!  Your body pees and poops to eliminate waste, so please help it out.

2) Increase fiber by eating more raw fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and veggies in any form are better than french fries, but raw is even better.  If nothing else, stop cooking the heck out of your veggies.  When they are limp and falling apart on your plate, they have lost all of their fiber.  Eat fruits and veggies raw or lightly steamed or roasted. They also keep most of their water content this way, so you get more water as well!

Pilates Happy Hour Detox

3) Massage and/or acupuncture. One thing I specifically invested in when I realized the importance of detox was a massage every other week.  Massage helps move fluid in your body and helps your lymph system from becoming stagnant.  Acupuncture has a similar effect.  This doesn’t have to be expensive!  Search out massage schools or students who need to practice.  You don’t need a full 60 minutes – 30 minutes will do.  Or use your own foam roller or massage tools at home once or twice a week.

4) Exercise and movement.  Move move move!  The worst thing you can do for your body is to sit still all day.  The simple act of walking causes muscles to contract, which in turn helps pump fluid throughout your body.  If you already exercise regularly, consider adding a focused detox routine into the mix once a week.  There are some specific spinal movements – specifically flexion, extension and rotation – that help to massage your organs and increase the flow of fluids in your body.

Pilates Happy Hour Jessica Valant lunge

I’m attaching a short Pilates home routine that specifically focuses on movements to help your body detoxify itself.  You can use it by itself or as a warm-up or cool-down for your other exercise routines.  Remember, always consult with a doctor before starting a new exercise routine, and stop if you feel pain or discomfort.  Don’t be surprised if some emotions come up that surprise you!  Detoxing can be somewhat cleansing in all ways, including emotionally, so just let the feelings come and then release them.  If you are sweating at the end, that’s ok, too :).  I hope you enjoy the workout!

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