Spring is officially in the air and if you live in Austin like me you can already feel the approaching heat of summer. All around signs of new life are visible. Trees tops are bursting open with green foliage, flowers are blooming and pretty much all of nature is buzzing with the energy of new life! This season offers a unique opportunity for humans to follow suit and get rid of left over toxins to encourage vibrancy and rejuvenation in the body. One of the ways in which we can facilitate this change is by working with the liver.
Most people know that the liver is in charge of filtering toxins out of the body but are unaware of just how many other functions it performs. It’s responsible for making bile to break down fatty acids, converting sugar into glycogen for muscle energy and synthesizing proteins and cholesterol. Contrary to popular belief the liver is not a storage organ for toxins but it is a storage organ for many important nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid, and minerals such as copper and iron.
This large and important organ is nestled in the upper right quadrant of your abdominal cavity just below the diaphragm. Because of its location it is easily affected by the action of breathing. To feel your liver try this exercise: Sit on the edge of your chair, raise your hands over your head and interlock your fingers, lean slightly to the left, and take a deep breath. On your exhale make a “shhhhh” sound with your breath and notice the gentle tug this gives your liver.
In your yoga practice there are a variety of ways to work with the liver. Use twists, forward bends and deep breathing to squeeze and massage the blood filled organ. These actions act as a natural pump which irrigates the liver with new blood and help it to perform its many functions. Since the liver is fascially connected to other organs, the ribcage and the diaphragm it is important to open and stretch the chest cavity to avoid restricted movement and blood flow. One way to encourage this opening is through backbends and twists.
However if all this back bending and gut twisting sounds unappealing to you there are other ways to show your liver some love. Eating sour foods such as lemons, vinegar, green apples, and tomatoes is beneficial. There are also herbs like dandelion root and milk thistle that have been proven to improve liver function. Something important to note is that the liver cleans itself while you are sleeping so eating dinner several hours before going to bed helps it focus on that task rather than digestion.
Lastly since your liver is directly affected by your emotional state, working on releasing anger and aggression and instead focusing on the positive aspects of your life, has a profound impact. One of my favorite things to do in spring (which always brings about a smile) is to take the time to stop and smell the flowers. In this simple action I not only feel joy at the changes occurring around me but take comfort in knowing my own body (liver especially) is synchronizing with spring! So enjoy the journey and changes of the season,
Based out of Austin Texas, Anna teaches Yoga and offers therapeutic massage. She is interested in Zen-Buddhism and the spiritual journey that yoga offers. Check out her blog for inspirations, teaching on yoga, educational information about the body and interesting stuff that she comes across out there in the world.