Yoga and Detox
This interview was with Dave Brocklebank who founded the Burren Yoga and Meditation Centre on the west coast of Ireland.
What are the goals of gentle Yoga and how does it differ from other forms of Yoga such as Vinyasa or Hatha?
The type or school of yoga of our Gentle Yoga and Detox courses is Satyananda yoga, otherwise known as the Bihar School of Yoga.
Satyananda yoga is very systematic in how it introduces practices to beginners, and the main emphasis and goal is placed on the awareness of the practitioner rather than physical prowess. There is less emphasis placed on external physical alignment, and one focuses inwardly on the breath, on any feelings inside, what is happening inside the body, and eventually getting more in touch with internal energies. It is suitable for all ages and all fitness levels.
There is a big emphasis placed on breath and this is seen as a very important key to bring one’s awareness inwards, help let go of the external world, help let go of thoughts, and in time allow one work more directly with prana.
It also has techniques which help train the mind to focus in a gentle systematic way, get in touch with ones senses, and ultimately work towards Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses). These techniques are very powerful in training the mind, and introducing internal steadiness, reducing the internal chatter and preparing oneself for meditation. And they begin in a very easy way through Yoga Nidra.
This form of yoga also includes the Shatkarmas (cleansing practices), the more common of which are Jala Neti to cleanse the nostril and Kunjal to cleanse the stomach and upper tract from the stomach to throat. There are 4 others some of which are not practiced much these days.
There is more information at Satyananda Yoga
It is very much a traditional form of yoga, rather than the more physical forms most of which stemmed from Krisnamacharya who did a lot of his training in gymnasiums as well as with yoga teachers in Mysore in India about the start of the 20th century. His teaching introduced more physical asanas (such as chaturanga, and some of the warrior postures) into the more traditional yoga practice, and led to Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga by Pattabhi Jois (one of his students) and to Iyengar yoga (another of his students). The more traditional forms of yoga at that time were more spiritual, and more concerned with meditation, Pranayama, inner energies, chanting, other spiritual practices, and less a preoccupation with the physical practices.
Nowadays in the western world, as we are so concerned with our physical looks and health, almost 70% of yoga being taught is from the Krisnamacharya lineage. This includes Vinyasa flow which is a derivative of Ashtanga and Power yoga another derivative, and Bikram another physical fitness routine based on a flow of yoga-like postures.
Hatha yoga nowadays commonly refers to a relatively easy form of physical yoga practice which includes some form of breathing, sometimes some relaxation and to varying degrees inner awareness depending on the teacher and their influences.
However, traditionally Hatha yoga refers to all the physical practices in yoga, so within this context, Ashtanga, Iyengar and Vinyasa flow are all forms of hatha yoga.
The goal of all yoga hopefully is the same, and is to awaken oneself to one’s highest potentials and to expand our awareness, transform our consciousness and to elevate our spiritual evolution.
The methods employed to do so, are different in the various schools. The methods of Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Iyengar are primarily through strong physical working of the body, while the methods of more traditional yoga including Satyananda yoga is less emphasis on physical postures and more on breath work, training the mind, cleansing on many levels, practices to elevate ones energies and meditation.
Our Gentle Yoga and Detox courses are mainly aimed at those who wish to learn more about nutrition and their diet, and learning about healthy ways to improve their daily diet as well as undertaking a Detox period to cleanse and remove toxins from their system.
What other types of yoga do you teach at Burren Yoga Centre?
The link below describes the different types of yoga we teach, and also help advise which one is best for you based on your age, fitness levels, whether you have any injuries or weaknesses, or whether you are looking for a fitness form of workout or prefer relaxation.
Types of yoga taught at Burren Yoga
How can gentle Yoga practice be combined with a natural detox program to aid or enhance the detoxification process?
Sometimes when we embark on a Detox process, we can become a little obsessed with food, and our thoughts and attention become a little too fixated on food, or on missing those comfort foods that we sometimes like to eat.
By broadening our focus and including the Detox within a wider yogic context, and realizing that we are working on all layers of our being, and that our focus is really on improving our health, and also our energies on all levels, this gives us a wider perspective or a wider field of vision on which to focus our awareness.
One great benefit of combining yoga with a Detox program is that our awareness is heightened while we are both learning about the alternative ways of eating, and also feeling and observing the detox process going on.
Other benefits include
- learning to breathe properly and also how to relax and let go
- Jala Neti is a wonderful way of clearing the nostrils and sinuses and enhances the breathing process and also stimulation of Ajna chakra
- stimulation of the intestines through various asanas to help peristalsis and eliminating waste products from the body
- various asanas to help stimulation of the lymphatic system and aid elimination of waste products
- introducing sometimes new and enjoyable things to help people to become enthused and inspired
- a feeling of ‘breaking new ground’ and taking up new habits and practices, rather than focusing on just cutting out various foods, drinks and eating habits
- great relaxation techniques to help let go of stress and tension that can sometimes creep into a detox program
- offer a new positive lifestyle which can be adopted and followed up after the detox course, as there are now very good yoga teachers on most parts of the western world.
Are there other forms of Yoga that can be used for detoxification or as part of a natural detox program?
The most important thing about one’s yoga practice is not so much the form of yoga that one practices, but rather the following factors;
- ideally one’s practice should be daily, between 5 and 7 days a week
- even if one does not feel in good form, one should still do some practice
- early morning on an empty stomach is the best time to practice for a number of reasons
- one’s own daily practice on one’s own outside a class is best, provided one has studied at some time under a teacher or still attends a class on a weekly basis which supports one’s own daily practice
- a balanced practice is best, so one should learn practices under the guidance of a good qualified yoga teacher
- For the first few years it is fine to go to yoga classes before one is able to motivate oneself to practice alone each day
Can you suggest a few asanas that are particularly effective for body detox? For mind detox?
The wind releasing pose (sometimes called the leg-lock pose) is very useful for massaging the intestines and helps encourage peristalsis and elimination of wastes from the body.
Nauli is a strong practice which helps digestion, and correct functioning of the stomach as well as aiding peristalsis.
The Peacock posture is very strong asana which again promotes proper digestion and the ancient texts say help purify the body of toxins.
Pashimottanasana the sitting forward bend also stimulates the stomach and intestines and also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to help introduce relaxation and letting go of thoughts.
Shoulderstand is another posture to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system once one becomes proficient in it, and the relaxation achieved can be another great way of ‘letting go’.
One of the Shatkarmas called Trataka is where one gazes at a candle, and then closes ones eyes and views the after image. This practice is a very powerful way of cleansing the mind. It should only be practiced under the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher.
Yoga Nidra is one of the most enjoyable and easy practices to do to help let go in the mind.
Pranayama practices include Bhramari, Ujjai and the normal yogic breath.
What role does Yogic breathing play in detoxification?
One could write a whole book on the benefits and role that breathing has to play in both detoxification and maintaining a healthful state of being both physically and mentally.
Some of the benefits include;
- Oxygenation and bringing energy and prana to ones being
- Removal of carbon dioxide from the blood stream
- Movement of diaphragm massages internal organs and promotes improved digestion and elimination of toxins
- Stimulates para sympathetic nervous system which brings about relaxation, letting go and improved repair by the body’s own internal processes
- By breathing correctly one feels good
- Being aware of good breathing can heighten one’s awareness to one’s posture which can improve through one’s effort helped by this awareness
- Breathing through the nose releases Nitric Oxide which aids absorption of oxygen into the blood
- By becoming aware of the air we take inside ourselves, and the care and respect we bring to this process, helps heighten our awareness to the importance of the other things we take into ourselves including eating, drinking and other activities
What dietary changes do you suggest to your students for detoxification?
There is no single diet which is suitable for everyone. Each of us have our own body makeup, have already built up our own habits and dependencies, and some of us have health conditions and weaknesses we need to take account of.
However, in general we advocate
An increase in
- variety of fresh organic vegetables
- variety of fresh organic fruits
- cereals and grains such as rice, oats, bulgur, quinoa
- legumes and beans such as lentils, adzuki, chick-peas, edamame, kidney beans
- raw foods
And a reduction or for some items cutting out
- the overall amount of food we eat
- processed food such as TV diners cooked in microwave
- white bread
- chocolate bars, biscuits, cake
- fizzy drinks
- teas and coffees
- fats (cutting out meat helps)
- fried foods, butter and margarine
- tinned food and frozen food (fresh is better)
In general we should devote a little more time to the preparation of foods, and even shopping every few days and selection of the fresh food.
Cooking for oneself instead of popping into the microwave takes a little more time, but in the end can become an enjoyable activity and part of your overall new habits of looking after yourself and taking an interest in the variety of fresh food that is available.
Becoming more aware of how you feel after you have eaten, both immediately after and also 1 and 2 hours after your meal.
Eat slowly, chew and enjoy.
The Japanese say that one should not eat while one is feeling angry, otherwise the food will turn to poison in your stomach. Your feeling mood and how you eat, have an effect on how the food is assimilated into your body and also the effects and benefits the food can have on you.
Try not to eat late at night. If possible eat your main meal early enough in the day so that you will have at least some exercise or some work after your meal to help increase your digestive fire and help burn off some of the calories. This is much better than eating and then sitting down watching TV for a few hours on a heavy stomach, or going to sleep on a full stomach.
After completing a detoxification program that includes diet modification and Yoga, how can a person maintain their new healthier state?
The best way to undertake a Detox program is slowly and gradually.
Start by identifying the foods and drinks you would most like to reduce or eliminate, and those you would like to increase.
If you are already taking large amounts of foods on the elimination list, then start by reducing them gradually. After a couple of weeks, you may feel you can eliminate some of these types of foods completely, but make sure that your remaining diet is balanced, healthy and sufficient to maintain a healthy body weight and sufficient energy for the day.
When you have sufficiently prepared yourself, you may like to undergo a 3 or 7 or possibly longer more stringent detoxification period. This is a good period to go on a Detox program where you will receive guidance and help, and other supportive guidance and activities such as yoga, massage, time spent in Nature and further food and recipe suggestions and nice healthy meals prepared for you.
When you return home after your detox program, ideally you will have a book of recipes, a list of possibly new food items to buy, possibly information on sprouting and preparing fruit and vegetable drinks and many new ideas to put into action during your normal daily living from then on.
By following the above guidelines about dietary changes, your taste buds will gradually come alive over time and you will be better able to savour the freshness and beautiful taste of fresh organic vegetables and your whole eating experience can change.
Eating healthily and without bringing back toxins can be very enjoyable and fun.
And you will hopefully embrace these new eating habits within a wider framework of daily exercise for your body preferably early in the day, healthy training for your mind such as yoga Nidra or meditation.
And hopefully within a daily practice of yoga which should benefit you on all levels of your being.
What benefits have you observed (mental and physical) from a Yoga-Detox combination and how to they compare to the benefit derived from just a food-based detox program?
The short term effects are that the Detox process itself becomes more enjoyable as one is taking up new positive habits and learning a broader way of looking after one’s whole being. The yoga practices also aid the Detox process so can speed it up. And many of the practices also feel good and increase one’s enjoyment and well being.
Longer term one also has more to focus on, and instead of getting bogged down by just thinking about all those nice tasting comfort foods that one is depriving oneself of, one can feel more positively after engaging in some yoga practices which help one feel in better form, and give the mind some other new things to focus on.
And also longer term, as one begins to tune in to one’s body and how one feels, your own body will naturally start to reject the substances that are not beneficial to its overall functioning. So the cravings for these substances will simply die away, and less and less effort will be required to maintain a healthy diet.
Without giving away all your secrets, can you share with us what happens during one of your Yoga-Detox retreats?
We limit each of our courses to only 15 people, so it is a nice enjoyable easygoing atmosphere, which is friendly and relaxed.
The location of the Burren Yoga and Meditation Centre is in the countryside about 5 miles from the nearest seas-side village of Kinvara on the west coast of Ireland.
There are very few houses within a 1 mile radius (about 8 houses), no traffic on the small country road, and the centre overlooks the spectacular hills of the Burren.
So as one drives the last few miles to the centre, one sees one is in a very special unique location, and the peacefulness and naturalness of the area brings a natural stillness within.
The centre itself is very comfortable with under-floor heating throughout, ceiling to floor windows and amazing views.
When people arrive on the Friday evening, they are shown their rooms and usually relax in the lounge or reading area and chat to the other people who have just arrived. Irish people are naturally easy going and friendly, so even if some people are from abroad, there is usually a good deal of conversation as people get to know each other. Most people come on their own, so it is very easy to fit in.
And then we have a light tasty evening meal which has been prepared by Miriam who looks after all the vegetarian detox cooking on our Detox weekend. She explains what we are having for dinner, and the easy going conversation continues over the meal.
After each meal we take turns in washing up, and this opportunity to put in some good energies to help the group and the centre as a whole brings out the best in our course participants, and also is very much part of the atmosphere at the Burren Yoga Centre.
At 9 pm we have an introduction to the weekend, and we explain some of the principles for Detoxing and also the role that Yoga plays. Miriam also explains the benefits of body brushing and everyone is given their own body brush.
At 9.30 pm we have a gentle yoga class, which includes gentle breath work and an introduction to yogic breathing, gentle postures including some of the gentle ones mentioned above, and a deep relaxation known as Yoga Nidra.
People usually feel very relaxed after the close and most go to bed early.
We start Saturday by rising about 7 pm and start the day with own time to do the body brushing and take showers.
After this the course participants are instructed on how to do Neti Cleaning and we usually do this outdoors together under Dave’s guidance.
After this we have a Yoga class where we also teach people Salutation to the sun as well as a few stronger postures such as Trikonasana and Parsvakonasana as well as the usual postures we teach to aid the Detox process.
So everybody is usually feeling very energized and refreshed as we go to the kitchen where Miriam has prepared some warm water and lemon drinks with a few special ingredients to help start the detox process. After this we have fresh fruit salads.
After breakfast we have some time free, and then a talk on Nutrition and various types of foods which is given by Miriam. She is a wealth of knowledge and loves when people have questions, as this often brings up other areas of interest for the rest of the group.
The full timetable of the weekend can be seen on the website at
Detox Gentle yoga Miriam Gormally May09
Is there anyway one should or must prepare for Yoga Detox program?
We run our Detox weekends so that anybody can attend them, and prepare for them in their own chosen way.
In general we have 3 levels of Detox.
The first level is usually for busy people who have not tried much detoxing before and simply wishing to learn more. Many of these people have very little preparation done before the course, and some may have been drinking teas, coffees, and not changed their usual diets much in the preceding days or weeks. We advise them to drink some extra water to help the Detoxification process, and also give them advice on possible adverse symptoms they may experience. Often these weekends are a wakeup call to these people, as they feel the withdrawal effects from some substances over the weekend.
The second set of people are usually more intent on cleansing their system and have done some work in the previous week or two to reduce some or all the items listed in the section on Dietary Changes above. These people are usually eager to learn the new recipes, and learn more about the specific techniques such as sprouting, food combining and juicing.
The third set of people usually already have a good normal diet, but are using this course to learn more about their Nutrition and information about Detoxing, Yoga and food in general. For many of them, the practices introduced in the yoga classes and also the Jala Neti are often unexpected bonuses that they can readily bring back home to incorporate into their daily lives.
So it all depends on what one’s current diet is like, and what one is hoping to get from the course. But in general the advice given in the section above on Dietary Changes are suitable for each person to apply as they see fit.
What tips or warnings would you give someone who is looking to try a natural detox program for the first time?
Firstly one should take into account one’s current health, any medical conditions and one’s general well being. If one has any illness or health condition, one should seek the advice of one’ doctor or a qualified nutritionist before embarking on any Detox process.
One should also take into account one’s age, and care should be taken if one is older and has been used to particular food habits for many years.
One should not take up a Detox program when pregnant, and instead should learn to listen inwardly to become more intuitive about what one’s body needs as the months progress during the pregnancy. And also seek the advice of a nutritionist specialised in this area.
In general, it is best to take onboard a Detox program is a nice enjoyable and slow way, rather than go on a crash detox diet without any preparation.
They should monitor who they are feeling as the detox program progresses over a number of days or weeks, and seek qualified advice for any adverse symptoms which may arise.
It is always a good idea to get advice from a qualified source who can offer help and useful tips to make the process more enjoyable and also healthier for the longer term.
Can you tell us some more about Burren Yoga ?
The Burren Yoga and Meditation Centre was founded by Dave Brocklebank in 1999 to promote the practice of good quality yoga and meditation. Yoga and Meditation were the two most profound practices that Dave has come across in his life, and he is so inspired as to dedicate his life to promoting good practices in these areas.
The aim of Burren Yoga is to introduce people to good practices and good teachers, provide a retreat space for people, cater for all types of practitioners from complete beginners to advanced, from those looking for very gentle to extremely strong physical yoga practice, and also those interested in learning how to meditate and to go deeper into their practice.
A full list of the courses for the next few months can be seen at
Calendar of Yoga Retreats
Can you tell us where to find out about other yoga in Ireland?
There is a list of teachers and centres at