Your Body is a Toxic Wasteland /// And Other Unfortunate Ways To View the Temple

As a sorta, kinda, not really, but what the hell follow-up/appendix to IAYB’s recent post on Kathryn Budig’s discussion of bodily curvatures, I thought I’d drop a link to this amazing piece of Elephant Journal literature, “Three Reasons Why Yoga Can Help You Lose Weight,” which features this all-too-common trope:

When your body is toxic, it means that your detoxification organs (such as your liver and kidneys) may not be working effectively.  When these organs aren’t working optimally your body will tend to hold on to excess weight.

This idea that the body is toxic—a common theme that seemingly floats throughout all spiritual/yoga/”health” circles—is one that has always made me feel uncomfortable. Aside from the fact that high levels of potentially dangerous pathogens in a body does not necessarily equate to obesity (consider your extremely unhealthy, chain-smoking, ninety-two-year-old skinny grandmother), the whole idea that the body is “toxic,” and thus needs to be “purged” is a really intense way to think about what’s actually going on inside those sloppy organs of yours. So, while Katrina Love Senn is correct in stating that by introducing an abundance of useless matter that unnecessarily stimulates receptors in the body that might otherwise benefit from not being stimulated (i.e. growth hormones), the idea that this directly relates to weight gain is tenuous at best. At least as far as I understand it.

Anyway, no one wants to hear about that. What people really want to know is whether or not yoga can help you to lose all that evil lazy weight? Right? That’s what’s most important. Getting that summer yoga body the Sadie Nardini way!

So, can a regular yoga practice help you lose weight? Sure! So can walking regularly, swimming regularly, jumping regularly, laughing regularly, and having sex regularly.


Although, will practicing asana actually help you understand why you want to lose weight in the first place? Probably not. It might make a little room in that twisted noodle of yours for you to maybe think about maybe thinking about looking into that quandary, but ultimately a good therapist is gonna be your best non-friend on that journey.

And, that’s ok. Having a great therapist is like having your own personal witch on the hill who tricks you into unpacking your stinky spooky laundry. So, it’s cool. Embrace it.


  1. Linda-Sama

    hallelujah: “This idea that the body is toxic—a common theme that seemingly floats throughout all spiritual/yoga/”health” circles—is one that has always made me feel uncomfortable.”

    the whole detox/cleanse mentality in yoga circles has always made me uncomfortable, too. AS IF there is always something wrong with us. AS IF every woman’s magazine at the supermarket check out isn’t already screaming that at us on their covers.

    just EAT RIGHT, damn it, forget drinking those concoctions that look like week old paint water.

    • wondering

      Yes Linda! and be thankful that for the most part we have great nutrition in this country compared to most of the world…who I’d guess do not have the luxury to indulge in this worry and instead are thankful to have food at all.

  2. gross

    what is there to say. its nasty. all the talk about bodies and what should be and acceptance and crap. get outside NY and LA and take a local yoga class and see how the people in the room don’t give a shit about your yogalebrity status, your perfect yoga body, or your fancy arm balances. just do a decent warrior one and get on with it.

  3. And yoga in New York tries to foist the philosophical precepts of the Gita in the service of self-mortification on your body. So hypocritical to put your body in pain, to push beyond and ignore the pain, because “you are not your body” … I wish I could have told that to my childhood self that fell off a tricycle and bled …

    Aided and abetted by the impossible body-image culture and transmitted by a narcissistic teacher … had been enough to depress yours truly …. and the kicker is, I’m not even young (like they) …

  4. J

    David Rakoff (one of my favorite writers) contributes an incredible story to the below episode of This American Life. Tthe physician who he consults with while he is fasting is not only brilliant and articulate, she comes across as clearer minded than almost anyone I’ve met in 15 years of being around so called yoga practitioners. The story addresses in some detail the absurd idea that our bodies carry around ‘toxins’.

    It’s more than worth a listen.


    In my opinion, all the fasting, detoxing and juicing in the yoga world is a mask for eating disorders. Young yoginis are like the new ballerinas another profession where they starve themselves to death and smoke like crazy to maintain their weight. What yoga does is teach you how to eat mindfully and adopt a satvic diet which indirectly leads to weight loss in people who were raised on American diets. There is an untold difference between mindful easting and detoxing. I for one have to consume lots of calories when I do a strenous asanas practice.

    • gross

      i totally agree with you. but even non-yoga teachers have the disorder. i’m jealous of the bigger healthy looking girls who just look and seem (i wouldn’t actually know) so happy just being themselves. i eat what i want, but i def have plenty of thoughts about needing to eat perfectly to be a perfect eating example of a yoga teacher. … and the asana teaching and diet are only loosely co-related.

  6. Yoga Dude

    Is the body being full of toxins that must be purged Yoga’s version of Original Sin?

    • Yogically speaking

      Every product supplier first tries to convince you that you have a personal “lack” – and then offers you the “solution” that you probably didn’t even realize you needed filled. Bad breath, hair transplants, erectile dysfunction, stinky vagina — whatever it may be. However, yoga’s not just saying you have toxins; it’s saying you have a hole in your soul, and that you need a 20-something self-credentialed emotional vampire to “cure” you. It’s like inviting demonic possession from a Valley Girl, And the big winner is the pimp Daddy that owns her Cult lock stock and barrel.

  7. Yogically speaking

    That twat shot of Sadie looks like a still from Abu Ghraib. Are those the the Yoga Barracks from Hell? What is that place?

  8. Yogically speaking

    Turns out it’s the U.S. Army’s Biological Warfare Center at Ft. Dedrick, MD. The center is responsible for “pioneering research and development into biocontainment, decontamination, gaseous sterilization, and agent production and purification for the U.S. offensive biological warfare program.” Sadie must be working on some kind of classified project with the Pentagon. A number of the leading yogis are. It’s reassuring to know that if I ever come under biological or chemical attack, I can rush to my local fall-out studio.

    • Thaddeus

      I just wondering how you found that out. I mean, it’s amazing, given the context of this post that she would actually be filming in such a “pure” environment. A satirist really couldn’t ask for anything more than this.

      • Yogically speaking

        Alas, I was kidding. Technically.

        • Thaddeus

          Well…you know what they say…there’s a sucker born every minute…the difference between him and me is that I don’t mind asking for directions. Sure would have been sweet if that were the case though, no?

      • Yogically speaking

        No sweat, Thaddeus. I just couldn’t pass up the satirical opportunity. I’m glad it sounded so real. I feel like Orson Welles after his 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast. Everyone was terrified that the “Martians had landed.” Spiritually speaking, they have, and apparently, they’re armed with Clorox ray guns.

  9. Dr. (yes – DOCTOR – as in MD) Ben Goldacre has a great angle on the whole DETOX myth (VIDEO).


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