The Year of Living Toxin-Free

How to start 2008 in a state of detoxification

Now that the “holidaze” are over and you've probably begun to regret your New Year's gorgefest or that indiscriminate office party hookup, this is probably a good time to think of your health. Of course, detoxing means something different to everyone. These days, it's largely a tendency of the Hollywood rehab set, but for most of us, it can be as simple as working your way up to drinking 64 ounces of water a day or getting your lazy ass to a Saturday morning yoga class.

Whatever your take on toxin-purging, it's hard to deny that we're all living, breathing bags of nutrients in an often contaminated world. That means we're also full of chemicals, pollutants, bacteria, icky juju, and other harmful substances that affect our health, no matter what wellness trends we may choose to follow.

So if you're ready to spruce up your constitution, whether that means learning to live more sustainably or getting a — gulp! — colonic to help alleviate some of the toxic malaise, here are some places that offer general panaceas for purifying yourself, body and soul.

Body Harmony 2000 Van Ness (at Jackson), Suite 504, 563-6630, Detox detractors may well pooh-pooh the concept of purging the pipes, but Body Harmony is more than game for the challenge of wringing out toxins the old-fashioned way. Health buffs who are into colonics swear by them. Colon hydrotherapy ain't for the faint of stomach, though. Water is filtered into the lower intestinal tract, assisting in the evacuation of waste, which apparently leads to a happier colon and attendant numerous benefits. Aside from its mega-draining action, getting a colonic also means better digestion and lymphatic function. Body Harmony offers three cleansing programs ranging in intensity. The caveats? Well, as long as you're comfortable doing number two in front of your specialist, there are none. But while adherents swear by colon hydrotherapy and the friendly staff at Body Harmony, the jury is still out on the science of it.

Integral Yoga Institute 770 Dolores (at 21st St.), 821-1117, If you really want to get on the wagon with this health stuff, a class card to your local yoga studio probably seems like an obvious option, right? Close, but no cigar. Respected establishments like Yoga Tree are all copacetic when it comes to getting a workout, but if you consider the spiritual component of yoga to be more than just a mantra-laced novelty, you might suffer from diminishing returns on your investment. If you're looking to deepen your experience of yoga not just through the breath or the ultimate goal of a hot, limber body, consider the Integral Yoga Institute. Spiritual seekers of all stripes come to this 37-year-old mainstay. The sprawling three-story Victorian with a handful of airy studios boasting soft blue carpets, eggshell-colored walls, and bay windows feels more like a cozy retreat center than a place to get your daily exercise fix. The institute is based on the principles of Sri Swami Satchidananda, a revered yoga teacher whose life and philosophy were grounded in service to humanity. Aside from daily classes — including mixed-level hatha yoga, hatha yoga for beginners, and yoga for practitioners with HIV — the institute holds meditations, teacher trainings, and a medley of healing seminars. Classes typically last 80 minutes, but only 45 minutes are devoted to the postures, while the rest of the session emphasizes pranayama (breathing) and short, silent meditations. This is the perfect place to get your fill of Sanskrit chanting and that special asana-induced glow, sans the competitive edge of a run-of-the-mill yoga studio.

Quan Yin Healing Arts Center 455 Valencia (at 16th St.), 861-4964, In Buddhism, Quan Yin is the goddess of compassion and mercy. In San Francisco, she has been responsible for healing wellness seekers for more than two decades. The Quan Yin Healing Arts Center dispenses with frou-frou attitudes and platitudes and gets right to the nitty-gritty: Traditional Asian medicine need not be relegated to complementary or alternative care, and it can be accessible to a variety of populations — even the ones who know diddly about realigning their chis or chakras. The center offers a plethora of cost-effective services — including student discounts and hour-long massages for $51 — for everyone from harried businessfolk to the homeless and the mentally ill. As the first complementary wellness center to treat HIV-positive people back in 1984, Quan Yin has always been at the vanguard of the holistic health movement and offers a variety of similarly innovative programs ranging from cancer support to women's wellness. Whether you're looking for herbs, affordable massage therapy, acupuncture, nutritional counseling, or a place to unwind over tai chi and yoga, browse the center's extensive menu of services and choose your tonic.

SenSpa 1161 Gorgas (at Lombard), 441-1777, If your idea of fostering total well-being is a combination of facials and liver flushes, you may want to pay a visit to SenSpa, a 13,000-square-foot paradise for sybarites and wellness seekers. But as we all know, just because something is supersized doesn't always mean it's better — in fact, it usually means more noise, more crowds, and a less-personal experience. Fortunately, SenSpa's lush, tropical ambience (even more striking because the space is a refurbished World War I army barracks in the Presidio) makes visitors feel as though they're in the middle of their own rainforest. The basis of the spa is an East-meets-West philosophy called the “Power of Three Paths”: releasing, restoring, and revitalizing your body, spirit, and mind. Melt under a hot-stone massage or work with one of the spa's wellness coaches to address intrinsic health issues, including prostate health, depression, and weight gain. Aside from the myriad of holistic treatments, including acupressure and ionic aqua detoxing, you can be less of an ascetic with the spa's innovative deluxe indulgences. This includes the Buddha Belly prenatal massage and the languorous Presidio Land and Sea Facial, with its cool slathering of algae and herbs. Special treats include personalized coaching with regimens ensuring that you can enjoy everything from guided meditation to shiatsu massage. And, of course, the extras (organic snacks, kitten-soft linens, filtered water, and a wireless lounge) make this particular mode of detoxing more pampering than self-flagellation.

Spring 2162 Polk (at Vallejo), 673-2065, Spring cleaning for the mind and body is a no-brainer, but regular apartment therapy can be just as crucial. Lucas Heldfond's chic eco-friendly boutique provides an assortment of nontoxic, high-end items for the mindful consumer. Heldfond began his enterprise three years ago, after deciding that making his home baby-safe for his new son, Oliver, went way beyond minimizing sharp edges. Since indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, his mission was to find responsibly produced, all-natural products to be tested in their home. Heldfond's finds, which hail from all corners of the world, are beneficial for the environment and your personal style. The chemical-free offerings include an olfactory-wowing selection of Method Home cleaning products, contaminant-filtering HEPA vacuum cleaners, Anna Sova paint made with food-grade ingredients, and sateen organic cotton bedding. Spring adds some needed razzle-dazzle to going green, with stuff like gorgeous soy candles and dapper baby garb. And adorable toddler Oliver still has the final say on all new merchandise.

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