Isn't it funny that as we "advance" in age, and "advance" as a society, we seem to become ever more sedentary and dependent on devices and technology.
We need to rethink all of this "advancement," so we can question the habits we all fall into, as our lives become more and more convenient.
We find ourselves circulating more online and in our social networks, but we are actually stagnating in the most important system: our body!
These habits are dangerous and many studies have proven that all this sitting is literally killing us. The problem with not circulating is that our body fluids are not being distributed and refreshed in an optimal way, and our vitality and strength is diminished. When we are lacking in circulation, the mind and the eyes suffer too. Thus, mental clarity suffers and often there can be a sense of being out of proper balance emotionally, too.
How Yoga Helps
Of course, all of the bending, stretching and strengthening of the body is great, because we're moving old blood and lymph out, carrying away debris, toxins and impurities. What comes in is fresh blood and lymph, carrying much needed oxygen, nutrients and prana to all of our cells.
But, that's just the physical aspect of how yoga helps us. We're taking all the benefits of the physical elements of the practice and adding the enhancements to our mental clarity and performance. We then marry that with a stronger sense of emotional stability and resiliency.
Circulating Body Mind and Spirit
In our Healing Yoga practice, we deliberately circulate our body fluids through movement, and at the same time, we're also using the breath to circulate energy everywhere. We are using our awareness of the felt-sense to bring to light some areas that may need extra attention. We actively direct prana, vitality, and life-force to those areas, with our breath. This practice is very powerful and healing for those who are dealing with chronic circulation challenges.
Our practice also allows us to identify areas of energetic blockages, around the belly or the heart, as an example. Some of these blockages may show up as heaviness or dullness and we notice emotional discomfort. Our keen awareness and attention on the breath is helpful in seeing clearly and healing areas that may be connected to these held emotions. Sometimes we become aware of patterns in our lives that need to be looked into more closely. For instance, we may be out of balance in circulating and exchanging our energy with those around us. We're circulating fresh energy around old habitual ways of thinking and actions, and bringing more clarity to all of our available options.
Our practice brings us into the present moment and helps us realize how precious and wonderful life is. When we are experiencing true Savasana, or the Tranquility Pose, we experience feelings of being supported. We often feel deep peace, oneness and gratitude. This is the most important part of the practice, especially when we are going through a health crisis and circulation issues are triggering fear. When we are going through a difficult challenge, our mat can be a safe haven through emotional storms.
In this practice, the key elements that enhance circulation are to start gently and start small, and as we go through repetitions, and variations, the movements become easier. We try starting soft and then, if we feel ambitious, we can hold the poses for longer periods, or go deeper in the poses.
- Inversions: It's all about getting our legs above hips, our hips above the heart and our heart above head. We can do this very gently, as we do in legs on a chair, or up the wall, Viparita Karani. We also have a more active inversion such as a standing forward bend with wide legs, Prasarita Padattonasana. Creating movement in the hands and feet is essential.
- Standing Poses: In addition to incorporating simple standing poses on the mat, stand up as often as possible throughout the day. If you have to be at your desk for long periods, take a Mountain Pose and really feel energy moving through your legs and hips. If you can get a Warrior Pose in during your break in the morning, and then again in the afternoon, your body will respond so well!
- Forward Bends: Apanasana is a wonderful movement that helps squeeze all the belly organs and activate lymphatic movement deep in the abdomen. This is a great daily movement that helps to improve reproductive organ functioning, digestion, and eliminations. This is also a wonderful boost for the immune system.
- Back Bends: Lying on a bolster (Supta Baddha Konasana) is a great way to open the heart and belly. When we breathe slowly, but deeply and intentionally, we can experience a wonderful shifting of energy through the whole body.
Our breath plays an integral role in improving our circulation, and all our yoga-breathing practices help. The ones I find most effective are:
- Victorious Breath (Ujjaiy): A very effective way to enhance inner focus and awareness. Completing the exhalations is key, as it stimulates all of the lymphatic in the belly.
- Shining Scull Breath (Kapala Bhati): These active and powerful exhalations help clear the mind and ignite the fires of digestion. The deep lymph nodes are activated and the whole body feels energized.
- Bellows Breath (Bhastrika): This practice fans the fires of digestion and helps strengthen our Prana Vayu's – or energetic winds – that circulate and radiate life-force throughout the body.
Other daily practices that help with circulation come from the ancient sister science of Yoga, the Science of Life (Ayurveda).
- Daily skin brushing very gently with a sisal brush, brushing toward the heart, is a practice that is ideal to improve circulation in the morning.
- Abyhanga is a gentle self-massage with sweet almond oil before or after the shower or bath.
- Foot rolling with tennis ball can stimulate many energy points and release the whole sheath of connective tissue of the backline of the body. This release of tension creates a freshening of the lymphatic flow.
- Hydrotherapy: Experiment with the idea of running your shower cold very suddenly and stay under for as long as you can. This creates a massive shifting of energy in the body.
When we make the connection between our daily habits and how we feel, we can enjoy some amazing improvements in all aspects of our lives.
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