|Tripod headstand, Garuda legs|
Immune boosting yoga
Sadly amidst all the concerns over Covid-19, many people are missing attending their usual classes or fitness sessions whether it's football, swimming, dance or yoga.
Exercise of all sorts is important for humans - we need to move our body to stay healthy both physically and mentally. Movement also makes us feel better in ourselves, it releases endorphins, chemicals that trigger positive feelings in the brain, lowers stress levels and anxiety, especially if that exercise comes with built-in breath practice and mindfulness/meditation techniques - as with yoga. So remember to keep up exercise and especially yoga if you can’t get outside for other exercise for whatever reason during this time.
Tias Little of Prajna yoga, who I was training with in London last week, has sequences of floor-based sliding, gliding and rocking movements which create a pulsation throughout the tissues of our bodies, plumping up fluids, keeping us hydrated and improving the function of the organs. Importantly, they also stimulate the network of lymph vessels which lie under the skin, encouraging them to work harder, finding new paths, which helps lymphatic drainage. This is a vital part of our immune system, helping us to fight off viruses as well as bacteria that enter the body.
You can also do self-massage techniques, and rolling around on tennis balls. Sliding, gliding movements help to improve the elasticity of the fascia too, which in turn helps to develop and sustain neural plasticity improving our brain function. Slow, rhythmic movements calm the nervous system and support deep relaxation in the body's tissues, promoting resilience and health.
It can also be a form of meditation.
Whether it's moving or walking meditation, chanting or sitting quietly concentrating on breathing, meditation can have a positive affect on your mindset and thus, your health. Harvard University researchers used MRI scans to show how meditation positively affected and changed the brain activity and have found that meditation can change brain regions that are specifically linked with depression.
|I asked my son to take a pic of me in a headstand ;) |
Tias-style, using a block behind the head
Strong, grounding poses
For all-round health we need both the gentle, contemplative side of yoga and some strong grounding poses.
When there was a viral outbreak in Pune, India, some years ago, the Iyengar Institute based there was closed and sent students a sheet of yoga practices to boost their immune system to keep them going at home. These are mostly inversions, Adho Mukha Svanasana, downward facing dog to you, Prasarita Padottanasana, a wide legged forward fold, backbends over a chair, lying with legs up the wall, and importantly, headstand and a long-held shoulderstand with variations. More of the same was recommended in the evening with headstand, shoulderstand and settabandasana (bridge pose), all propped, and Savasana – rest.
Of course for most of these, you would need to have an established yoga practice or have a teacher guide you through them, which I'd recommend :)
Tias Little sent out his Prajna students a list of asanas which also had a big emphasis on inversions... Why?
Tias explains that inversions rest and revitalise the body, stimulating the lungs to perform better and improve circulation. Shoulderstand "the mother of all poses" is nourishing for the throat and chest area. Placing the head below the heart is tonic for lymph vessels in the upper body, irrigating lymph through lymph nodes in throat, tongue and jaw region. An inversion could equally be a dog pose, ideally with the head resting on a block.
David Coulter, in his excellent book, Anatomy Of Hatha Yoga, says if you can remain in headstand or an inverted posture for 3-5 minutes, blood will drain quicker to the heart from the lower extremities, abdominal and pelvic organs, but also tissue fluids will flow more effectively into the veins and lymph channels, which will create a healthier exchange of nutrients and wastes between cells and capillaries. Sivanada, the yoga guru, was known for calling the headstand "a panacea - cure-all for all diseases".
*Remember inversions of any kind are not suitable for everyone, Pregnant women, those with high blood pressure and certain eye problems included, so check with your teacher or doctor before you go upside down.
Twists are also important to revitalise the spinal column and they are energising, which will help beat lethargic tendencies. Back bends lift the spirits, and they don’t need to be huge ones. Apart from bridge pose, you could lie down over a rolled blanket or rolled towel placed behind the heart area, which will also boost your lymphatic flow and energy levels, and counter the tendency to hunch forward over keyboards and other technology.
So whatever you do, keep up your yoga, even though you can only do it in your home! Obviously as social animals, humans also like to interact with each other or they can suffer from feelings of isolation. I guess that’s where social media comes in and the lurry of online yoga and other exercise sessions being offered (including by me!) see Online Classes
|Iyengar's immune boosting routine|