While studying Ayurvedic medicine (holistic medicine from India), I quickly realized how intertwined yoga is in this system. There are several different types of yoga, most focus on meditation. Hatha yoga is a branch that integrates physical asanas; this is what most westerners are familiar with. A pioneer in Hatha yoga is Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar. Iyengar yoga is known for it’s intense, rigorous style; however, Iyengar founded his practice off of the belief that yoga can heal. I wanted to highlight a few asanas that can be done to alleviate common ailments that he has recommended, and coincide with what I’ve learned through my studies.
For heart and circulation asanas that are effective, inversions are a great choice and have multiple health benefits.
Salamba Sirsasana – This pose requires a lot of muscle activation to maintain. It has a vigorous effect of the circulatory system, helps alleviate insomnia, and is said to relieve symptoms of colds, coughs and tonsilitis. It is not a good idea if you have a migraine, cervical spondylosis, an ear/ eye infection, have had dental work recently done, or shoulder impingement.
Be sure to maintain core/ body contraction as if holding a plank position, elongate the body pushing energy toward the ceiling, and shoulder blades back and down.
Viparita Karani – This pose is a passive alternative. It’s another inversion that improves circulation and heart function.
Elevate legs against a wall with hips touching the wall. You can use one or two bolsters supporting the lower back. The bolster should also be flush with the wall. If you have neck issues, a good modification is to roll a small towel up and put it behind the neck to maintain the cervical curvature.
Viparita Dandasana – This pose is similar to fish pose. It’s a great chest opener and spinal mobilizer.
Climb into a chair backwards, lie backwards giving your lower back and hips support. Use a bolster off the ground, hang your head down to the floor touching the crown of your head to the bolster. You can stack multiple bolsters if you have reduced extensibility of the lumbar spine.
For digestive issues several different asanas will improve peristalsis and digestion.
Utthita Parsvakonasana – This pose opens the hips and mobilizes the lumbar spine.
Open both hips aligning knees properly lunging into front leg (thigh parallel to the ground). In the side bend make sure to reach through the fingers creating length in the spine and not place your weight on the hand that’s on the ground.
Utthita Marichyasana – This pose is an intense torso and leg stretch.
Place a chair or high stool against a wall. Stand with the inside foot on a chair and twist toward the wall, place both hands flat on the wall and wrap your opposite elbow around the outside of your knee. Remember to keep chest open and look over your shoulder.
Stress and immune system health are generally important for everyone to focus on regularly to maintain quality of life.
Supta Baddhakonasana – This pose requires several props, but is really effective.
Align the bolster parallel with your spine touching the tailbone. When positioning the strap, place it low around the back of your hips level with the sacrum and use blocks to touch your knees down to if necessary.
Adhomukha Virasana (downward- facing hero pose)- This pose has a calming effect and is similar to Balasana (child’s pose).
When lying over the bolster, you can use a rolled up towel under the hips if you have reduced ankle and knee flexibility, and a rolled up towel to rest your head on for comfort.
Some of you may be familiar with these asansas from a traditional or restorative class. Now, you can look into self-healing from a holistic standpoint, as well. Having a qualified yoga instructor help you perform these asanas for the first time is important. Please contact Personal Fitness Trainer/Certified Yoga Instructor, Amber Walz, or any member of our yoga staff for details on how to begin.