There’s a pose for that…

Your stress level.

“Stress is as old as civilization itself. The ancient sages understood the impact on the mind and body of the turmoil of daily life. Yoga helps to detach the mind from this turmoil and allows you to face the effects of stress with equilibrium.” ~ BKS Iyengar

I have been planning this post for what seems like forever. I first thought about it when I started graduate school and now I’m 4 semesters deep. My yoga practice has become an important part of my stress reduction (and sanity) techniques. These pictures were taken over Christmas break from school and work at my parents lake house. When it’s too cold to practice by the water I move to the fire place. What wonderful parents I have.

Iyengar says:

“We experience stress from the moment of birth, and spend our lives adjusting to it. Some of us manage better than others for a variety of reasons. It could be because of one’s personality, environment, or one’s physical condition. But everyone has to deal with the effects of stress at some time or another, and in order to do so, he or she has to cultivate and discipline the mind, the physical body, psychological body, and spiritual body. We all evolve ways of coping with stress, checking and minimizing its effects with varying degrees of success. Yoga provides one of the most comprehensive and effective solutions to this problem…”

“Different people respond to the same stressful situation with different levels of intensity. Some may become angry, others confused or depressed, ultimately stress leads to disease, premature aging, or even fatal illness. The science of psychoneuroimmunology has established the connection between the body, mind, and emotions, but the ancient yogis recognized this a millennium ago. According to yogic science, the health of the psyche is reflected in the body. Psychological pressures stress all the systems of the body.”

“To reduce stress, the body and mind must be treated as one. The tension associated with stress is stored mainly in the muscles, the diaphragm, and the nervous system. If these areas are relaxed, stress is reduced. The organs of perception and the central nervous system also react physically to stress. Yogic methods of deep relaxation have a profound effect on all the body systems. When a part of the body is tense, blood flow to that area decreases, reducing immunity. Yoga works on that area to relieve tension and improve blood flow to the entire body, stabilizing the heart rate and blood pressure. Rapid, shallow breathing becomes deep and slow, allowing a higher intake of oxygen, and removing stress from the body and mind.”

How props help…

“A yoga prop is any object that helps to stretch, strengthen, relax, or improve the alignment of the body. It helps to sustain the practice of asanas for a longer duration, and conserves energy. These props allow asanas to be practiced in a relaxed way, balancing the body and mind actively as well as passively… The yoga asana practiced with props is unique in that it is the only form of exercise which allows both action and relaxation simultaneously. It activates the muscles, tones the body’s organs, and relieves undue mental and physical stress or strain. Props help to increase flexibility and stamina and, at the same time, relax slack and tired muscles. They help to rejuvenate the entire body, without increasing physical fatigue.”

Asana… The poses

Always warm up before practicing these poses. I like to practice 5 rounds of surya namaskara A & 5 rounds of surya namaskara B (sun salutations A & B, 5 rounds each) before I begin. Hold each pose for at least 5 deep breaths. Feel free to hold to supported poses (using blankets or bolsters) for 10-20 breaths. Stay in savasana as long as your body needs!

*As with most all of my posts with photos, the dog is optional, but highly recommended. She reduces my stress too.

Tadasana Urdhva Hastasana – mountain pose with arms stretched up

lindseyogabliss, tadasana urdhva hastasana

Utthita Trikonasana – Extended triangle pose

lindseyogabliss, utthita trikonasana

Utthita Parsvaknasana – Intense side stretch

lindseyogabliss, utthita parsvakonasana variation

lindseyogabliss, utthita parsvakonasana

Ardha Chandrasana – Half moon pose

lindseyogabliss, ardha chandrasana

Uttanasana – intense forward stretch

lindseyogabliss, uttanasana

Prasarita Padottanasana – intense leg stretch

lindseyogabliss, prasarita padottanasana

Adhomukha svanasana – downward facing dog stretch

lindseyogabliss, adhomukha svanasana

Dandasana – staff pose

lindseyogabliss, dandasana

Virasana – hero pose

lindseyogabliss, virasana

Urdhvamukha Janu Sirsasana – Upward-facing bent knee pose

lindseyogabliss, urdhvamukha janu sirsasana

Baddhakonasana – Fixed angle pose (aka butterfly)

lindseyogabliss, baddhakonasana

Paripurna navasana – complete boat pose (supported)

lindseyogabliss, paripurna navasana

Upavista konasana – seated wide-angle pose

lindseyogabliss, upavista konasana

Paschimottanasana – intense back stretch

lindseyogabliss, paschimottanasana

Janu sirsasana – head on knee pose

lindseyogabliss, janu sirsasana

Adhomukha virasana – downward facing hero pose

lindseyogabliss, adhomukha virasana

Parsva Virasana – side twist in the hero pose

lindseyogabliss, parsva virasana

Halasana – plough pose

lindseyogabliss, halasana

Viparita karani – inverted pose (legs up the wall pose) (please excuse the old picture!)

lindseyogabliss, viparita karani

Setubandha Sarvangasana – bridge pose

lindseyogabliss, setubandha sarvangasana

Ustrasana – camel pose

lindseyogabliss, ustrasana

Supta padangusthasana – reclining leg, foot, and toe stretch

lindseyogabliss, supta padangusthasana

lindseyogabliss, supta padangusthasana variation

Supta Baddhakonasana – reclining fixed angle pose (reclining butterfly)

lindseyogabliss, supta baddhakonasana

Supta virasana – reclining hero pose

lindseyogabliss, supta virasana

Savasana – corpse pose

lindseyogabliss, savasana

Happy journey,

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Reference: all quotes and information come from “Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health” by BKS Iyengar

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There’s a pose for that…

Your Immune System.

Are there really yoga poses that can help boost my immunity? Yes, indeed. Iyengar says, “The immune system is the defense mechanism of the body and protects us from disease. Its main agent is the blood, a fluid consisting of plasma and red and white corpuscles or blood cells. It is the white corpuscles that inhibit the invasion of the bloodstream microorganisms. There are two types of immunity: natural and acquired. Yoga strengthens both, and regular practice of the recommended asanas can help to counter the disorders that affect them.”

A practice that includes supported or inverted poses increases the circulation of lymph – a clear, watery fluid that moves through the body picking up bacteria and viruses and filtering them out via the lymph nodes.

Unlike blood, which moves as a result of the heart pumping, lymph moves by muscular contractions. Physical exercise, such as yoga, is key for keeping lymph flowing. The movement of lymph is also affected by gravity, so anytime your head is below your heart – for example, in Uttanasana (standing forward bend) and Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) – lymph moves into the respiratory organs, where germs often enter the body. When you return to an upright position, gravity drains the lymph, sending it through your lymph nodes for cleansing.

The research I have found recommends resting your head on a support in each pose to allow your neck, throat, and tongue to relax fully, thereby encouraging the lymph to flow freely through the nose and throat. Hold each pose for two to five minutes, breathing deeply from your diaphragm for the entire time.

Don’t wait until the sniffles start up to attempt this practice! By that time inversions could agitate both body and mind. Instead, use this sequence to build up your immunity throughout the winter and keep common bugs away!

The sequence… I used poses from the Iyengar method (Path to Holistic Health) along with other poses to help drain the lymph system. Props are used in the Iyengar method to truly relax into the pose and get the full benefits, so use your props if you have them!

  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose)

  • Supta Baddhakonasana (reclining fixed angle pose aka. reclining butterfly)

  • Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose)

  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) again.

  • Adhomukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog stretch)

  • Salamba Sirsasana (headstand)

  • Viparita Dandasana (inverted staff pose)… I did not have a chair for a prop so here is me in the full expression of the pose. And Iyengar’s model (from the book) in the relaxing modification.

  • Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulderstand)

  • Halasana (plough pose)

  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) again.

  • Viparita Karani (inverted pose aka. legs up the wall pose)

  • Savasana (corpse pose)… Supported savasana as shown by the model in the book.

  • Ujjayi Pranayama (conquest of energy aka. ujjayi breath)… To be done in savasana (as shown above).
  • Viloma 2 Pranayama (interrupted breathing cycle aka. breath holds)… To be done in savasana (as shown above).

Other holistic ways to boost your immune system… A healthy diet and some natural remedies should do the trick!

Reference: Yoga the Path to Holistic Health (BKS Iyengar), Yoga Journal 2011.