Article by Sue Fuller
Simple yoga techniques will help relieve the symptoms of many common ailments. So why not try reaching for your yoga mat next time you feel under the weather.
For thousands of years Yoga has been used to help practitioners reach optimum levels of health. Yoga techniques work to free both body and mind from unnecessary tension. Once this tension is removed pranic energy (vital life force) can travel freely around the body. The unrestricted flow of pranic energy will encourage physical and emotional healing and prevent other ailments or conditions from developing. Over the years it has also become apparent that due to the subtle way that yoga rebalances internal systems and redirects prana to different areas of the body; that various techniques can be used to help relieve the symptoms of many common ailments.
The symptoms of the following conditions can all be eased or relieved by the suggested simple yoga practices.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is extremely common and is often caused by incorrect alignment or weak abdominal muscles. Performing a simple spinal twist will help release the tension stored in the lower back and ease any pain. However to help prevent this pain from occurring you will need to try to maintain a straight spine whenever possible and strengthen your core muscles.
Begin laying on your back with your knees bent and your arms stretched out to the side level with your shoulders. Make sure that the soles of both feet are in contact with the floor and the outside edges of your feet are parallel. Breathe slowly in and out through your nose.
When you are ready inhale and as you exhale let your knees fall to the right and turn your head to the left. As you inhale return to your starting position. Next time you exhale allow your knees to fall to the left and turn your head to the right. Continue with these movements for twenty complete breaths and then finish by drawing your knees in towards your chest. As you draw your knees in towards your chest hold on to your knees or shins, think about relaxing your shoulders and releasing your lower back. Remain here for at least five minutes whilst you breathe slowly in and out through your nose.
Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) is a simple pranayama that will help relieve headaches, try to perform it as soon as symptoms are experienced.
Sit in any comfortable position with a straight spine. Using the right hand place the thumb beside your right nostril, your first two fingers to your forehead and your ring finger beside the left nostril.
Block your right nostril and inhale through the left nostril, then block the left nostril and release your thumb so that you can exhale through the right nostril. Now inhale through right nostril replace your thumb to your right nostril and release your ring finger so that you can exhale through the left nostril, continue like this for up to five minutes and then rest with your eyes closed whilst you breathe slowly in and out through your nose.
Anxiety and Stress
The Ujjayi breath is otherwise known as the breath of tranquillity, this pranayama will help to relieve stress, calm the mind and prevent feelings of anxiety.
To perform Ujjayi breathing, breathe slowly in and out through your nose, as you do so visualise the air entering and leaving your body through a hole in your throat. This technique will open the throat and as a result you will feel that more air is entering the body. Allow your breath to create a soft sound as it passes across the vocal cords. Both your inhalation and exhalation should be long and controlled and last for approximately the same duration. By focussing your mind on the sound created by the ujjayi breath you can help to relax and calm the mind and create a state of deep relaxation.
A simple Surya Namaska (sun salutation) will help raise energy levels and increase vitality perfect to help banish feelings of fatigue.
Begin standing at the top end of your yoga mat, breathing slowly in and out through your nose. Position your feet hip distance apart and allow your arms to hang along side your body. Feel that you are growing out of the crown of your head, broaden your upper back and release your shoulders away from your ears. Remain here for ten breaths. This posture is called the mountain (tadasana).
Inhale and lift your arms out to the side until your hands are above your head, create a prayer position with your hands.
Exhale and fold forward into a standing forward bend allowing your arms to hang along side your legs.
Inhale and step the right foot as far back as is comfortable whilst bending the left knee. This is a long lunge.
Exhale and step the left foot back so that it is beside the right. Work to create a triangular shape with your body. This posture is called downward facing dog (addho mukha svanasana).
Inhale and place your knees to the floor, relax the feet and make sure that your hands are under your shoulders. This posture is called cat (majaryasana).
Exhale and look through your legs.
Inhale and reverse the movement lifting your hips and head.
Exhale and move back to downward facing dog.
Inhale and step the right foot forward, returning to a long lunge.
Exhale step the left foot beside the right, returning to a standing forward bend.
Inhale and uncurl, lifting the arms up above the head to form a prayer position with the hands.
Exhale and push the palms together, lowering the arms in front of the body.
To complete the cycle repeat this sequence stepping back with the left leg and then repeat the whole cycle two more times.
Apanasana – the wind release, will do just that! It will gently squeeze the intestines and help move waste through the system.
Begin by drawing your knees in towards your chest. Hold on to your knees or shins and breathe slowly in and out through your nose. Inhale and allow your knees to drift away from you 6 – 8 cm and as you exhale draw your knees in towards your chest. Continue like this for 20 complete breaths.
Performing majaryasana (Cat) and Balasana (pose of the child) will help relax the pelvis and lower back and relieve symptoms of menstrual cramps.
Begin on your hands and knees. Place your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Relax the tops of your feet towards the floor. As you exhale round your back up towards the ceiling and drop your chin towards your chest. As you inhale reverse the position by dropping the stomach down towards the floor and lifting the lower back, chest and head. Continue linking breath and movement breathing slowly through the nose for 10 more breath cycles. Then release your hips on to your heels place your forehead to the floor. Position your arms alongside your body resting in pose of the child for at least five minutes.
NB If you suffer from any serious medical conditions you should always seek medical advice first.
Sue Fuller is a leading yoga teacher, writer and well-being expert. She is the founder of www.yoga2hear.co.uk the online store where you can purchase her range of 40 audio yoga classes on CD and MP3 download including Yoga on a Chair. Sue also owns www.wellbeingworldonline.com a one stop shop featuring high quality downloadable yoga, pilates, meditation, relaxation and sound healing classes from a worldwide collection of inspirational teachers and experts.