Yoga for Health Prevention & Vitality

As a working woman in her forties with three young children, my body yearns for vitality. Due to aging and life stressors, there are certain negative impacts on the body, which prevent the body from operating optimally. With limited time and a full schedule due to family and work demands, my yoga practice requires intentionality and focus. My yoga practice is aimed at increasing vitality and prevention: i.e., illness and disease prevention, as opposed to illness treatment. There are many methods to adopt to prevent illness, and how effective the measure(s) chosen will depend upon environmental, social, genetic and lifestyle factors.

Each year millions of people die of preventable illnesses or disease.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 55 million people died in 2011 from non-communicable (i.e., noninfectious; chronic) diseases (1). The United States allocates more than 75% of their health care spending on people with chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer; and these conditions are the leading causes of death and disability (2).

More and more health care systems across the globe are focusing efforts on prevention by including a broad range of preventative services within the coverage offered to citizens, including yoga, massage, acupuncture and diet consultations. This reduces health care spending and has been found to increase the overall well-being of citizens (3).  Even if you live in a country where health preventative services are not covered, I encourage us all to be proactive and accountable for our health.

Below are a series of yoga asanas aimed to promote optimal functioning of specific systems within the body.  

These systems are responsible for prevention of chronic disease and for increasing our vitality. As you will see several asanas are incredibly beneficial as they impact numerous systems simultaneously, as these systems are highly interrelated. Approach each section below with a gentleness and focused attention. If you do not have time to complete the entire sequence, then select a few postures. Each asana alone is incredibly beneficial.

* One ujjayi breath cycle includes an extended-long-full inhale and exhale.

Endocrine

Photo by momjunction.com

Photo by momjunction.com

The endocrine system manages our hormones, which are organic (chemical) elements that direct and monitor primary functions in the body, including digestion, reproduction, sleep patterns and cognitive processing. Hormones are released by glands, including thyroid, pituitary, pineal and adrenal glands, the testes and ovaries. There are certain asanas that encourage effective secretion of hormones into the bloodstream cultivating a healthy endocrine system.

·      Supine Padaghustasana I-III (with strap) (3-5 ujjayi breaths each side)

·      Cresent Moon - Side body stretch (3-5 ujjayi breaths each side)

·      Tadasana Ghomukhasana arms or modified (with or without a strap; could also sit in a chair) (3-5 ujjayi breaths each side)

·      Seated twist (in a chair) (3-5 ujjayi breaths on each side)

·      Supported Uttanasana (crown of head on blocks, hands on blocks, feet wide) (1-2 minutes)

·      Salamba Sirsasana( variation would be Adho Mukha Svanasana supported with forehead on block and heels up a wall) (1-5 minutes depending on ability)

·      Half plough pose – Ardha Halasana (with chair & blankets) (1-3 minutes)

·      Viparita Karani (with bolster/blocks under pelvis) (5-8 minutes)

Immune

Photo by gratitudeonline.com.au

Photo by gratitudeonline.com.au

The immune system is the defense mechanism and protects us from disease and illness. The main agent is the blood. The blood consists of red and white blood cells. The white blood cells prevent microorganisms from invading the blood stream, such as certain bacteria and fungi. When an immune system is compromised, there is an increased susceptibility to infections, fatigue, insomnia and malignant disorders.

·      Supta Baddha Konasana (with bolster, blanket & strap) (3-5 minutes)

·      Setubandha Sarvanghasana- Supported (with bolsters and straps) (1-3 minutes)

·      Supta Virasana (With bolster and blanket) (1-3 minutes)

·      Salamba Sirsasana( variation would be Adho Mukha Svanasana supported with forhead on block and heels up a wall) (1-5 minutes depending on ability)

·      Half plough pose – Ardha Halasana (with chair & blakets) (1-3 minutes)

·      Viparita Karani (with bolster/blocks under pelvis) (5-8 minutes)

Brain and Nervous System

Photo by pintrest.com

Photo by pintrest.com

The central nervous system (CNS) is our primary engine and control panel, which is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are within the CNS and control the involuntary functions of the organs, glands and other parts of the body, including blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, metabolism, hydration, elimination and sexual response. Supporting the nervous system in yoga also helps alleviate insomnia and mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

·      Adhomukha Virasana (supported with bolsters and blankets) (1-3 minutes)

·      Supta Baddha Konasana (with bolster, blanket & strap) (3-5 minutes)

·      Prasarita Padottonasana (supported if need be with hands & head on blocks) (3-5 ujjayi breaths)

·      Supported Uttanasana (crown of head on blocks, hands on blocks, feet wide)

·      Adho Mukha Svanasana (supported with forehead on block and heels up a wall) (1-5 minutes depending on ability)

·      Half plough pose – Ardha Halasana (with chair & blakets) (1-3 minutes)

·      Viparita Karani (with bolster/blocks under pelvis and arms straight up to ceiling) (5-8 minutes)

·      Savasana (5-10 minutes)

·      Savasana (with ujjayi breathing and eyes covered) (3-5 minutes)

Lymphatic System

Photo by everybodyyoga.co.uk

Photo by everybodyyoga.co.uk

The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system and a vital part of the immune system. It is comprised of a network of lymphatic vessels that carry clear fluid called ‘lymph’ which moves through the body picking up pathogens and draining them out through the lymph nodes. The lymph moves along the lymphatic vessel network by either intrinsic contractions (of the lymphatic passages) or by extrinsic compression via contractions of the skeletal muscles.  Hence, yoga is very effective for keeping lymph flowing, which maintains healthy & clean blood (and essential for cancer prevention).

·      Supine Padaghustasana I-III (with strap) (3-5 ujjayi breaths each side)

·      Bhujanghasana Cobra Pose (3-5 ujjayi breaths)

·      8-Point Shoulder Stretch (3-5 ujjayi breaths each side)

·      Prasarita Padottonasana (supported if need be with hands & head on blocks) (3-5 ujjayi breaths)

·      Salamba Sirsasana (variation would be Adho Mukha Svanasana supported with forehead on block and heels up a wall) (1-5 minutes depending on ability)

·      Setubandha Sarvanghasana- Supported (with bolsters and straps) (1-3 minutes)

·      Half plough pose – Ardha Halasana (with chair & blankets) (1-3 minutes)

·      Viparita Karani (with bolster/blocks under pelvis and arms straight up to ceiling) (5-8 minutes)

 

1.    The Top 10 Causes of Death. (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2014, from World Health Organization website: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/index2.html

2.    Mokdad, A. H., Marks, J. S., Stroup, D. F., & Gerberding, J. L. (2004). Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000. Journal of the American Medical Association,291(10), 1238-1245.

3.    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Retrieved from http:// www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/index.htm.