Have you ever had swelling in your leg, knees, or ankles? How about excruciating joint pain? Stiffness all over? I have felt burning pain in my fingers at times, and then it slowly goes away. For some, it might be a tingling sensation in the lower back or hips. These signs and symptoms tell us there is inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is part of the body’s defense mechanism that helps the body initiate its healing process. Inflammation isn’t all bad—it’s the body’s coping mechanism to combat “intruders.” But trouble happens when inflammation gets out of control.
Studies will tell you that the underlying cause of many diseases—from cancer to the common cold—is inflammation. To give you an idea, inflammation has been blamed as a culprit in osteoarthritis, insomnia, weight gain and weight loss, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, sinusitis, frequent infections, allergies, dermatitis, diabetes, cardiac disorders, cancer, fibromyalgia, IBS, colitis, peptic ulcers, periodontitis, autoimmune conditions, mood disorders such as depression, and Crohn’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases.
Ayurveda defines all inflammatory conditions as an imbalance in Pitta dosha, made up of fire and water elements. When the fire principle gets deranged, inflammation shows up. Imagine everything on the inside getting cooked up! The key to lowering inflammation would be bringing Pitta dosha back into balance.
What Causes Inflammation?
Unmanageable stress, unhealthy diet and lifestyle (e.g. a Pitta-provoking diet; substance abuse; too much alcohol or caffeine; large consumption of processed, fried, or junk food), inadequate sleep, and insufficient exercise all lead to inflammation. We also can’t overlook genetic predisposition that puts people at risk. Then there are environmental contaminants, chemicals, parasitic infections, contagious diseases, low-grade infections, and exposure to allergens, all of which can also increase the risk of inflammation. Obesity also increases the chances of inflammation.
How Can Yoga Help?
In my practice, I use yoga (asana, pranayama, and meditation) to lower the pain stemming from inflammation and to move prana to the right places. But yoga is beneficial in myriad ways. Yoga has been shown to help reduce inflammation and boost the immune response through boosting mood. Yoga can also help control our stress and anxiety, which will impact our diet and lifestyle choices. Results from one study showed that a Hatha yoga practice for 10 weeks supported improvements in participants’ levels of inflammation.
Depending on the type of inflammation and part of the body that’s affected, I would recommend modifying more challenging poses, or even completely abstaining if the suggested asana hurts you. But these five asanas are not too challenging; they release heat from the body, alleviate stress, lower anxiety, lessen fatigue, and offer several other benefits. As always, work with a trained yoga expert so they can explain contraindications, as well as modifications based on your health requirements.
Yoga Poses for Inflammation
Balasana (Child’s Pose): This is a gentle inversion that increases blood flow to the head and neck. It naturally opens the hips and relieves stress, anxiety, and fatigue while stretching your back, ankles, and hips. Vata imbalance causes both anxiety and constipation, and this simple asana can also stimulate the digestive system and relieve constipation.
Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2 Pose): This pose helps relieve muscle pain and improves circulation and respiration. It also energizes tired limbs. Here is what happens when your circulation and respiration are boosted: Your body is ready to combat stress and function much more effectively. This pose also lowers stiffness and develops balance and stability.
Trikonasana (Triangle Pose): This asana is good for all doshas. From an Ayurvedic lens, Triangle Pose is especially effective in balancing vyana vayu, one of the sub-doshas of Vata. According to Sandra Anderson at Yoga International, “When vyana vayu is deranged, both body and mind become disintegrated and weakened, resulting in disjointed efforts, various physical maladies, and alienation and anxiety at the mental level.” This pose strengthens the legs, back, inner thighs, hamstrings, calves, spine, shoulders, chest, and hips. It also improves balance and focus. It’s considered therapeutic for osteoporosis and sciatica. Emotionally, Trikonasana balances the root chakra, sacral chakra, and heart chakra. Blockages in the root and sacral chakras create a sense of fear, doubt, and laziness.
Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Twist): Twists are great for releasing heat or lowering Pitta in the body. When you are actively in your twist, you are wringing out your digestive system, as the movement improves digestion and aids in waste removal. This asana relieves pain in the low back, spine, and hips. It opens tight shoulders and balances the sacroiliac joint. It also helps quiet the mind. For those dealing with inflammation in the gut, the twist flushes out gases and enhances metabolism. Overall, it rejuvenates the body. This pose also addresses hormonal imbalances, which can cause mood swings. This pose eliminates negative emotions, stress, and fears through the hip opening.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose): This is one of my favorite poses at the end of the asana class right before getting into Savasana. The reverse blood flow is nourishing to the knees. It also relieves swollen ankles. This asana calms anxiety and relieves symptoms of mild depression and insomnia. Additionally, it is claimed that the Legs Up the Wall Pose can be beneficial for people suffering from metabolic syndrome, restless leg syndrome, venous disease (varicose vein), fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and hot flashes.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.
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