Whilst animal by-products can exacerbate inflammation and be taxing on the body, daily yoga and a plant-based diet helps heal and repair the body. Tamara Graham explains.
Inflammation is now considered to be the major cause of most chronic diseases, including heart, cardiovascular, lung and digestive problems and skin issues. Inflammation of any tissue in the body attracts extra fluid to the site, and an imbalance of electrolytes like sodium, calcium and magnesium at a cellular level, is commonly found as a result of such inflammation.
Acute inflammation is your body’s natural response to infection and injury. If you sprain your ankle it swells and feels inflamed. This is necessary and helpful short-term response from your immune system. It sends white blood cells to the injury site to repair the tissue.
Chronic inflammation is another issue. It is a damaging long-term problem that can result in local tissue damage, and has been linked to serious health problems and disease.
According to neurosurgeon Kevin Tracey, excessive inflammation in the body’s tissues is directly regulated by the brain, and specifically by the strength of vagus nerve activity, which among other tasks, resets the immune system and switches off production of proteins that fuel inflammation. Research indicates low vagal tone is associated with chronic inflammation.
Yoga breathing practices increase vagal tone. Learning to slow your breathing down through Yoga has the dramatic effect of calming your body and mind and 'turning on' the relaxation response of your parasympathetic nervous system. Blood pressure and heart rate decrease and muscles relax. Brainwaves slow down and alpha brain waves increase. Blood flow increases to your vital organs improving digestion, fertility and immunity.
Yoga has a beneficial effect on your whole body; toning your muscles, tissues, ligaments, joints and nerves. It boosts your metabolism, lymphatic circulation and hormonal secretions bringing a chemical balance in your body.
According to Ayurveda, the Yoga system of medicine for a long life and inflammation in the body relates to a Pitta Dosha imbalance. When Pitta is balanced, we’re focused, clear and ambitious. If out of balance we can feel angry, have trouble sleeping and feel too fiery.
One of the ways to bring Pitta into balance is to have a little more fun. Being more playful, not overworking and opening to joy in a light-hearted way helps cool Pitta. The twisting postures of Yoga help us look at things from more than one fixed point of view.
From a yoga point of view, inflammation relates to ‘burning’. We burn out because we rush as though our lives are on fire, reacting to one urgent task after another, rather than responding from a place of peace. Yoga recognises this capacity within us all to be in daily life and to transcend it at the same time, but to do this we need to centre. Quietly.
- Make sure your body is warmed up and be to take it slow.
- Align your knees at hip-distance, making sure they are stacked directly under your hips.
- Bring your hands to your lower back, with your fingers pointing up and scoop your tailbone towards the ground.
- Draw the base of your shoulder blades together and, as you inhale, lift out of your low back and expand your chest toward the sky.
- Be sure to bend, not hinge. Lift your chest toward the sky and backward.
This posture is also excellent for your digestion and releasing tension.
- From sitting, bend your right leg and place your right foot outside of your left thigh, with your left leg tucked under.
- Wrap your left arm around your right leg and draw your thigh towards your torso
- Inhale to lengthen your spine, exhale to twist towards the right.
- Press into your right hand as if you’re dragging your little finger back behind you to activate the mucles in the bsack of your shoulder helping to turn you more to the right.
- Repeat on the left side
- Sit in Padmasana, lotus pose.
- Ensure you are seated evenly on the ground, blanket or bolster with your legs crossed.
- If it’s easy for you, and no pressure on your knees, place right foot high (close to navel), bring your left foot over the right.
- Lengthen upwards through your spine like it’s the stem of the lotus. Sit in such a way that your stem is strong and balanced, front and back. Feel all the way up the stem of your spine to the very top of your skull. Visualise a lotus flower there, softly blossoming open to the light.
- Give yourself time each day where you let go of all the rushing, pushing, doing, and just be.
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