Body aches, angry belly and exhaustion: inflammation! inflammation! inflammation! My insides are pissed. I’m not sure what the culprit is though I have some suspicions– (I’m looking at you: food allergies, overtaxed muscles, coming down from an emotional high and STRESS.) This last week has been brutal.
I have been doing some reading about the impact of yoga on inflammation in order to revamp my practice to address my angry bod. I came across this journal article. The study found that IL-6 levels were 41% higher in novice yoga practitioners than in individuals who have been practicing longer.
**For reference, Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is a cytokine (molecule that signals cells) which mediates the immune response that occurs due to fever, infection, allergic response or trauma leading to inflammation.
Encouraged by this finding, I decided to dig a little deeper to see if I could find other studies that demonstrate the impact of yoga on inflammatory markers.
When you’re feeling uncomfortable in your body, it can be challenging to engage in a body centered practice because it requires acknowledging the discomfort. I know that for me, if I ignore the discomfort, it will persist. I put together a gentle yoga sequence that feels good in my body to reduce inflammation. As always, just because this is a good sequence for me, that doesn’t mean it is what your body needs. Feel free to use it as a guide and make any changes along the way. All yoga should be practiced with caution. Respect your body. New bodies are hard to come by.
Gentle anti-inflammatory mini sequence:
1. Balasana (childs pose)
2. Seated tummy circles
- Sit up with your legs crossed.
- Place your hands on your knees.
- rotate your stomach in a large circle counter clockwise for 90 seconds. Imagine drawing a big circle with your belly button.
- After 90 seconds (or really, however long feels good to you) rotate your stomach clockwise.
*Benefits of tummy circles: warms up lumbar region of the spine, improves digestion as the gentle movement massages your internal organs, particularly those involved in eliminating waste. This movement also activates and aligns the ileocecal valve. (TMI? Oh well!)
3. Seated tummy massage
- sit on your knees with your bottom resting on your heels (if your knees are sensitive, fold a soft blanket under your knees for cushion. If your hips do not reach your heels, prop up your bottom with a block (placed between your legs)
- reach your arms out in front of you and make two fists. Your knuckles should be facing up towards the ceiling. Your 2 fists should be against one another, with your thumbs touching.
- curl your fists down and under so that your knuckles are facing your belly. As you move your fists closer to your belly, lean into your fists so that they begin to compress into your belly. Use your fists to explore any tension in your abdominal area. begin on the lower right hand side of your belly, just above your pelvis. This is your ascending colon. Move your fists in a circle starting at your ascending colon up and over (just below your diaphragm) ending at your descending colon. I lean deeper into any area that feels especially tender and massage that area with my fingers. Please note that if anything hurts, STOP! You know your body best. Practice with caution.
4. Table top to cat/cow with dynamic movement (shift hips back and side to side)
5. Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)
6. Uttanasana (forward fold) come into a wide legged forward fold
- in this posture, lift your left heel off of the ground (leaving your toes on the mat)
- lower your left heel and repeat with your right heel (you should feel a stretch in the gluteus medius)
7. Arda uttanasana (half way lift)
8. Come to a seat for a seated body scan. Check in with your body and notice if there are any areas that feel swollen, inflamed, bloated or irritated. Imagine soothing warm salt water infiltrating those parts of your body– moving in an out and around the irritated parts. That imagery works well for me, but you can choose whatever is soothing to you.
9.Viparita karani (literally: inverted action; a.k.a. legs up the wall)– get cozy and hold for 10 minutes.
10.bring knees to chest and roll gently left to right to massage lower back
11. savasana- 10-15 minutes
One of the very first posts on the Acorn Bends Facebook page was this photo from The American Institute of Stress, shared by Anatomy in Motion (if you have an interest in anatomy, I recommend following their Facebook page– great, accessible information on the human body.)
What do you do when your insides get angry? If you have any favorite ways to decrease inflammation, please share!
“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” -Dalai Lama