Can yoga keep you healthier this winter?
Try this routine to help your body fight off illness this season.
Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 03:00 PM
The worst place to work is a college campus. Well, maybe a junior high is worse, or maybe a day care center, or maybe just having kids. Or maybe it’s just leaving your house at all, once the cold weather hits. And what am I referring to? I mean the worst places for getting sick in the winter. (Which is awful.)
I worked for years at Norwich University teaching Energy Medicine Yoga. A constant rotation of students would come through, four times a week, week after week, sniffling, coughing, sneezing. Downward Dog, Upward Dog, cough cough cough — and I’d be walking around the room making adjustments, my hands all over their germy bodies and mats. Yet I never got sick!
Yoga alone is a powerful tool for staying healthy. The postures help move lymph, the back bending helps open up the lungs, and the breathing practices help keep a strong flow of fresh oxygen in the cells. (Lymph is a clear fluid that fills the lymphatic system, which acts as a drainage and filtering system for the blood vessels and helps eliminate infections.) But energy medicine yoga takes it further, with its emphasis on detoxification, and keeping the energy of the body humming along on the right path. When the body is in balance, the body wants to heal. That is its natural state. This type of yoga helps to bring the body into balance faster than other forms of yoga, and hence, keeps you healthier. Some of these simple practices can keep you from getting sick at all.
Thump it out like Tarzan
If you’ve followed my writing and have read the intro to energy medicine yoga, some of this might be familiar. One of the most powerful things you can do is thump all over your chest. These “Tarzan” thumps, especially in the center of your chest on the sternum, stimulate your energy systems and get them moving forward. What often happens when we start to get tired and run down is that our energies start moving backward, leaving them vulnerable to getting sick. Thumping on the sternum, right over the thymus gland, stimulates the gland to produce more T-cells, which help boost immunity. This is a great thing to do when starting sun salutations, as you lift up and lean back in a gentle backbend, opening up the whole front of the body.
As you continue your sun salutation and lean forward into Uttanasana, or full forward bend, you can take the first two fingers and thumb of each hand, held tightly together, and massage up and down the outside and inside of your thighs. You can do one leg at a time, pressing in deeply toward the bone, or work both outside edges and then both inside edges. Make sure that you’re massaging deeply. This might be painful, as you are pressing on reflex points that trigger your lymph to move out of the body, but it is a powerful way to get those toxins out!
Go through the rest of your sun salutation flow, and on the way back up, when you’re in full forward bend again, interlace your hands and drop them overhead to stretch the shoulder girdle. Then separate the hands and with your thumbs, massage the muscles on each side of the spine as far up as you can reach. Slowly lift up to stand, massaging down the spine as you rise up. This is part of the self-spinal flush, which is one of the most powerful tools for staying healthy.
Massage the sore points
Another way to move the lymph out is to lie on your back, and lift up into bridge pose. Then massage all over your torso, and the outside of your upper arms, again, with the three-finger notch. You have lymph reflex points all over the upper body, and all you need to know is that if it’s sore, it needs your attention. Deeply massage the sore points. (The only time to refrain from this is if there is an injury or trauma at the site that is making it sore. Otherwise, it is most likely stuck lymph, which can contribute to sickness.)
After you release down from bridge pose, take your fingers and starting at your Adam’s apple, stretch the skin out in opposite directions. Using the Adam’s apple as the center of the compass, spread the skin, with slight pressure, outward. This helps to create more space in the throat for the energy to move and can often stop those sicknesses that start with a throat tickle. You can do this in camel pose, and in your sun salutation, and even just walking out of class, when everyone behind you is still coughing. You’ll be amazed at how you can keep yourself healthy with just a few simple tricks. Enjoy the season!
Related stories on MNN:
- 20 yoga poses to channel your inner animal
- Trends in yoga: What's next?
- Do you have to be skinny to do yoga?
Sun salutation photo: Pikoso.kz/Shutterstock