by Hannah Liot, Zuna Yoga 200 hour yoga teacher training student
Have you ever just felt off? Slightly tired, slightly sick, but you can’t quite figure out what’s going on with your body? Sounds like your body may need to reduce inflammation.
Recently, I was going through that. Instead of going to a doctor, I decided to see an acupuncturist. She told me that I had been feeling 'off' because I had inflammation in my body. Acupuncture would help, but I needed a long term plan. I immediately found myself googling definitions of inflammation and diving into Yoga and Ayurveda literature, searching for an answer.
What is Inflammation?
In order to reduce inflammation, I had to investigate further. I found that inflammation manifests itself in the digestive system and leads to low immunity, skin problems, digestive issues, sleep deprivation, and depression. NP Marcelle Pick and founder of Women to Women explains that inflammation is caused by stress. Anxiety and stress cause your body to release a hormone called cortisol, which sends a shock to your immune system and central nervous system, causing them to become inflamed. Additionally, eating carbohydrates or treats with refined sugar bring up insulin levels in the body and continue to cause inflammation.
I also came across a study that was done at The Ohio State University. Professor Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and her team found that yoga was directly linked to anti-inflammation benefits. The study compared yoga practitioners who held a regular weekly practice with a control group who infrequently practiced yoga. The results showed that the practitioners had lower levels of an inflammation cells called IL-6 in comparison to the control group. When the groups were tested in stressful situations the practitioners were found to have less IL-6 in their system than people from the control group.
In Yoga and Ayurveda, inflammation is known as Pitta: fire and heat within the body. To soothe and heal inflammation, cooling asanas should be incorporated into the practice. Poses that twist the body are great anti-inflammatory aids because they massage and detox the digestive system. Moving through the practice at a slower pace will allow blood and lymph nodes in your body to circulate and detox without creating heat.
The next section will discuss how to reduce inflammation in the body fast.
5 Anti-inflammatory Asanas to Reduce Inflammation:
These asanas will not only help you to reduce inflammation, but also rid your body of toxins and cool down your nervous system.
- Half Lord of the Fishes/Ardha Matsyendrasana
- Belly Twist/Jathara Parivartanasana
- Revolved Chair/Parivrtta Utkatasana
- Revolved Side Angle/Parivrtta Parsvakonasana
- Seated Easy Twist
Best Ways to Diminish Inflammation
In addition to asana practice, pranayama also has a positive impact on inflammation. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Swami Swatmaram explains that in particular the Sheetali breath has a cooling affect on the body. It rejuvenates the endocrine and nervous systems and it relieves the body of excess heat.
Sheetali Breath: Inhale for 4-5 seconds through a rolled tongue and release breath through the nostrils.
Inflammation is your bodies way of going into a self-protect mode. As this happens more and more, our bodies register this as a normal response, leading to chronic inflammation. Inflammation happens easily, and often we're unaware of it (until an acupuncturist tell us). Yoga brings balance into our lives, whether that is through a physical practice or working towards an emotional healing. Next time you're feeling tired and 'off,' think about the effects of inflammation, and try incorporating some of the these poses into your practice. I promise you will not regret it!