Yoga is an ancient philosophy from India with many contemporary applications. It’s gained popularity for its fitness and stress-relieving aspects, and while most of us know it’s good for the spine, did you know there are many other ailments that yoga can treat? In India, yoga is practiced with meditation, breathing and body poses, with several different schools of thought from Hatha to Ashtanga. We asked our local yogis to match an asana that can counter a particular body ailment, and what they found may surprise you. Forget apples–an asana a day can definitely keep the headaches at bay. Whatever’s bothering your body or mind, there’s an asana for that.
Bakasana (Crow Pose) & Breathwork: Ujjayi (Conqueror Breath)
Ohhh, anger. An emotion that’s not pretty. Those who see my yoga practice now would never believe this but when I first found Vinyasa yoga, I was deeply in love yet so freaking pissed, all at the same time. Very much like a soap opera love story or novella as we call it in Southern California. Heart-wrenching and intensely fulfilling, yet, at least for me in the beginning, so incredibly dramatic. Anytime a posture or transition came up for me that was challenging, you could feel my blood boil from a mile away. I truly believe this is why it’s called a yoga “practice.” By no means is anger something that we get rid of but it’s something that we get better at. The more we learn on our yoga mats, the more we can apply to our lives. Most of the students that come to my classes know that this type of philosophy will be weaved into the physical work that we’re doing. Postures like Bakasana or Crow Pose test our endurance. This helps us establish a genuine relationship with our mind control. The Bhagavad Gita, which is basically the most profound book anyone may ever read, states that “He who can withdraw his senses completely from the sense objects like a tortoise withdraws its limbs, his mastery is established.” To me, that’s like saying If we can control the fluctuations of our mind, then we’ve become a master at living in this life.
Ujjayi or the conqueror breath is pivotal for withdrawing our senses. You can imagine a similar feeling and sound of fogging up a mirror or sunglasses, that same kind of “haa” sound and vibration but the mouth is closed. This breathing is the driving force behind a physical yoga practice. It helps anchor our attention to the task at hand. If one is experiencing a moment of frustration or anger whether through a challenging posture or just driving behind the down hill bikers you can use the conqueror breath of Ujjayi.
Please keep in mind that no postures or breathing practices are guaranteed to heal any conditions of our physical or mental body. If you’re curious about how to utilize the benefits of yoga, please contact your physician, doctor, or proven educated instructor.
Island Spirit Yoga in Lahaina
Find strength with Warrior Two. This pose strengthens the spine, abdominals, legs and ankles. It helps to realign the hips and pelvic girdle.
Breath work: Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
By simply bringing your awareness to your breath, without making any changes to it, you already begin to relax the body and mind. Alternate nostril breathing is a sweet technique that helps keep the mind calm and happy. In addition to being beneficial for headaches, this particular breathing technique takes it a step further to purify the bloodstream and aerate the lungs.
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position with your back straight. Raise your right hand and place your ring finger against your left nostril, closing it off. Inhale deeply and slowly through the right nostril to the count of four. Close off the right nostril with your thumb and hold the breath for a count of one to four. Open the left nostril and exhale to the count of four to eight. The longer you can make the exhalation, the better. Concentrate on completely emptying the lungs. Breathe in through that same left nostril to the count of four. Close off the nostril with the ring finger again and hold to the count of one to four. Exhale through the right nostril to the count of four to eight. This makes up one round of Nadi Shodhana.
Lysha Kamisato Wernig
Westin Maui Resort and Spa
Sukhasana – Easy Seated Pose
We all have those moments when life gets overwhelming and what we need to do is let go, calm the mind and come back to our breath, which in turn brings us back to the moment. This easy seated pose is a comfortable position for meditation and breathwork. As well as calming the mind, it strengthens the back and stretches the knees and ankles. You can modify this pose by using a bolster or practicing it on a chair.
To get into this pose we will sit on the floor in an easy cross-legged position. Slightly flexing the feet and grounding the sits bones, while elongating the spine and relaxing the shoulders. Our hands are relaxed on our knees as we focus on the breath, breathing deeply into our belly and as we exhale clearing our mind and releasing all toxins. To go deeper into this pose and open up the hips, we will place our hands on the floor, inhale, lift and grow and exhale, lengthen and slide the hands away from our feet. Feel the spine elongating, the navel pulling in and as we breathe, lead with our chest. Hold for 10-12 breaths.
Maui Hot Yoga
Detox can mean many things. People can detox the obvious things, chemicals, alcohol, food and poisons. But there’s also detoxing the viruses of the mind. Feelings like sadness, grief, anger, resentment and judgment can be released out of the mind.
I practice hot yoga, and postures like back bends really help to detox the deep internal organs. With the breathing, combined with stretching and sweating, the body can release these impurities. Hot yoga helps assist one in releasing the waste around the waist and helps it pour out the pores. The toxins from the mind, like stress and depression can detox from the mind and release out of the tissues of the body. It’s understood that the brain can only handle so much stress and anxiety. It has to discharge it into the body. Depending on your condition, this can lead to headaches, tight neck, shoulder pain, TMJ and stomach upsets. It’s well known that yoga helps the body discharge these energetic psychological components out of the body and relieves the issues that lodge in the tissues. This leads to the reports that yoga helps people’s well being overall.
Island Spirit Yoga
Shoulder-stand pose is my go to pose not only for improving digestion. It stimulates the thyroid, aiding in proper hormonal balance and ideal weight, relieves swollen feet and ankles, stretches shoulders and spine, strengthens abdominals, legs and buttocks. Sarvangasana also aids in restful sleep, calms mind and relieve stress and mental fatigue, activates kidneys and adrenal glands and also relieves some symptoms of menopause. It allows the blood to flow down and top of our organs and brain allowing clearer thinking.
This is an easier option to invert without doing a headstand or handstand. If you wish to detoxify, you can activate the kidneys a bit more by lowering one leg to the earth and then raising it back up and then alternate. I find it calming, mind-opening and open to all perspectives. I do not recommend to do this pose if you are menstruating, headache, high blood pressure or a neck injury. It’s wonderful to enter and leave this pose from Halasana (plough pose). This pose reduces stress and fatigue, calms the mind, aids in insomnia, invigorates abdominal organs (through inversion), stretches the entire length and back side of body from hells to neck, stretches the shoulders, stimulates the thyroid gland and rests the heart.
Body Alive Yoga and Movement Studio
When I feel bloated I will often practice apanasana (which translates to wind removing pose). This posture invites us to lay on our back and draw one or both knees into our chest, drawing our bent knees in closer by holding them with our hands or arms. The closeness of the legs to the belly can help relieve the pressure experienced when we feel bloated and stimulates digestion which can help get things moving!
Read our other Health and Wellness Articles in this issue: