Archive for March, 2011

In yoga, cleansing and flushing out the lungs can be invigorating. There is an experience of lightness, greater energy, and vitality as the body and mind are energized. Yoga respiratory cleaning is a helpful step in flushing out the mind.  People suffering from asthma and allergies have found these yoga practices helpful. However, always consult your doctor and yoga teacher/therapist for your own specific needs.

Depending on individual capability and limitations, certain pranayamas are useful in flushing out the respiratory systems. The intensity, rate of breathing, and the number of breaths are calibrated to individual needs. Seniors, people suffering from high blood pressure, GERD, GI issues, hernias, respiratory issues, cancer patients, and all other medical problems should seek medical advice and a competent yoga therapist. Those who are comfortable and familiar with neti can first flush the nose out.

Gentle yoga cleansing of the respiratory system: full yogic breath, bhramari pranayama (buzzing bee breath–the audio track is on the CD Breathe Fully Live Free on mahasriyoga.com

Moderate yoga cleansing of the respiratory system: slow kapalbhati (skull-shining breath) done as instructed by an experienced teacher

Intense yoga cleansing of the  respiratory system: bhastrika (bellows breath) done as instructed by an experienced teacher

Digestive and respiratory cleansing can be done on the same day. The pranayamas are done in the morning, before a meal and after emptying the bladder and bowels. The two types of cleansing go well together.

Yoga digestive cleansing is a kind of fast that has many benefits. It gives the digestive and excretory tracts a rest along with a good clean. Wastes that accumulate regularly are tamasic in nature (heavy, toxic, associated with inertia and lethargy). So a good clean out is beneficial physiologically. All religions have ritual  fasts for these reasons. It enforces self-discipline. The body feels lighter and more energetic. As seasons change, cleansing and partial fasting help reset the metabolism. More on fasting will appear in a separate blog post.

When pranayama is combined with digestive cleansing, it is particularly effective. The pranic energy (samana, apana, prana) involved with digestion, excretion, assimilation is freed up to be directed spiritually. The whole pranic body is energized and it helps clear mental and emotional blockages. The process of yoga mental cleansing begins. There is a feeling of mental lightness and freedom that accompanies the physical lightness of being. It is a joyful feeling.

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Spring brings important holidays: Easter, Passover, Holi. For yogis, it is the Spring ritual of a thorough cleaning, or detoxification, of the body and mind. Detoxifying the digestive system is an important step. The next two posts will be on the detoxification of the respiratory system and the mind.

For digestive cleansing, there are a number of options in yoga:

Yoga for gentle cleansing and detox of the digestive system: Gentle cleansing can be done by eating a little more sparingly than normal and consuming mainly fruits, vegetables, and a little whole grain. Consume a comfortable amount of room-temperature water in between meals. To stimulate and invigorate the digestive system and peristalsis, gentle rowing and grinding pawanmuktasana exercises along with gentle spinal twists  (Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha) are helpful. Other  movements, such as modified surya namaskar or sun salutations  are also beneficial (see chair yoga). This can be done for several days.

Yoga for moderate cleansing and detox of the digestive system: Clean out the digestive tract with any suitable detoxification system with fiber and mild laxatives. Asanas recommended for laghoo shankhprakhshalan (see below) can be added as an independent practice to help invigorate the digestive system and stimulate peristalsis.

Yoga for intensive cleansing and detox of the digestive system: Laghoo shankhprakhshalana is for those who are comfortable with the practice. The details are in the book Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.

Vigorous physical activity or asana practice during the digestive cleansing and detoxification phase is not recommended. During the cleansing process, it is better to avoid food that is spicy, salty, very sweet, fried, and non-vegetarian food. Lighter dals (split and hulled legumes) are easier on the system than beans and the most recommended dal is mung (click on the link to go directly to the recipe).

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A study by the National Institute of Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, finds that a combination of hatha yoga and meditation is more effective than meditation alone. An hour of yoga, three times a week, boosts the mood and immunity of people being treated for depression.  A combination therapy can create neuroplastic changes in the brain for improved brain signaling. One in four families in India has a member with behavioral or mental disorder.

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Yoga for Anxiety and Depression – Harvard Health Publications

Click on the link above to go directly to the study.

When the word “yoga” is used, it refers to hatha yoga. Hatha yoga does not include deep meditation. Some dynamic asana practices such as surya namaskar (sun salutations), if medically permitted, can be a very helpful component in therapy.

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Yoga Nidra is probably the most popular of all guided yoga meditation practices. The classic text  is Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda. He is the one who organized the ancient tantric system of nyasa into a whole system of mental yoga therapy that has been attracting Western psychologists and psychotherapists.

The system of Satyananda Yoga Nidra not only helps with stress and high blood pressure, asthma, Parkinsons, pain management, cancer patients, post traumatic stress disorder, but also improves memory and focus. Some equate it to a profound “power nap”. Swami Rama, founder of The Himalayan Institute, also  has his version of Yoga Nidra. Different types of Yoga Nidras are being used to treat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghansitan.

Of all the meditations I teach, this system of guided meditation has been the most popular across all age groups. Some of the most loved Yoga Nidras from our past classes, based on the Satyananda format, are on the website http://mahasriyoga.com/meditation/tracks.html  as a set of four progressive tracks that form a complete whole.

Yoga Nidra is so popular because it is very easy to do and it heals deeply from within, even healing wounds that are deep within the subconscious. I have used it with women in a domestic abuse shelter as well as stressed out executives seeking relief and clear focus. It helps release layers of stress and hurt. Emotions are calmed for a clear and sharp focus. Stress, anxiety, hyepractive mental activity blur focus and perception. In Eastern Europe, Yoga Nidra has been used to teach children different langauges much faster than by traditional methods. The book gives details of many different studies.

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YogaMed is a complement to the website Mahasri Yoga. YogaMed will inform like-minded people on medical research in yoga and meditation, yoga therapy, useful articles and appropriate seasonal information, other yoga and meditation blogs,  helpful tips, and humor.

I am Meena Modi, a yoga meditation instructor and yoga therapist. Through this blog, I can stay in touch more often with close friends from all of my yoga classes over the years. More formal material – online pranayama and meditation tracks, in-depth book reviews, recipes, stories, and articles – will be accessible on my website.

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