When doing yoga, we think it's important to not only think about lengthening and strengthening our muscles but to also consider how your practice can help your personal constitution, internal organs and energies.
Ayurvedic Medicine is a sister science to yoga. It's roughly translated to "science of life". And while yoga focuses on the asanas, pranayama and meditation, Ayurveda attempts to harmonize the body through life habits such as diet, detox, mantra, herbal medicine AND also yoga.
Ayurveda prescriptions include yogic postures, breathing and personal reflection based on the ailment you are treating.
Inflammation and inflammatory pathologies can be supported by balancing what Ayurveda refers to as 'Pitta' (internal fire and heat).
Yoga postures and adjustments that fight heat aim to decrease chronic vasodilation, regulate blood flow and cool the mind.
This can also be used in Holistic Vanity. Anti-inflammatory yoga is another dimension to holistic beauty as it aims to temper all inflammation including skin redness, rosacea, eczema and inflamed acne.
Before we get to selecting poses, let's start with the basics.
Slower paced yoga will move lymph and blood without over-stimulating the latter. Moving the lymphatics is important for avoiding water-retention, which puts pressure on your capillaries, but fast-paced exercise will spike circulation, creating heat.
Along with this, if you're prone to inflammation and Pitta, you should practice in a cool room.
Hot yoga classes are good environments for those who need more stimulation as the heat increases blood flow. But for those with too much vasodilation, this can be too much.
Practice in a comfortably cool room (not cold) for a gentle, soothing yoga ritual.
If you are looking to calm inflammation, make sure to incorporate soothing pranayam (breathing exercises) at the end of your yoga session.
This brings cooling breath and oxygen into the body and calms the mind. An examples of this type of pranayam is 'Sheetali'. We encourage you to watch a video, of which there are tons.
A more grounded mind must also be emphasized during your entire routine. We know it sounds granola but setting intentions are powerful.
Trying to avoid tendencies of perfectionism or competitiveness is very important. Simply enjoying how your body feels and focusing on living in the body rather than the mind helps to temper inflammation linked to our mentalities and stress.
One tip to help with this: be conscious of softening the face and hands while practicing. When we are concentrating hard and are in a more detail-oriented frame of mind, we tend to tighten our expressions and stiffen our hands. Relaxing these areas will send feedback to relax the mind too.
Those with excess Pitta are recommended to do poses with twisting involved. This is said to "wring out the digestive organs", where a lot of inflammation resides. It is no coincidence that this is also the site of the Liver, which is said to hold heat in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is also an organ system that focuses on skin inflammation.
This breaks up the heat in the abdomen, which is also the main site of Pitta (in our jatharagni – digestive fire).
With this, Ayurveda recommends upright postures and to avoid bending poses in which your head is lower than your heart.
Bending encourages blood to pool in the head, bringing heat through the blood and stimulating extra blood flow when you return to an upright position.
This is an especially good tip for those with rosacea and sensitive skin, as blood will also pool in the face putting more pressure on the capillaries, risking vessel breakage.
Some examples of cooling postures are:
Half Lord of the Fish
Revolved Side Angle
Another anti-inflammatory tip is in your modifications.
Again, Pittas need to soften their hands during poses (not to have them made into strong spears). When doing poses such as warrior, remember to make your wrists supple. This will also encourage you to instinctively soften your face, gaze and mind.
Here are some poses to look out for:
Image by Jade Stephens via Unsplash