4 Yoga Postures to Cleanse the Emotional Body
Every spring, within the newly melted and awakening soil, Mother Earth grows fresh plants and herbs that naturally purify and replenish our physical bodies. But it’s important to also replenish your inner space after you’ve cleared out toxins, old stories, and stuck energy. I invite you to consider an a emotional cleansing this Spring using traditional asanas to clear your mind and process stuck emotions. Let’s focus on clearing ourselves from the limiting dynamics of anger, fear, grief, and worry to make space for the higher energies of joy, love, freedom, and peace.
Half Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Wringing out anger. When our lower bodies act as a foundational support for the upper body to spiral around in a twist, transformative changes bless our inner organs. Specifically the liver and the spleen benefit from the half spinal twist as we inhale fresh, new life, and allow all that is old and stale to be washed away. The liver, according to Chinese medicine, is where the majority of our anger resides in the body. We create toxins in this vital organ when we hold on to hurts, grudges, and resentments. With each inhalation, lengthen the spine and invite the Prana of the breath to bathe the liver. Consider a relationship, either with yourself or another, where you are holding on to the hot fire of anger. On the cooling exhalation, spiral your belly, rib cage, and upper chest around to the back. Go beyond surface level as you deepen into the grace of understanding, beginning to release all the anger you have stored up that no longer serves you. Choose compassion as you transform the bitter taste of anger into the sweet nectar of forgiveness. Breath by breath, relax deeper into the twist, opening up space inside you for greater JOY.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Releasing fear. This particular posture is usually practiced following the shoulder stand as a counter-balance. After turning your world upside down, it’s now time to focus on expanding and opening the heart and lung area. Fear often settles in this area, creating a kind of static that keeps us from being able to clearly hear our loving inner voice. As your body weight rests on your legs, buttocks, forearms and the crown of the head, lift the rib cage and upper chest area as high as it will go upward (that feels comfortable on your body). Create an opening directly from your heart to the vast sky above, as you increase the capacity of the lungs to take in the breath of life. Be aware of that which you fear, that which holds you back from taking the necessary steps to live your very best life. Softly forgive yourself of your fears, and know that it is okay to release them to the sky above to be transformed. You can let down your walls you might have put up to avoid getting hurt, and courageously risk opening our heart bigger and wider than ever before. Let this love fill you, the space around you, and all those in your life ready to receive the beauty of your heart. Emotionally swim in the pure ocean of LOVE like a fish as you breathe in to the fullness of the pose.
Child Pose (Balasana)
Softening grief. With the innocence and un-self-consciousness of a small child, rest your upper body along your upper things as your hips melt down toward your heels. Allow your forehead to find its support on the Earth as you feel nurtured and protected at the same time. In this safe space, with your eyes closed and your gaze internally focused, become aware of the grief pangs which are residing in your heart. Who has passed from your life? Which relationship have you lost? What sadness remains? As you breathe deeply into your child body, let your heart open the door into your emotional field and observe what lies within you. The child is faithful in each moment to whatever emotion is awake and alive. Be the child, feeling fully and not holding anything back; cry if the tears come streaming down. Let memories of that which has passed flood your being. Mother yourself in the nourishing energies that relax your whole being and soften the grief that has hardened over time. As the river of grief is liberated, feel a sense of FREEDOM awakening inside you.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Surrendering worry. Beginning in staff pose, we raise our arms up to the sky, and then bow our upper body down over our upper legs. Our hands rest softly on our legs or feet, wherever they can reach, and little by little the central channel of the spine gives way to the sweet pull of gravity. In forward bends, we invite a calming of the mind. Close your eyes and listen to the monkey mind in all of its worries and frets, it’s many variations of ‘what ifs’. Just for this moment, be completely present. The future lies far away from the next inhalation and exhalation, and it is not yours to fret over or attempt to control. Trust your strong legs now connected to the ground beneath them to support you in letting go fully with your upper body. Surrender the worries clouding your sky mind, allow yourself to go deeper into the physical fold, and open up to the vast expanse of PEACE that has been waiting patiently to bless you.
Wishing all you yogis and yoginis well as you transform your yoga practice into one that emotionally cleanses you in ways that are a blessing for our entire universe.
8 Reasons Why Yoga Makes You Happier and Healthier
Develop Superpowers With Yoga
Yoga stretches the body, supports circulation, flushes the lymphatic system and stimulates major organs. It also alleviates common ailments and may be considered preventative medicine.
1. Reduce Pain
According to Harvard Health Publications, several studies found that a weekly yoga practice can reduce lower back pain and may be more effective for addressing pain than standard medical care or exercise therapy. Yoga improves the daily function of people struggling with curvature of the spine due to fibromyalgia and osteoporosis-related conditions.
2. Alleviate Anxiety
Anxiety has become one of the most common disorders in the US and studies have shown that yoga may be more effective, and possibly less expensive, than pharmacological treatment in alleviating symptoms, according to a 2007 study published in Evidence-Based and Complementary Alternative Medicine. The study found that a yoga session increased brain Γ-Aminobutyric (GABA) levels by 27 percent in yoga practitioners; anxiety and depression are traditionally associated with low GABA levels.
While yoga may not erase all attachments to a painful past, another study found that it can promote healing for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through peaceful embodiment and an awakened sense of calm.
3. Get Out of the Clouds
Conducting scientific studies to prove that a yoga class has a positive effect on the mood may seem unnecessary to a dedicated yogi but nonetheless, when those who struggle to get out of bed manage to muster the strength to strike a pose and breathe through the low point, the effort is proven to uplift.
Researchers at UCLA, Moscow Research Center of Narcology and University of Bologna, found that, of the 17 subjects that completed the study: 1) all experienced significant reductions in anger, depression, neurotic symptoms and low frequency heart rate variability; and 2) 11 of the 17 subjects achieved remission levels post-intervention. Not only does yoga have the power to reduce depression, but it is potentially a practice that can sustain improved mental health.
4. Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
According to a 2014 study published by the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, adults involved in a yoga practice, compared to those who did not exercise, exhibited improvements to body mass, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, over time. The evidence is promising for cardio-metabolic health.
5. Improve Quality of Life for Cancer Survivors
Many studies explore quality of life impacts, as well as psychosocial and symptom-management benefits, of yoga as an intervention tool, usually with positive findings. For example, a 2012 study published in the journal of Evidence-Based and Complementary Alternative Medicine supported preliminary evidence of the significance of yoga for improving quality of life and symptoms in cancer survivors.
6. Improve Gene Expression
According to a 2013 study conducted by researchers at the University of Oslo and Oslo University Hospital, yoga can improve gene expression, especially in terms of immune function. Experimental sessions of gentle yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation had a significantly greater effect on gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of subjects, compared with the control group protocol of walking in nature and listening to relaxing music.
Nature explains that, “genes encode proteins and proteins dictate cell function.” Gene expression refers to the ability of DNA to replicate, express and repair itself. Improved gene expression may be connected to improved immune function, cellular integrity and adaptability, in the evolutionary sense.
7. Support Smoking Cessation
Yoga may squash cravings in general but it has also been proven to reduce perceived stress and negative affects associated with smoking cessation, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health.
8. It’s Never Too Late
It is never too late to get started or resume your yoga practice. Patanjali’s first Yoga Sutra states “Now begins the practice of yoga.” Remove the limitations that you identify with from the past, as well as your expectations for the future, and just get on your mat.