Yoga Routine for Fatigue

Yoga for Fatigue Relief

By Marla Apt
December 10, 2018

Yoga Routine for Fatigue

 

Too tired. For many it’s the default response to every request—even the fun ones. Some of the walking weary are simply too overworked or overstressed to get adequate rest, while others may feel drained by a physical ailment, a psychological condition, or the side effects of medication. Whatever the cause, all can benefit from the respite that a fatigue busting restorative yoga practice provides.

 

The benefits of restorative yoga

Why not a vigorous practice? When someone is deeply fatigued, a dynamic practice, like a double espresso, can be depleting, despite its initial invigorating jolt. Restorative yoga, on the other hand, soothes the senses, so they stop urging the mind and nervous system to react and instead turn their attention inward—on the breath or embedded tension, for example. These asanas also lower anxiety levels and calm the fight-or-flight response—the stress-induced outpouring of adrenalin and other hormones that taxes the systems of the body.

Furthermore, deep, long-standing fatigue can turn the simple, unconscious effort of standing upright into an exhausting task, and when the shoulders stoop and the spine sags, the chest and diaphragm get compressed, the breath becomes shallow, and the abdomen tightens. Under these circumstances, who has the strength or energy to hold their body with integrity in a yoga asana? That’s why blankets, bolsters, blocks, and belts are essential props in a restorative practice. With their help, passive supported backbends allow the chest to expand without physical effort and open the body and mind to the stimulating effects of the pose without draining already-low energy reserves.

   

How this routine relieves fatigue

The first asana of this sequence, supported purvottanasana (upward plank pose), broadens and lifts the chest and frontal diaphragm away from the lower body. This posture encourages the inhalation to expand outward and upward toward the top chest, bringing lightness, while the abdomen can flow downward and soften on the exhalation.

 

Similarly, supported forward bends quiet the mind and body and provide a reprieve from overstimulation by turning the attention of the brain and senses of perception inward. At the same time, because the bolsters and blankets support the organs in the frontal body, the back of the body and kidneys relax and spread, further relieving tension.

 

Finally, inversions provide support for all of the body’s systems, especially the immune and endocrine systems, and thus help address various kinds of hormonal issues—like adrenal fatigue. Inversions give the heart a rest from its effort to pump blood to the brain and let gravity help refresh the legs and lower body from heaviness and vascular stagnation.

 

All of these asanas are meant to be held for up to 10 minutes each. However, if you experience any pain or strain, you may need to rearrange your props or gradually build up your endurance for each pose.

 

SHALAMBA PURVOTTANASANA (OVER TWO CHAIRS OR A BED)

 

 

Place a bolster across the seats of two chairs positioned side by side, a few feet from the wall, with the majority of the bolster on the chair farthest away from the wall. Fold a blanket and place it at the back end of the bolster. Sit at the edge of the chair with the bolster a few inches away from your buttocks.

 

Keep your knees bent, feet on the floor and lie back over the bolster. Place the blanket under the back of your neck and head so that your head isn’t tilting backward. Extend your legs and place your toes on the wall, and heels on the floor. Slowly push away from the wall to straighten your legs.

 

Roll your shoulders underneath you so that your chest lifts and spreads. Let your arms release to your sides. After a few minutes you may wish to change your arm position. You can rest your hands on your front ribs or hold your elbows and take your arms overhead. Breathe here for up to 10 minutes. To come out, bend your knees and use your hands to help you gently sit up.

 

SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA

 

 

Place a bolster vertically a few inches behind you and sit in front of it with your knees bent. Fold a blanket on the other end of the bolster for your head. Bend your knees to the sides and join the soles of your feet together. Tie a large loop through a belt and slip it over your head and around your lower back. Pull the loop in front of you over your toes and underneath your feet so that the sides of your belt are on the inside edges of your legs. Now bring your feet closer to your pelvis and tighten the belt so that it is holding your legs close to your torso. Don’t make the belt so tight that you feel a pull on your knees.

 

Lie back over the bolster and place your head on the blanket so that it doesn’t tilt back. With your hands slide your sacrum and buttocks toward your feet so that your lower back feels long. If you feel any compression in the lower back, you may need to slide a bit more off the bolster toward your feet.

 

Pull your shoulder blades away from your neck and roll the outer edges of your shoulders down so that the chest spreads from the center to the sides. Let your arms release to your sides on the floor, spreading away from your chest, rotated outward, palms facing up.

 

If you feel any strain in your knees or inner thighs, place a support underneath the outer edge of each leg. Close your eyes and rest for up to 10 minutes. Allow the abdomen to recede away from your chest on the exhalations as your chest expands outward and upward on the inhalations.

 

VIPARITA DANDASANA AND SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA (OVER BOLSTERS)

 

 

Position two bolsters end to end and place two blankets, folded lengthwise, on top to cover each bolster. Sit on the front bolster with your back to the other bolster. Tie one belt firmly around your thighs and one around your ankles to hold your legs together. Keep your knees bent and lie down on your back on the bolster. Pushing off with your feet, slide back until your head rests on the floor, but keep your shoulders on the bolster.

Straighten your legs and extend your arms straight overhead until the backs of your hands rest on the floor. Lengthen the side body toward your arms, and your sacrum toward your heels. If you feel any compression in the lower back, actively lengthen the backs of your legs toward your heels, turn the thighs in, and lift your tailbone (or bend your knees). Rest there for 3 to 5 minutes.

 

Now bend your knees and slide off the bolster until your shoulders and head both rest on the floor. Straighten your legs. Extend your buttocks and the backs of your thighs toward your heels. Rest your arms alongside the bolster, palms facing upward. Tuck your shoulders underneath and rotate your upper arms out to broaden your chest. Keep your chest broad as you relax your abdomen and diaphragm. After 5 to 10 minutes, bend your knees and slide off the bolster until your pelvis reaches the floor. Rest on your back with your thighs on the bolster for 30 seconds before turning to your side, untying your legs, and sitting up.

 

 

ADHO MUKHA SVASTIKASANA

 

 

Sit with your legs crossed at the center of your shins in svastikasana so that your feet rest underneath your knees. If your knees lift up higher than your pelvis, sit up on a blanket or two. Pull a bolster onto your lap and place a folded blanket or two on the other end of the bolster. Press the end of the bolster down under your abdomen as you lengthen your torso forward.

 

Rest your abdomen and chest on the bolster, and your forehead on the blanket. Add more blankets, another bolster, or use a chair if you can’t comfortably reach the bolster. Cross your forearms and hold your elbows, resting them overhead on top of the blanket.

 

Relax your forehead and eyes and allow your attention to withdraw as you rest for two minutes, before changing the cross of your legs and arms and repeating on the other side.

 

CHAIR SARVANGASANA

 

 

Place a chair about two feet away from a wall with the back of the chair to the wall. Put a folded mat with a folded blanket on top of it on the seat of the chair, and two or three folded blankets in front of the chair on the floor. Sit backward on the chair with your legs bent over the top of the chair back. Scoot your hips as close to the backrest and wall as you can.

 

Holding the sides and then the front legs of the chair, lower your torso until your shoulders are on the blankets and your head is on the floor. Take your arms under the chair seat between the front legs of the chair to hold the back legs of the chair. Look toward your torso and relax your throat and tongue.

 

Place your feet on the top of the backrest of the chair. Roll the outer edges of your shoulders down and open your chest. Lift your shoulder blades and the sides of your rib cage up perpendicular to the floor. Keep your hips on the seat of the chair as you stretch your legs up to the ceiling one at a time. Keep your legs perpendicular to the floor, straighten the knees, and balance the two sides of your pelvis evenly on the seat of the chair. After a couple of minutes, you can take your legs, one at a time, up onto the wall. Rest the backs of your heels on the wall with your legs straight. If you can’t reach the wall, keep your legs straight up perpendicular to the floor or rest your feet on the top of the chair’s backrest with your knees bent.

 

Hold this asana for up to 10 minutes. To come out of the pose, bend your knees and place your feet on top of the chair’s backrest. Let go of the chair legs with your hands and, pushing the chair toward the wall with your feet, slowly slide back off the chair until your pelvis reaches the floor. Rest for a minute on your back with your calves on the seat of the chair and a blanket underneath your head (not your shoulders). Then roll to your right side and sit up.

 

VIPARITA KARANI

 

 

Place a bolster with two folded blankets on top of it near a wall, with a couple of tall blocks between the bolster and the wall to keep the bolster from rolling into the wall. Sit with your right outer hip on the bolster so your sit bones are touching the wall. Use your hands behind you on the floor to support you as you roll your sacrum onto the bolster and your legs up the wall. Push your hands into the floor to push your hips closer to the wall. Gently lower your head and shoulders to the floor, careful to keep your hips close to the wall.

As in sarvangasana, roll the outer shoulders down into the floor and lift the sides of your chest. Relax your throat and allow the neck to lengthen away from the bolster. Relax the abdomen and allow it to recede back toward the bolster.

 

Close your eyes and settle here for 10 to 15 minutes. If your legs get tired, cross them in svastikasana, feet resting on the wall for a few breaths, switching the cross halfway through. To come out of the pose, bend your knees and bring your knees and feet together. Press the feet into the wall and slide off the bolster until your whole back is on the floor. Cross your legs in svastikasana and rest them on top of the bolster; switch the cross of your legs halfway through. Then roll over to rest on your right side before sitting up.

 

Deepen your practice of Iyengar yoga and experience a new level of self-awareness that brings clarity, peace, and strength. Marla Apt hosts the Iyengar Yoga Immersion at the Art of Living Retreat Center from August 1-4, 2019.

 

Marla Apt, a Senior Intermediate Level certified Iyengar Yoga teacher, is based in Los Angeles, where she teaches public classes and conducts teacher training in addition to teaching workshops in the US and internationally.

 

This article was originally published in Yoga International Magazine, and is reposted with permission from the author.


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: fatigue , Marla Apt , yoga , yoga routine
Yoga Routine for High Blood Pressure

Yoga for High Blood Pressure

By Marla Apt
September 10, 2018

Yoga Routine for High Blood Pressure

Keeping high blood pressure in check

Chances are at least one person in your life – a family member, someone you work with, or a good friend – has high blood pressure and takes one or more pills a day to bring it under control. Why so likely? Because high blood pressure – what doctors call hypertension – affects one in three adults in the United States. Elevated blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease, is often described as a “silent killer.” Recognizable symptoms do exist – fatigue, nosebleeds, nervous tension, ringing in the ears, dizziness, bursts of anger, headaches – but not generally until blood pressure is dangerously high.

 

Stress as the culprit

Blood pressure – the force blood exerts against the walls of your arteries as it travels through the circulatory system – fluctuates during the day, increasing during exertion or stress and decreasing when the body is at rest. Most doctors agree that a blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 is ideal for adults, and diagnose hypertension when those numbers reach 140/90. The top number (the systolic pressure) refers to the amount of pressure in the arteries when the heart beats or contracts. The bottom number measures the diastolic pressure, or how much pressure remains in the arteries between beats, when the heart is relaxed.

Although several conditions can cause secondary high blood pressure (kidney disease, hormone abnormalities, type 2 diabetes), more often than not a high-stress lifestyle can lead to what doctors call “essential” hypertension, where there is no disease-specific cause.

 

The benefits of yoga and pranayama

Yoga, when performed mindfully, can reduce this type of stress-induced hypertension, while addressing its underlying causes. It pacifies the sympathetic nervous system and slows down the heart, while teaching the muscles and mind to relax deeply.

 

Pranayama can also be extremely beneficial. Research studies demonstrate that conscious breathing quickly lowers blood pressure. Practicing pranayama while lying down encourages the breath to arise smoothly from a relaxed state, without any force. If you do choose to sit, keep your spine straight and lift your chest, while keeping your head down in jalandhara bandha, so that there is no strain on the heart.

 

A few notes on poses

While a general yoga practice has a pacifying effect and can bring the nervous system into balance, some asanas work better than others for actually lowering blood pressure – and simple modifications make others more beneficial. For example, do cooling poses, such as forward bends where the head is supported – to bring a sense of calm to the head, neck, face, and diaphragm. Modify any standing poses in which the arms are normally extended overhead (like virabhadrasana I) by placing your hands on your hips. In trikonasana (triangle pose), look down toward the floor instead of up at the ceiling to keep blood pressure from rising. Steer clear of poses that compress the front of the diaphragm, such as dhanurasana (bow pose) and mayurasana (peacock pose), which can drive blood pressure up.

 

Anyone with untreated high blood pressure should avoid unsupported inversions, such as shirshasana (headstand pose) or adho mukha vrikshasana (handstand pose) – or any other pose in which they can feel pressure in the throat or temples, or that cause respiration to become heavy or difficult.

Practicing a modified halasana (plow pose) is a good way to experience the benefits of inversions without the potentially harmful effects, because you can learn to bear weight on the upper body and lengthen the sides of the neck without any strain. So if your blood pressure reads on the high side, stick to the modified version below.

 

Forward bends and other introverted asanas teach us how to quiet the brain and lengthen and soften the neck along the path of the carotid artery. When doing these poses to lower blood pressure, support the head, which has a cooling, calming effect on the whole body.

 

A yoga routine for high blood pressure

The following sequence is designed to prepare you to work toward the practice of inversions safely and without raising your blood pressure. At no time should you feel agitated or uncomfortable in any of these poses. If you feel flushed, hot, or dizzy while practicing, come out of the pose and rest in balasana (child’s pose) until you feel normal again.

 

End your practice with at least five minutes of shavasana, using a blanket, if necessary, to support the back of your neck so it stays long and your face can completely relax toward your chest.

 

Supported Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

 

Begin on your hands and knees and place two or three blankets (folded lengthwise) underneath your chest. Press the weight evenly through the hands as you straighten your arms and lift up through the inner edges of the arms. Release your shoulder blades away from your neck toward your hips, straighten the legs, and lift your pelvis up into adho mukha shvanasana (downward-facing dog pose). Separate your feet wider than hip-width apart.

 

Lift the pelvis away from the wrists and, keeping the legs firm, press the fronts of the thighs away from the torso toward the backs of the legs and lengthen your calves down toward your heels. Extend the inner arms from the wrists toward the shoulders as you move the shoulder blades away from the neck toward the pelvis.

Let the back of your neck release down so that your head (somewhere between the top of your forehead and the crown of the head) can rest on the support. If your head doesn’t comfortably reach your support, add another blanket. You shouldn’t have to bend the elbows in order to reach the blankets. If your neck feels compressed or your head jams into the blankets, lower your support.

 

When you can balance the dynamic action in the limbs and torso with the rest and relaxation in the head and neck, you’ll be able to hold the pose for a few minutes without feeling strain. When you come down, separate and bend your knees, sit on your heels, and release your head to the floor in balasana.

 

Supported Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose)

Separate the feet as wide apart as the narrow side of a yoga mat. Align the outer heels and little toes on the edges of the mat, and place a block at its tallest height between your feet and in line with your big toes. Depending on your proportions and the flexibility of your hamstrings, you may need more or less support. Stack a couple of blocks, if necessary, or put the blocks or a folded blanket on the seat of a chair to rest your head.

 

Bend forward, straighten your legs, and place the crown of your head on your support. Hold the ankles and spread the elbows apart from each other. Move your shoulder blades away from your neck, but let the back of your head descend toward the floor. Even though your head is resting on your support, keep the majority of your weight in your feet, balancing the weight evenly between the front, back, inside, and outside edges of the feet. Lift your thighs firmly and press the thighbones toward the backs of the legs without disturbing your head. The back of the neck should feel long and the chest broad. Breathe normally and stay in the pose for as long as you like, up to three minutes. Place your hands on your hips, inhale, and come up.

 

Supported Pashchimottanasana (Posterior Stretch Pose)

Sit on two folded blankets and extend your legs straight in front of you in dandasana (seated staff pose), feet hip-width apart. Place a bolster lengthwise on top of your legs, with a folded blanket on the bolster closer to your feet. Lift the sides of your torso up. If you find that you’re slumping backward, sit on more support. Extend forward and hold the outside edges of your feet with your hands. Lengthen your abdomen over the bolster and rest your forehead on the blanket.

 

If you can’t reach your feet, hold a belt around the feet; if your head doesn’t reach the blanket, rest it on a chair instead, padded with at least one blanket. Straighten your legs and press the thighbones toward the floor as much as you can without allowing your heels to lift. Relax the forehead and spread your elbows as you release the shoulders apart and away from your neck.

 

Extend through the backs of the heels and move your back ribs toward your front ribs down onto the bolster. Keep the back of the neck long and soft and relax your facial features. Hold for two minutes and then return to dandasana.

 

Supported Halasana (Plow Pose)

Experiment with this pose using blankets, a bolster, and a chair for support. If you feel any discomfort, simply come out of the pose and rest in shavasana. Stack three folded blankets at the end of your mat. The smooth, folded edges of the blankets should be in line with the edge of your mat. Open another blanket on the floor in front of your mat for the back of your head, place a bolster on the mat behind your blankets for your pelvis to rest on, and position a chair on the floor in front of your mat and folded blankets. Lie down with your shoulders, upper back, and base of your neck on the stacked blankets, your head on the blanket on the floor, and your pelvis resting on the bolster.

 

Reach your arms overhead and hold the feet of the chair. Push the chair away from you until your arms are straight. Bring your arms back by your sides and place your palms on the bolster. Rotate your upper arms outward and open the chest. Pressing your hands into the bolster, bend your knees toward your chest, lift your pelvis off the bolster, and take your feet overhead, toes onto the seat of the chair. Separate your feet as wide apart as the seat of the chair, toes curled under.

 

Clasp your hands behind your back, straighten your arms, and roll onto the outer front edges of your shoulders. Press your wrists into the bolster and lift the sides of your chest away from the floor. Relax your throat and allow the back of the neck to softly lengthen.

 

Pressing your toes down, lift the fronts of your thighs away from your head and straighten your legs. Release the clasp of your hands and rest the backs of your hands on the floor besides your head, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your legs active but your head and neck passive, and your throat and face completely relaxed. To come down, bend your knees and slowly roll your upper, middle, and then lower back to the floor, keeping your head down. Rest on your back for a minute before rolling to your side to sit up.

 

Supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Sit on the front end of a bolster and belt the tops of your thighs together. With your knees bent and your feet on the floor, lie back onto the bolster. Using your feet to push against the floor, slide off the bolster just until your shoulders reach the floor and are at the same level as your head. Then extend your legs straight, backs of the heels on the floor.

 

Roll the outer edges of the shoulders underneath you and broaden your chest as you lengthen your arms alongside the bolster. Turn the upper arms out and the palms toward the ceiling. If your lower back aches or feels compressed, elevate your feet on a support and lengthen the sacrum and buttocks toward your heels.

Relax your throat and allow the root of the tongue to descend toward the back of the throat. You can close your eyes and gaze inwardly toward your chest, so that your forehead and cheeks soften and release completely. Relax the area between the eyebrows and around the temples.

 

Stay in this pose for as long as you like – up to 10 minutes; you should feel completely relaxed. On an exhalation, bend your knees, push your feet into the floor and slide off the bolster until your entire back comes to the floor. Rest the backs of your legs on the bolster for a few moments and then roll over to your right side and sit up.

 

After sitting up, you can cross your legs and bend forward to rest your forehead on the bolster. If your head doesn’t reach, elevate the support. Hold for a half a minute and then change the cross of your legs and repeat on the other side before sitting up.

 

Deepen your practice of Iyengar yoga and experience a new level of self-awareness that brings clarity, peace, and strength. Marla Apt hosts the Iyengar Yoga Immersion at the Art of Living Retreat Center from August 1-4, 2019.

 

Marla Apt, a Senior Intermediate Level certified Iyengar Yoga teacher, is based in Los Angeles, where she teaches public classes and conducts teacher training in addition to teaching workshops in the US and internationally.

 

This article was originally published in Yoga International Magazine, and is reposted with permission from the author.


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: blood pressure , Marla Apt , yoga , yoga routine

Learn more about our 2018 retreats and offerings!

Catalogs

Stay in touch