June 9, 2014

Yoga Therapeutics: Back to Basics with Downward Dog. ~ Sarah Rose

downward dog

In a time where yoga selfies of fancy-dancy headstands and scorpion poses—while beautiful—are all the rage, it’s also important to understand the therapeutic benefits that yoga asanas (poses) have on our mind, body and spirit.

Any pose where the head is below the heart and the hips above the heart or the feet are higher than the head constitutes a yoga inversion. Downward dog is a milder inversion because the feet are not lifted, but you still get therapeutic benefits without the risk to your cervical spine—which is always a bonus! One of therapeutic benefits is a change in blood flow—this increases the flow of blood to the heart allowing for higher oxygenated blood and improved circulation.

Increased blood flow to facial tissues is a great tonic for complexion for everyone interested in glowing skin!

Downward Dog also increases effects the endocrine system.

Neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin) are released to help cope with depression, anxiety, mental alertness, and positively affect memory and sleep cycles. Blood flows to the thyroid gland at the neck stimulating the metabolism, and the pituitary gland secretes nine hormones when inverted that regulate homeostasis. Detoxing benefits are from the stimulation of the lymphatic system and immune system response—relieving muscles of lactic acid buildup.

I’ve personally been using inversions and short bursts of cardio intervals to assist my lymphatic system in flushing excess histamines from my system due to accidentally eating soy, for which I have an allergy.

Also, similar to how the heart pumps blood flow, the diaphragm moves lymphatic fluid, but the diaphragm does not act as a pump like the heart does—the diaphragm has no pump.

Inversions allow for fuller exhales through the diaphragm which helps pump lymph. Shallow, non-diaphragmatic breathing causes a sluggish lymph system and toxic buildup.

Downward dog also improves constipation and elimination. Adding twists after an inversion is also recommended to support digestion. Muscle tension is reduced 35 percent while inverting so this helps with anxiety, tension, sleep quality and insomnia.

It is recommended to hold an inversion yoga pose for a minimum of three to five minutes to receive therapeutic benefit.

Contraindications: Not recommended if you are pregnant, have diarrhea, high blood pressure (could cause stroke!), or carpel tunnel syndrome. What did I miss?


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Apprentice Editor: Jessica Sandhu/Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Author’s Own

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