Supporting the Life Force: Yoga for Immunity

by Djuna on November 5, 2012

The immune system has been called the “floating brain”; it has memory, re-activity  and informs our being regarding where our boundaries lie. Thus, it is essential in sustaining our deepest life force. Maintaining a vibrant immune system is a central aim of the yogic practice.

In the yogic system the subtle channels in the body, nadis or little rivers, house our vital fluids. Nadis are best described as vessels or conduits for prana and the word nadi implies movement, resonance, or flow. The nadis become blocked through an imbalanced lifestyle, or patterns of fear or anxiety.
In addition to yoga practice, we can reflect on our lifestyle choices and allow time for retreat where deep healing occurs. We allow for rejuvenation by listening and responding to the intelligence of the body.

The following poem by Rumi illuminates this wisdom:

Your intelligence is always with you,
overseeing your body,
even though you may not be aware of its work.

If you start doing something against
your health, your intelligence
will eventually scold you.

Your intelligence is marvellously intimate.
It’s not in front of you, or behind,
or to the left or the right.

More intelligent than intellect,
and more spiritual than spirit.

No being is unconnected
to that reality, and that connection
cannot be said. There, there’s
no separation and no return.

There are guides who can show you the way.
Use them. But they will not satisfy your longing.

Keep wanting that connection
with all your pulsing energy.

Like the nadis, the lymphatic system is comprised of vessels and nodes which house the lymph fluid- filtering, purifying, and attacking pathogens. The lymphatic system is also compromised by stress and the majority of immune diseases are stress related: “Our biography becomes our biology”.
Lymph nodes are concentrated in the neck, upper chest, under arms, digestive system, and inner groins. Other major components of the immune system are the thymus gland located behind the upper sternum, the spleen, and bone marrow.

The lymphatic system lacks a pumping mechanism and relies on muscular movement as well as the circulation created by healthy breathing patterns. Asana practice promotes the flow of lymph through long holds, twists, and inversions. Our aim is to bathe the heart, throat, and head by placing the head below the hips and promoting ease around the cranium. By applying and releasing pressure around the under arms and groins we stimulate the flow of lymph to these areas.

The breath is perhaps the most effective in moving fluids throughout the body. We can visualize moving the breath from the core to the periphery of the body.

Asana Practice for Immunity:
Please note the asanas given are not for all levels and should be practiced with the guidance of an experienced teacher. The sequence is meant to boost immunity not to cure any condition.

Supta Padangusthasana I- sacrum on a bolster, upper arms in line with shoulders to open top chest and create jalandhara bandha.
Adho Mukha Svanasana- head supported on bolster, all senses soft.  Delineating boundaries- fingers, and toes, skin.

Virasana with garudasana arms
Vinyasa- movement of head and neck, breath and movement.
Chaturanga- hold under diaphragm, liver and spleen squeeze.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana- inner hands root to draw center of chest upwards, lift collarbones.
Uttanasana- head support on two blocks, strap outer feet to awaken inner leg.
Parsvakonasana- partner work: use strap to externally rotate front thigh and open groins.

Prasarita Padottansana-  head support.
Virabhadrasana I – back heel on block to open front groin. Strong internal rotation of back leg. Upward movement of spine, release head back, open throat from sternum.
Vinyasa between chest opening while sitting on heels to “rabbit” pose with crown of head on floor and back body wide.

Sirsasana- kneeling on chair with head supported on bolster or full pose with feet wide.
Kapotasana- hands on chair to support opening the front body. Strong internal rotation of back leg, turn back hip forward to open groin and bring ease to the sacrum.

Paryankasana over bolster

Partner work to narrow front of pelvis and widen sacrum. Hold ASIS (anterior superior iliac spines) and draw them together.

Dhanurasana- with bolster to liver/spleen, abdominal lymph massage.

Ardha matsyendrasana- in half lotus to stimulate lymph nodes in groins.

Salamba Sarvangasana- support with a chair and bolster under shoulders.
Matsyasana- shoulders supported on block.
Jathara parivarttanasana- with pelvis bolstered.
Viparita karani- sandbags on the feet.
Savasana- sandbags, blankets and head wrapping, thigh bones heavy to rest the bones, eyes watery, pratyahara.

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The Power of Inversions

by Djuna on October 27, 2012

Inversions are powerful medicine for the body and mind.

This sequence explores headstand, shoulder stand and their variations to cultivate understanding of safe practice.  The sequence aims to open the upper back, strengthen the shoulder girdle and release the neck. Opening the thoracic cavity through inversions prepares for the practice of pranayama.

We opened the practice with somatic awareness movements to increase range of motion and awareness of the shoulder girdle. To learn more about this work go to:

Asana practice:
These are my practice notes and are not definitive on the practice of inversions.  

Supta dandasana with block to inner thighs.
Adho Mukha Svanasana- draw outer arm to inner.

Standing series at the wall to retract shoulder blades: stand with side to wall, palm on wall, retract shoulder blade and lift collarbone, then turn torso away from wall.

Gomukhasana arms

Surya Namaskara b series and step into :

Padottana 3x- head to block, hands interlaced, elbows on block, and
reverse namaskarasana.

Virabhadrasana I.- with strap over back thigh hold with arms overhead.

Urdhva hastasana- strap above elbows to retract shoulder blades.

Parsvakonasana- retract shoulder blades and stretch triceps.

Parivrtta parsvakonasana from back leg- diagonal pattern from back heel to pinky.

Forearm chaturanga- uddiyana from the side.

Tadasana with all sirsasana cues- feet, legs, tail. Reach arms up from root of arm, hold from rhomboids and serratti.

Viparita sirsasana

Ardha Chandrasana with back heel to wall

Sirsasana- Partner assist with two straps over shoulders

Sequence for purvottanasana:
1. Hands to chair seat
2. On floor strap elbows, outer hips up
3. Partner strap around sacrum and lift


Adho Mukha Svanasana

Salamba Sarvangangasana- both supported on a chair and feet to wall.
Parivrtta upavista konasana or seated gomukhasana forward bend to widen costal vertebra.

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The Sacred Sacrum: A sequence for sacral ease and stability.

October 25, 2012

The sacrum is the key bone of the pelvis and forms the foundation of the spine. Postural balance and centering occurs at the sacral level in the svadhisthana or second chakra and the sacrum initiates the strong centering movement of the tailbone, which is mulabandha. In hatha yoga the center of the body is the pelvic floor, mula or [...]

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Yoga for Computer Burn Out

June 11, 2012

Ever find yourself realizing too many of your sacred moments have been devoured by time spent online? Maybe you get up from an extended spell on the computer wondering what exactly you have accomplished. The computer and internet are necessary and arguably beneficial tools to create connections and thrive in our careers and personal lives. However, [...]

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Learning to see: Yoga and the eyes

May 23, 2012

 “I am learning to see. I don’t know why it is, but everything enters me more deeply and doesn’t stop where it once used to. I have an interior that I never knew of…” Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge Yoga is the process of moving beyond our habitual view, clouded with [...]

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The Courage to Teach

April 22, 2012

I recently heard the quote “be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” This has suddenly become clear for me as life puts up it’s challenges and I find myself feeling a bit wounded as well as deeply compassionate for the wounds others sustain. Having just moved to the Bay area, I’m subbing [...]

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The Deep Life Force of the Legs

March 22, 2012

“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the [...]

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Essential Asana: Salamba Sarvangasana

December 11, 2011

Shoulder stand is an essential asana. It is considered the queen mother of all poses because of it’s range of health benefits including improved circulation and vital immune, digestive, and endocrine systems. Shoulder stand brings blood to the brain stem which controls our deep life sustaining rhythms.  It is considered a “cooling pose” because of [...]

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taking in less…

December 9, 2011

This time of year food becomes a social activity and often I find myself eating at odd times, without intention. Today I decided to eat very simply, only greens and avocado, a little fruit. This is cleansing of course, but the true value for me was biting into piece of cucumber and tasting its prana [...]

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Mudita: Cultivating Joy

November 28, 2011

I.33 Maitri-karuna-mudita-upeksanam sukha-duhka-punya-apunya-visayanam bhavanatas-chitta-prasadanam. The cultivation of loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity toward all situations positive or painful, successful or failures, serve to quiet the mind. (Translation by Nicholai Bachman) “In daily life we see people around who are happier than we are, people who are less happy. Some may be doing praiseworthy things [...]

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