When engaging in the physical postures of yoga, we experience notable improvement in strength, flexibility and balance; this primarily is about conditioning the muscular-skeletal system. But yoga is also fantastic for the Organ System.
As we go journey through life, the demands upon our physical body vary. Sometimes we may be actively engaged in ‘exercise’, and other times, not so much. During periods of inactivity, or sedentary lifestyles, including sitting at a desk for hours every day, create stagnancy in the organ systems. As a result, they function poorly and are a magnet for disease as toxins accumulate.
When more active, our choice of exercise may not stimulate the organs in a way that cultivates optimal functioning. Running improves the cardiovascular system; weight training is superb for strength, and sports vary in how they condition the body, but nothing conditions the organ system like well balanced hatha yoga practices. How does this happen?
If we consider how yoga engages an ‘Open and Squeeze’ system, alongside moving the spine in all possible directions, we begin to understand how yoga conditions the organ systems.
When we extend into any back-bend, say cobra pose, we stretch the stomach, intestines, and squeeze the kidneys; in the counter stretch, a forward fold, we open the kidneys and squeeze the digestive & elimination organs. When we stretch laterally, as in triangle pose, we open up spaces between the ribs, facilitating the expansion of the lungs, improving respiration. When one side is stretched, the other is squeezed, so the other lung gets a push to eliminate toxic buildup of inhaled pollutants and respiratory byproducts. When twisting the torso, we stretch and squeeze the liver, spleen, lungs, organs of digestion & elimination, as well as the heart. These primary movements (extension, flexion, lateral & twisting) improve and/or maintain optimal functioning of the organs of respiration, digestion, reproduction, detoxification and elimination through the squeeze and open dynamic.
In addition, when we consciously breathe deeply and smoothly and in a rhythm with postures, circulation of blood and oxygen improves, so all the organs are detoxified and nourished more deeply. Conscious full breathing also massages the glands (reproductive, adrenals, pancreas, thymus, thyroid) improving and/or maintaining optimal endocrine functioning.
Particular imbalances can also be addressed through selective yoga postures and practices. For example, if your immune system is not up to par, you can do poses that stimulate concentrated zones where lymph nodes predominate: neck, armpits, stomach, groin, knees and ankles. Because these are engaged in a variety of poses, it is quite easy to improve your immunity in a well-rounded class.
But if you have chronic conditions, (for example, IBS, stomach hyper-acidity, Chronic Fatigue), you may need to avoid some postures, and focus more upon relaxing within Yin or Restorative postures. In this case, you may want to research or engage a yoga therapist to set you up with an appropriate practice.
Whatever reasons bring you to practice yoga postures, know that you are nourishing yourself in deeper ways than you imagine. Consistency is KEY to maintaining and improving functioning of all your Organ Systems.
If your summer schedule is erratic and you can’t make regular classes, I’d be happy to set you up with a few practices that can carry you through the unstructured summer! Look here for my approach and options for private sessions.