Thursday, 23 February 2017

Yoga for the brain- Part 2 - Nourishing the brain

The brain is greedy for oxygen - it consumes around 20% of the body's oxygen.  It is a similar story with blood glucose - the brain consumes around 20% even though the brain is only around 2% of our body weight.  It is therefore important for optimal brain function to have a good circulation to the brain and optimise the entry of oxygen into our bodies.  The following sequence opens up the chest with back bends to ensure a good supply of oxygen to the body and inversions bring oxygen to the brain.

You will need two blocks.

Start in Child pose -come towards the back of your mat and sit on your heels.  Bring your head to the mat and your hands round to your heels.  Allow your breath to settle.  If you do not like your head low stack your fists and rest your forehead on your fists or place your forehead on a block.

Cat/Cow - with your hands under your shoulders, knees under hips, breathe in lift your head and chest, breathe out tuck your chin and arch your back.  Continue working with your breath. 

Puppy - come back to all fours and keeping your hips lifted walk your hands forward, bringing your forehead to the mat.  Melt your heart towards the mat to create a back bend.  If the pose is hard on your shoulders, try taking your hands further apart or interlace your fingers above your head.  To come out of the pose walk your hands back to all fours.

Sphinx - lie on your tummy with your arms extended forward, your tail bone pressed back and your forehead on the mat.  Slide your elbows back under your shoulders, forearms parallel and your fingers spread and open.  Your gaze can be straight ahead or down at the mat so that the back of your neck is long.  Hold for 5-10 breaths then take another Child's pose.

Upward Facing Dog to Downward Facing Dog - come back to lying on your tummy, forehead on the mat and your hands by your ribs, elbows tucked.  Breathe in and press into your hands to come up - be on the tops of your feet with your legs lifted off the mat.  Listen to your body and if you feel any pinching in the lower back, soften your elbows back or come out of the pose.  Breathe out and roll onto the balls of your feet, lift your hips into Downward Facing Dog.  Move between the two poses 3-5 times.
Extended Child's pose -  come to the back of your mat, big toe touching, knees wide.  Walk your hands forward and bring your head to the mat, a block or a cushion. Press your tail bone back and stretch forward to lengthen your spine after the back bend.  Stay here for a few breaths then inhale and come to all fours.

Downward Facing Dog to Wild Thing - breathe in come back to all fours, breathe out and lift your hips high into Downward Facing Dog.  From here breathe in and take your right leg back, breathe out and drop your right heel to your left buttock, opening your hips to the right. Bend your left knee a little and let your right foot come down on your left side as you lift your chest towards the ceiling.  To come out of the pose breathe out, engage your core and 'flip' back to Downward Facing Dog.  Repeat second side then take a Child's Pose. 

Standing Forward Bend - breathe in, come back to all fours then breathe out lift your hips up into Downward Facing Dog.  Walk your feet forward and when your shoulders come over your hands, take your feet to hip distance, outside edges parallel.  If you need the floor to be nearer, use a block.  Be on your fingertips to be more sensitive to the breath.  If you have heart or blood pressure issues do not let your head be lower than your heart, otherwise release the crown of your head down.  Take a few breaths then inhale and slowly roll up.

Triangle - stand in the middle of the mat in Tadasana.  Step your feet a leg length apart, turn the right leg out and the left foot in 45 degrees.  Ladies should align their heel, men should align front heel to back instep.  Bring your hands to your heart then on a breath in stretch your arms wide and lift your chest.  Breathe out and shift your hips to the left and you extend over your right leg, bringing your hand to rest on your ankle, shin or thigh. Your gaze can be up at your right thumb if your neck allows, or down at your right big toe. If you have neck issues, you may also want to place your top hand on your hips. To come out of the pose, breathe in and windmill your arms up to shoulder height, breathe out turn your feet to face forward and your hands to heart centre. Repeat second side.

Wide leg standing forward bend - stand in the middle of your mat, hands on hips and step your feet wide, outside edges parallel. Inhale lift your chest, squeeze your elbows together. Breathe out come into a flat back position and release your fingertips to the mat or to a block. Stay here if you have high blood pressure or heart issues otherwise breathe in and as you breathe out release the crown of your head down.  To come out of the pose breathe out bring your hands to your hips, breathe in and slowly come up.

Supported shoulder stand/Legs up the wall - for Supported Shoulder Stand come to lying on your mat with your knees bent.  Breathe in, press into your feet and lift your hips. Place two blocks under your hips, long edge facing the short edge of the mat.  Bring the top block halfway towards you and raise your legs so that your toes come over your face.  The top block should tip to support your lower back.  Stay here for a couple of minutes then release your feet to the mat, breathe in, lift your hips and remove the blocks, breathe out lower your hips.  Hug your knees in and rock from side to side.

If you cannot do the supported shoulder stand  (heart issues, blood pressure problems, menstruation, neck issues etc ) you may feel more comfortable with Legs up the Wall or miss the pose out altogether and take a Savasana.

For Legs up the Wall sit by a wall with your knees bent and your right hip up against the wall. Swivel your hips so that your legs come up the wall.  Shuffle your bottom as close as you can to the wall. Position your arms where is comfortable for you, either a little way from your body, overhead or bring your hands to rest on your heart.  Close your eyes if you wish and spend several minutes in the pose if you can.  To come out of the pose roll onto your right side and spend a minute there with your knees drawn up to your chest before coming up. 

Spend a few minutes resting in Savasana.

Please also see- 'Yoga for the brain-Part 1- Stress'

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