Blood is the most pervasive fluid in the body. Like an ocean it bathes the sands of our body in its warm waters and provides every cell and tissue with the oxygen and nutrients that it needs. Blood is the primary carrier of intelligence and nutrition in our body. Thus it is important to have healthy blood. So how do we accomplish this using yoga and Ayurveda?
The word blood in Sanskrit is Rakta which means invigoration, as this is the primary action of the blood. When food is consumed and digested it first becomes lymph and then it becomes blood. Thus for any of the preceding tissues: muscle, hormones, bones, or nervous system to be healthy, the blood must first be nourished effectively. Some of the common functions of our blood are:
- Blood regulates our body’s temperature and it feeds our body’s with oxygen.
- Rakta because of its heat and color is associated with the Dosha of Pitta.
- Cleansing rakta with the diet utilizes alkalizing foods. An alkalizing diet is a plant based diet high in green leafy vegetables. The greener the food the more alkalizing its effect on the body.
- Asana that is beneficial for cleansing the rakta focuses on the organs of the liver, small intestine, heart, and blood vessels. These organs are effected by most twists. Seated twists, supine twists and standing twists. The overall approach to asana should be cooling. Slow, relaxing, non-competitive asana is the best way to cool and cleanse the blood.
Within the Ayurvedic framework tissues are composed of three primary components: the root, the channel, and the substance. The root is like the root of the tree it is the place within the body that the blood utilizes to function. The channels are the many branches of the tree. The flowing substance is the primary fluid that is carried in the blood.
- roots / mulas: liver and spleen
- channels / margas: circulatory system
- the flowing substance / vayabhava: hemoglobin of RBC
- opening / mukha
When any one of these components of the rakta dhatu becomes compromised there are conditions that can arise. There are four ways in which the rakta dhatu can be compromised. These are excess, deficient, blocked flow, and flow out. Examples of conditions associated with these are:
- Excess: intensity aggression, overheated spleen and liver
- Deficient: lack hemoglobin, low blood content, decreased liver spleen function
- Blocked Flow: atherosclerosis, thrombus, gallstones, enlarged liver and spleen
- Flow out: varicose veins, ruptured bile channels
A sequence of yoga postures that will balance the blood are:
Angle pose – Parvotonasana
Lightning pose – Virasana
Downward dog – Adho mukha virasana
Supine bound angel – Supta badha konasana
Wind relieving – Pawanmuktasana
Cobra – Bhujangasana
Upward facing dog – Urdva mukha svanasana
Sage twist – Bharadvajasana
Half seated twist – Ardha matsyendrasana
Forehead to knee – Janusirsana
Forward bend – Paschimottansana
Seated pose – Yoga mudra
Performing this sequence of poses at least three times a week for up to six months will nourish the blood and allow for any of the imbalances associated with the blood above to unwind and promote health of the entire circulatory system.