Category Archives: Therapeutic Yoga
Yoga for Complete Healing
With Anna Ferguson
April 27th, 2:30-5 p.m.
Mountain Yoga, Johnson City, TN
Learn how yoga can help you break through 5 myths that can prevent your healing from any emotional wound or physical illness. Therapeutic yoga, meditation and breath practice will be included to help you learn about these ideas and break through the boundaries that these myths can create. Suitable for all levels.
If you sign up through my web site, you can receive a recording of the class for only $5.99! Just email me and mention this blog post.
Yogic mindfulness techniques evolved from millennia of practice, as we learn what works to create a joyful human experience. Yogis have always been people just like you, figuring out how to live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives. Come and improve your everyday life by gathering this toolbox of now scientifically proven awareness techniques:
- decrease physical, mental and emotional pain
- improve physical, mental and emotional well-being
- gain mastery of your stress response
We will be practicing asana (postures), pranayama (breath techniques) and meditation (cognitive awareness techniques). All levels are welcome.
April 29th – May 20th.
Mondays, 2-3:30 p.m.
Asheville Community Yoga
8 Brookdale Ave.
Sign up at ashevillecommunityyoga.com
I got such an amazing response to my blog post about yoga for thyroids, I wanted to publish a more extended list of nutritional recommendations and a yoga sequence you can do at home. These are recommendations from my awesome acupuncturist, Nicole Peterson of Ling Dao Acupuncture in Asheville, NC. www.lingdaoacupunture.com. She is the bees knees! As always, consult with your health practitioner before starting any supplements or any dramatic change in your routine. There are several blood tests that can be done to determine your thryoid function – please make sure you research them all thoroughly. It’s not enough just to test your TSH levels – there is T3 and T4 to consider, along with the fact that the endrocrine system is like a web – when one part fails, the others can have issues. Make sure you check out your whole system to ensure you are getting to the heart of the problem. The practice I recommend to help you with this Asheville Integrative Medicine; www.docbiddle.com. Also check out Wilson’s Syndrome at www.wilsonssyndrome.com. I did this treatment and it was successful for me.
Nutrition and Lifestyle
- Avoid raw brassicas or other goitregens (foods that take iodine from your body) like Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, mustard, peaches, pears, rutabaga, spinach, strawberries, and turnips. Reduce even cooked and fermented goitregens. Chard, lambsquarter are fine to eat.
- Avoid estrogenic foods like peanuts and soy (exceptions: miso, tamari, and tempeh – all fermented). Avoid non-organic foods as much as possible because of estrogenic pesticides.
- Eat seaweed – seaweed salads, kelp, dulse, sushi, soups with seaweed broth, etc.
- Eat soaked nuts, whole grains, and raw foods as much as possible.
- Use coconut oil in cooking and stir frying.
- Drink ginger tea to balance out cooling effects of seaweed and to warm up the body.
- Reduce alcohol intake.
- Eat a brazil nut daily for selenium (facilitates process of converting L-Tyrosine and Iodine into thyroid).
- Avoid fluoride (in tap water and toothpaste) and chlorine (tap water and swimming pools). Drink filtered or distilled water.
- Reduce your exposure to estrogen-like compounds. Use organic cleansers and household products and eat organic as much as possible (especially meats and dairy).
- Decrease stress!
- Do a 2-4 week liver cleanse. She recommends Amazon Herb Co. or use Supreme Cleanse from Gaia Herb Co. Take the following thyroid herbs/supplements while on the cleanse.
- 500 mg L-tyrosine first thing in the morning before eating. Food sources of L-tyrosine are eggs, legumes, dairy and other protein-rich foods.
- 200 mcg per day of Selenium (either in a multi-vitamin or one brazil nut per day)
- Bladderwrack: 3-5 grams/day (Eclectic Institute freeze-dried caps of 600 mg each; 5-7 capsules per day) OR take 4 drops of Iosol in water each day for the first two weeks, and then reduce the dosae to 2 drops per day. You can order Iosol from Sullivan Creek Distributing (888-406-4066 or www.sullivancreek.com)
- Multi-vitamin: “Stress Support” (New Chapter) or any other brand from the health food store
Thyroid series from Kaoverii Weber www.subtleyoga.com 1 or 2x day (30-45 minutes total)
Morning (30 minutes)
- 4 Sun salutations, alternating sides with Cobra (not Up dog) and low or high Lunge
- 3 Twists to each side (hold each twist for 30 seconds/5 breaths).
- 8 Cobras while holding breath for 8 seconds in the pose each time. Draw the chin toward the back of the neck to align back. Keep throat back, and tilt chin up. Inhale up; hold breath at the top; release, exhale. One breath in between repetitions.
- Rest in Child’s pose.
- 8 Hares holding breath out for 8 seconds in the pose each time. Inhale, exhale while crown of head is down. Hold breath out for 8 seconds.
- Optional: flowing bridge with breath (inhale up into bridge, arms over heat; exhale down, arms down).
- 3x each: Plough/Fish (alternating). Stay in plough for 1-5 minutes. Push the back of the head into the floor. Come out of plough and go into fish. Focus your eyes on the tip of your nose. Hold the pose for ½ as long as you were in plough. Repeat.
- Optional: shoulder stand
Evening (15 minutes)
- 8x moving child’s pose with breath
- Twists (3 to each side)
- 8x Cobra (with breath work-see morning series)
- 3x each: Plough/Fish (alternating). Can substitute shoulder stand/fish alternating.
- 8x yoga mudra: grab the left wrist with the right hand. Inhale, exhale forehead to floor/block). Hold for 8 seconds (holding breath out). Inhale up.
Symptoms of Hypothyroid
- Increased weight
- Loss of hair
- Poor circulation
- Extreme fatigue
- Depression and mental confusion
- Memory loss
- Morning headaches and dizziness
- Ringing in the ears
- Muscular weakness
- Heart disease
- Increased susceptibility to infection
- Pain where the ribs and sternum meet
Main Causes of Hypothyroidism
- Iodine deficiency (an essential component of thyroid hormone) due to soil depletion and diet
- Selenium deficiency (converts T3 to T4) due to soil depletion and diet
- Estrogen-like compound pollution (block thyroid production) due to environmental pollutants like pesticides, chlorine, etc.
How to Test your Thyroid
- Place an oral thermometer by your bed.
- When you wake up in the morning, immediately place the thermometer in your armpit and leave it there for 10 minutes before getting out of bed.
- Record the temperature.
- Menstruating women get the most accurate readings on the second or third day after their menstrual flow starts.
- 97.2-98.2 degrees is considered normal. Temperatures lower than 97.2 may indicate hypothyroidism. Keep a temperature log for 5 days to see if your temperature is consistently low.
- If you choose to have your thyroid levels checked with a blood test, find a physician who is willing to check your levels monthly. A TSH level of below 3.0 is ideal. Levels above 3.0 indicate hypothyroidism.
Thyroid symptoms can be challenging to manage in your day to day life, but yoga can help. As a thyroid sufferer myself, I have experimented over the years with different techniques and poses and these are the ones that help me out the most. Some are asana, some are other things, but they all have helped me heal and become a healthy yogi!
Plow Pose: Halasana. This pose balances the thyroid and parathyroid glands, providing compression to re-balance the chakra. Whether you are hyper- or hypothryoid, this pose can help with insomnia, anxiety and nervousness related to this gland.
Wheel Pose: Urdva Dharunasana. This pose is stimulating to the adrenals, which work in very close relationship with the thyroid and the whole endocrine system. It is also a wonderful opener for the front of the throat, letting energy flow more easily through the chakra. Done a few hours before bed, it can help you normalize cortisol levels so that you can sleep. An easier preparatory pose for Wheel Pose is Bridge Pose, or Setu Bhanda. This is a gentle version that both gets you in an inversion (key for nervous system regeneration and support) and compresses the thyroid gland.
Inversions: It is important to get the heart above the head for hormonal problems. You can do this gently or more vigorously. Bridge Pose, as mentioned above, is a great one to start with. Handstands and headstands, however, are great for putting pressure on the pituitary gland, the master remote control for all of your endocrine organs. Rabbit Pose or Sasangasana is a great one for the beginner, however and can be done by most with limited experience in
yoga. It’s not a good idea for those with disc problems in the cervical spine, however. You can modify this pose by decreasing the angle on the neck and placing your hands next to your head so there is only gentle pressure on the very top of the head.
Relaxation is so important for the thyroid sufferer – so the next few poses listed are restorative poses. The first one, Viparita Karani, or Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose, is a pose perfect for grounding the energy of the thyroid. Take a pillow and place it about six inches from the wall (you can also do this pose in bed). Sit on the pillow, with your legs parallel to the wall. Swing your legs up the wall and lay back, so that the pillow is gently supporting your lower back and your hips are on the floor. Slide yourself away from the wall to account for tight hamstrings. A yummy addition to this pose is an eye pillow and fuzzy blanket to keep you warm. Once you are in the pose, you can do some relaxing breathwork.
Another great thyroid balancing pose is Child’s pose, or Balasana. This allows the feminine, yin energy that resides on the back of the body to wash over you. Stay in this pose, focusing only on your breath, for 3-5 minutes. A great modification of this pose is to take your knees apart, big toes together. Then put a big pillow or two underneath your chest so that your head, heart and belly are supported. Then just rest.
Scream. Laugh. Sing. Babble. Whatever you do, don’t stifle something you need to say. If it’s hard to express your feelings, scream them out in the car when you are by yourself. Yes, it may sound crazy, but it allows me to get out any energy that may be inappropriate or cause me to say something I don’t mean. Then when the opportunity to have a conversation with the person in question comes along, I am much more clear and positive about what I need.
Journal. Often there is a lot of junk and gunk that gets stuck in our brains. Try this exercise to get down to the nitty gritty of what you are really looking for in life. Every morning, when you first get up, write out 3 pages of whatever – on a college-ruled notebook. It will take you about 30 minutes most days. This may sound daunting or even repugnant to you right now, but I promise you, if you can throw up your gunk onto the written page, the true you can come out and express yourself. This is all throat chakra stuff! It’s about expressing yourself, creativity, will, determination, discipline – in short, listening to your inner compass.
Eat brazil nuts, coconut oil, seaweed and healthy fats (think fish oil and avocado). Yes, yoga includes nutrition! Important things for the thyroid are selenium, minerals and healthy doses of potassium and iodine (among other things!). A favorite drink of mine is a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water first thing in the morning. This allows my liver to wake up, gives my thyroid some healthy minerals and makes my body more alkaline. Stay away from sugars, processed foods and unhealthy types of preparations (think fried and overcooked foods). Eat a rainbow – see you can get red, yellow, orange, green and purple on your plate once a day. Also pay attention to your allergies – a big thing that helped me was to stop eating wheat and wheat gluten.
All of these techniques in yoga are really just to give you a better sense of yourself – a better attunement to your inner compass. As you practice, you will become more and more true to yourself, leading you to make better decisions, healther choices and live in health and happiness more and more.
“Practice and all is coming.” ~ Sri Patthabi Jois.
Achoo! It’s flu season. It’s hard to stay moving when you are dealing with fever, aches, chills and respiratory problems. Here are a couple of sequences you can do together or separately to keep your lymph fluid moving a little to facilitate a quicker recovery. All of these poses can be done in bed! Keep the tissues handy to catch drippy noses.
YIN SECTION: noticing breath, non-judgment. With each breath, try to send energy to those parts that are complaining the most – nose, eyes, skin, belly, whatever.
* Downward Facing -Frog ~ 3-5 minutes
* Child’s ~ 1 minute
* Side Twist – 3 minutes each side (Laying on Back, Knees Rotating Together to one Side)
* Deer ~3 minutes each side
* Anahatasana Melting Heart ~ 3 minutes
* Child’s ~ 1 minute
* Caterpillar – 5 minutes
* Sphinx ~ 5 minutes
* Saddle ~ 3 minutes
Happy Baby, 1 minute of free movement. Anything that needs to move. A few reps of Cat/Cow are great too.
* Dandasana – Seated Staff Pose – 10 breaths
* Reverse Tabletop – 3 repetitions of 3 breaths each
* Janu Sirsasana – Forward Fold for 10 breaths on each side
* Baradvajrasana – Gentle Twist of your choice, keeping a relaxed neck
* Bridge – Skip this one if you have respiratory issues that prevent comfortable breathing
* Legs Up Wall – Stay in this one as long as it feels good
* Child’s Pose with Bolster
* Foot Rub – Use your favorite lotion or a warm towel with scented oils.
* Recline to Svasana, Inhale through nose, exhale through mouth 3-5 times, lions breath
* Svasana – 10 minutes
Happy Healing! Don’t forget lots of fluids, warm lightly cooked foods and rest rest rest!
So if we are what we eat, do we eat what we are? Do I really turn into the human equivalent of a jelly donut if I eat one? It’s an interesting question, and one that yogis frequently address on their journey to greater awareness. Just like not every type of asana practice fits every body, no one approach to eating is right for everyone. Some people are vegetarians, some are not. Some people can do well on all raw foods, some don’t. It’s a highly personal journey and one fraught with challenge at times, particularly for those of us who’ve grown up with typical American eating habits. On the funny side, it’s an amusing moment when you realize that the only reason you thought a particular food was good for you was because the TV told you so!
Listen to Your Gut
On the yogi’s journey towards finding a solution for their own particular constitution, intuition and balance are the keys to finding out what the map of your digestive needs looks like. Foods that might be ok in the morning can leave you too stimulated for sleep, and grounding foods might feel too heavy in the early hours of the day. As you progress on your yogic journey, you can find yourself sensitive to foods that you thought were fine before. A good way to get a guidelines for what might work for you is to find out your dosha. Dosha is a term in Ayurvedic medicine, that describes one of three types of energy types (kapha, pitta or vata) which combine in various proportions to determine individual constitution.
To Fast or Not To Fast
So most of us heard this before – something to the tune of “Don’t eat two hours before class!” Some people also experiment with other types of fasting as well. Just like food choices, fasting can be something highly personal. Pitta types can be really physically challenged by fasting – they do better when eating every three to four hours. As I Pitta type myself, I try to avoid large meals before classes (and particularly mexican foods!) – but that is just me. A good rule of thumb is to avoid any large or heavy meals before your practice, for the same reason your mom told you not to swim for 30 minutes after eating lunch. You’ve got to give your body time and peace to digest your food to get the maximum nutritional benefit. A good compromise is eating lightly at least 30 minutes before class – maybe a handful or two of nuts or something with protein, like a hard boiled egg. One thing never to skimp on is the water – drink drink drink!
The Definite Baddies
There are some pretty solid rules about food out there that don’t depend on your dosha. It’s fact that refined foods, sugars and fried foods play havoc with your health and should be minimized if not eliminated from your diet. What you might not expect is that some of these foods can hide out in products that you wouldn’t expect, like high fructose corn syrup in your crackers, for example. When I started paying attention to my diet, I became a label reader. That has given me the power to discern whether that healthy looking box of whatever is actually really healthy for me, because marketing and labeling can be really tricky sometimes. Another empowering trick is to find out what some ingredients like MSG can masquerade as; some alternative (and perfectly legal) names for MSG are glutamate, yeast extract and autolyzed yeast extract, just to name a few. (If you want to know more, visit www.truthinlabeling.org or www.msgmyth.com).
The Awesome Goodies
The good news is that there is so much local, organic and yummy food out there so you never have to feel deprived after kicking the foods out of your diet that aren’t serving you well. One thing I found after I eliminated gluten and wheat from my diet is that I kicked an 18 year old acne problem overnight! A lot of yogis who find out what is working for them and stick to it find immense benefits and the ability to be well. So the food story is not all deprivation and finger-wagging – immense freedom can come from finding out what really doesn’t work with your body. Once you find the right balance for you, the rewards can be more than you ever imagined. Plus, you might discover new foods you might never have tried before you brought more awareness to your eating habits.
There are some great foods for this time of year to help you get through the end of winter, support your kidneys (one of the organs that can get especially stressed at this time of year) and be well. Some of my favorites are below:
- Soaked almonds. A nutritional powerhouse. Soaking the almonds makes them more digestible.
- Royal Jelly. A substance made from young nurse bees as larvae food. Thought by acupuncturists to be deeply nourishing to the kidneys and adrenal glands.
- Seaweed. There are many kinds, dulse and kelp being just two available. For those with thyroid problems, it can deliver necessary and supportive iodine to facilitate hormone production. You can also get your seaweed by eating sushi!
- Turmeric. A spice used in a lot of Indian food. It has nutritional and immune system benefits like decreasing inflammation and boosting your immunity towards some types of cancers.
So, my advice: Set out on your food journey with a high sense of anticipation, an appetite for change and an openness to trying something new! Your reward for feeding your body well will be beyond whatever you can imagine (and isn’t that cool?).
Lots of us suffer from one type of sleep deprivation or another in our lifetimes. Kids, work, stress or illness can keep us up well past a healthy bed time. What to do when you wake up at 3 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep? Here are some great techniques for calming your energy down and avoiding that frustrating feeling.
Move. Once you are sure that you aren’t falling back to sleep, change your surroundings. Often frustration can build while you lie there, just staring at the ceiling or tossing back and forth. Find a quiet corner of the house, even if it is the bathroom!
Support your body. There are a few great yoga poses to support your endocrine system and nervous system, the two systems that are often put under duress when you are dealing with insomnia. The thyroid and the adrenals are put under pressure (or may be the reason for your insomnia in the first place) and they can be supported through Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose) or Setu Bhanda (Bridge Pose).
Viparita Karani. Take a pillow and place it about six inches from the wall (you can also do this pose in bed). Sit on the pillow, with your legs parallel to the wall. Swing your legs up the wall and lay back, so that the pillow is gently supporting your lower back and your hips are on the floor. Slide yourself away from the wall to account for tight hamstrings. A yummy addition to this pose is an eye pillow and fuzzy blanket to keep you warm. Once you are in the pose, you can do some relaxing breathwork.
Viloma Pranayama. This breath work is a great way to active your parasympathetic nervous system. Take a gentle breath in, focusing on inflating your low belly. Take a tiny pause, then keep inhaling into your chest. Take another tiny pause, and fill your lungs to absolute fullness. Then slowly and gently exhale through the mouth. Do this as many times as you need to feel relaxed. For me, it usually only takes 5 or 6 rounds to feel some stress relief.
Setu Bhanda or Bridge Pose. This pose is excellent for those with thyroid issues. To begin, start on your back, feet on the floor. Press your feet firmly down into the floor and lift the hips up. You can support underneath your low back with pillows or blankets. The light pressure at the base of the throat can stimulate or calm the thyroid and bring the throat chakra back into balance. Stay here as long as you like, making your exhales longer than your inhales.
Any of these techniques can be really helpful in balancing out your energies and bring you back to sleep land. Give them a try and tell me if you are successful!
A new Yoga Quickie! This is a preview of my full 60 minute video, Freedom of the Heart: Upper Body Therapeutic Yoga. Enjoy!
7. Honor your practice. Take the time for your practice, and make it sacred for yourself. This means honoring your commitment to do the practice every day, no matter what. It also means planning your practice into your day. If you don’t have a plan, it’s not going to happen. Make it your ritual. The reason that yogis say to practice in the morning is not because it’s some magic time of day, it’s because you have a better chance of getting it done if you aren’t already in the swing of things during your day.
6. Engage all your senses. When you are on your mat, be on your mat. We can easily get to the mat and spend the whole time thinking about what we have to do that day, or whatever current drama is playing around in our mind. Start by noticing everything that is touching your mat, in each pose. How does it feel to have your feet, hands, belly, or back touch the mat? What can you hear? What do you see? What do you smell? Do you taste your morning coffee or tea still or is there an absence of taste?
5. Be mindful of what kind of practice your body needs in every moment. Not every practice is for every body, every day. We can develop a good intuition about what our body needs by consistently practicing checking in during practice. This is a very helpful skill for your practice but also it is GREAT for when you step off the mat. Did you hydrate well today? Did you eat nurturing foods? Did you skip meals because your schedule got too busy? We have all been there, but noticing when we fall out of balance, on and off the mat, is an important practice for a long, healthy life.
4. Reflect on your practice. Is it meeting your long term goals or needs? Your short term goals? What do you want out of your practice? There are so many styles and ways to approach mindfulness, it’s up to you to go to the “Awareness Grocery Store” and pick out the style you want to try next. Keep trying things until you find something that works really well for you and your needs. If you are unsure, then ask a teacher or attend a workshop that will introduce you to a new style. If you want something personalized, then try my Therapeutic Home Study Program. You can receive a personalized DVD that will be tailored exactly to your needs of body, mind and spirit.
3. Practice slowly. Even if you are in a vinyasa flow class, you can practice slowly and mindfully. Rushing through any practice is a sure recipe for injury, discouragement and obstacles to a daily practice. Holding poses for longer not only increases the calories you are burning, but also gives you the time to “marinate” in a pose, truly start to understand the subtleties and increase your skill.
2. Practice every day. There is no way to fully understand your body without a practice that is at least 5-6 days a week. Intermittment practice is helpful, no doubt, but to gain the discipline, mentally and physically, of a daily practice brings benefits you can only dream of right now. First, you will be presented with lots of things you have been ignoring, physically, mentally and spiritually, but eventually things will even out, you will get on a stable, sustainable path where you can be successful and happy.
1. Take your practice off the mat into your everyday life. Each moment is an opportunity to practice one of the yamas and niyamas, the ethics of yoga. All of these lessons will bear fruit in your every day life if you consistently practice them on the mat. You won’t be able to help all of the lessons coming with you into your life, if you listen to your body, mind and spirit each day on the mat.