- a Care2 favorite by Becky Striepe
Poor circulation can cause all sorts of problems in your body like fluid retention and swelling in the lower extremeties. Often the causes of poor circulation are out of our control, but one way to improve your body’s circulation is with exercise. Check out these yoga poses to help get your heart pumping and your blood flowing!
Swelling is more than a cosmetic concern – it can be very uncomfortable. Exercise can’t always totally cure the effects of poor circulation, but it can definitely help give you some relief.
For example, my pregnancy is causing some swelling in my feet and ankles, and practicing yoga helps bring that swelling down visibly. I recommend following this up with a warm bath with plenty of epsom salts. You can also try elevating your legs on cushions in the evening, so they are above your heart. Let gravity help you!
Ready to get moving and give the ol’ circulatory system a boost? Check out this sequence of poses! You can do this sequence once as you get acclimated, and once you get more used to the poses, you can do two sets of each posture for added benefit. Don’t push yourself – just listen to your body. If it hurts, don’t do it!
1. easy pose with deep breathing
Sit cross-legged on the floor. If you’re dealing with poor circulation, you don’t want to sit criss-cross for too long, but a minute or so of deep, focused breathing should be fine. Focus on taking deep breaths in and exhaling completely.
2. mountain pose
Come to a standing position, with your feet just under your hips, arms by your sides, and spine straight. Imagine a string going up your spine and to the sky, pulling your body straight and strong. You can leave your hands at your sides or bring them into prayer position, like in the photo. Stand here for a few deep breaths.
Begin in mountain pose, then bend at your knees, and lower your butt toward the floor. Imagine that you’re sitting down in an invisible chair. Go as low as your flexibility allows up to bringing your thighs parallel to the floor. Raise your arms above your head, lengthening through the spine. Stay here and breathe for 10 deep breaths.
4. warrior II
Come back to mountain pose, then widen your stance so that your feet are about 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. You may need to adjust this slightly once you bend your knee. Raise your arms so that they are parallel to the floor, then turn your right foot toward the right wall and turn your left foot in ever so slightly to give you some extra stability. Bend the right knee, bringing your thigh parallel to the floor. Keep your torso pointed straight ahead and turn just your head to gaze beyond your right hand. Hold for 10 deep breaths, then repeat on the left side.
Remain in the wide-legged stance from Warrior II, but straighten both legs. Raise your arms so they are once again parallel to the floor, then stretch your upper body out to the right, then tilt your torso to the right, raising your left arm straight up in the air and stretching your right arm towards the floor. You can grab onto your thigh, calf, ankle, or foot with your right hand if you feel like you need the support. Turn your head to look up at your left hand, and breathe. Hold for 10 breaths, then repeat on the left side.
6. downward dog
Come onto your hands and knees, with palms flat on the floor. Curl your toes under, so they are in contact with the floor, then push up through your palms and the balls of your feet, straightening your legs and lifting your butt up into the air. You want to have a flat back and straight legs, though your feet will most likely not be flat on the floor. Keep your neck neutral and breathe here for about 30 seconds.
7. yoga lunge
From downward dog position, step your right foot forward, placing it on the floor between your hands. Arch your back slightly, and look up at the ceiling, keeping your palms on the floor. Hold this supported lunge for 10 deep breaths, then push back into downward dog to switch sides and repeat on the left side of the body.
Come back to a hands and knees position, then swing your right foot forward, so that your knee is between your hands. Slide the left leg back along the floor slowly until it’s as straight as you can get it without straining your groin. Arch your back, and look up to the sky for 10 deep breaths, then release your spine and lower your head to the floor. If you need more support, you can rest your head on your hands or even stack your fists and rest your head there – it all depends on how flexible your legs and spine are. Hold this for 10 breaths, then switch and repeat on the left side.
Image Credit: Creative Commons pigeon pose photo by lululemon athletica
9. shoulder stand
One word of caution: if you have not done shoulder stand before and you are pregnant, you don’t want to start now when your balance is a little bit iffy. Practice legs up the wall pose instead. You don’t want to lie on your back for too long when you are pregnant, so limit shoulder stand or legs up the wall to 10 deep breaths to avoid putting too much pressure on your vena cava.
To begin shoulder stand, lie on your back, then bring your feet close to your buttock, feet on the floor. Use your core strength to lift your feet and your butt off of the floor, so your legs are pointing to the sky and allow your chin to tuck into your chest. Do not turn your head in this posture, because you could hurt your neck. Just gaze at your navel and engage your abdomen. Use your hands to support your lower back in the posture, which you can stay in for as long as is comfortable, up to 5 minutes.
Every yoga practice should end with savasana. If you are pregnant, modify this posture by laying on your side rather than on your back. You can also put a small cushion between your knees to help make you more comfortable. If you can, lay on your back, with your feet slightly apart and your arms by your sides.
In either postition, focus on relaxing your body, beginning with your feet and working your way up to your face and the top of your head. Think about letting go of tension in each extremity, in your buttocks and groin, and in your abdomen. Relax here and breathe for as long as you like. You may even fall asleep, and that’s fine!