By Sandie West, CEO of Creative Chakra Spa & Yoga Studio & Holistic Practitioner, LMT, RYT
ADD affects about five percent of adults, and a poor diet and stressful lifestyle can contribute to the condition, according to the Mayo Clinic. In this world where we read and scan digital images daily on the computer, watch two-minute YouTube videos, channel surf, and text, it certainly is no wonder! This yoga sequence of six poses is considered to be a primary asset to any ADD treatment—some of these poses have been clinically observed to increase memory and promote vitality (though it should be noted, if you have a medical condition, consult with your doctor first).
1. Knee to Head Pose
Benefits: Sharpens the memory and calms the brain and the sympathetic nervous system, which helps the mind detach from the senses and banishes feelings of restlessness or irritability. Relaxes the thyroid gland and vitalizes the adrenal glands while relieving eye strain or headaches.
How-to: Sitting up straight, bend your right leg, bringing your right heel under your groin and your knee out about 85 degrees. Keep the left leg straight, lock your thumbs, and stretch the arms overhead and then stretch the spine. Bring the right hip slightly forward and turn the pubis, lower abdomen, and chest to the left so that the sternum faces the center of the left leg. Tuck the bottom of the left hip slightly back. Inhale, fold forward at the hips over your left leg with arms extending over the left leg or foot, and hold for five breaths. To modify, you can use a belt to catch the foot and get a great stretch. Relax in the pose and be mindful of the breath. Repeat other side.
Tips for working in the pose: Extend your spine forward, keep your left leg straight, keep your head and neck relaxed, and only bend over as far as what feels right for your body. Your flexibility will improve, and on each exhale, begin to go down further as it becomes easier for you.
2. Shoulder Stand
Benefits: Relieves stress and nervous disorders. Aids in sleep and hypertension. Improves the function of the pineal, pituitary, thyroid, and parathyroid glands, which regulates our endocrine system, allowing for hormonal balance. Shoulder-stand works on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and creates health in the brain and spine by increasing blood flow to the scalp and brain. This pose has been clinically observed to promote vitality and increase memory and IQ.
How-to: This is said to be one of the most beneficial poses of yoga. Begin by holding this pose for just one to three minutes. Lying flat on the floor, relax your whole body and keep your shoulders away from your head, draw shoulder blades down the back, contract the abdominals, and bend your knees. Inhale and lift your legs straight over your head in a horizontal position and then straighten to a vertical position. Begin your adjustments by stretching the soles of the feet to the sky, bringing your chest to your chin, pushing hips into your body, tucking in your tailbone and tightening the buttocks. You can modify this pose by keeping knees bent, or by leaning feet against a wall or a chair. Go in and out of this pose gently and relax on the floor after coming out of it.
Tips for working in the pose: When in the pose, lace your fingers together and extend and stretch the arms on the floor, bringing your arms straight out behind your back. Bring your elbows closer together and then lift higher on the shoulders. When you become more advanced, hold this pose for five minutes.
Caution: Not suitable for individuals with heart problems, high blood pressure, ear or eye problems, or during menstruation. Do not stay up if there is pressure in the head, ears, nose, or throat. It is important to work up to this pose.
3. Fish Pose
Benefits: Increases circulation to the thyroid, lungs, and heart. The muscles of the neck, upper back, and chest are stretched and increases flexibility. Helps the thyroid regulate itself so it does not become overactive or underactive, which stabilizes the metabolism. Strengthens a prolapsed uterus.
How-to: Lie flat on the floor and shift your body weight to your forearms and elbow. Inhale and arch your head back to the floor, exhale, and breathe. Your feet are straight on the floor, the crown of your head is lowered to the floor, and your arms are pressed into the floor, supporting your body weight distribution. Hold for up to a minute or less as you strengthen in this pose. Your body will naturally tell you when it’s time to release this pose. Come out of it gently and slowly by placing your body weight on your elbows again and then raising your head.
Tips for working in the pose: Breathing deeply enhances the benefits of this pose.
4. Yoga Nidra
Benefits: Helps restore the natural health of the body’s entire nervous system. When you’re lying in the face-up position, all the nerves and vertebrae that support the spine and nourish the brain gently release tension and completely relax, helping to promote spinal alignment and mental balance.
How-to: Achieve deep relaxation as your consciousness becomes inactive and by progressively releasing tension from each part of the body, while increasing circulation by contracting and releasing the muscles. Tense your left foot, and release, paying mindful attention to the muscles that create tension in the body. Repeat on the right foot, and work up the legs, isolating the right and then left, calves, thighs, buttocks, etc. In your mind’s eye, work up the body to relax completely, finishing with the jaw and eyes. Release tension on each breath and feel the warmth of relaxation in your body.
Tips for working in this pose: Breathe into each part of your body as you isolate, tense, and relax. Think of the breath moving down to your feet, bringing your awareness to the whole of your body. This is a perfect way to prepare for pranayama.
5. Skull Shining or Kapala Bhathi
Benefits: The entire nervous system is both revitalized and strengthened with the vigorous repetition of the breath. Brings heat to the body quickly when it’s cold. Improves digestion. Helps in the treatment of depression.
How-to: Exhale completely through the nose. Inhale and create a powerful contraction in the lower belly, which will push air out of the lungs. Your inhale is passive and is a response to the release of this contraction, which automatically draws air into the lungs—try to lengthen your inhale slightly longer than the exhale. Try 25-30 cycles and repeat two to three times as you begin this practice.
Tips for working in the pose: The only muscles doing the work are the abdominals, and it consists of alternating short, explosive exhales and longer passive inhales, yet it is invigorating. The inhalation and exhalation have an equal force—be careful not to strain.
6. Pranayama or Alternate Nostril Breathing
Benefits: Helps prevent memory loss by strengthening the subtle nerve currents along the spine and the brain while restoring memory loss. If practiced for a few minutes daily, can help restore imbalances in the brain, calm your emotional state, improve sleep, calm your nervous system, and is like a reboot to the brain as your thinking will become clearer.
How-to: Here is a description of the first cycle; repeat cycle three times to begin. Sit in a comfortable, crossed-leg position, make a loose fist with your right hand, release your thumb and the ring finger and little finger. Relax your right arm against your chest. Close your right nostril with your right thumb, and slowly exhale as much as possible without strain to your left nostril. Then inhale through the left nostril, closing the right nostril with the thumb, to the count of four. Hold the breath, closing both nostrils, to the count of 16 (if you can). Exhale through the right nostril, closing the left with the ring and little fingers, to the count of eight. Exhale through the left nostril, keeping the right closed with the thumb, to the count of eight. Repeat.
Tips for working in the pose: When inhaling, expand your stomach to full capacity to fill the lungs during this nerve purification exercise. It balances the two hemispheres of the brain.
* * * * *
This post was written to help you embrace the “Choose to Move” pledge for Wellness Week! From March 11 through 17, make your week well with valuable wellness tips, free classes and events, and exclusive deals and offers. Plus, enjoy a free $25 Wellness Week Gift Card when you purchase a $25 SpaFinder Wellness Gift Card during Wellness Week (March 11-17). Learn more about Wellness Week 2013!
You might also like:
3 Simple & Basic Yoga Poses to Fight the Common Cold
5 Gentle (and Highly Beneficial!) Yoga Poses to Do Every Day
Give Yourself the Gift of Silence Through Ayurveda & Shirodhara
The Power of Touch: 8 Tips to Embrace the Healing Benefits of Touch
Connect with Nature: The Physical & Mental Benefits of Getting Outdoors & Outside of Your Comfort Zone
A modern-day alchemist, Sandie West shares her secrets in wellness and renewing physical vitality. She creates chakra oils, elixirs, aromatherapy supplies, and Ayurvedic teas and oils using fresh ingredients from her on-site apothecary. Her holistic Creative Chakra Spa, begun in 1998, was one of the first holistic day spas, and has been on numerous TV shows. West is a certified massage therapist and yoga, Pilates, and personal trainer/instructor; a voting member of the academy of Film TV Arts and SAG/AFTRA, she is also currently filming a documentary on “yoga of the mind.”
Images 1, 4, 5, and 6 courtesy of Creative Chakra Spa & Yoga Studio