Why the Body Breaks Down
The food we eat and the air we breathe gives us the energy to power our body.
When organs and muscles are exercised, the body produces an inner heat that
uses up excess calories. But like all engines, the human body needs to be aired,
fed, cleaned, and exercised regularly to stay functional. In fact, the various
systems are so inter-dependent that, when one fails, others are impacted too.
Calcium is needed for bones, iron for blood, and protein for muscles. Glands
produce hormones to boost the immune system. Lungs transport fresh oxygen
to various parts of the body, using blood as the primary vehicle.
Besides oxygen, the blood carries valuable nutrients to glands and organs. The
small intestine absorbs water and essential minerals, while evicting solid waste.
If air intake is insufficient or food intake is surplus… if hygiene is inconsistent or
circulation is inadequate… the human body is unable to function at optimum
levels. The result is a body breakdown. This often leads to common ailments
such as arthritis, asthma, constipation, diabetes, hypertension, lumbago, piles
(hemorrhoids), sciatica. Nourishing various regions of the body with diet, breath,
and movement ensures optimum functioning of glands, organs, muscles (front
and back), and other vital body systems, ensuring a more healthful lifestyle.
Arthritis (inflammation of the joints)
Arthritis is inflammation of (weight bearing) joints, such as knees, ankles, or spine,
and becomes apparent in the form of infection, injury, or wear and tear.
Causes include lack of circulation, calcium deficiency, obesity, high stress levels.
Symptoms that make movement difficult include cramps, pain, stiffness in joints.
What happens in your body - When joints are mobilized in folding and unfolding
of the knees and lower extremities, a synovial fluid is secreted to act as lubricant
between thigh and shin bone, similar to a metal bicycle chain that needs oiling.
This buffering action protects the bones by preventing chafing or eroding, thus
making them stronger, and facilitating easier movement of joints.
Postures - 3,5,6,11,14,15,18,19,22,23,24,25,26,28,29,30,32,33,39,44,46.
Breath - kapalbhathy/ shining skull - Sit on heels; exhale briskly through nostrils at
30 strokes a minute. Increases bile, activates liver function, eliminates toxins,
soothes and relaxes skeletal system while refreshing other bodily systems.
Healing Foods: Beans, cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumber, lettuce, onions,
radish, tomatoes, and turnip.
Asthma (lung allergy):
Asthma is inflamed condition of vital airways, making it hard to breathe naturally.
Chest muscles hyperventilate and constrict, causing panic or shortness of breath.
Causes include - exposure to dust/ fumes/ infection/ cold weather, and extreme
emotions that may agitate already over-worked airways.
Symptoms include - shortness of breath, swelling of airways, or tightness in chest.
What happens in your body - Breathing techniques combined with posture
practice greatly enhance airflow capacity, by improving elasticity of lung
muscles. An inhale-exhale ratio of 1:2 ejects more carbon dioxide, reduces any
mental aggravation, and makes regular breathing controlled and more relaxed by
releasing any tightness in the chest.
Postures - 1,4,5,6,7,11,14,18,20,21,22,24,25,28,29,32,36,39,45,46.
Breath - (without retention/ purak-rechak/ inhale-exhale 1:2)
ujjayi/ victorious - Practiced with or without interim retention. Inhale deeply from
back of throat, and release slowly in ratio of 1:2. Repeat 5-10 times. Enhances
lung power, aids thyroid function, strengthens pelvic sphincters, refreshes brain.
Healing Foods: Beetroot, carrots, cucumber, dates, lemon, lettuce, prunes,
spinach, sprouts, tomatoes.
Constipation (hard stools):
Constipation is difficulty in passing motion, resulting in hard fecal matter ejected
with unnatural effort; may be prevented with exercise, hydration, fiber rich diet.
Causes include - inadequate fiber, emotional distress, inactivity, hyper acidity.
Symptoms include - foul breath, headache, low abdominal pain, nausea, dizziness.
What happens in your body - Abdominal stretches, twists, and folds help massage
internal organs and optimize liver function. The liver produces a digestive fluid
called bile, which is stored in the gall bladder and released as required when
processing various ingested foods. This acidic secretion helps break down/
absorb/ and eject foods that pass through.
Postures - 2,4,5,6,8,13,16,17,18,19,23,26,30,32,33,34,38,44,47,48.
Breath - bhastrika/ bellows - Sit on your heels, palms facing down, forefinger and
index finger touching. Inhale and exhale forcefully through nostrils and lower
abdomen for 30 strokes. Vigorously exercises abdominal viscera and lungs.
Healing Foods - Asparagus, bananas, beetroot, carrots, figs, grapefruit, oranges,
pears, pumpkin, spinach.
Diabetes (high blood sugar):
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar levels which, if
unchecked, may affect functioning of eyes, kidney, nerves, heart.
Causes include - hypertension, cholesterol, obesity, inactivity, stress, rich foods.
Symptoms include - excessive hunger/thirst/urination, slow healing, blurred vision.
What happens in your body - In times of high stress, the body produces excessive
glucose that must be used up or ejected to protect the system. Insulin, which is
produced by the pancreas and stored in the liver, helps blood cells absorb the sugar
from the body for energy. Intense forward folds help maintain insulin levels by
massaging pancreas and liver for optimum function.
Postures - 3,4,8,9,16,17,19,23,24,25,26,27,30,34,35,40,43,46,47,48.
Breath - shitkari/ cooling of teeth - Place tip of tongue against inside upper ridge.
Inhale through sides; release slowly. Repeat 5-10 times. Increases saliva, dispels
hunger, thirst, lethargy; activates thyroid, refreshes organs.
Healing Foods - Asparagus, bitter gourd, cabbage, celery, cucumber, garlic, onions,
spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms
Hypertension (high blood pressure):
Hypertension occurs when the force of blood against artery walls is unusually high,
making the heart work beyond its capacity; may potentially lead to stroke, heart
attack, or kidney failure.
Causes include - alcohol, excess salt, stress, hard arteries, hormone imbalance.
What happens in your body - Arteries are vessels that carry blood from the heart to
various tissues, glands, organs. When blood vessels are agitated in any way, they
become narrow, making it difficult for blood to pass through, thereby starving the
organs of much needed oxygen. Yoga postures that soothe the system also help
relax arteries sufficiently for blood to pass through freely.
Postures - 9,10,11,20,23,26,27,28,30,32,33,34,37,40,42,43,44,45,47,48.
Breath - brahmari/ bumble bee - Fold first three fingers into palm, and place little
fingers over ears with thumbs extended; inhale deeply; exhale with humming
sound until all air is used up; or keep exhaling for 1-2 minutes. Soothes nerves.
Healing Foods - Apples, cabbage, carrots, garlic, guavas, oranges, pears, radish,
Lumbago (low back pain):
Lumbago is pain in lower back, and may be chronic (long lasting), or acute (short-
term); usually affects young people whose frequent activity involves physical effort.
Causes include - spinal overload, high heels, slouching, low calcium, improper lifting
(“What you cannot shift with one foot, do not lift with two hands”).
Symptoms include - stiff muscles, swelling, radiating pain, numbness, tingling.
What happens in your body - Moving the body in and out of various postures
involves strengthening and stretching of special muscle groups that protect the
spine. Back bends help tighten spinal extensors in the back of the body, as they
stretch the flexors in front of the spine. Such flexions and inversions strengthen the
back, and keep the spine strong and supple.
Postures - 1,3,7,12,14,18,20,21,22,29,31,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,45,46.
Breath - shitali/ cooling of tongue - Roll tongue into cylinder. Inhale noisily from
center of tube; close mouth; exhale through nostrils. Repeat 5-10 times. Channels
fresh oxygen to sacrum, relieves tension in joints, eases low back pain.
Healing Foods - Apples, beans, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, grapes, lemon, papaya,
Piles/ Hemorrhoids (anal fissures):
Piles or hemorrhoids is a painful condition in which the veins around the anus or
lower rectum are swollen and inflamed, due to excessive strain/ weak sphincters.
Causes include - constipation, inadequate fiber, weakness, diarrhea, pelvic tumor.
Symptoms include - swollen/ ruptured sphincters, mucus/blood in stools, anal itch.
What happens in your body - External piles is somatic (of the skin) and can sense
pain; internal piles is visceral (of the intestine), and can only sense pressure. Anal
sphincters use force to eject hardened bowels, occasionally causing a bleed. This
condition is corrected in various ways, including strengthening anal muscles through
Postures - 3,9,15,20,21,24,27,28,31,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,45,47,48.
Breath - with retention/ purak-kumbhak-rechak/ inhale-hold-exhale 1:1:2)
ujjayi/ victorious - Practiced with or without interim retention. Inhale deeply from
back of throat, and release slowly in ratio of 1:2. Repeat 5-10 times. Enhances lung
power, aids thyroid function, strengthens pelvic sphincters, refreshes brain.
Healing Foods - Bitter gourd, cabbage, carrots, figs, lime, papaya, pears, spinach,
Sciatica (pinched nerve):
Sciatica is pain due to nerve pressure or inflammation of a large nerve that runs from
lower back, through buttocks, extending into back and/ or inside one or both legs.
Causes include - pressure on nerve root, trauma, injury, strain on one or both legs.
Symptoms include - tightness, numbness, tingling, pain, tenderness, or weakness.
What happens in your body - Disks are gel-like cushions that act as shock absorbers
between vertebrae. Unnatural compacting of spine may cause these cushions to
rupture, often exposing sciatic nerves to pressure and intense pain. Postures that
stretch low back/ inner thigh, or leg raises/ extensions, enhance space between
the bones. This way, sciatic nerves are not exposed to undue pain.
Postures - 2,4,5,6,8,9,10,12,13,14,16,17,19,26,27,34,36,41,42,43.
Breath - shanmukhi mudra/ sealing gesture - Press thumb lightly over ears, index finger
over eyes, middle finger on nostrils, ring finger above upper lip, little finger below
lower lip. Inhale deep, hold, release 1:2:1. Refreshes nervous system.
Healing Foods - Beetroot, berries, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, lime, radish,