One of the most important functions in the body is the circulation of blood. This supplies blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain and other organs. Good circulation promotes healthy skin, cell growth, energy and cognitive ability. Poor circulation may cause numbness, dizziness, nerve damage, tissue damage, muscle cramps, blood clots, varicose veins and can lead to peripheral artery disease (PAD).
To prevent poor circulation, stretching and exercises like yoga can improve your blood flow. A recent study conducted by the University of Texas, Austin saw positive outcomes in participants circulation when practicing both Bikram and Hatha yoga.
According to yoga therapist, Gary Kraftsow, yoga improves circulation by the use of "prana pumps." Prana is your breath and through the use of pranayama — yogic breathing techniques — while holding a yoga pose, you can increase circulation through your spine, glands and organs.
Here are some yoga poses to improve your circulation.
1. Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Yogis praise this passive inverted pose for its use of gravity to stimulate blood circulation and rejuvenate the entire body. This inversion encourages venous return and allows the heart to slow down.
HOW TO DO IT: Start in a seated position on the floor next to a wall with your legs running parallel to the wall. All in one motion, swivel your body so that your legs are up the wall and your upper body is perpendicular and straight on the floor. Allow your arms to relax by your side or hands on your navel. Flex your feet and remain in this pose for up to 15 minutes. Exit by gently rolling to one side.
2. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
This pose increases your blood circulation by bending back as you open your chest and shoulders and allow your head to dangle back.
HOW TO DO IT: Kneel on the floor with knees hip-width apart. Place your palms on your upper buttocks with fingers pointing down. Inhale and move your pelvis forward while leaning your upper body and head back. Spend a few seconds to get used to the intense stretch in your upper thighs.
If you're flexible and ready, exhale and reach your right hand back and cup the heel of your right foot. Do the same on the left side. Press the pelvis forward and round the entire spine. Relax the head back and hold the pose for 30 seconds.
If there is too much strain on your neck, use a wall as a prop. Face your back to wall with the soles of your feet as close to the wall as possible. Carefully exit by placing your hands onto the front of your pelvis and come all the way up, rest in a forward fold like child’s pose and repeat two to three times.
3. Upward Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
This pose is therapeutic for the circulatory system, as it rejuvenates the cells and allows the blood to flow down and along your arms, legs, spine and stimulate the brain.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back and bend your knees. Plant your feet hip-width apart with heels as close to your butt as possible. Bend your elbows and place your hands on the floor beside your ears with your fingers pointing toward your shoulders.
Press into the floor with your hands and raise your head and shoulders off the floor. Take a moment to exhale and rest the crown of your head on the floor. When you're ready, press down into the floor with your hands and straighten your arms as you inhale and lift your head off the floor.
For beginners, using a yoga ball will make getting into this pose much easier. Hold for up to 10 seconds, rest, repeat two to three times and reverse this pose with folding forward and spinal twists.
4. Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
Visualize the blood flow traveling along your whole body as you invert your body in shoulder stand. This position supplies fresh blood and oxygen to the heart and brain.
HOW TO DO IT: While lying on your back, bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor. Inhale, lift your butt off the floor and place your hands on the small of your back for support. Keep your upper arms and elbows grounded.
Inhale and lift your legs straight toward the sky, keeping your thighs together and in line with your torso. Exhale, then inhale and straighten the knees with heels pressing up toward the sky. Bring your chest toward your chin and breathe normally in this pose for up to one minute.