Yoga, philosophy, and circulation

I didn’t know I was going to write about philosophy and circulation but a couple of things have happened over the past few weeks and months (maybe years…) and like the proverbial iceberg, there’s probably more going on beneath the surface than I’ve acknowledged. Time for a wake up call. I’m in the throes of organising retreats, classes, and so on, so there’s also that…

Normally I write about yoga and philosophy in relation to the ecological emergency, but today, mostly because I’m a bit, well, floored by snags in my current book project, and someone I dearly love launched in with a critique of my philosophy (which I still haven’t replied to) I decided to look at things from a different angle. The first thing is that my tenuous hold on ‘normal’ eating began to slip again. The other (not unconnected) issue is circulation problems. Years of yoga and meditation and I’m still struggling. I suppose that makes me human.

What to do about this? Well, this morning I did a relaxation based on auto-suggestion. I’ve been doing these kinds of practices for a very long time so I wasn’t hopeful, but this had some good impactful statements: the feeling of over-fullness is something I tend to push away with my mind so being conscious of how uncomfortable that feeling is for me, and then letting go of the guilt of not eating everything on my plate, are two really important reminders for me. Also paying close attention to the process, the physical and sensual experience of eating, and eating very much more slowly than I’m inclined to, really helps. This helps with alcohol too, by the by, in my experience.

The second issue, that of circulation, is easiest to deal with through trial and error. As we get older, lots of us have issues with circulation. Mine are minimally distressing but it’s worth sharing what’s worked. I’ll include some pictures.

I have tried viparita karani and it’s lovely, but very gentle. Maybe too slow if I’m actually cold, which may require that I shake out my limbs and even dance!

Sometimes we need to move a bit more vigorously …

If I feel OK about lying down, I do hip openers and ankle rotations up the wall, but I need to do a lot – forty at least – each way and that can be a challenge. I might listen to something – music, a brief meditation – while I’m doing this, to keep myself on track, so I feel I’m easing myself in. So far, so much for traditional yoga …

Then I turn over on my side. This is a pose in itself. This is when I come into a more meditative state as I come up onto hands and knees and do cat cow.

When I get up to adho mukha svanasana I feel as though I’m getting myself into a moving meditation. I might step forward into a lunge, or practice eka pada raja kapotasana, or three legged downward facing dog, or even come up to virabhadrasana 1 or 2 or even 3… these are good sequences to go through quite quickly but with full awareness, noticing the circulation, the feeling of the blood pumping around, the lymph moving, circulation as connection of systems supporting each other.

Now I might try a forward fold, uttanasana. With high bp, by the way, this, adho mukha, and sirasana are no gos (although I do in fact have high bp, and still work with them pretty successfully. But you have to find out what feels ok and if there’s any pressure in the head when you’re inverted, come out, come out, wherever you are…)

I might then sit down into balasana and at this point, if I feel like it, I might practice sirasana. Back to balasana for a moment, then stretching the legs out into dandasana to janu sirasana for a lovely, accessible pose to almost everyone (knee problem sufferers avoid)

Now I might lie back into setu bandha for a great stretch into the thighs and I really squeeze those glutes!

At the end of the practice, a supine spinal twist is good. You could do this as a part of a supta padangustasana sequence. I do enjoy that but it’s a bit stronger.

And finally a forward bend – paschimottanasana – to quieten things down. That’s important.

Oh, and finally, finally, try a little breath control – just plain ujjayi is good but if you your bp is ok you can try pumping the breath – kapalbhati or bakstrika – and if it’s not, then go for humming bee breath which is lovely, lovely, lovely all the way. And of course alternate nostril breathing if you have time …

woman relaxing in yoga mat
Photo by Elina Fairytale on

That wasn’t really finally, though, because you still need to get a few moments in savasana. One of the things about circulation and eating disorders is that they’re both associated with stress. So the philosophy I advocate, which is practice realisation, the practice of realising what is going on while it is going on, with compassion, allows me to destress with conscious, total relaxation. I watch my body, the parts, scanning feet to head, and the whole. I watch the breath, the point at the philtrum, and then following the sensation in and out. I watch the thoughts and emotions rising like fractals, causation beneath the surface. And finally I allow a sense of belonging to arise. Yes, even you, imperfect as you are, belong. Imagine you being part of the whole and letting the whole system, which is unfolding under its own golden rules, was flowing through you, like honey, or sunlight. Ah. The consolations of philosophy, letting the circulation flow. Effortlessness is best. Let the systems you inhabit do you.

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