Yoga Helpline- Aches and Pain, Diabetes and Breathing

Q: Over the past year I have been experiencing sharp pinpoints of pain. It started in my upper back between my shoulders and then spread to underneath my right arm. It further spread from my upper abdomen to the lower abdomen. At the same time it seemed my right leg did not want to move at the same speed as my left. I have had acupuncture, cupping, chiropractic treatment, massage therapy and I started a yoga class for the back. The massage therapy and yoga classes gave temporary relief. Through MRIs it was diagnosed that I was suffering from neuropathy and I have some arthritis in my lower spine. I also suffer from type 2 diabetes, which is controlled by diet and medication. I have started mega doses of Vitamin B for about five weeks and have seen some relief. Please advise for both conditions. -Terry Burlew

A: Here are my suggestions for arthritis: Simple movements in spine, which are called Meru Sanchalana, such as:

Happy and Angry Cat Pose (Marjariasana): Standing on the fours, keep the spine in neutral position (as initial position). With inhalation leave your spine loose like a string of beads and pushing your chest forward, look up. With exhalation pull your tailbone in and roll your spine up as if forming the alphabet C, drawing your shoulders towards the ears and head towards the tailbone. This is one movement – repeat it many times. It is a beautiful movement to release tightness and rigidity of the spine. It also increases flexibility and range of motion.
Stirring with Spine: In Sukhasana position, with hands resting on the knees, move your spine as if the spine is a stirrer in the cup of the body in a clockwise direction a few times, followed by counter clockwise movement a few times.

Fetal to Mountain Stretch (Parvatasana): Sit in Sukhasana. With inhalation stretch both arms upwards, joining them in namaskar. With exhalation bend the elbows, make a fist of the hands and draw the hands to the chest region like a fetus, bending the back like the alphabet C and dropping the head down. This is one movement, repeat it many times.

Flap Your Knees Like the Wings of a Butterfly (Baddhakonasana): Sitting with your foot soles joined in namaskar, interlace your fingers on the top of the toes and flap your knees up and down with the coordination of breath. This helps in increasing the flexibility of the hip joint, which helps you release pressure from the coccyx and sacrum. In addition, it helps improve circulation in lower limbs.

Japanese Fan Movement (Lateral Stretch): In Sukhasana position, raise both your arms keeping them shoulder width apart. With inhalation roll both arms towards the left and with exhalation, move them like a Japanese fan towards the right and repeat it for a few times with breath coordination. Make sure that you try to reach as far to the left and right as you can without lifting the hips off the floor. It helps release the pressure of the abdominal organs and ribcage.

My suggestions for diabetes:

Mudra: Practice Prana mudra and Apana mudra three times a day to help filter out the toxins and to nourish the body with pranic energy.

Mantra: Chanting Bija mantras rum and lum audibly helps in activating the Manipura chakra and the Swadishthana chakra, which get affected in cases of type 2 diabetes. It helps in balancing the pancreatic function along with releasing stress from the adrenals.

Pranayama: Practice Shitali Pranayama and Bhramari Pranayama everyday for two to five minutes each, to help reduce stress and cool down excess heat from the body.

Asanas: Regular practice of Wind relieving pose (Pawanmuktasana), Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana), Plough pose (Halasana), Bridge pose (Setu Bandhasana), Half Spinal twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana), Camel pose (Ushtrasana), Rabbit pose (Shashankasana) is excellent for diabetes.
All these asanas should be practiced under the guidance of a yoga therapist or instructor.
For Ayurvedic remedies please refer to Ayurveda Helpline in this issue.

Q: I was a victim of a serious car accident at the age of 20. I suffered from multi-trauma, resulting in fat emboli from my broken tibia traveling to my lungs causing them to collapse (Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome). I was in a serious condition for several weeks, being sedated into a coma. During this sedation, I underwent gall bladder removal and exploratory surgery. My lung capacity has remained just above 70 percent, and I have had some issues with arthritis. Now 18 years later, I am a proud mom. And I have pain issues randomly throughout my body. I hope you have some recommendations that could help strengthen my lungs, keep my joints and muscles strong, as well as some overall health pointers for a body that has succumbed to such trauma. -Peterson

A: I empathize with your situation. I would like to say that the challenges of life make a strong person even stronger. It is these times in our life that make us realize our true potential, pushing our own limitations and turning them into our strengths. For your condition, I would suggest a regular practice of Bellow breath (Bhastrika Pranayama) and Detoxifying breath (Kapalbhati). A regular practice of meditation using mantras, breath or gazing on light, will be highly beneficial to deal with the deep layers of subconscious stress, which if not dealt with, makes one go into the vicious cycle of pain, depression, stress, disease etc. You can also practice Garuda mudra. Cross both the hands at wrist level and face them towards the chest; spread and stretch all the fingers out, just interlacing the thumbs to make a firm grip between the hands. Do this mudra three times daily for two to three minutes, along with meditation. This will help boost your immunity and increase the defense mechanism of your body. Asanas such as Surya Namaskar, Paschimottanasana, Poorvattanasana, Marjariasana, Balasana, Naukasana, Bhujangasana, Tadasana and Shavasana are postures which can be of great help to you.

Q: Please recommend some exercises for aching ankles and feet. -Archana C.

A: The most effective asanas for aching ankles and feet are:

Inversions like Viparita Karni and Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana): These help direct de-oxygenated, stagnant blood from the lower limbs back to the heart for oxygenation.

Simple Joint Movements (Sandhichalan): Ankle rotations to release fatigue and improve blood and oxygen circulation in the ankle region. Toe movements that help in stimulating the nerve endings; external and internal hip rotation which help in increasing blood circulation in the lower limbs. Practicing Stick pose (Tadasana) by standing on the tip of the toes with arms stretched upwards and walking in this pose without bending the knees helps in activating the reflexology regions of the entire body. In addition, it also relieves fatigue of the soles of the feet.

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