Susan Swan Yoga
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Taking back control
Taking back control
In my previous life in the Corporate world, I experienced times of trouble with stress and ‘sick building syndrome’ contributing to various minor ailments, bouts of fatigue, together with debilitating anxiety. Whilst I have practised yoga since the 1990s, tight deadlines and responsibilities of my role in IT had meant my time on the mat could be somewhat compromised.
Nowadays, my yoga experience and training, coupled with more free time means I am able to maintain a regular practice at home, which I can tailor to suit my varying circumstances. This has resulted in a vast improvement in my general health. Subsequent Yoga Therapy training further informed my understanding of the human body, giving me a more holistic understanding of health.
No doubt staying healthy is of primary concern to almost everyone, but what does this actually mean within an Ayurvedic framework? What causes illness? How can we boost our immune system? Why does our immune system get it wrong and what are the consequences?
In short how can we take back control
of our own health and wellbeing?
Allow me to answer some of these questions and help you kick start your journey to health with a few simple, accessible daily cleansing practices:
The single most important factor in maintaining health and wellbeing is the digestive fire, known as Agni. A healthy balanced digestive fire can determine what is useful for the body, allow this to be assimilated into the cells and tissues as required, eliminate anything that is not useful, identify abnormal cells and eradicate them, and fight any kind of infection.
It is thought that 90% of illness comes from the gut. We may have a genetic predisposition to certain ailments, but a healthy digestive fire can help to inhibit the manifestation of these ailments. The main compromise to the digestive fire is actually stress. Indeed, when I ask my clients what makes their condition or symptoms worse they will invariably include stress as one of the major factors.
When we are stressed, from an evolutionary biological perspective, our brain gets the message that we are in grave danger and at serious risk of death! This may seem a little extreme, but we have it to thank for our continued existence as a species. Hence in that critical moment, all the body’s efforts go towards pumping us up for survival in the ‘fight or flight’ response. The heart and lungs are everything and all the functions of the digestive system are shut down momentarily. If you think about it – imagine a dangerous imposter trying to hammer down your front door: you’re not likely to start cleaning your house at that precise moment!
The problem comes when we are under a constant low level of stress from which we never allow ourselves to restore. This results in a build up of toxins which leads to an imbalance in the system. This imbalance attacks our weak spots and we start to see signs and symptoms of ill health.
Aside from that there is a lesser known simple daily routine of cleansing practices or ‘Kriyas’ (as taught by the late Dr B P Pillai, Director of the Institute of Yogic Culture) that I would like to share with you. These help to:
- clear congestion in the sinuses and nasal passages;
- cleanse the respiratory tract;
- boost immunity;
- balance out the digestive fire by stimulating the organs of the abdominal cavity.
Illnesses such as MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohns and Colitis are examples of an immune system that may seem to be too strong.
However this brings to mind a memory that is very personal to me. In 2017 my dear mum was in her 80s and fighting fit. All of a sudden she was struck down with a mystery illness which left her hospitalised and extremely debilitated. This was the ideal chance for me to perform a much needed reorganisation/clearout in her home. If I had been fatigued, lazy, debilitated or otherwise just not focused towards the task in hand I could have hired a skip and dredged the whole house! It would have been so much easier and less taxing to attack everything I found. As it happened I forced myself to find the time, mustered up the energy and drew upon my willpower to go through all her possessions, choosing not to attack her precious keepsakes.
It was a moving experience to find my brother’s and my hospital baby bracelets together with cards of congratulations on our respective births; mum’s birthday cards from her 18th and 21st birthday and many more relatively ancient relics. Hence my own hunch that if we can in fact boost our immune system instead of suppressing it, and enhance its capacity to discriminate, we may in fact alleviate some of the symptoms of these auto-immune diseases which seem to be on the rise.
Susan Swan has a Diploma in Yoga Therapy and works in and around Edinburgh. Consultations available via zoom during lockdown.
If there is any topic(s) you would like to know more about? Feel free to offer suggestions for future blog posts! Email me here.