What is Yoga
Yoga is an ancient Indian technique of integrating human personality at the physical, mental, moral and intellectual levels.
Maharishi Patanjali explained Yoga as Chitta Vritti Nirodha or control of the mind and all its fluctuations. He described eight aspects (limbs) of Yoga which may be used to attain a healthy, happy and spiritual life. These are as follows:-
1. “Yama” or moral principles like non-violence, truthfulness, honesty, celibacy and non-covetousness.
2. “Niyama” or rules of discipline like purity, contentment, austerity, introspection and dedication to God.
3. “Asanas” or yogic postures.
4. “Pranayama” or control of breathing.
5. “Pratyahara” or control of the mind and the sense organs.
6. “Dharana” or concentration.
7. “Dhyana” or meditation.
8. “Samadhi” or a state of transcendental consciousness when the individual merges with the universal spirit.
Role of Yoga in the Treatment of Allergy
From the treatment point of view, Yoga can be divided as follows :-
□ Yogic Kriyas
Yogasanas refer to the yogic postures of the body, which help in the physical, mental and spiritual development of the individual.
How do Yogasanas Help in the Treatment of Allergy
□ All abdominal organs are toned up and the digestion and metabolism of food substances are enhanced.
□ Better metabolism helps in digesting even the allergic or indigestible substances with ease.
□ There is a proper conditioning and rejuvenation of the neuro-endocrine (hormonal) system.
□ The immune system is activated enabling the body to withstand greater stress and strain, including that due to allergy.
□ Accumulated toxic substances and allergic products are easily eliminated keeping the body fit, strong and rejuvenated.
□ Regular practice of Yogasanas helps to voluntarily control the heart rate, respiration, excretion, body temperature, requirement of food, sleep, etc., bringing about a state of economical self-preservation and conservation of energy.
Yogasanas Useful for Treatment of Allergy
In individuals with dust allergy and skin allergy, the following asanas are beneficial:
Dhanurasana, Paschimottanasana, Sarvangasana, Bhujangasana, Naukasana, Matsyasana, Pawan Muktasana, Simhasana, Trikonasana and Surya Namaskar.
For individuals with food allergy the useful Yogasanas are Surya Namaskar, Pawan Muktasana, Trikonasana, Halasana, Tadasana, Ardhamatsyendrasana, Shashankasana, Kati Chakrasana, Matsyasana, and Bhujangasana.
Detailed descriptions of certain important asanas are given below:-
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) Technique
□ Lie down in the prone position (on the stomach) with the face and forehead touching the ground with the legs straight and the arms by the side.
□ Exhale and bend the legs at the knee and hold them firmly by the hands at the ankles on the same side.
□ Inhale, raise the thighs, chest and head simultaneously.
□ The weight of the body should be on the navel and the head should be raised as high as Fig. Dhanurasana possible with eyes looking upwards.
□ This posture should be held as long as it is felt comfortable.
□ Some authors recommend mild rocking movement on the abdomen, which bears the weight.
□ Repeat this 3-5 times.
□ This asana should not be done by those suffering from high blood pressure, slipped disc, hernia, colitis, duodenal ulcer and heart diseases.
Paschimottanasana (Back Stretching Pose) Technique
□ Sit on the floor with the legs outstretched, feet together and hands on the knees.
□ Relaxing the whole body slowly bend forward from the hips, sliding the hands down the legs. Try to grasp the big toes with the fingers and thumbs. If not possible hold the heels, ankles or any part of the legs that can be reached comfortably.
□ Hold this position for a few seconds.
□ Keep the legs straight, bend the elbows and gently bring the trunk down towards the legs keeping a firm grip on the toes, feet or legs. Touch the knees with the forehead and hold in this position as long as it is comfortable.
□ Slowly return to the original position.
□ Relax and repeat the exercise 2-3 times.
□ People who suffer from slipped disc, lumbar spondylitis or sciatica should not perform this asana.
□ Similarly, those with cardiac problems, hernia and those who have undergone abdominal surgery should avoid this asana.
Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)
It is a core exercise for all practitioners of Yoga and sometimes called as “the mother of all asanas”.
□ Lie down in a supine position with legs and arms straight, feet together and palms facing downward.
□ Take a deep breath and lift both the legs slowly upwards till they are at right angle to the body.
□ After exhaling, pause for a few seconds.
□ Inhale and lift legs, buttocks and lower back with the forearms so that the chin presses into the sternum. Thus the entire weight of the body rests on the head, neck and shoulders and the arms Fi%- Sarvangasana are used for balancing.
□ Focus the eyes on the big toes with the chin pressed against the chest and breathe slowly.
□ Maintain this posture for 2-3 minutes.
□ Exhale and bring down the legs after releasing the hands and the palms.
□ This asana should not be practised by individuals with high blood pressure, heart disease, cervical spondylitis and slipped disc.
□ Obese individuals, people with a weak backbone or abdominal muscles and beginners are advised to support their legs against a wall initially.
□ It should be avoided during menstruation and advanced pregnancy.
Bhujangasana (Serpent Pose) Technique
□ Lie flat on the ground in the prone position with legs straight, feet extended and touching each other, and forehead pressed to the ground.
□ Breathe in, press the head back and slowly raise the head and shoulders off the ground by bending the neck and back muscles.
□ Keeping the arms straight, lift the abdomen above the navel from the ground with the head looking upwards into the sky.
□ Hold your breath and remain in the posture for a few seconds with the weight of the body balanced by the arms.
□ Slowly exhale and come back to the original position. Repeat the process 2-3 times.
□ Individuals who suffer from hypertension, peptic ulcer, hernia, intestinal TB, and hyperthyroidism should not practise this asana.
Ardhamatsyendrasana (Spinal Twist Pose)
This asana is a very important one since it strengthens the flexibility of spine laterally (sideways) which no other asana can accomplish. It is a very useful asana for patients prone to allergy.
□ Sit on the floor with the legs extended in front and feet together.
□ Bend the right knee and bring the heel of the right foot close to the left buttock.
□ Now bend the left knee and place the foot on the outer surface of the right hip.
□ Turn the trunk and face towards the left shoulder placing the left arm behind the back.
□ Hold the left ankle with the right hand.
□ Try to hold the left leg with the left hand.
□ Some authors advise bringing the right hand under the left knee and joining the palm of the left hand.
□ Remain in the final pose for a few seconds and then return to the original position.
□ Repeat the same with the other side. Precautions
□ This asana should be done slowly and steadily without exerting undue pressure on the spine.
□ People with peptic ulcer, hernia, hyperthyroidism, sciatica, and pregnant women, should practise this asana only under expert guidance.
Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
This asana is called Matsyasana because it is said that yogis could float on water like fishes while in this asana, by holding their breath.
□ Assume a sitting position with the legs bent at the knees and the feet kept on opposite hip joints. The heels are adjusted in such a way that each presses the adjacent portion of the abdomen. This forms a foot-lock as in Padmasana.
□ Bend backwards with the head resting on the crown and the weight of the body on the elbows.
□ Push the neck backwards enhancing forcibly and slightly raise the hip and chest upwards thus making an arch of the spine.
□ Hold the toes on the corresponding side by hooking the fingers.
□ Breathe deeply and stay in this position as long as possible.
□ Then release the neck and let the head rest on the floor. Straighten the legs and relax the hands, elbows and the whole body.
□ Repeat the asana, with the legs crossed the other way.
The arching of the spine should be done slowly to avoid injury to spine.
Shashankasana (Hare Pose) Technique
□ Sit with legs folded backwards, heels apart, knees and toes together. (Vajrasana)
□ Let both the hips fit in between the heels.
□ Inhale and slowly raise the arms over the head.
□ While exhaling, slowly bend forward, resting the palms on the floor and the abdomen pressing against the thighs.
□ Bring the face downwards and touch the floor with the forehead without raising the buttocks.
□ Inhale and come back to the original position.
□ Repeat 3-5 times.
□ This exercise should not be done by persons suffering from cervical spondylitis, lumbar spondylitis, vertigo and hypertension.