Compression poses in yoga squeeze and release internal organs and twist and release your vertebrae and spine. These types of asanas, or poses, revitalize and restore healthy balance to a stressed, sedentary body as they relieve tension and help to remove toxins from your system. Bikram yoga places enormous emphasis on this kind of healing in its 26-asana system, but every style of yoga practice offers compression exercises and their many benefits.
The Big Squeeze
Yoga poses that compress your body squeeze your internal organs, pushing out accumulated toxins and waste products. As the compression is eased, new blood rushes in, bringing oxygen and the nutrients that fuel healthy organ function. Bharadvaja's Twist is a seated twist that massages abdominal organs as it releases tension in your upper back and shoulders and lowers stress. Among its multple benefits, it helps to improve digestion. The twist of Revolved Head-To-Knee pose will stimulate your liver and kidneys as it stretches you from hamstrings up the spine to your shoulders. Performing poses to both sides creates balance and restores postural alignment.
Stretching ligaments and muscles and stimulating organs in compression poses may protect you from the common cold. The more flexible you are, the deeper you can enter into the poses, triggering your lymphatic system to move toxins and invading germs out of your system. Lymphatic fluid also delivers more white blood cells throughout your body to boost overall immunity. As your organs are bathed in fresh, oxygen-rich blood, they have more energy for digesting food and eliminating waste. Yoga's teachings say that sluggish digestion allows cold and flu germs to flourish. Your body's response is to manufacture excess phlegm and erupt in a host of symptoms you experience as fever, aches and congestion. "Yoga Journal" suggests Tortoise pose, a forward-bending seated compression, to stimulate the immunity-boosting thymus gland and the lymphatic system and tone your abdominal organs.
Strengthen Bones and Joints
Compression exercises are good for your musculoskeletal system. Weight-bearing exercises and joint compression make bones and joints stronger. Crane pose is a good example of a cleansing and strengthening compression exercise. As you balance on your arms and wrists, supporting your weight strengthens arm muscles and wrist joints. Your knees bend and you fold your legs tightly under your torso and off the ground, engaging your abs and toning your abdominal organs. Bikram yoga cites additional benefits to your skeleton. Increased circulation from the compression brings more calcium to your bones, and the range of movement of your joints improves.
Hot Yoga Hormones
Target your hormones with compressions in hot yoga class. Hot yoga takes place in studios heated to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Bikram yoga, the most familiar system, practices a sequence of 26 poses, a number of them featuring compression. Bikram's website lists the benefits of contraction and expansion in the poses, including massage of the lymph system; compression of the spleen, appendix, thymus gland and intestines; and increased secretion of hormones from the endocrine glands. Hormones regulate essential body processes such as growth and development, metabolism and responses to stress or injury. Rabbit pose, a forward compression that looks like a kneeling Child's pose, is one of the Bikram hot yoga poses that stimulates the endocrine system.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .