A lot of us have cold hands or feet and simply put up with it. Whilst persistent problems should be referred to your health practitioner, yoga can be very useful in restoring blood flow to the extremities especially if you practise inverted postures in a way that is very relaxed and open.
Inverted positions which can be practised in a restorative way include :
- viparita karani – legs up the wall with hips elevated on a bolster or blankets,
- setu bandha sarvangasana – bound bridge pose on bolsters or long, folded blankets,
- halasana – plow pose,
- adho mukha svanasana – downward facing dog.
These poses assist in stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system response, which, in turn, assists the blood vessels to dilate, improving the overall circulation to the entire body. The inverted postures also make use of the force of gravity to promote venous return and, similarly, keep the cardiovascular system functioning optimally.
Head-down postures also stimulate baroreceptors (blood pressure sensors) in the neck and upper chest. This triggers a powerful reflex (the baroreflex) which inhibits the sympathetic nerves, causing the muscles surrounding blood vessels in the fingers and toes to relax. Relaxed muscles and soft tissue mean improved penetration and saturation of oxygenated blood.
Practise these postures supported by props to allow for complete muscle relaxation and comfort. Stay in each posture for a long, uninterrupted period of time to avoid additional stress or activation, and to allow plenty of time for excess norepinephrine that is circulating in the bloodstream to break down (this can take an hour or more).
Supported plough pose (halasana)
Begin lying on the floor with the knees bent. Straighten the knees to a 90 degree angle to the torso and press your arms firmly into the floor. Lift the hips and legs away from the floor and move them slowly over your head. If the feet do not touch the floor then ensure the hands remain on the lower back to support the weight of the legs. Relax as much as possible and do not move the head once the legs are lifted.
Remain here in a relaxed way, maintaining a smooth breath for as long as possible. Aim to remain in the pose for 2 to 5 minutes.
To release, bring the arms and hands to press firmly into the floor, and use the abdominal muscles to control the descent of the legs and spine.
Supported bridge pose (baddha setu bandasana)
Begin lying on the floor with the knees bent, the feet flat on the floor. Ensure the feet and knees are hip width apart and the neck is long, shoulders moving away from the ears. Inhale, and then exhale to lift the hips off the floor. Rise onto the balls of the feet to acquire a little more height and then gently place a block, bolster cushion or stack of folded blankets under the sacrum.
Return the heels to the floor and relax in the pose, letting the pelvis be supported. Hold the pose using a deep, smooth breath for 2 to 5 minutes. To release, lift onto the balls of the feet and gently remove the support before unrolling the spine back to the floor.
These supported, head-down poses will not only warm your hands and feet, they will also leave you calm and refreshed.
In 2000 she began teaching yoga full time and founded the Australian Yoga Academy. Since this time Dominique has dedicated her life to yoga and teaches yoga and universal laws relating to mind, body and spirit for in excess of 1000 hours per year.