How Yoga benefits the Circulatory System and Why this is Important


  The circulatory system is an essential part of what keeps us going.  It is also referred to as the cardio-vascular system and consists of the heart and the blood vessels.  The hearts job is to pump blood to different parts of the body and this blood carries vital nutrients and oxygen to the different organs.  It travels via the blood vessels. The heart is divided into four compartments that each have a different role. The compartment on the upper right is responsible for collecting the incoming impure blood from all over the body and moving it on to the lower right compartment.  The lower right compartment sends the blood on to the lungs for purification. The purified blood is then returned to the heart - this time in the upper left ventricle from where it is moved into the lower-left compartment and then back out as fresh, pure blood to the remainder of the body.  


  The blood primarily carries through main arteries that are thick tube like structures leading from the heart around the body.  The arteries branch into many sub arteries which in turn will divide into thin-walled capillaries. The capillaries interact with the organs directly and due to their thin walls they pass oxygen and nutrients to the organs and tissues that need them the most.  The used resources are ejected from the tissue and back into the capillaries to be fed on through specialized veins to return the impure blood back to the heart to start the entire process once more. This is a difficult job as the pressure has decreased this far from the heart so the veins are assisted by valves to regulate the flow.


  The important thing to understand about the way the circulatory system is set up is that it has two main parts, the blood system and the lymphatic system.  It is the job of the lymphatic system to remove waste from the circulatory system. The two different systems run almost side by side but while the blood system has a pump - the heart - the lymphatic system does not have a single organ designed to power it's operations.  This job falls to the muscles, which pump the lymphatic system by contracting and expanding. This is of course where Yoga comes in.


  Yoga is a discipline unique in it's combination of focus on body, mind and spirit.  The body component is taken care of with a series of poses and postures, which are designed to clear blockages in the circulatory system and ensure that everything is flowing as it should at an even regular rate.  It also flexes the muscles and strengthens them very efficiently over time with a minimal amount of 'grunt'. This strengthening and constant working of these muscles pumps the lymphatic system and makes out body many times more efficient at the removal of waste matter.  As a result people who practice Yoga regularly can expect that they will have a greatly enhanced immune response system and be able to deal with infection and disease better than their non-Yogi counterparts.


  Furthermore the benefits start before this.  Yoga sessions will usually being with a series of standing exercises emphasizing long slow breathing exercises.  These breathing exercises are common to all forms of yoga and force us to concentrate on our breath and it's pathway trough the body each time we take a fresh breath.  The exercises are designed especially so that people are not restricted in where and when they can practice them and ideally would use them instead of our slower shallower normal breathing pattern.  

  

  Because the breaths are longer and deeper the oxygen intake is increased.  Combined with the enhancing effects that the exercises have on the regularity of circulation in the blood system the oxygen is much more efficiently transported to the muscles of the body.  If these muscles, along with our other organs and tissues are not receiving the oxygen and nutrients we need then we starve them and become ill as a result.


  As you can see Yoga is of great assistance to the complex and interlocking system of circulation.  It recognizes the basis and importance of the system and helps to being it back into balance.


How to get the most out of Yoga

  Yoga is an ancient art that has been refined and modified by many great teachers across the ages.  It now comes in so many different styles and techniques and different people may find different versions of Yoga more suitable for them.  This is because Yoga is a very personal exercise routine with a strong emphasis on looking within oneself in order to achieve personal balance and wellbeing.  Regardless of which individual version of Yoga you practice there are a number of things that apply to Yoga universally rather than to individual branches of the discipline.  If you want to get the most from your Yoga session you will learn to understand these things and develop them into your Yoga routine.


  You will find that much of your time performing Yoga is spent in a sitting or lying position, however the beginning of a Yoga session is usually a standard standing pose.  The standing pose is the most natural position for a human to find themselves in, yet we spend remarkably little time practicing standing correctly. If you begin your Yoga session with a standing pose you are free from the stress of having to take on an unaccustomed position and this allows you to focus on other fundamentals of the Yoga Discipline.  For instance, you can concentrate on regulating your breathing and feeling the full healing benefits of each breath. The standing pose is so natural to us that we don't need to pay it any conscious thought and can focus on our breath entering the body and flowing through us. The standing pose is also beneficial to bringing the body into alignment and centering ourselves both physically and spiritually.  Leonardo Da Vinci produced a famous diagram showing the perfect symmetry of the human body when it is in its natural standing pose and this position has always been the most natural for us to find our center and balance.


  The bulk of a Yoga session is spent on placing our body in positions or poses that stretch and activate the body.  These poses are entered into gently and gradually so there is no risk of injury. Many poses have a number of different levels so we can get more and more benefits from them as our body becomes more used to them.  This is perhaps best demonstrated by a simple forward stretch. When a gym teacher tells a pupil to touch their toes the pupil is performing the same exercise whether they can reach forward and touch the floor or whether the stretch only goes as far as their knees.  The only difference is the level of incline.  


  The forward stretch is also a perfect example of how the natural movements of Yoga are used outside of a Yoga class or session - in this case in stretching and warming up before sports or other physical activities.  Most children who's coaches take them through a stretching routine before a game of football have no idea that many of the poses are borrowed directly from a Yoga session.


  The key to enjoying and benefiting from this main phase of the Yoga session is to pace it to your level.  As with the child who can only forward stretch to knee level you do not need to perform the exercise at the highest level from the first time you experience it.  Find your comfort zone and then move a fraction beyond it. Then each new session try and maintain that level and push a little further if possible.  


  The end of a Yoga session is also an important stage.  This stage usually consists of a group of restoration and restorative poses and positions that are designed to allow the energy to flow back through your body.  A good Yoga session releases pent up energy in your body and allowing this energy to flow freely to all parts of the body is a critical part of gaining the maximum benefits from Yoga.


Dragonfly's style secrets

Having a wide variety of classes available at the Dragonfly means that there’s always something available to suit your goals and mood. Sometimes, however, it can be a little bit tricky figuring out what each style means, particularly if you’re new to yoga. This guide aims to help you understand the different styles available, so that you can find the perfect class to suit you.

  1. Ashtanga

    A style of yoga codified and popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois during the 20th century, and which is often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. In this class you will be practicing the primary series.

  2. Aroma yoga

    The class will have some flow elements followed by longer held Yin postures. This class incorporates the Purest Essential Oils to support and nurture your system and help cleanse, balance and refresh the body, mind and spirit. A gentle class.

  3. Hatha

    Sometimes called a dual type of yoga because it includes a duality between two opposites: the sun (in Hinda, "ha") and the moon ("tha"). This style joins these two opposites together. Structured poses and other activities that help cleanse the body and mind through asanas (postures) and pranayamas (subtle energy control) are performed.

  4. Kundalini

    A school of yoga that is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra. It derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of meditation, pranayama, chanting mantra and yoga asana.

  5. Mandala vinyasa

    The Mandala Vinyasa class is established on the four basic elements to bring connection between you and each of the Elements in the Universe – Earth, Water, Fire and Air – and with their corresponding Chakra. Each of the element relates to a specific group of muscles of the leg mandala.

  6. Rocket yoga

    A style of yoga developed by Larry Schultz in San Francisco during the 1980s. Rocket Yoga is rooted in the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice of yoga. It's a quick and dynamic Yoga Flow with options for strong arm balances and inversions.

  7. Vinyasa

    In these classes you coordinate movement with breath to flow from one pose to the next. Vinyasa is also the term used to describe a specific sequence of poses (Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog to Downward-Facing Dog) commonly used throughout a vinyasa class.

  8. Yin

    Postures are practiced close to the mat and held for longer in order to open the joints and get deep into the body's connective tissues. A more meditative form of yoga with a strong emphasis on breath awareness and the link between mind and body. A gentle class.

Find your style at one of our yoga classes or try something new — take a look at our timetable online.

Yoga is a reawakening

On Monday 14th of January 2019 across India children will fly kites while their parents cook them fatty sweets and light bonfires through the night to celebrate the return of the sun from the darkness of winter. 

Known by many names – as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Maghi in Punjab, Uttarayan in Gujarat - Makar Sankranti honours the night we see the sun set and rise for the first time in the constellation of Makar, the chimeric emblem of the god of love, and equivalent to the western Capricorn. Following on from the lunar month of the winter solstice, it marks the return of the sun and the promise of longer, warmer days ahead. In myth, it is the the birth of shaktism, with the arrival of the warrior goddess, best known in the West as Kali, on earth to destroy the demon of ignorance and sloth. 

Winter practice can be daunting: cold nights and dark days make the studio seem a long way off. Makar Sankranti is a reminder of the promise of yoga: a reawakening of life-giving Surya, the Sun. ’As we align ourselves to the ebb and flow of the seasons, winter is the time to turn inward with our energy and look to build strength from within.  Long dark days, slow, inward energy can result in physical stagnation. In the yin practice in winter we focus on the water element so stimulate flow and chi in the body to harmonies the mind, body and bringing a sense of vitality from within to integrate ourselves for when spring arrives', says Carlene Bogues, teacher at Dragonfly Yoga Studio.   

‘The sun has always been central to yoga. Traditionally, says Alina Jaber, teacher at Dragonfly Yoga Studio, ‘yogis would start their practice at dawn, greeting the new day with the sun salutation, Surya Namaskar. Starting in Tadasana, with hands together over your heart, the salutation follows the breath through 8 poses (given below) that warm the heart and focus the mind on the day ahead. Popularised by the Raja of Aundh, it is now practiced across the world.’

That rebirth and reawakening is evident in yogic practice too, with the discipline rediscovered and re-imagined over the centuries. Ancient traditions of Hatha yoga reborn in modern practice, as Hatha, Vinyasa Kundalini and Ashtanga. All united by the discipline of their poses and calmness of the breath.  

All of which makes this the perfect week to start your yoga practice afresh, or for the first time. As the Amrtasiddhi, the 11th century yogic text, put it a thousand years ago: 'When the sun seizes the moon from the sphere of the sky, union with one another arises. This is called yoga'.  

'There's an idea of yoga as something forceful, but it should also be seen as gentler,' says Alina. 'Not about achieving a perfect body, but about the body in all its aspects, in stillness as well as action, in calm and movement: a way to an understanding and love of your body in its entirety, of your breath and of yourself.'  

Sun Salutation 

Surya Namaskar follows eight poses, each transition guided by an inhalation or exhalation of the breath, with the first inhalation as you move in to Urdhva Hastasana. 

  1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose) 

  2. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute) 

  3. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) 

  4. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) 

  5. Plank Pose 

  6. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) 

  7. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose) 

  8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Yoga and Health: What do the scientists say?

January is the deadliest month, and often the month many of us reflect, with new resolutions, on our own health and the best moves to dodge the reaper. The good news is that the diciest few weeks, starting just before Christmas and continuing through the fortnight after the New Year, are behind us. So, if you're reading this: congratulations! And the even better news is that yoga can help you keep up your run of good luck.

We've all heard stories of yoga's health benefits from fellow practitioners and teachers. But what do the scientists say?

  1. Cardiovascular health

    While not strictly 'cardio', except in its more active forms, all yoga has a positive effect on cardiovascular risk and many cardiac rehabilitation programmes now include yoga. Studies have found that yoga helps lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, lowers excessive blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and improves lipid profiles, a panel of blood tests used to indicate cardiovascular health risks. One study found that a combination of yoga and changes in diet stopped the progression of heart disease in 47% of patients.

  2. Muscles and Joints

    It will come as no surprise that yoga boosts flexibility, and has been found to be four times more effective than calisthenics. Many runners and dancers discover yoga after an injury. Yoga encourages recovery and as a low impact exercise, yoga builds strength while allowing vulnerable tendons and joints time to heal.

    In studies, yoga has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers after strenuous exercise, decrease pain and improve function in patients with osteoarthritis and to be more effective than a wrist splint in addressing carpal tunnel syndrome.

    Even if you prefer Netflix and chill to a frosty park run, you're in luck. Eight weeks of yoga, practicing three hours a week, has been shown to build greater muscle strength and endurance, flexibility and cardio-respiratory fitness.

    Yoga has also been shown to help with neck and lower back pain by addressing muscular contraction without the need for anti-inflammatory medication.

  3. Addiction and Diet

    The mindfulness developed in yoga continues beyond the studio and can be a boon in addressing unhealthy behaviours. Yoga is frequently used to combat addiction and is a staple of celebrity rehabilitation centres. Even if your habits are more humdrum – chocolate or coffee, smoking or shopping – yoga helps. Greater mindfulness builds an appreciation of healthy choices, and just one class a week has been shown to reduce weight gain.

    Yoga practice also addresses the anxiety underpinning unhealthy stress management strategies from emotional eating to smoking. Studies have shown yoga to be an effective stress strategy, demonstrably reducing cortisol levels.

    Over the millennia, yoga has been here to help, and continues to be, building  strength, cardiovascular health, and fighting stress to allow you to be the best you, the healthy you.

Position Ambition: Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes)

Divine Shiva, they say, revealed his mysteries to his other half, reborn as Kali and mother of shakti, far from civilization on the seabed, the better to keep them secret. Their only witness a yogi, carried to the depths trapped in the belly of a fish, became Matsyendra, the Lord of the Fishes.

Matsyendra's yoga practice let him ditch the fish, and a millennium and a half later, he is still honoured by Buddhists, Hindus and Jains from the Himalayas to the Laccadive Sea. His disciple, Goraksha, revived his thought and practice 500 years later. Together, they are known as preeminent authors of hatha yoga. The position named after Matsyendra, the Matsyendrasana, has a similarly lofty heritage. Its first surviving mention is in the fifteenth century Hatha Yoga Pradipika, where it was said to increase appetite, destroy disease and rouse kundalini in the body. Most popularly practised now as the Ardha Matsyendrasana, the Half Lord of the Fishes, it is central in modern yoga practice, an energising spinal twist. 'The twist helps to detox the body... the internal organs and also the mind!', says Celine Eloy, teacher at Dragonfly Yoga Studio.

Whether you're suffering from back pain, winter blues or looking to boost your Veganuary detox, Ardha Matsyendrasana is for you. It can form part of a wider practice or a destination in itself and can be practised alone or in sync with a partner for (gentle!) extra stretching. As with all new positions you should only approach it after supervision by a qualified teacher, so you can reap the rewards without risking injury.

If you're familiar with the position and looking to build it into your home practice, and confident that it won't exacerbate an injury, here's how:

  1. Warm up! A couple of Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutations) are a great way to do this

  2. Dandasana (Staff Pose). Establish a steady breath and balance between your sitting bones

  3. Exhale: bend your left knee and cross it over your right leg, with the left foot outside of the right thigh

  4. Hold the position, ensuring your hips are grounded

  5. Inhale: lift your right arm up to the sky, place your left hand behind you for support

  6. Exhale: bring your right arm to the outside of your left thigh

  7. 10 breaths: stretch you back on the inhale and deepen the twist as you exhale

  8. Unwind and return to Dandasana

  9. Repeat with your other side

Matsyendra would be proud of you! We think. The origins of yoga are of course lost to history and we now decode them from myth but came at a time when holy men found new ways to reclaim the sacred, defying convention, shedding the scaly skin of social norms and rediscovering the divine Self within yourself. 'Every exhalation is an opportunity to release things that are not serving you,' says Celine.

Our top 5 reasons to practice yoga

Yoga has sometimes been dismissed as a trendy practice, beloved by celebrities and yummy mummies, but it’s an ancient practice that can be traced back to the 5th century! Those of us who have practiced yoga may all have our own reasons for loving the practice and Dragonfly’s diverse timetable and styles mean that we can find different benefits on different days, depending on what our bodies need. Read below to discover our top five reasons to do yoga and if you have any others, let us know.

  1. It’s a great workout

    Yoga is great for your body. Depending on the style you choose you can push your body in new ways and there will always be a style that suits you and your needs. Yoga is also good for weight loss as it helps reduce cortisol and stress levels, which can cause us to overeat.

  2. It helps you get in touch with your body

    Yoga is a fantastic way of learning more about your body, its strengths and areas you can improve upon. By taking your time and flowing through movements while using your breath, you can truly take the time to notice your body and get in touch with areas you may have neglected.

  3. It will improve your physical and mental strength

    Yoga is all about combining the body and mind in unison. Whilst it’s easy to see how you’re using your body while you practice sometimes, we forget the amazing benefits yoga has on the mind. By taking time out of our day, meditating and setting good intentions we can take our strength off the mat and into our day to day lives.

  4. You’ll gain flexibility

    Yoga is perhaps most famous in the public consciousness for having people bend like contortionists. This is not a realistic or even desirable aim for most, but regular practice lengthens our tendons and ligaments, increasing flexibility and enabling us to move into poses we wouldn’t have been able to before.

  5. It will improve your posture

    How we carry ourselves as we walk about in our day to day lives is one of the first things people notice about us. As many of the poses (asana) require us to keep a straight back, increased practice will naturally cause us to slouch less and hold our head’s high!

Ready to reap the benefits? We offer yoga for all abilities – click here to view our timetable.