Health

Applying the lessons of the Ashtanga Yoga practice for a healthy life.

Ashtanga Yoga and the Circulatory System (part 2)

The heart is the emperor controlling all the other organs, it is at our center and the root of our life. It is protected and held in place by the pericardium. Divided into 4 chambers, left and right, top and bottom, the heart is responsible for the flow of blood throughout the body, and is often thought of as the main energy center of the body, the 4th chakra, our place of feeling.

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Morgan Lee
Ashtanga Yoga and the Circulatory System (part 1)

“your heart is one of the masterpieces of creation. It is a phenomenal instrument. It has the potential to create vibrations and harmonies that are far beyond the beauty of pianos, strings, or flutes. You can hear an instrument, but you feel your heart. And if you think that you feel an instrument, it’s only because it touched your heart. Your heart is an instrument made of extremely subtle energy that few people come to appreciate.” - The Untethered Soul Michael A. Singer

I didn’t want to separate the organ systems into groups because I didn’t want to give the impression that the systems work independently of each other. This seems like a, ‘No shit Sherlock’ moment, but I didn’t realize this very basic concept until a Human Systems Development class in college. Until that point I believed that the digestive system worked with food. Period. The respiratory system dealt with gas exchange, oxygen and carbon dioxide. Period. And the circulatory system dealt with blood. Period.

I didn’t recognize that the nutrients from the food we eat are carried around in the blood stream to their targets. Or that the organs, ALL of the organs, are made from the food that we eat. That all of the organs are supported by the blood that enriches them with oxygen and nutrients. I also didn’t realize that the lungs needed the contractions of the heart muscle to bring the oxygen around the body in the blood. I thought these gasses floated around inside of us, like the broken down bits of food. They eventually would get to where they were going.

There was this big “Oh!” Moment for me in that freshman class followed by this bit of anger for being taught the systems independently and lead to believe otherwise. 

For this, and other reasons, I am not going to separate the Respiratory and Cardiovascular systems. I will attempt to put the pieces together into one category. But please understand that these systems are unified with the other systems to form the perfect being that you are. 

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How the ashtanga yoga practice improves digestion

We experience emotions through our gut. Along with food, this is where we digest our human experience. All of what we eat is being processed by the body. ALL of what we eat is contributing to our evolution. It’s going to take more than a 30-day detox to clean out thousands of DNA-coding proteins. Yet, sometimes all it takes is a second to release a samskara that we have been holding on to, processing.

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Morgan Lee
Ashtanga Yoga for improved digestion (part 1)

The practice of ashtanga yoga is a formula designed to keep us paying attention. It keeps us on our toes and keeps us able to pursue our spiritual journey. 

On a physical level one way the practice restores or sustains our health is by keeping our digestive system strong. 

The digestive system works to serve the other organ systems. The cardiovascular/respiratory, neuro, reproductive, endocrine, etc. These other systems work to keep us on our spiritual path. The digestive system is made up of a number of organs, glands, and tissue. Digestion begins before we take the first bite.

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The Dark Matter: COFFEE

Embracing the dark matter: COFFEE

It’s the worlds most widely used drug. It’s an adenosine antagonist, and it’s delicious.

I take mine black. Single origin (Unblended) in a V60 pour over. I prefer a light roast because of the more complex flavors.

Coffee and the effects of caffeine can improve attention, dilate the bronchial tubes, improve memory, and stimulate bowl movements. Caffeine is proven to enhance muscle strength and power* and increase the body’s metabolism. But it elevates your blood pressure by constricting the blood vessels. Caffeine can also enhance the effects of NSAID’s (Motrin) but so can ginger, and turmeric.

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Morgan Lee
Ashtanga Yoga and the Nervous System

I wanted to talk about the digestive system but I can’t talk about digestion without first taking a side road into pain and the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. They are interrelated. All of the organ systems are interrelated and dependent on the other. Together they make up the whole of us on our spiritual journey. 

If we take the sequence to be a formula, a medicine to heal. First we move through the practice to move away from pain and suffering.

In a limited sense this is showing up every day. Standing on the mat. Ekam, inhale the arms up. Period. 

That is moving away from the pain and suffering of our life before we practiced.

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Morgan LeeComment
Recognizing the brilliance in the Ashtanga sequence

Is there any danger practicing beyond an asana that you can’t do?

Here is a practice designed to heal, and restore the basic needs of an individual before working on the psychological needs. The needs involving intimate relationships, family, friends, achievement, and respect. Those all come ONLY if we have a sense of safety and proper nutrition/digestion. 

I’m doing a terrible thing and assuming you are practicing this method for more than exercise. If you are doing this practice for exercise the danger is that the Ashtanga police will give you a ticket and make you pay a fine. BUT there is the possibility of driving a pathogen or disease inside the body. 

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Your Asana is in the way

The asana that we stop at in our daily Ashtanga practice can be looked at as a metaphor for a samskara, or issue that we are dealing with in our life outside of the practice space. Each day we get up to that asana, that samskara, and each day we work at it. Some days we do better than others. Some days we believe it is possible to move past the samskara or asana. Somedays it feels impossible. 

Sometimes we simply need to shift our perspective.

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Morgan Lee