Back in June, as I entered the yoga studio in which my monthly 5Rhythms classes take place, the studio owner–also a yoga teacher–asked how I was doing.

“Well, to tell you the truth,” I said, “I feel uncharacteristically impatient. A bit on edge. Like I have all this unchecked rage bubbling inside of me.” I went on to explain that little things were easily irritating me, from traffic to aisle-blocking supermarket patrons to emo Facebook status updates. By nature these are all annoying things, but the problem was that they stayed with me, and I couldn’t brush them off. I could feel my heart beat faster, my chest tighten, my jaw clench any time I was faced with an obstacle.

The following is a loose transcript of the dialogue that followed:

“I don’t understand,” I said. “I do all the things you’re supposed to do to prevent these kind of feelings. I do yoga. I do 5Rhythms. I start my day with meditation and pranayama.”

“What kind of pranayama?”

“Nadi shodhana.”

“Hmm. What about ujayii?”

“No, never ujayii.”

“I think you should try ujayii to start your day. It’s a good, deep cleansing breath. Try some supported savasana, too.”

“Really, in the morning? And how can savasana be supported?”

“Oh, yes. Prop your legs up on a chair so your shins are parallel to the floor. Supported savasana is incredibly relaxing. Also–may I ask–do you have compassion for yourself?”

“Um, yes. I think?”

“Perhaps you should try some metta meditation in the morning. Especially if you’re feeling angry toward others. Perhaps extending compassion toward others through metta will help.”

Although I haven’t gotten around to trying all of the teacher’s suggestions, I found the conversation utterly fascinating. Here we were, two women: me, describing my symptoms; her, offering guidance in the form of breathing, meditation, and yoga. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that this yoga teacher is also an RN; she could have easily offered more “medical” suggestions: therapy, pills, a psychiatric evaluation. But instead of tossing around words like “Valium” and “Cymbalta,” we discussed ujayii, savasana, and metta.

I am a firm believer in integrative medicine (using conventional treatments when warranted but integrating alternative therapies when appropriate). I am not opposed to taking 200 mg of ibuprofen when my hip acts up or when I have a pounding headache. However, the conversation reminded me about all the ways yoga and its individual components (asana, meditation, pranayama, compassion) can help with day-to-day ailments and complaints. For example:

When I am bloated…

…I do intestine-wringing twists like ardha matsyendrasana/supta matsyendrasana, or the classic “wind-relieving” pose, pavanamuktasana.

When I need some “regularity” in the morning…

…I do bhunaman vajrasana, the abdominal massage I learned during my YTT at Kripalu, after several classmates complained of “blockages” from too many beans and fiber-filled dinners. (Have a toilet on standby!) 🙂

When I’ve been on my feet all day…

…I prop my legs against the wall for a few minutes of viparita karani, to get the blood from my legs flowing back into my core.

When I feel my energy waning…

…I power up for a few rounds of kapalabhati pranayama.

When I feel like I need a boost of clarity or to clear a mental block…

…I rise into headstand or handstand and spend a few minutes directing my energies toward my brain.

The above are all very specific asanas/pranayamas for specific symptoms, and I think by now it’s common knowledge that a regular yoga practice in general can lower blood pressure, improve posture and balance, and calm the nervous system, to name a few whole-body benefits.

What pose/breathing practice/meditation do you do for your everyday ailments? I’m still trying to find one that eases my PMS of doom–other than an all-day savasana!

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