Contemplating what to write about this newsletter I struggled between Breast Health and Lung Health. October, being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Autumn in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine being important time for cleansing and strengthening the Lungs. I do write about nutrition and lifestyle, but in the world of cancer prevention and treatment there are many experts to learn from, myself not being one. But I am a Yoga teacher always cueing “the Breath” in Yoga class doing regular breathing techniques to improving Lung Health and elasticity. So I settled on October’s Newsletter being about Lung Health.
We all know the importance of getting annually check up’s, eating a diet full of whole foods, exercising regularly, avoiding toxins and endocrine disruptors and limiting stressors in our lives. With that being said, we all also know that Breast Cancer can happen to anyone. Surly we have all been affected by Breast Cancer’s wrath. Through loved ones that have battled and faced gnawing anxiety and possible even closer; maybe you were the one intimately effected. May we all find ways this month to support this necessary cause and find a cure to end Breast Cancer.
On to learn about the Lungs…..
ANATOMY OF THE LUNGS & FUNCTION OF THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
The lungs are two sponge-like organs located in the thoracic (chest) region, separated by the heart, which are responsible for respiration. The left lung is slightly smaller than the right lung because 2/3 of the heart is located on the left side of the body. The left lung contains the cardiac notch, an indentation in the lung that surrounds the apex of the heart. The base of the lungs rest upon a large, dome-shaped sheet of muscle called the diaphragm. The diaphragm forms the entire base of the thoracic cavity. The diaphragm attaches along the lower margins of the ribs, both front and back, and plays a vital role in the action of breathing. The intercostal muscles are attached to the ribs and are secondary muscles of respiration that expand and contract with inhales and exhales. And lastly in forced inhalations and exhalations you have the sternocleidomastoid and scalene muscles to lift the upper rib cage.
Medically speaking respiration involves both the intake of new air (oxygen) during inhalation and the elimination of stale air (carbon dioxide) during exhalation. Just as proper food is necessary for life, proper breathing is necessary for life. The lungs are one of the five organs of elimination with the skin, liver, kidneys and the colon being the others. Ways to improve the function of the respiratory system are:
- don’t smoke
- partake in cardiovascular exercise
- avoid pollutants
- prevent infection
Energetically the lungs represent our capacity to take in and give out life. One of my favorite authors, the late Louise Hay said that problems with the lungs usually meant that one was afraid to take in life, or perhaps feeling that one doesn’t have the right to live fully. A manifested physical condition of these belief can possibly result in issues such as bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma. Emotions such as grief and sadness are known to impede lung health. Holding onto sorrow often leads to shallow breathing and lung contraction. This is all very powerful work to do if it resonates with you. Look at Carolyn Myss and Louise Hays books for more information on mind-body and energetic healing.
OCTOBER’S NUTRITION CORNER: FOOD FOR THE LUNGS
Incomplete digestion, poor nutrition and free radicals from rancid hydrogenated fats can result in particles that gradually clog the pores of the Lungs. The Lungs then lose their elasticity and become sticky with this waste matter. We need to provide antioxidant protection from food and cardiovascular exercise to keep the Lungs clean and healthy. Fresh, raw foods are the best way to get the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that will keep you breathing easy. Research has shown that Flavonoids, Polyphenols and Vitamin C are very supportive to lung heath.
Water – Water plays a huge role in health and is the base of any cleansing action. Pure, clean water is essential to keeping blood flowing to and from the lungs. It also keeps our lungs hydrated and the mucus flowing, which needs to be the right consistency for the cilia to move along toxins, microbes, and pollutants.
Garlic and Onions – These pungent foods are great for the heart and thus the lungs too. They reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and fight infection.
Ginger – This spice has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes the elimination of pollutants from the lungs.
Chili Peppers – Peppers are filled with capsaicin, the spicy compound that gives them their bite. Capsaicin improves blood flow, stimulates mucus membranes, and fights infection.
Cruciferous Vegetables – Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale have been shown to halt the progression of lung cancer and cut the risk of developing lung cancer in half. They are rich in chlorophyll that cleans and builds blood, and full of some very effective antioxidants.
Pomegranates – Pomegranate juice slows the growth of lung tumors. Pomegranates contain many antioxidants including ellagic acid, which is gaining strides in cancer research.
Pineapple- Pineapple reduces swelling, and pineapple juice has been known to help reduce coughing. Additionally, pineapple contains the enzyme bromelin which helps the lungs remove debris and detox naturally.
Turmeric – This spice is related to ginger with many of the same benefits. It also contains curcumin, a compound that encourages the self-destruction of cancer cells.
Apples – Flavonoids, vitamin E, and vitamin C all help the lungs function at their best. Apples are rich in all of these and those who eat several a week have healthier lungs.
Grapefruit – Naringin, a flavonoid in grapefruit, inhibits the activation of a cancer causing enzyme. White grapefruit contains a high amount of this flavonoid, though pink grapefruit has some too along with the antioxidant lycopene. Grapefruit is especially good at cleansing the lungs after quitting smoking.
Beans, Seeds, and Nuts – These all contain rich amounts of magnesium, a mineral that contributes to healthy lung function. They also provide essential fatty acids that are good for the cardiovascular system.
Carrots – These roots are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene, all antioxidants that affect lung health and lower the chances of developing lung disease.
Oranges – Citrus is rich in vitamin C and vitamin B6. These help the lungs transfer oxygen.
Pumpkin – Pumpkin is another food rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, like carrots.
Red Bell Pepper – These mild peppers are rich in vitamin C and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids have been shown to cut the risks of developing lung cancer.
OCTOBER’S AYURVEDA/YOGA CORNER
In Ayurveda, The function of the lungs is governed by Udana Vata, the sub-dosha of Vata that governs the throat, lungs and speech. The structure, on the other hand, is governed by Shleshaka Kapha, the sub-dosha of Kapha which provides lubrication. The whole chest is the seat of Avalambaka Kapha, which governs the functions of the chest, heart, lungs and lower back, and also stabilizes and supports the connection between Udana Vata and Prana Vata, which governs the chest and respiration.
Most disorders of the respiratory system are a result of imbalanced sub-doshas and low agni, or digestive fire. Low agni creates ama. Ama is a sticky product of undigested food which lowers immunity in the body when it spreads and clogs the channels that carry food to the cells and the channels that remove wastes. Ama also blocks the micro-channels that are part of the immune system provides a breeding ground for infection. This was mentioned previously as sticky waste material that clogs the pores of the lungs.
Everyone is more susceptible to respiratory problems when the seasons are changing. The body functions differently in each season, and in the transition between hot and cold seasons the agni, or digestive fire, can start to change dramatically. This is why in Ayurveda we follow our Dosha, (constitution) with seasonal diet and lifestyle changes to keep the immune system healthy and avoid ama build up. See my newsletter last month specifically the section on The Changing of Season- Vata.
In Ayurveda there are three stages of life, called Kalas, each governed by one of the three doshas. Children are in Kapha age (which lasts from birth to age 30), so in general children’s agni has a Kapha quality and is a little low. Because of their lower agni, children in general create ama more easily. That’s why parents have to be careful to keep enhancing the agni of their children, and provide them with warm, nourishing, freshly cooked meals. Children should avoid sugar, ice-cold drinks and foods and over packaged and processed items as all of these are hard to digest, and can contribute to respiratory problems. Even if your child doesn’t like spicy foods, you can include some turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and fennel in his or her food, as these are sweeter, milder spices.
If respiratory problems do arise try this recipe to make milk (can use nut-milk) more digestible and to prevent ama from accumulating.
- Warm the milk to a simmer.
- Add warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and clove.
- Turn the heat off the milk and allow the herbs to steep for 10 minutes.
- Allow the milk to come to room temperature or comfortable enough for the child to drink.
Here is an interesting article on Ayurvedic health tips for children.
Yoga and Pranayama
Regular practice of Yoga improves the body’s posture and keeps the body’s systems and channels open and free-flowing. Linking breath and movement is an optimal way to invite space and increase vitality within the body’s tissues and organs. Asanas, or postures that move the rib cage and stretch the intercostal muscles help to keep lungs healthy. By bringing more flexibility into the ribs, back, and shoulders, the lungs can expand more fully.
To keep Kapha Dosha balanced practice Yoga Asanas more vigorously. Sun Salutations, Surya Namaskar, or any continuously linked practice like Ashtanga or Vinyasa including many standing postures can help to raise the heart rate and improve lung function. Practicing in a hot/warm room also helps to open and expand the lungs and respiratory system.
The respiratory system is an intricate and delicate network of channels that carry Prana, (the vital life-force) and oxygen. The lungs are the organs that receive the Prana and oxygen that we breathe in through our nose and mouth. It is estimated that we only use 30-40% of our lung capacity unless we do breathing techniques and stretching to build to our full lung capacity. Pranayama and Yoga asanas are the gateway to increase lung capacity and health of the respiratory system.
Yogic breath work or Pranayama is an excellent way to revitalize Prana within the body. Pranayama is a practice in controlling the breath. Pranayama cleanses and strengthens the physical body while calming and clearing the mind. It is important to practice with the proper posture to allow the breath to move freely in the body.
Pranayama may be the ultimate tool to help support healthy lung function. It conditions the diaphragm while helping to more fully oxygenate the blood. Breathing techniques such as alternate nostril breathing, Kapalabhati breathing and Standing deep breathing strengthens and balances the lungs.
Yoga Asanas for the Lungs
All of these Yoga Asanas will help of open the chest, shoulders and allow a greater expansion of breath. Practicing these poses on a weekly basis as well as Pranayama techniques will be sure to help strengthen the lungs.
Standing Poses– Triangle, Side Angle Pose, Warrior 1 & 2, Dancer’s Pose, Tree Pose
Kneeling Poses– Cat-Cow, Gate Pose, Puppy Pose, Camel
Backward Bending Poses– Bridge, Bow, Table, Cobra, Locust, Fish
MARYVILLE YOGA SHALA UPDATES
We have announced our workshop series starting in October! Look forward to lots of great instruction in varies modalities.
Sunday, Oct 07 2018 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
During a Sound Meditation Workshop participants can expect an immersive experience using the sounds of the Gong, steel drum, tuning forks, and specially selected music allowing body to find its natural balance while creating space for insight. People often find resolution for emotional issues and a sense of coming home to themselves.
* cost $20 pre-registration/ $30 at the door (pending space availability)
* herbal tea and conversation will be served afterwards.
* bring your favorite pillow, wear your most comfortable clothes, lay back, and relax fully.
Sunday, Oct 14 2018 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
In this workshop we will explore the asanas of Yin Yoga, how to use all of the props for support, learn to identify when and how to modify poses for stretching benefit, comfort and safety, mindfulness and body awareness, breath and being in stillness and how gravity becomes our friend. Yin Yoga targets the deep connective tissues, bones, joints, fascia and ligaments. Yin Yoga is an excellent counter to the more demanding, or yang, yoga disciplines. It is a perfect follow-up to intense work-outs by helping us to stay balanced, flexible and avoid injuries.
- No experience necessary.
- Please bring your mat and water.
- Cost is $20 pre-registration/$25 day of workshop.
Sunday, Oct 21 2018 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
We will explore the dynamics of how to open and create space throughout the lower back, pelvis and inner thighs through aligning the body properly, creating the most effective posture sequencing and then subtle tweaking through the art of adjustment.
* Please bring mat, towel and water.
* Cost $35 early registration/$40 day of workshop.
To register please go to www.maryvilleyogashala.com/workshops-and-events/
Or call 865-850-5150
Until October’s Nourishing Newsletter……
“Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” translated to mean “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”Have a great month friends and enjoy your health!