Questo sito o gli strumenti terzi da questo utilizzati si avvalgono di cookie necessari al funzionamento del sito. Chiudendo questo banner, scorrendo questa pagina, cliccando su un link o proseguendo la navigazione in altra maniera, acconsenti all'uso dei cookie. CHIUDI


Iyengar Pratica Scienza

21 Marzo 2023

Spring Heart Blooming Sequence

written by Chiara M. Travisi - illustrated by Svenja Karstens

Seasonality: Spring blooming yoga sequence

The third sequence I am presenting deals with Spring and is focused on blooming the heart region.


As for the Fall and Spring sequences, this heart blooming sequence too is not intendedto substitute any therapeutic prescription in case of illness. Nor I want to give the confusing message that yoga can cure any condition. However, as said, yoga is ever increasing considered by the available scientific literature as a valuable ancillary and complementary treatment for reducing the risks of cardiovascular diseases (see e.g. Kalra et al., 2022; Pandey et al., 2023).


Most of all, yoga should be considered as a lifelong practice useful to foster the capacity of our body to keep all its systems in a homeostatic physiological condition (see for example Sullivan et al., 2018). Keeping the embodiment in such homeostatic condition does not mean that it has to remain statically in a given point of equilibrium. Vice versa, our body is in good health if it is able to manage any modification of what I have called the ‘climate inside’ and thus if, after a given perturbation of the ‘climate outside’, it is able to bounce back to that dynamic equilibrium that we use to call ‘health’ or even ‘happiness’. Thus, most of allyoga should be seen and experienced as self-regulation lifelong practice.


While preparing this sequence on Spring, I was of course inspired by the blooming of nature which flourishes and awakens after winter. It therefore went naturally to propose a practice centered on the heart region, which is pretty much an area that tends to collapse and close in our daily life – while sitting for studying, working, thinking, etc. – but which, however, really has the potential to flourish if correctly stimulated.


The blooming of the heart region, what Guruji used to call the “opening of the chest”, goes with some specific and beautiful somatic sensations which each of us can actually associate to this climatic season. I refer to a sense of lightness, joy, strength, positivity and even courage. Not only that, heart opening can actually ameliorate the health condition of our heart. All these stemming from blooming the heart? My sincere personal answer is yes and this is why I am excited and happy to share this practice in particular.


So, what yoga can do for our heart? Let us see this more in details.

According to my understanding, the contribution of yoga is five-fold:


  • It can reduce the risks factors normally associated to heart and cardiovascular disease creating the condition for a positive change in life-style
  • It can ameliorate the psychological profile of practitioners, improving posture, the balance of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and our attitude and capacity to manage stressful conditions
  • It can ameliorate our posture, creating more space and freedom in the heart chest region, thus keeping the heart organ in a supported, spacious and not tensed condition
  • It can increase our capacity to effectively modulate our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
  • It can contribute to sustaining our blood circulation for the whole embodiment which is the main aims of our heart 


All the above elements can actually be seen as interconnected and layered, as a Matryoshka, and therefore in yoga the approach is always to try to work not in a compartmentalized way but with a multi-attitude perspective that looks at the physiological aspects of somatic as intertwined with those mental and vice versa. In this respect, yog-asana and pranayama practice can exert a very positive impact and they give have an extra gear compared to other physical systems of exercise.


As for the first point, the main risk factors of cardiovascular disease reported in the literature are linked to increased blood-pressure and high triglyceride and cholesterol patterns, which are all associated to a stressful and sedentary lifestyle. Because yoga involves a change in our life-style, helping the practitioner to introduce a regular physical activity which also help reduce stress (see for example Pascoe et al., 2015), the literature suggests that yoga might help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Among the most recent studies available, Chu et al. (2016) in particular analyzed the comparative effectiveness of several forms of lifestyle modification and found smoking cessation and yoga to be the most effective forms of cardiovascular disease prevention.


Secondly, yoga can ameliorate the psychological profile of practitioners. Actually, in ancient yoga ascetic contexts, freeing human beings from suffering not only was the main purpose of yoga systems but it was very much linked to creating a new way of seeing and interact with reality, changing our mind set from within through psycho-corporeal systems of embodied practices. This was the most prominent aims of yoga systems according to textual sources of Indian antiquity, which saw human ‘psychological’ and ‘mental’ spheres in a very modern way, as intrinsically connected to the materiality (the corporality) of our embodiment, as contemporary neurosciences do.


Therefore, far from being a secondary issue for heart health, an extensive research literature in the behavioral sciences and medicine suggests that psychological and social factors may play a direct role in several heart pathologies (see for instance: Krantz and McCeney, 2002; Ginsberg et al., 2015). The study of the relationship of autonomic cardiac adjustment to stress and mental disorder—the so-called heart-mind connection—is the challenge that the branch of cardiac psychology has currently accepted (see Ginsberg et al., 2015). Not only mental stress or traumatic personal events are now also recognized as a risk factor in cardiac dysregulation, but even mental attitude can play a role. And here yoga has that extra gear which I was mentioning before, for it works precisely at the interface between the somatic body and the cultural, social body.


Thirdly, yoga-asana transforms our posture which is essential to keep thoracic organs in good health. A so-called slouched or poor posture in fact will keep the heart region into a compressed and tensed condition which can be detrimental for its functioning. As the heart rest on the diaphragmatic plate, a closed chest with diaphragmatic rigidity can reduce the space for the heart to move and be massaged by the diaphragm movement. Our pericardium - a fluid-filled sac that surrounds our heart and the roots of the major blood vessels that extend from our heart - is in continuity with the diaphragm. An inelastic chest and diaphragm are thus expected to create a constant tension in the heart region which will tend to increase the blood pressure and harden the blood vessels. As one gets nervous, or angry or in fear, the chest contracts exerting a negative impact of blood pressure and heart vessels tissues. In addition to this, a poor posture is also associated to depressive disorders and negative mid-sets which, as said, are associated to higher risk of heart pathologies (see for instance, Canales et al., 2017 and Kim, 2022).


Fourth, yogasana and pranayama practice help us to increase our capacity to effectively modulate our Autonomic Nervous Systems (ANS). The ANS seems to be implicated in the way we are able to maintain our homeostatic physiological condition and bounce back to it after a perturbation or stressful experience. In the following sequence I propose an ujjayi pranayama practice in particular. According to a recent study (see Mahour and Verma 2027) Ujjayi Pranayama can significantly decreases the stress induced changes in cardiovascular parameters because this leads to cardiovascular autonomic balance toward parasympathetic side and cortico-hypothalamo-medullary inhibition.


Lastly, yoga-asana practice can actually help our heart’s main purpose: namely, nourishing each physiological system and each single cell in the body by its pumping action. The arteries carry the oxygenate blood from the heart to all the cells on the body (brain included!); whereas the veins carry the spent blood back to the heart for recharging with oxygen. The heart it-self is nourished by the oxygen supply and, as any other organ, demands an efficient blood supply.


Accordingly, the heart blooming sequence that I propose for the Spring season is designed having in mind all the aforementioned issues in relation to heart health and it is divided into 5 main parts.  In particular, the sequence I propose is intended to create an inner space for the heart in which it can be lifted up and therefore rest down, without creating any compression or tension in this beautiful vital organ.


Stay tuned for the presentation of each part of the sequence coming soon with literature references and explanations.


Many thanks to @svenjakarstens for the beautiful and satvic illustrations.


Iyengar News Pratica Scienza Yoga Studies

07 Dicembre 2023

Il Prisma dello Yoga

Lasciamo che ‘yoga’ faccia quello che può e deve fare, ovvero darci la capacità discriminativa e prismatica di riconcettualizzare il nostro sguardo sul mondo, facendoci unire ciò che potrebbe apparirci separato, sviluppando una attitudine inclusiva, unificante e tollerante e fondata sui suoi principi etici in ogni contesto. E se #yoga è utopia, l’utopia di un percorso individuale per creare una comunità fondata sulla giustizia, a me sta bene così e, almeno, lasciamoci ispirare!

Iyengar Pratica Scienza

17 Settembre 2023

Summer Extend&Compact - part 8

Learn more on the last part of the Summer practice.

Iyengar Pratica

29 Agosto 2023

Summer Extend&Compact - part 7

Learn more on the extend&compact summer sequence Part 7