Halasana Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News

The liver is the largest glandular organ in the body and performs multiple critical functions to keep the body free of harmful substances. In addition to its important roles in the digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, the liver helps to maintain cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It also metabolises toxic substances and enables them to be excreted from the body.

Sluggish liver function causes a number of digestive symptoms, which may include constipation, abdominal bloating, nausea, indigestion, and intolerance of fatty foods and alcohol. Additionally, suboptimal detoxification by the liver may result in symptoms throughout the body, including blood sugar problems, headaches, fatigue, weight problems and skin problems.

 

YOGA TO IMPROVE LIVER FUNCTION

In addition to poor eating habits, lack of exercise and stress contributes to a sluggish liver. A regular regime of exercise or yoga along with a balanced diet that includes cooling and anti-inflammatory foods and adequate sleep help in improving liver function.

The practice of yoga is extremely beneficial for stimulating, strengthening and de-stressing the liver as well as the digestive organs. It also reduces stress levels significantly.

Yoga postures place adequate pressure on the liver helping it release impurities. There are several techniques in yoga that are excellent for the unclogging of the liver. One such pranayama technique is described below.

 

BHASTRIKA PRANAYAMA (Bellow’s breath)

Sit in a comfortable meditation asana, preferably padmasana or vajrasana, with the hands resting on the knees.

Keep the head and spine straight. Close the eyes and relax the whole body.

Breathe in and out forcefully through both nostrils at least 10-20 times, mentally counting each time.

The abdomen should expand and contract rhythmically with the breath. The pumping action should be performed by the abdomen alone.

There should be a snuffing sound in the nose but no sound should come from the throat or chest.

Begin with five sets initially, slowly increasing the duration of this practice to 10 minutes over a period of six to eight weeks.

 

KEEP IN MIND

Bhastrika may be practiced at three different breath rates: slow, medium and fast, depending on the capacity of the practitioner. Slow bhastrika is like amplified normal breathing, practiced to approximately one breath every two seconds. This is the perfect pace for beginners.

Medium bhastrika increases the speed of respiration to approximately one breath every second. Fast bhastrika means a breathing speed of around two breaths per second. The abdominal muscles will become stronger with regular practice.

A feeling of faintness, excessive perspiration or vomiting sensation indicates that the practice is being performed incorrectly. Avoid violent respiration, facial contortions and excessive shaking of the body. A slow, conscientious approach to this practice is recommended.

Bhastrika should not be practiced by people who suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, hernia, gastric ulcer, stroke, epilepsy or vertigo. Those suffering from lung diseases such as asthma or chronic bronchitis should practice only under guidance.

 

PRACTICE OF THE WEEK:

Halasana

Matsyasana

Paschimottanasana

Ardha Matsyendrasana

Merudandasana

Next Week: Yoga to manage ADHD.