By Dr. Rita Khanna
Yoga therapy, not only brings relief to sufferers with a varicose veins condition, but also aids in correcting and restoring damaged veins to their former condition. By regular practice of Yogasana, and Pranayama, it is possible to save oneself from such an irreparable situation, and it is possible to arrest further deterioration. Many patients have reported great improvement in their condition – with regular and consistent practice of Yogasanas.
This is especially true of early cases where damage is not yet severe. Extreme cases require medical consultation and therapy, because the great danger is the collection of blood in one spot, resulting in the clotting of blood. Blood clotting can occur in any part of the vein, and the clot can move with the circulation of the blood. It can clot in the leg, but it can also clot in the vein, pertaining to the heart or lungs, as well as brain. Under such circumstances, emergent proper medical treatment has to be taken, and no Yogic exercise should be undertaken unless the doctor advises.
The Network of Veins
There are two systems of leg veins – the superficial veins and the deep veins. The superficial veins lie closest to the skin, and the deep veins lie within the muscles of the leg and the thigh. The superficial system enters the deep system in two places – in the groin and behind the knee. In addition, there are a number of perforating veins, along the leg and thigh, which interconnect the two systems. Varicose veins develop where the two systems are connected to each other.
How do Varicose Veins Develop?
Blood is pumped from the heart, to the legs, through arteries. The pumping action is established, as the muscles of the thighs and calves contract while walking. These repeated contractions squeeze, and milk the blood upwards, along the veins, towards the heart. The entire process of sending blood back to the heart is called the venous pump. Once it has supplied oxygen and nutrients to the legs, blood returns to the heart through the veins. To complete this process, blood must flow upwards against gravity.
Healthy veins return blood to the heart and lungs so it can be re-oxygenated. A system of valves makes this happen, by allowing the blood to flow in only one direction – up. When valves fail or leak, gravity causes blood to flow backwards and pool inside the vein, and the vein swells. This causes a varicose vein in the superficial veins in the legs. They often look blue, bulging, and twisted.
A hereditary tendency, excessive pressure on the legs or abdomen, hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, repeated delivery as well as very quick deliveries, miscarriages, menopause time, dietary deficiencies, loss of skin elasticity due to aging, prolonged standing or sitting, constipation, constrictive clothing, wearing high-heeled shoes, lack of exercise, obesity, and repeated heavy lifting, are probable causes.
Aching, heavy legs, ankle swelling, itching, burning, cramping, restlessness, throbbing, and a brownish-blue, shiny skin discoloration around the veins.
Asanas, which allow the stagnant pooled blood to drain back to the heart, permitting damaged veins to resume more normal dimensions, and facilitating valvular competence are the:
Ardhapawan-Muktasana, Pawana-Muktasana, Naukasana, Urdhvamukh- Paschimottanasana, Chakrasana, Sarvangasana, Shirshasana, Vajrasana, Janushirasana, Paschimottanasana, Shashankasana, Tadasana, Pada- Hastasana, Suryanamaskara, and Shavasana.
Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) is considered to be the most effective Yogasana in the treatment of varicose veins. While doing this Asana, try to remain in the posture for at least 3 minutes. It increases the circulation of blood and also reduces the pressure of the blood that has collected in the veins. Remember to rest in Shavasana after any inverted posture. If you find difficulty in performing this Asana, try the following technique:
• Lie flat on the floor, resting your legs in an inverted position on a chair or straight up against a wall.
• Breathe deeply through your nose, using the belly breath.
• While inhaling, let the abdomen rise to its limit, and at exhalation, let it fall completely.
• Keep watch on each breath with closed eyes.
• The deep breathing creates a pull in your chest cavity that also draws blood from the legs to the heart.
• Fresh blood then enters your legs, easing the pain.
• Do this pose twice daily for about ten minutes; the discomfort will start diminishing.
Beside the above Asanas below are a few simple exercises, which can be done by anybody, and are helpful in this condition. They are:
• Sit with your legs extended on the ground. Feet together – inhale and gently press the toes downwards, for a period of counting 10 – release while exhaling. Now, press backwards towards the body for a period of counting 10 – release while exhaling. Repeat 7-10 times.
• In the same way, the whole part of the leg, including sole, is to be pressed in front, as well as pulled backwards; feet apart slightly about 6 to 8 inches, inhale, and press the soles forward, slowly, for a period of counting 10, and release while exhaling. Now, press backwards, toward the body, for a period of counting 10 – release while exhaling. Repeat this process 7-10 times.
• Feet together, rotate them slowly, clockwise 7-10 times, with the breath, and slowly anti-clockwise for 7-10 times. Inhale, while pressing the feet forward. Exhale, while pressing the feet backwards. Do not raise the heels while rotating.
• Bend the right leg, place the right arm under the right thigh, and hold the right wrist with the left hand. Raise the right leg up to an angle of 90 degrees and move the leg clockwise 7-10 times, and then anti-clockwise for 7-10 times. Repeat this process with the left leg, also.
• Make an “L” shape with the hands (fingers together, thumbs apart) and keep them just behind the hips; palms down. Lean back and support yourself on the forearms. You can first take support from the right hand – thereafter, on the left hand. In this position, the shoulder and head will remain lifted up. Lift the whole body, which is situated under the navel. Now, bend both the legs from the knees; raise them up off the floor, and start cycling with natural breathing. Do this 7 times clockwise, and 7 times anti-clockwise. Cycling is especially beneficial for the veins and muscles of the thighs. (If you can’t sit in this position, then just lie down on the back and do it).
Bhramari Pranayama and Omkar recitation help get relief from pain. One should do these as much as possible, every day.
Some More Suggestions
• Keep the legs elevated as much as possible, to drain the pooled blood from the veins. If you work at a desk, support the legs horizontally rather than down in the usual position.
• Avoid crossing your legs while sitting, since it cuts off blood flow, and increases pressure in leg veins.
• Avoid standing unnecessarily for long periods of time. If this is not possible, then keep the muscle pump actively working, and moving the blood, by walking around, or flexing and contracting the leg muscles, as much as possible.
• Walking is beneficial, as the movements of leg muscles help push the blood upwards. It results in creating muscle pressure and relaxation of the muscles; thereby, the blood circulation and control is well maintained. One should also remember that anything, in excess, is bad. It is good to walk long distances, but those whose body is not efficient, and very fit, should avoid very long walks, as this could also lead to this problem of varicose veins.
• There is a special way of walking, which will bring relief. The heel is brought to the ground first with each step, and then the calf muscles are consciously used to lift the heel of the back foot as it comes forward – increasing the ‘spring’ in the step.
• Don’t wear heels taller than an inch. When you wear high heels, you don’t utilize your calf muscles enough while walking, and these muscles are responsible for pumping blood back to the heart from ankles.
• Sleeping, with the feet raised slightly, above the level of the heart, helps the blood flow away from ankles. Keep a pillow under the feet, instead of under the head. One may lie down on the ground, raise the legs, and support them on a cot or sofa; in this way, the advantages of Uttanpadasana can be obtained.
• During pregnancy, rest frequently, because your growing uterus is putting added pressure on the veins in your lower body, blood flow can become strained, causing larger and swollen veins in your legs, vulva, and rectum. Increasing hormones also relax the walls of your veins, as well as the ligaments and joints in your body. The less you exert your body, the less pressure you will put on your veins.
• During pregnancy, lying on the side will aid venous return, by shifting the pressure off the inferior vena cava in the abdomen. Alternatively, the pregnant woman can relax, lying fiat on the back, with the feet against the wall or on a support.
• Use of elastic stockings prevents further deterioration, but this is not an instrument for cure of the disease. During the day, the stockings can be released periodically, the leg elevated and massaged, and then the stockings re-applied. At the end of the day, the stockings are removed.
• Massage of the legs is very effective in bringing relief from the ache of varicose veins. It is most pleasant and relaxing in the evening, when the limbs are tired. The movement should be towards the heart, squeezing and milking the tissues of blood.
By adopting simple measures regularly, such as these, much relief can be gained.
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Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna’s Yogashaastra Studio.
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Dr. Rita Khanna
Dr. Rita Khanna is a well-known name in the field of Yoga and Naturopathy. She was initiated into this discipline over 25 years ago by world famous Swami Adyatmananda of Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh (India).
She believes firmly that Yoga is a scientific process, which helps us to lead a healthy and disease-free life. She is also actively involved in practicing alternative medicines like Naturopathy. Over the years, she has been successfully practicing these therapies and providing succour to several chronic and terminally ill patients through Yoga, Diet and Naturopathy. She is also imparting Yoga Teachers Training.
At present, Dr. Rita Khanna is running a Yoga Studio in Secunderabad (Hyderabad, India).