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April 27, 2015
Yoga and Bruising
A bruise, also called a hematoma, is caused when trauma damages capillaries and sometimes venules, allowing blood to leak into the surrounding tissues. It creates a darkened, painful area that can take from days to weeks to heal, depending on severity. In martial arts and contact sports, participants often expect bruising after a sparring session, match, or practice. Hence, the use of heat, cold, and liniments becomes a secondary science when one participates in contact sports.
However, most Yoga students do not expect to experience bruising from their practice. Yet, some Yoga students initially notice bruising after practice. This can be from placing pressure on an area, such as around the hipbones in a side-lying pose, or from using props less carefully. An improperly placed block can leave a bruise, as can an extra tight strap. Make sure the mat being used provides cushioning against a hard floor. However, over time, Yoga actually reduces bruising of the body.
Yoga reduces bruising in three ways:
Cardiovascular exercise strengthens the blood vessels and capillaries and makes them less likely to break during trauma. With regular Yoga practice, bumps that would have left a bruise are no longer a problem.
Yoga provides stretching and massaging of tissues. The dark color of a bruise is from the blood in the surrounding tissues. As the blood breaks down, the red hemoglobin changes to green biliverdin, then to yellow bilirubin and finally to brownish hemosiderin. Light massage and stretching speeds the breakdown and can clear the area faster, making the bruising less obvious.
Yoga increases body awareness. Much of the average person's bruising results from misjudging spacial relationships, such a running into a doorway or banging one's shins on a coffee table. Concentrating on how the body feels improves coordination and reduces the chance of slamming a body part into furniture.
For those who regularly experience bruising, treatment can include rest, ice, compression, elevation ("RICE") and an over-the-counter painkiller like Tylenol or aspirin. Consider the role that supplements may play: fish oil and gingko can have a blood-thinning effect, which may cause more bruising. Herbs like arnica, calendula and comfrey are known to help the healing process but should be used with care and are not meant to be taken internally. Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, helps to minimize bruising by digesting proteins that trigger bruising and swelling. Eating plenty of fresh pineapple also provides vitamin C to speed the healing process.
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