Yoga For Anemia
A condition where the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells – either in quantity, or in quality, or both is called anemia. The red blood cells are crucial for not only the cardiovascular system which is vital for life but also for each and every cell of the body which is affected by every condition affecting the blood.
Anemia itself can be a symptom of other diseases. It could occur in the body due to different reasons, which is why we consider it to be of many types depending on its cause.
Types of Anemia And Their Causes
- Iron Deficiency Anemia: this is the most common kind of anemia that originates primarily because of the deficiency of iron in one’s body. This deficiency comes from diet. Iron is responsible for the production of hemoglobin which carries out oxygenation of blood.
- Vitamin Deficiency Anemia: the lack of vitamins B12 and C affects the blood health by decreasing the number of red blood cells in the body. It also occurs due to improper diet and can be easily managed with modification in diet and exercise.
- Sickle Cell Anemia: it is a disorder of the red blood cells caused by their deformed shape which makes them unable to carry oxygenated blood in the body. These cells are weak and die easily after which there are not enough healthy red blood cells in the body. It can’t be cured but efforts can be done to improve total blood count of the red blood cells in the body.
- Thalassemia: it is a genetic disease which causes a reduced level of hemoglobin in the blood. It could be managed with a balanced diet and exercise when mild.
- Aplastic Anemia: it is a condition of the bone marrow which is responsible for the manufacture of new red blood cells. In Aplastic anemia the bone marrow is not able to produce sufficient new red blood cells. It can be life threatening.
- Severe weakness and fatigue
- Pale color of the skin
- Short breath
- Increased heart rate
- Cold toes and fingers
- Breakage of hair and nails
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle cramps
- Confusion and difficulty understanding
- Unintended weight loss
- Dark color of urine
- Skin rashes
- Bleeding disorders
- Pain in the chest or abdomen
Symptoms can be mild in the beginning which increases their chance to go unnoticed or ignored. Therefore no symptom should be ignored so that the possibility of life threatening conditions can be ruled out.
Some factors decide the severity and susceptibility of a condition affecting a particular individual. Those factors are:
- Pregnancy: pregnancy requires extra nutrition because the baby needs surplus blood and nutrition for proper growth.
- Family History: some conditions like Thalassemia and Aplastic anemia can be genetic and pass from generation through generation.
- Other Conditions: other deficiencies and especially eating disorders can also lead to anemia.
- Poor Diet & Lifestyle: it could be habitual in developed communities and unavoidable in poorer communities.
- Poor Intestine Function: digestion happens in the stomach but absorption happens in the intestine. If the intestines are not functioning properly there can be deficiency diseases.
- Menstruation: menstruation causes loss of red blood cells which should be resolved by a balanced diet.
DiagnosisA blood test known as complete blood count or CBC is usually enough for counting the number of each component of blood i.e. red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, and other parameters.
- Abnormalities during pregnancy
- Severe fatigue and weakness
- Heart diseases
- Sickle cell anemia and Aplastic anemia can cause death.
Yoga For Managing Anemia
Anuloma Viloma Pranayama
Alternate Nostril Breathing: It is recommended for purification of the blood channels. During the beginning of Pranayama, breathing should be deep and relaxed.
- Sit on the mat with the back straight and the spine relaxed.
- The wrists should rest on the knees, with no strain in the elbows or the shoulders.
- Close your eyes gently.
- Place the index finger of any hand on the forehead and the middle finger either with the index finger or suspended.
- Place the thumb tip on one nostril. Inhale with the other nostril.
- Exhale with the same nostril.
- Place the ring finger on this nostril and release the other nostril held by the thumb.
- Inhale deeply and exhale with the same nostril.
- Practice ten respirations.
- This is one round. Practice three rounds in the beginning.
The Humming Bee Practice: it improves overall blood circulation and drainage.
- Sit with your legs crossed.
- The spine and the back should be straight and relaxed.
- Close your eyes gently.
- Gently plug both the ears with the thumbs of both hands.
- Put the fingers on each eye.
- Inhale deeply, and with exhalation, make a deep humming sound like a bee.
- Practice thrice.
The Corpse Pose: It is an excellent relaxation asana. This pose could also be practiced in bed.
- Lie on the bed/ mat/ blanket.
- The whole body should be relaxed.
- Arms should rest on both sides of the body.
- Close your eyes gently.
- Breathe normally, inhaling deeply and exhaling fully.
- Open your eyes when guided.
- Take a side turn and get up from the mat or go to sleep as preferred.
Adapting a lifestyle that cuts out the physical factors contributing to worsening of any condition multiplies the benefits of a yoga routine by several times. The following tips are extremely beneficial for everyone with any or all symptoms of a disorder relating to the circulatory system:
- Consume enough Vitamin K: It is recommended to consume vitamin K everyday for healthy blood composition. It is found in leafy greens, whole cereals.
- Consume enough Vitamin D: It is essential for the musculoskeletal system (which contains the bone marrow). It is found in mushrooms, egg yolk, fatty fish, etc.
- Consume enough Vitamin C: Vitamin C supports formation and repair of blood vessels. It is found in citrus fruits, berries, Brussels sprouts, etc.
- Consume more Iron-Rich food: Improves the Blood composition. It is found in soybean, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, etc.
- Consume enough Vitamin B-12: It supports blood formation and prevents vitamin deficiency anemia. It can be found in meat, fish, milk, cheese, mushrooms, etc.
- Consume enough Vitamin B-9: It promotes cell growth in the blood. It is found in leafy greens, beans, seeds and nuts, whole grains, seafood, etc.
- Avoid packed, processed and preserved foods. They have lesser nutritional value than fresh food, and contain unhealthy amounts of fat, salt and sugar.
- Consume less fried and heavy food, especially if it has been cooked commercially.
- Eat more home-cooked food. The food made commercially has a lot of ingredients to enhance the taste, which decreases its nutritional value.
- Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. They will fulfill all your requirements of minerals and vitamins.
- Electrolytes: consume electrolyte-enriched drinks especially in summer, like lemonade, coconut water, etc.
- Ghee: Ghee extracted from cow’s milk is an excellent tonic for the blood. It should be eaten around 1 teaspoon at a time with rice, pulao, dals, khichari, etc.
ConclusionAnemia can improve with a combination of diet and yoga especially when it is discovered when it is still mild. Although it may seem that yoga practices can only benefit physical ailments, it is actually true that yoga can have surprising benefits for blood disorders. The practices described here are generally safe for everyone. However, pregnant women and people with multiple conditions should seek guidance from a competent yoga therapist so that they can benefit from these practices. Dietary recommendations described above should strictly be followed for preventing loss of red blood cells while the condition improves.
Dr. Meenakshi Chauhan
MD (ALT. MEDICINE) View Profile