Saturday, April 09, 2005

Lighter and Younger, the Yoga Way

I have friends who swear by "the shoulder stand diet." It's no diet at all. They say that whenever they notice they've gained some extra weight, they start practicing shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana) daily--without fail--and they hold the pose longer than usual. Soon they drop their extra weight.

Shoulder stand

It's all in the hormones. The chin lock associated with sarvangasana stimulates the thyroid and parathyroids in the neck. That balances out the metabolism and voila, off comes the fat.

Does it work? Dunno. See what it says at the top of the page? Experience yoga. Go ahead and try it. Let me know how your experiment turns out. I'd love to hear from you. You can post your findings by clicking on the comment button at the bottom of this message, or shoot me an email at

Inversions are widely reputed by yoga practitioners to have a phenomenal effect on the glands. Usually they say something like this: being upside-down bathes the glands in a rich supply of blood that improves gland function. The result is hormones stay at youthful levels. People who invert regularly look and feel younger.

When I first began practicing yoga years ago, my wife and I went to a week-long yoga vacation in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. I'll never forget it. It was incredible.

We got to know many other yogis our age while we were there. Wrong! We thought they were our age. As the week went along we discovered that all the people we thought of as our peers were at least a decade older than we were AND they had been practicing inversions regularly for years. Pretty convincing, if you ask me.

But it's not all good.

Shoulder stand, for example, can really mess with your neck or aggravate a neck that's already a mess...if you don't progress sensibly. I personally know two internationally-known yoga teachers who travel all over teaching yoga workshops to hundreds of students. Neither of them EVER practices salamba sarvangasana.

Believe me, they've tried. And tried. And tried some more. But they end up with prolonged and intense pain. So please, get some help. Find a teacher. Don't just look at a picture or a book and pop up into the pose. You will benefit from guidance.

Back to the good news, you can practice supported versions of shoulder stand (or similar poses) that put little or no weight near the neck. Viparita karani mudra. There's a fantastic pose. I doubt I'd have ever developed a home yoga practice had it not been for old faithful legs-up-the-wall pose. Add an eye pillow and a warm blanket and you've got a recipe for rejuvenation.

One more thing about horomones.... Research clearly shows that human growth hormone (HGH) levels diminish as we age. Research is also clear that HGH is mostly secreted at night when you are in deep sleep. So if you really want to stay young, get your sleep. Don't cut it short.

And your body secretes more HGH at night if during the day you've participated in brief periods of high intensity exercise. High intensity means that you are huffing and puffing so hard you can only maintain that level for very brief periods of time, e.g., 30-45 seconds.

Don't just read about it. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

p.s., did you know when you translate salamba sarvangasana into English it does not mean shoulder stand, even though that's what everyone calls it? The literal translation is "supported whole body pose." No wonder it's hard to learn the Sanskrit names of yoga poses! But it doesn't have to be hard. It can be fun. Find out more about our Experience Sanskrit workshop here.

p.p.s., there are still more reasons why you should be getting upside down...regularly. Look back at my messages over the past week. Check back here tomorrow. I'll be telling you about balance, improving balance, that is, by practicing inversions. And I don't mean the balance that keeps you from falling over. What do I mean? You'll have to read my message tomorrow to find out.

p.p.p.s., how's your HGH? Want some high-intensity activity? Join us for Breakthrough Training (Mondays at 5:30 pm & Wednesdays at 7:00 pm). After class, we run up the hill next to the yoga center eight times.

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved by Mo Yoga LLC.


Blogger loily said...

stopping by to say hi as you visited my blog, and was glad to find your wonderful yoga blog. very well written and refreshing! I really like the Sanskrit Experience program, as I've always liked to learn the sanskrit names to the yoga poses.

Funny you should happen by, as earlier in the day I'd emailed a host of Yoga schools in Australia about our product. We just exhibited at a Yoga Expo a week ago.

8:32 PM  
Blogger NME said...

Great blog idea. I was doing yoga regularly before I was pregnant with my son. Now because of a drastically reduced budget I am no longer able to attend classes - but really need to return to practice at home. Thanks for the inspiration.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anarkey said...

Hi! Since you stopped by my blog, I decided to return the favor, and boy was I thrilled to find a yoga blog. Your entry about the benefits of shoulder stand to weight loss intrigued me as I'm currently trying to lose some weight. I had a yoga teacher who used to end every practice with a shoulder stand right before savasana, and I always assumed because of that it might have a relaxation benefit. I had pretty much stopped doing it recently though. So what I wondered was, in trying to do shoulder stand as a help to weight loss, would you recommend doing it in the evening just before bed or would you recommend doing it in the mornings just after waking?

2:44 PM  

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