Yoga for varicose vein management

  • By Team TDO

Varicose veins are those ugly purple patches of mottled skin which some people develop on the ankles or feet. On the whole, people who have varicose veins don't tend to think that they are suffering from a serious condition as they suffer from mild or no discomfort at all. This condition literally affects millions worldwide and the tendency to develop varicose veins increases with age. Most often, varicose veins can be observed in pregnant women due to the pressure or weight of the fetus on the legs.

Are varicose veins a health hazard?

Veins transport blood to the heart and bulging or dilation of the veins causes disruptions in the blood flow, causing the engorged or swollen bulge where the blood backs up. This typically occurs at the legs, but could occur elsewhere on the body as well. Another example of varicose veins is hemorrhoids of the rectum, where such purplish swelling could occur.

"Anyone can get them if they work in certain occupations like nursing, waitressing, or bartending where they're standing a lot, but people who sit a lot and don't get up or move around enough are also at risk, as are those who are obese."

Says Sherry Scovell, a vascular and endovascular surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, "It is the cosmetic effect that makes people turn for medical help, as varicose veins may not be painful at all. Sometimes the network of veins bulges or pouches so thickly that it becomes apparent to even the casual observer that the person has varicose veins."

Yoga can help greatly in reducing and eliminating varicose veins conditions. Let us look at postures which will prove a boon for this condition.

The shoulder stand or Sarvangasana

The shoulder stand is regarded as the queen of all yogic postures as it promotes the functioning of glands and secretions in the body, especially the thyroid, parathyroid and endocrinal glands. So those suffering from varicose veins can also promote general well-being and sound physical health by the diligent practice of the Sarvangasana. In Sarvangasana, the body is inverted which means it is easier for the venous blood to flow as gravity will help gently prod the restricted blood in the enlarged vein to continue its journey.

How to perform the Sarvangasana :

  1. Lie flat on your back on a yoga mat or blanket.
  2. Take a few deep breaths.
  3. Place your hands flat on the floor along the sides.
  4. Draw your knees a little closer to the tailbone
  5. Take a deep breath and lift your feet straight up so that the body forms one straight line all the way down to the base, i.e., your shoulders.
  6. The entire weight of the body is borne by the shoulders and the hands are at the lower back supporting the frame.
  7. Tuck the chin away into the notch in your throat and hold the pose for about 30 seconds initially or till you feel comfortable.
  8. Gradually lower the body back to the floor and relax for about a minute.

This asana or pose will relax the mind and the body as well, so with regular practice, varicose veins will gradually thin out as the venous blood flow becomes normal again.

Viparita Karani or Legs against the Wall

This is another inverted pose and easier than the Sarvangasana to perform and master. You could stay for longer in this pose as you will find it particularly relaxing.

How to perform :

  1. Fold a couple of blankets or bolster and place them close to a wall in such a way that the longer side of the blanket forms a T with the ace of the wall.
  2. Lie flat on your back on the blanket and first place your feet flat on the wall.
  3. Gradually move your hips closer to the base of the wall so that your legs will move up the wall.
  4. Your legs should form an almost right angle with your torso.
  5. Remain in this pose for as long as you feel comfortable.
  6. You can clasp your hands beneath your head and breathe deeply.
  7. Slowly move out of the pose and repeat twice a day.

Paschimottanasana: Seated Forward Bend

This is a forward bending posture which has a profound effect on the entire body, especially the legs and the feet. This pose is quite strenuous and people who are not flexible will benefit by exercising patience and perseverance, as it will strengthen the legs and reduce the swelling of varicose veins.

How to perform :

  1. Sit on the floor with legs stretched out. Keep the back absolutely straight and take a few deep breaths.
  2. Keeping your back as straight as possible, exhale and slowly bend forward from the hips and try to clutch your toes. Mind you, this may not be easy as the body may be rigid, but with regular practice the hips will open up and the spine will be elongated enough for you to comfortably hold the toes. Let the index fingers be around the big toe and breathe deeply.
  3. From this position, gradually lower the head towards the knees. The aim is to hold the toes with the hands and completely touching the forehead to the knees. The legs should be flat against the floor.
  4. Hold the asana for 30 seconds at first and work up to 5 minutes or more.
  5. Even if you cannot lower your forehead more than a couple of inches initially, you are doing fine. With practice, the hips and the shoulders will gain strength enough for you to attain the perfect position. Even if you are able to hold your toes while keeping the legs flat against the floor, you will still get all the advantages of the full posture.