The fall-winter period with its significant weather changes provokes many of us at least once to fall ill with running nose, tonsillitis, bronchitis or ARVI. This happens because this change of seasons in a way challenges the body defenses: will the body manage to quickly and efficiently rearrange itself and adapt to adverse environment? And it is the effective adaptability of the organism that determines whether the person will take to bed with cold-related diseases or not.
In order to answer this question we shall get a view of one particular feature of the human pharynx and larynx.
The naso- and oropharynx area comes as a kind of the body gateway where the incoming air and food are subject to intensive processing. It is here that the so called «lymph gate» – the clusters of lymphoid tissue that form a ring around the perimeter of this zone – is located. The said entities are known to us: they are the palatine tonsils, or the glands, the tubal, the pharyngeal tonsils (their enlargement in children is referred to as adenoids) and the lingual ones.
In scope of the human body the task of the lymphoid tissue is to detoxicate the incoming debride, microorganisms and toxins.
When exposed to cold moist air the above listed structures are subject to stimulation, in particular, the number of the lymphoid series cells is increased. But it is not always that the organism shall have enough resources to adequately respond to the environment. And so there occurs the inflammation in the nasopharynx area involving the immunity organs that have not coped with the task.
The effective prevention of these changes can be provided by continuous stimulation of this area which will enable the training of the immunity organs, and thus in case of extensive load occurred it will give an opportunity to provide an effective response.
In yoga there exists a specific and effective exercise that enables stimulation of the immune system in the area of the lymphoid ring. This is the Simhasana, meaning the «lion pose» in Sanskrit.
The Simhasana can be performed either in standing pose (the Tadasana) or in the sitting ones (Siddhasana, Sukhasana, Vajrasana, Padmasana, Artha-padmasana). When inhaling we bring the tip of the tongue up to the soft palate (thus making the tongue lock). If the lock is done correctly we shall thus feel the increased tension of the sublingual area. Preserving the said position and holding the breath we do some circular head movements thus stretching the back and front of the neck.
Then we pull our arms forward at hips level, hold the fingers wide apart and stretch each of them out. We put out tongue and protrude its tip down to the chin. In this way we cause the maximum opening of the pharynx. Remaining in this position and immediately after having performed the hand and tongue movements we breathe the air in, thus making a sound that resembles the lion’s roar.
Our intense exhalation shall be again followed by the tongue lock and several rotations with our head. Then we put the head in a vertical position and inhale.
We can repeat this procedure several times in a row.
In scope of this practice the maximum effect shall be achieved in case the Simhasana is alternated with a pranayama that is called «the excitement of lungs cells».
The anatomy of the exercise.
The performance of Simhasana stimulates active work out of the following skeletal muscles of the tongue:
- the genioglossus (1)
- the hyoglossus (3)
- the hondroglossus (4)
- the styloglossus muscle (2)
The pharynx and its connective tissue membrane shall be also actively stretched.
When the tongue is protruded, the epiglottis, by taking the vertical position, shall open the entrance to the larynx thus making it possible to take the air out of the lungs in the most effective way.
The exercise involves the muscles located on the front of the neck and above the hyoid bone, as well as the muscles in the back of the neck. If Simhasana is done correctly, the tone of these muscles shall be normalized thus facilitating normalization of the blood flow through the vertebral artery and in this way helping to provide a more effective brain supply with blood.
The specific position of hands helps to work out the muscle that lifts the blade, and it may come as an effective method of treating the round shoulders.
The most common mistakes in performing the Simhasana.
- Insufficient tongue pulling performed in terms of the tongue lock, so that the whole zone is not tensed enough. One should pull the tongue out until there occurs a feeling of the tensed zone under the tongue and specific compression of pharynx which can also come in the form of a slight throat tickle.
- In scope of rotation the head is tilted too much backwards. It prevents from working out the head muscles. In order to normalize the muscle tone one needs to continuously pull the vertebrae up from the head crown. The key movement shall thus be the neck intense pulling, not the bending.
- While roaring the head is either tilted too much backwards or pulled too far ahead – this is a kind of compensation that is characterized by the metaphor of «hiding one’s head in the neck.» Such performance of Simhasana rather often comes as a manifestation of one’s blocked right to express one’s opinion, to speak out loud and clear, to speak out one’s ideas. In this case it will be enough to become aware of this stereotype within one’s body and keep the head up, allowing yourself to perform loud and inarticulate sounds. As a rule it is at this point that the neck muscles come relaxed.
In terms of such clenches the person shall “roar” by means of the throat thus hurting the delicate mucus membrane of the pharynx and vocal cords. This is wrong. Relaxation and lining up of the neck muscles shall not cause excessive unnecessary load of the vocal cords while the air shall leave the upper respiratory tract without hindrance.
4. The similar mistake that in most cases also refers to psychosomatics is the insufficient pulling of the tongue in terms of its protruding outwards. Often it comes as a mere expectation of some external assessment, the fear of being ridiculous and getting far from some perfect image.
The insufficient tension in the tongue shall lead to weak workout of the tongue root zone, the place where the lingual tonsil is located. Besides, the preserved air shall be blocked within the alveoli thus preventing the mechanism of the bronchial tree immune system stimulation from its proper implementation.
5. Insufficient pulling of fingers that causes the “drop” of the necessary tension of the neck muscles and muscles of the shoulder and shoulder-blade zone.
The effects resulting from the asana
- Intensified blood circulation and stimulation of lymph flow in oropharynx and nasopharynx areas. Stimulation of local immunity organs – the tonsils.
- Normalization of neck muscles’ tone. In its turn it improves the cerebral blood circulation.
- Toning up the pharynx muscles contributes to a more active and whole intvolvement of the respiratory muscles. In enables to «breathe out» one’s lungs, i.e. to inhale and exhale more air than the person usually does. And in its turn it preconditions the organism saturation with oxygen and promotes the improvement of the lungs connective tissue framework therefore stimulating the immunity processes within the lung tissue.
In addition to this the stimulation of pharynx and larynx forms up a prolonged exhalation which promotes the active removal of exhaust air.
Besides, normalization of pharynx muscle tone facilitates a more effective work of all respiratory muscles.
4. Work with psycho-emotional inhibitions (in terms of Hatha-yoga the psycho-somatic effect comes among the basic ones (A.G. Safronov «Yoga: Physiology, Psychosomatics, Bioenergetics»).
Peculiarities of performance and helpful “keys”
One may use the preliminary “tongue exercises” to facilitate the performance of Simhasana since they help to work out the skeletal muscles of the tongue:
- Circular tongue rotations with the tongue tip rubbing against the inside of the lips.
- Active stroking the inside of the cheeks by tongue, in different directions.
- Licking one’s lips (outer circular rotation of the tongue).
- Stroking the hard palate by the tip of the tongue, front to back.
- Clip-clop — the sound «TS» is pronounced with one’s tongue maximum retracted from the hard palate right behind the upper teeth. The exercise shall be most effective when also involving the lips – while uttering the sound «ts» we shall stretch our lips in the widest smile.
- Active swallowing.
Exercising one’s cheeks shall be relevant as well. The fact is that the connective tissue membrane that covers the top of the pharynx comes as common with the cheek muscle membrane. Therefore the active work out of this muscle will help to release the pharynx membrane from eventual tension.
- Stretch your lips into a wide smile, then pull them out into a tube.
- Pull your lips into a tube and holding them this way make a circle first in one and then in the other direction, take clamped lips to the right and then to left.
- Pull in the cheeks actively between the teeth, then let go.
Each exercise shall be done 10 to 20 times.
The exercises for cervical spine may also be relevant since the tone of the muscles involved in Simhasana is directly related to the tone of the cervical spinal muscles.
Another interesting fact is that the membrane of the pharynx is attached to the bones of the skull base and it can be actively stretched by means of inclining the head with simultaneous stretching the head crown and pulling back the area of the spine transforming into the skull.
- Frequent colds and ARVI, laryngitis, pharyngitis;
- Weak immunity of the oral cavity;
- Snoring; sleep apnea syndrome;
- Impaired venous drainage from the cavity of scull;
- Cervical osteochondrosis, neck pains.
- Tumors of the pharynx, larynx and neck;
- In case of restrictive lung disease the advice of your doctor or yoga-therapist is required.
Place within the complex
One can do Simhasana separately as the active prevention of the ARVI, several times a day, 3 to 10 performances at a time.
In addition, it can be included either into the warm-up together with active work out of the cervical spine zone or into the complex of asanas as an addition to Bhudjangasana, Sarpasana, Ushtrasana or Artha Yoga mudra for the most integral work out of the cervical and upper thoracic spine.