Add Acupressure to Your Yoga Practice
By: Kathleen Ellerie, Licensed Acupuncturist and Owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture
Yoga goes hand in hand with Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, but there’s no reason why you can’t incorporate healing therapies from other cultures into your practice. If you’re an experienced yogi who’s looking for something new to add to your usual yoga routine, try stimulating acupressure points while holding your poses to influence your body’s energy from a different angle.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are hundreds of points on the body, each with its own beneficial properties. We’ll just cover a handful here, but feel free to discover more on your own! Also, acupressure is safe for most people, but do extra research – or better yet, ask your Licensed Acupuncturist – if you are pregnant or have any serious health concerns before choosing points. Now let’s get started:
•Find “Kidney 1” while you reach for your feet in your Seated Forward Bend. It’s located about where the ball of your foot starts in the center of your sole and stimulates the body’s most vital energy. If you can’t quite reach your feet in this pose, grab “Spleen 6” instead by finding a sore spot about two to four inches above your inner ankle just behind your shin bone. This point is great for stress, digestion, and hormonal imbalances. It’s also one of the points that Licensed Acupuncturists use to induce labor, though, so please don’t massage this one if you’re pregnant!
•When you’re in Happy Baby (or any other poses where you’re grabbing your feet), gently massage acupoint “Liver 3” at the junction where the bones leading to your big and second toes meet at the top of your feet. Stress and frustration cause what we call stagnation in the body, which basically means energy gets blocked and doesn’t flow freely like it should. This point is one of the best we have for relieving this stress and stagnation and can be very tender on some people.
•In any twists or other poses where you’re holding on to your knees, stimulate “ST36” for benefits in digestion, the immune system, and overall energy. The point is located about two to three inches below your knee a finger’s breadth away from crest of your shin bone on your outer leg.
•Another option in twists with prayer hands is to press your thumbs into the center of your chest. Acupoint “Ren 17” influences the energy of the entire body and opens up the chest to expand your breathing.
•Find “Large Intestine 11” where the crease of your elbow ends on your outer arm when you ragdoll your arms in a Forward Fold. This point clears heat when needed, so if you tend to run hot, it will be especially beneficial for you. If you don’t, it can still aid with digestion and help allergies.
•Before ending your practice with Corpse Pose, massage the tops of your ears – specifically the point “Ear Shenmen” – to trigger the body to start to relax.
•Finally, when you’re sitting in Lotus at the end of your practice, bring the palms of your hands into prayer and press your thumbs into the point between your eyebrows. “Yintang” is often called the third eye and can produce relaxation and clarity when stimulated.
If any of these location descriptions are unclear, simply search Google for the point name in quotations and click through the images that appear. Acupuncture point locations are relative, meaning they might be in slightly different places on people of different sizes. Don’t stress too much about getting the exact point location but rather feel in the general area of the point and stimulate any tender spots by lightly massaging them or grabbing them with gentle pressure while you hold your poses. Of course, if you’re trying a new pose and are not yet stable in it, don’t add acupressure yet! Make sure you’re comfortable with your body’s positioning and your breaths first, and then challenge yourself with this addition.
Kathleen Ellerie, L.Ac., Dipl.O.M.
Beachside Community Acupuncture
14330 Midway Road, Suite 205, Dallas, TX 75244
BeachsideAcupuncture.com ~ @beachcomacu