Improving circulation

  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Aug 31, 2009 11:43 PM GMT
    Any tips on improving peripheral circulation? That is, blood flow to the hands and feet?

    For my entire life, I've had relatively poor peripheral circulation. As far as other people are concerned, my hands and feet always seem very cold,; they feel fine to me, though I can tell everyone else's are warmer. The biggest problem it causes for me is that holding my arms at shoulder level or above quickly causes my arm to go cold, tingle (along the lines of the pins and needles of a foot waking up after you've sat on it funny), and start feeling very heavy. When I drop it down, I immediately feel a rush of warmth and the tingling stops as soon the warmth reaches it, which makes me pretty confident that this is the blood returning to my arm.

    Well, as part of the P90X system, I'm now making another attempt at dong yoga. And as it is, I find a number of poses extremely painful in my arms, even when it's clear that the muscle strain is supposed to be in my legs, simply because keeping my arms at should level for more than 15-20 seconds becomes uncomfortable, and becomes actively painful by 40 seconds if I'm having to support its weight without dipping my arm back down to recover. I tend to assume, for example, that the difficulty in Tree Pose is supposed to be maintaining your balance on one foot, not in enduring the pain of having your hands above your head for a minute.

    I'll bring this up with my doctor next time I go in for a checkup, but in the meantime I'm hoping, primarily, to find either some exercises I can do (maybe some form of stretching? Grip strength exercises? I'm not even sure what sounds reasonable), or some vitamin or the like that there's been some sort of clinical trial on. No offense to those who swear by their herbal supplements, but I don't want to risk something which hasn't been tested in controlled conditions and found to be both effective and safe when it's only to alleviate a minor complaint.

    Potentially useful information in the event of the obvious questions:

    I've never smoked a day in my life.

    I'm in good enough cardio health to regularly run 3+ miles despite being asthmatic, and am already working out 6 days a week, so I'm doubting it's just simple lack of physical activity.

    If anything, I'm underweight, so it's unlikely to be a side effect of excess weight.
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    Sep 01, 2009 7:28 AM GMT
    MSUBioNerd part of the P90X system, I'm now making another attempt at dong yoga.

    Well there's your problem right there. Dong Yoga is well known to have adverse affects on extremity circulation. Only when you have mastered Ass Yoga, should you attempt Dong Yoga.


    OK, sorry. I couldn't help myself.

    Well, let me give an RJ forum response:

    "Stop being a whiner! Me me me me me! Man up and just do it! Eat, ya pathetic loser!"


    OK, sorry. Couldn't help myself yet again.

    * shakes head a dozen times. Splashes cold water on face. *

    As for diagnosis, I'm clueless. The fact that you're asthmatic is the only thing that strikes me as an interesting path to explore. I think this is a matter for doctors to address, rather than here.

    If your doc isn't helpful, I'd consider a licensed Chinese or Homeopathic doc. This is the kind of problem I find East usually beats West in. Western methods can be quite blunt and crude in subtle matters of balance in nutrition, digestion, energy levels, circulation, etc.

    * cue dreamy new age music *

    * disappears behind a curtain of beads and smoky incense"
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    Sep 01, 2009 7:35 AM GMT

    If anything, I'm underweight, so it's unlikely to be a side effect of excess weight.[/quote]

    i was like that ;skinny and cold

    Have you tried the inverted yoga poses that stimulate the thyroid?

    Meridain stretching fixed my tight shoulders that were cutting off circulation to
    my arms at night while i was asleep.
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    Sep 01, 2009 7:58 AM GMT
    You could just have low resting blood pressure...? icon_neutral.gif
  • jrs1

    Posts: 4388

    Sep 01, 2009 8:21 AM GMT

    oy, I'm quite the opposite; I'm very warm all over. sometimes it's bothersome.
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    Sep 01, 2009 4:07 PM GMT
    First off, talking to your western medical doctor is a great idea. You might want to consider blood tests for blood sugar and cholesterol, to rule out any possible underlying conditions.

    Extreme pain (as you stated, or really just about any pain,) in yoga is a signal your body doesn't want to be in that position. I started doing yoga at the age of 14 out a book, and it quickly became apparent after attending a yoga class with an instructor just how many wrong ideas you can get from attempting yoga out of books or videos. Yoga is not really about looking like anyone else in the pose. It's about being "seated" comfortably in a variety of ways, maybe feeling a stretch at first, but relaxing into the pose rather than dealing with pain in the pose. If you're doing yoga and getting into competition with your own body, who do you think is going to win? I'm not saying you're doing this, but many men do.

    A private one-hour session with a certified yoga instructor could prove really useful and not very expensive at all.

    Tightness in your shoulders and pelvis could lead to poor circulation in hands and feet.

    As for tree pose, it is mainly a balance pose. The most basic place to start is with your hands at your side and one foot resting against the ankle of the other leg. You probably haven't seen a picture of that, but that's really where it starts. Over time the foot gets higher up the leg and the arms get raised, but the basic benefit of balance practice is there from even the beginning pose.

    Do you experience hand or foot pain in downward facing dog? In triangle pose? Can you do cow skull pose with your hands touching? How would you describe your shoulder and pelvic region flexibility?
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Sep 01, 2009 4:45 PM GMT
    In general, I'd say that my flexibility is in the pretty average range everywhere but my hamstrings (freakishly, abysmally low) and my knees (unusually high--sitting in a true lotus position causes no stress in my knees at all, and only slight in my groin). In the butterfly stretch for pelvic flexibility, I can get my heels probably about 4 inches away from my crotch, with my knees around a 120 degree angle. My neck turns a little easier to my left than to my right, but I've probably got about 170 degrees of motion in it, and I can stand with my arms folded behind my back without feeling any strain from doing so.

    There is a chance I'm getting into competition with my own body in stretching in particular, but I will say that at least it's a relatively minor one. My goal is that in 6 months I'd like to be able to reliably touch my toes without bending my knees. The best I've ever done is to be able to touch either my right or my left toes at once, but never both together, and that was from daily stretching for months at a time. When I'm out of practice, even a single leg reach usually leaves me 4 or 5 inches short of my toes.

    Tree pose I just picked as a convenient example, because it seems obvious that it's supposed to be about balance, not endurance. In terms of balance, I can actually stand on one foot and hold the other about 6 inches off the floor with my eyes closed for up to about 2 minutes (though I start wobbling after about 10 seconds with the eyes closed), as long as I'm not trying to keep my arms above my shoulders while doing so.

    I have no hand or foot pain in downward dog--I can keep the weight on my palms (and particularly the heels of my hands) so that I can lift my fingers off the mat as I was told I'm supposed to. The only pain in that pose is in my shoulders, as my shoulders are probably my weakest muscle group relative to anything else in my body--and the pain there is merely muscle soreness, nothing stabbing or sharp, so I view it as the good kind of pain from a workout.

    Triangle pose is one I'm not sure how to answer, as I know I'm not even close to being able to do it properly. I have some of the least flexible hamstrings of anyone I've ever met, so I'm way up on the yoga block instead of having my hand anywhere near the floor (as in, even with the block in its tallest setting, I can't always get my palm flat on it, and sometimes have to make a fist and put my knuckles on the block). With my right hand down, I can get my left hand pointing pretty much straight up; with my left hand down, I cannot get my right hand straight up, as it points somewhat backward. The pain I feel in that pose is in the back of the thigh (clearly my hamstrings), and in my shoulders. Again, both feel like stretching, not stabbing, and though the hamstring discomfort comes at much less of a stretch than I'd like, it's something I need to work through.

    If I'm interpreting cow skull properly (I did a google search for it, found nothing that seemed relevant, but I did find some hits for cow face that involved something that I was taught to do as a shoulder stretch back on a swim team years ago), I can get my fingers overlapping behind my back when it's my right hand from above and my left hand from below, but I can't get them to meet when it's reversed--I can't bring my right hand as high from below as I can my left.
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    Sep 01, 2009 5:48 PM GMT
    Sounds like some increased flexibility at your shoulders and hips might be helpful. It's good to get your hamstrings looser now while you're in your 20s to avoid injuries in your 30s and 40s. A lot of people feel hamstring tightness but are less aware of the tightness of the lower back and pelvic region.

    You might have to go to 2x a day on the stretching. And maybe back off a bit on the intensity of the stretch. If you push too far your body just tries to protect itself by tightening up. At the end of the stretch it should feel relaxed and not all that challenging.

    Your description on triangle pose and swimmers arm stretch indicates shoulder tightness on the right side. You're probably right handed, yes? This makes it harder to do the arm stretch with your right hand underneath in cow skull pose. Once you can do this comfortably with your spine straight, then begin to explore bending forward at the hips to bring the chest to the knees.
    I think this might be a good pose for you to explore because it is working legs hips shoulders all at once.

    It actually sounds like you're making good progress in triangle. A lot of people at first can get their hands just to the thigh or knee. Focus on the hips and on extending the spine outward and keeping the body in a flat plane. A first it's really not about how low you can get your hand. If you're sticking your butt out and rolling your hips over to get your hand lower you are not working within the constraints the pose offers.
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    Sep 01, 2009 8:01 PM GMT
    Yoga has been used to treat cold hands and feet..

    Cold extremities can be made worse by caffeine, cigarette smoke, stress and anxiety, and certain medications. Medications used to treat migraines such as beta blockers and the ergotamines can cause significant problems. Some diabetics report cold hands and feet.

    When someone complains of positional coldness and sensory disturbances in the arms, like you get with yoga postures, this could indicate a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome...

    The yoga article mentions Raynauds, which is an extreme sensitivity to cold exposure, and results in marked vasopsams of the vessels in the feet and hands.

    I agree with camfer that talking to your physician would be a good idea.You certainly don't want to miss a medical problem.
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    Sep 02, 2009 7:32 AM GMT
    Meridian stretching is about getting to the organs through stretching. That is the body gets stiff because of underperforming organ function and poor coordination between organs. i gained weight and felt warm for the first time in my life when i did yoga shoulder stands everyday which fixed whatever was wrong with my thyroid.