Having strange feelings after some poses? Yoga expert Adam Bornstein offers helpful advice.
I have been practising yoga for more than 10 years. Lately, when I reach my arms up towards the ceiling in standing poses such as Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) and Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute), and then start to lower them, there’s a strange feeling in my fingers—it feels like a rush of blood. What could this mean and are there any modifications or practices you could suggest to overcome this? Michael Yeo, via email
What you are experiencing may be the early stages of a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome. Its common cause is the compression of nerves and/or blood vessels in the neck and upper chest area that feed into the arm and hand. The symptoms can be tingling, radiating pain or weakness in the arm or hand. The feeling you describe could mean the compression of blood vessels is taking place when the arms are lifted and released when the arms are moved down.
You can always adjust your practice by not lifting the arms in the poses you mention. Instead, come into Anjali Mudra with the palms together at the heart. Here, emphasise the collarbones broadening and the back of the neck lengthening. Breathe more into the lower and middle lungs and less into the upper ribs. This may reduce some constriction in the neck region.
To prevent compression when holding the arms overhead, open them wider than the shoulders, slide the inner border of the shoulderblades down the back, and with the palms facing each other, turn the little fingers inward. Ease the upper arm bones down into the shoulder sockets feeling the collarbones widen and the upper chest expand. Keep the neck in its natural curve and breathe smoothly. When bringing the arms down, keep the arms lightly drawn into the shoulder sockets to stabilise and soften slightly through the arms and hands.
Practise gentle stretches to release tension in the muscles of the neck. For example, bring your right ear towards your right shoulder; the left arm may be extended to the side or crossed behind the back. Hold for a few breaths, then repeat to the other side. Be more easeful in your practice for a few weeks, balancing self-effort with relaxation.
Adam Bornstein and his partner Akash are the founders of Radiant Light Yoga on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. They offer teacher training and yoga therapy courses as well as classes, workshops, retreats and personalised sessions. Visit www.radiantlightyoga.com