Originally posted in German on 5th May 2019
Article by Heinz Grill
The role of the thorax for the blood circulation
To consider the venous flow of blood back to the heart, and in addition the arterial circulation and its harmonious, good functioning, it seems meaningful to study the relationship between the thorax (chest) and abdomen more closely. If, through the elasticity of the spine, this thoracic area is sufficiently upright and dynamic, if the middle sections of the spine are flexible and if the entire breathing process is also smooth, then this creates a far more favourable precondition to facilitate the venous return of blood to the heart, as well as conditioning the arteries to the periphery so that they are sufficiently relaxed.
The measurement of arterial blood pressure is mainly based on the overall tension of the arteries and arterioles, and when these tighten and narrow due to nervous strain, the pressure in the entire arterial system increases. The venous return to the heart, for example from the legs, usually remains unaffected by the pulse and blood pressure.
By directing attention to the relationship between the thoracic and abdominal areas with a few specific training exercises and thus learning to build-up the right kind of tension in the central zones of the body, then to a relatively high degree both systems, the arterial as well as the venous, can easily be reached and brought to harmonisation.
tuladandasana – The image and the practice of the Scales
The tension that can unfold should be trained from the spine. A most excellent exercise that brings a joyful experience and is conceivable at any age is tuladandasana, the standing scales, with the option of various arm variations. The picture of this exercise is characterised by a strong, centrifugal gliding out of the limbs into a long horizontal forming. The body works actively in different sections of the spine, while the limbs, held in the horizontal plane, do not remain directly in their own tension, but are in a continuous flow corresponding to the central tension. A centre and a periphery develop from the spine over to the limbs.
Practitioners put their right foot firmly on the ground, swing their straightened left leg forwards but then backwards and, if possible, into a horizontal line, glide back with their arms like swallow’s wings, while breathing easily, in a flowing and free rhythm. After this first swallow-like position, they bring their palms together, opening up the neck and shoulder area. The neck always remains permeable and relaxed.
With this movement, practitioners feel the relationship between the very lightly raised upper chest and the dynamic middle and lower back. In holding this position for about 15 seconds, with a little practice, a dynamic strength develops. The centring in the lower back has to happen because the left leg is held in the horizontal stretch. The standing leg should be experienced as stable and active while applying the strength in the exercise. The more favourable the centring in the spine, in the standing leg towards the pelvis and towards the lower start of the thoracic spine, the more easily the leg glides into the horizontal extension. The gentle lifting and openness of the upper chest occurs in a natural way and practitioners delight in the feeling of an open body, which can be experienced in the tension.
In a next step, practitioners take the arms sideways along the body and stretch them out beyond the head. The shoulder girdle should not be too fixed and the arms retain a kind of wing-like lightness so that, from the moment they glide out forwards, they automatically draw the thorax lengthways. Out of the centre, and through a subtle pull of the limbs, the whole body is now extended maximally into the horizontal line. The breath swings in a free rhythm and practitioners perceive both the tension within their pelvic area and in their spine, as well as the pulling and yet outwardly flowing limbs. The exercise should be held in this horizontal line for 10 to 15 seconds.
The return from the position does not take place by suddenly breaking off, but through taking back the arms and also the leg smoothly and with good guidance. However, practitioners still keep balancing on the supporting leg and swing the left leg forward past the standing leg, until they finally place it down on the ground. Through this solid guidance of the closing phase, a pleasant and harmonious reduction of tension develops with a relatively high potential for regeneration.
The health effects of the Scales
From a spiritual perspective, with this exercise, the second, third, and fourth centres are harmoniously integrated with one. The second centre generates a gathering force in the area of the sacrum and pelvis and leads to a general calming of the autonomic nerves. It strengthens and helps to initiate many different dynamic processes in the legs, which, when developed, etherically stimulate the overall venous system in its flow. The third centre allows space and this feeling of the third centre, on the one hand with its strength and dynamism, on the other hand with its wide, pleasant breathing processes and open feelings, allows the arterial system to circulate in a relaxed way right to the periphery. The expansiveness of the breathing almost always leads to a harmonisation of the pulse and blood pressure. This harmonisation is both stimulating for low blood pressure and also, surprisingly, brings a high degree of reduction to as yet unmanifest high blood pressure. Finally, the fourth centre harmonises and gives a pleasant subtle-feeling of the perceptual processes inwards to the body, as well as outwards to the surroundings. It has a generally strengthening effect and, in particular, through a fine etherisation, supports the returning venous flow.
The extension towards the leg, into the leg dynamically held high, especially with the strongly straightened standing leg, activates etheric forces in the hip and pelvic area; one could also say in yogic terminology it activates “prana” and “samana”, which counteract a slackening of the blood flow and positively stimulate the tissue itself. Weakness in the connective tissue is counteracted. Gliding out with the arms and lightly raising the chest leads to an increase of space at the level of the diaphragm and practitioners expand their breathing capacity, with the result that the entire circulatory life is more easily lifted out of an oppressive heaviness and brought to a more favourable overall level. The increase in space between the chest and abdomen also has a refreshing effect and offers liberating feelings.
The exercise should be done on both sides and can be repeated as often as wanted.