Chronic Kidney Disease: How Big is BIG?
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is big. It’s as big as the globe, and it affects 1 in 10 people worldwide. One in TEN! That’s big. And in the United States that statistic balloons out to a whopping 1 in 7. In addition to the astounding rates of CKD, adults in the US have two or more chronic diseases. Consider that it is often paired with other chronic diseases. That makes CKD even bigger.
The yogic lifestyle addresses the main risk factors that contribute to CDK and other chronic diseases: lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and excessive alcohol. These four main risk factors are big when you consider how many people participate in these four risky behaviors. A yogic lifestyle reinforces discernment and discipline. Practicing a yogic lifestyle brings awareness to thought and action. With yoga practice we learn to listen to the body and choose wisely.
What in the world can we do?
World Kidney Day, a global awareness campaign launches their big annual events to bring awareness of preventive behaviors for addressing kidney disease worldwide. March 14, 2019 is World Kidney Day. The theme is, “Kidney Health for Everyone Everywhere.” Everyone, everywhere? Sounds really big.
The World Kidney Day campaign urges several concrete measures to improve kidney care. Starting with, “Encourage and adopt healthy lifestyles (access to clean water, exercise, healthy diet, tobacco control. Many types of kidney diseases can be prevented, delayed and / or kept under control when appropriate prevention measures are in place.”
Yoga and the “sister” practice of Ayurveda have direct application to promoting kidney health. The ancient practices of Yoga and Ayurveda offer teachings of movement, breath work, healthy diet, and meditation – all contributing to stress reduction and an overall healthy lifestyle.
The main functions of the kidneys are to clean the blood, support healthy bones and tissue, and to keep the blood pressure normal. The National Kidney Foundation points out this symbiotic relationship of the kidneys and the heart: hypertension causes CKD and CKD causes hypertension. Heart disease in the number one cause of death in people with the CKD. Family history, hypertension, and diabetes are all risk factors to chronic kidney disease.
Stress is another BIG risk factor
Stress has a negative impact on every type of disease. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. And every risk factor of Chronic Kidney Disease is aggravated by stress. Stress raises your heart rate and elevates your blood pressure. Anything from an anxious thought to a life-threatening event can trigger the body’s stress response. The body releases adrenaline and cortisol to enable us to think quickly and act even quicker. This super human reaction is great when it’s really needed. The problem comes when we fall into a pattern of reacting to every day events as if they are a major challenge. And sometimes they can feel that way!
Fear of losing your job is distracting and creates constant worry. An argument with a loved one can sour your mood for the rest of the day. Even stressing out over the latest political rant can seem like a threat to world peace. Our lives are filled with every day events that cause the mind to worry, fear, and to stress out. When the mind is not at peace, the body remains ready to react. This state of readiness is the stress response. Great when it’s needed, harmful when it keeps us on constant alert to the next threat looming around the corner.
Yoga is BIG at stress reduction
The first two “guidelines” in yoga, the yoga sutras in English and Sanskrit are:
1.1 Now, the teachings of yoga (atha yoga anusasanam)
1.2 Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind (yogas chitta vritti nirodha)
The first two sutras sum up yoga’s big picture. The teachings of yoga are for calming the mind! We use yogic movements of the body (asanas, the postures), yogic breathing techniques (pranayama) and concentration (dhyana) to help ourselves bring calmness to the disturbing thoughts in our mind. Yoga is a stress reduction practice!
When we breath slowly and deeply, and focus our thoughts on how our body is feeling we create the “relaxation response.” The relaxation response was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. (His relaxation response technique is a close replication of the centuries old approach to several different forms of meditation). The relaxation response sends millions of messages to the body and the brain – in that order! It confirms to all systems that we are calming down. It informs the nervous system that everything is fine.
And everything is OK
- Breathing relaxes the body
- Adrenaline stops flowing
- Heart rate returns to normal, or slows down further
- Blood pressure normalizes or comes down
- Mind returns to the next task at hand
Sample one hour practice*
(1) Physical postures done with awareness (many of these postures may be more effective with variations that involve twists and rotations at the waist). Search for the following pose descriptions on Yoga Journal’s site.
A. Standing asanas (1 minute each): Mountain pose with arms stretched and with bound hands (Urdhva-Hastasana), Backward bending, from waist (Ardha Chakrasana), and Half-waist-rotation pose (Ardha Kati Chakrasana).
B. Sitting asanas (1 minute each): Extension of the front body (Purvottanasana), Cobra (Bhujangasana), Hare pose (Shashankasana), Seated twist (Bharadvajasana/Vakrasana), Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
C. Supine asanas (those in reclined position, 1 minute each): Reclining bound angle posture (Supta Baddhakonasana), Reclining cross legged posture (Supta Svastikasana), Bridge pose (Setubandhasana), Shoulder stand on a chair (Salamba Sarvangasana), Inverted lake pose (ViparitaKarani), Air releasing pose (pavanmuktasana), Corpse posture (Savasana) with bolster support under chest.
(2) Breathing techniques (Pranayama, a 10-15 minute session): Hands in and out breathing (10 rounds in 2 minutes), hand stretch breathing (10 rounds in 2 minutes), tiger breathing (10 rounds in 2 minutes), alternate nostril breathing (Nadisuddhi; in 5 minutes), left nostril breathing (Chandra AnulomaViloma; 27 rounds in 5 minutes, 4 times per day), humming bee breath (Bhramari; in 2 minutes), Cooling pranayama (Sitali; 9 rounds) and abdominal breathing in lying-down position in 2 minutes.
(3) Yogic relaxation at the end of asana and pranayama (Savasana, a 20 minute session): Techniques with imagery or mindfulness based stress reduction meditation. (Mindfulness Meditation, Yoga Nidra, or a rotation of consciousness practice).
*Practices to be avoided are pranayama and asana that may raise heart rate (i.e., Bhastrika, Kapalabhati, and inverted poses like headstand).
Role of Yoga in Chronic Kidney Disease: A Hypothetical Review, Kashinath GM, Hemant B, Praerna C, Nagarathna R and Nagendra HR, Division of Yoga and life sciences, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA University), Banglore, India, https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/role-of-yoga-in-chronic-kidney-disease-a-hypothetical-review-2161-0959.1000167.php?aid=26109
Keep your kidneys healthier with yoga, The Art of Living, organization founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, https://www.artofliving.org/in-en/yoga/health-and-wellness/yoga-for-stronger-kidneys
Yoga Therapy Kidney Disorders, Asana International Yoga Journal, https://www.asanajournal.com/yoga-therapy-kidney-disorders/
Chronic stress puts your health at risk, Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your mind and body. Take steps to control your stress, Mayo Clinic staff, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037