Yoga for Varicose Veins: 7 Poses & Exercises That Can Help Manage

yoga for varicose veins
Image: Canva

Have you ever noticed how your face reddens, during shoulder stands and handstands? Well, that’s because of the blood gushing into the veins of your face because of your inverted position.

Now, if that is the case then why don’t our legs redden since we are standing and walking most of the time? Why doesn’t the blood flow down constantly? Well, that’s because of thin flap-like tissues called valves present in legs veins. 

Varicose veins, also known as varicoses or varicosities, appear as swollen large bluish-purple or red color surface veins on the lower legs. In some cases, they cause aching pain, however, for others, varicose veins are just a cosmetic concern.

What Happens in Varicose Veins?

healthy-veins-vs-varicose-veins
Image: www.theprivateclinic.co.uk

The work of arteries is to carry blood to different parts of the body, and veins bring them back to the heart. The veins in our legs have a tough job bringing up the blood, working against the force of gravity. 

Our leg muscles contract with our movement to pump up the blood. And the valves, at continuous and successive intervals within the veins, act as gateways that close to prevent the blood from flowing down as your muscles relax.

When these valves are damaged, they are unsuccessful in pumping up the blood through your veins. As a result, blood collects, increases pressure in your veins, and they swell up under your skin with a gnarly appearance. This is what we commonly call varicose veins.

Now, most research studies show that varicose vein is a condition that is mostly avoided and treated by different types of leg exercises. Although some extreme forms may need the doctor’s attention 1.

Yoga Benefits for Varicose Veins

Yoga poses for varicose veins will give you a complete solution for the veins and muscles involved. A regular yoga practice of leg specific yoga poses will

  • Reduce the fat build up under the skin
  • Improve muscle contractions
  • Increase nerve training
  • Improve nutrient absorption
  • Benefits hormonal functions

1. Reduces fat build up under skin

Obesity is a very common factor associated with varicose veins. Excess fat builds up under the skin, puts extra pressure on veins and arteries. Naturally, this can both lead to varicose veins and worsen an already existing one.

Even beginner-level yoga stretches and exercises will help you reduce this fat build-up. Studies show that a simply 3-months Ashtanga yoga intervention can be effective in reducing and managing bodyweight 2

With less fat, your muscle contractions will be unhindered.

Reduced-fat build-up from yoga will mean less pressure in the veins, which will help your muscles pump the blood upward, hence cures varicose veins. Additionally, extra pressure within the veins can be a leading cause of valve damage. Thus yoga will help you reduce the damage to your valves as well.

2. Improves muscle contractions

Yoga’s benefit on your muscle contractions has a double utility. Yoga exercises for varicose veins increase the movement capacity of your muscles. Increased movement capacity will make bigger contractions and pump more quantity of blood. 

The increased muscle contraction will provide increased exercise for your vein valves. This will heal the damage caused to your valves. With these efficient muscle contractions, yoga helps you preventing varicose veins.

3. Increases nerve training

Your muscle and veins contractions are regulated and controlled by your peripheral nerves and the CNS. Yoga will help you keep your nervous functions up and running. Studies show that 40 days of yoga asanas can improve nerve conduction velocity 3 and improved nerve conduction velocity is precisely what is needed for effective muscle contractions.

Restorative yoga poses are good choices to heal damaged nerves and restore your muscle contractions in case of varicose veins. Overall, your improved nervous functions will systematically contract your muscles to pump the blood up your veins, and back to your heart.

4. Help boost nutrient absorption

Yoga poses will improve your digestive health, especially within your small intestine to improve your nutrients absorption. Nutrients like fat, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. 

Now if these nutrients are not absorbed properly they will be released back into the bloodstream of the veins as waste materials. As they flow back through your veins, they will make your blood viscous, increase flow resistance and increase damage within vein walls and on valves.

5. Regulates hormonal activities

Yoga poses have a known effect on hormonal disorders. The stimulating yoga exercises are very effective in enhancing different hormone secretions. Such hormones are responsible for the development, growth, and maintenance of your body tissues. 

The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is an example of such a hormone. Yoga promotes the production, and suppression, of hormones that are responsible for the physiological development of your veins.

Yoga Poses for Varicose Veins

Varicose veins exercises in yoga will include poses that stretch leg and hand muscles to improve your blood circulation and nutrients absorption.

Practice these 7 best yoga poses to cure Varicose Veins.

1. Legs up the wall – Viparita Karani

legs up the wall viparita karani variation
legs up the wall viparita karani variation. Image Source: Shutterstock

Legs up the wall is the ideal pose for varicose veins in legs and groins. The inverted position in this pose will naturally encourage the flow in your veins, and reduce the blood pooling. This pose is particularly beneficial for those who are new to yoga, and balancing comes difficult. 

  • Sit against a wall with your right side to the wall
  • In one smooth motion roll to your right and lie on your back.
  • Put your legs up the wall and stretch out your hands by the sides of your body.
  • Lift your back and adjust your position so that your sitting bones are exactly hanging over the wall-floor joint.
  • Rest on this pose.
  • Breathe steadily
  • Hold the pose for 30 seconds.

If you feel numbness or tingling sensation, walk your legs down the wall, rest them against the wall, and once again stretch them back up.

2. Shoulder Stand – Sarvangasana

salamba sarvangasana (supported shoulderstand)
Image: Canva

Shoulder stand is hands down the best pose for varicose veins. This pose is a step up on the previous pose. With the inverted position, shoulder stand naturally triggers the flow of blood in your leg and groin veins. And the support-less stand increases the contraction of your muscles to further enhance the flow. This pose will have added benefits in varicose veins, with improved immunity system, blood circulation, and hormone secretion.

  • Lie supine on the floor 
  • Keep your legs joined
  • Raise your legs up, and then raise your body as well.
  • Work your leg muscles and abs to pull your entire body upward, and push at your hips with your hands.
  • Raise up both your body and legs, inverted, with a little bend at the hip, and balance on your shoulders.
  • Hold up your hips and legs with your hands for support.
  • Look down at your heart
  • Once you are stable in your pose, hold it for 30 seconds.
  • You can go upto a minute or a couple of minutes if feeling comfortable.

To be safe practice this pose against a wall. Your head should be towards the wall as you lie down at first. When you put your body up, do not overreach with the inversion. Otherwise you can hurt your neck or spine. Your shoulders should be touching the ground.

3. Bound Angle Pose – Baddha Konasana

Gorakshasana variation with baddhasana
Image Source: Canva

The bound angle pose puts a good exercise on your leg and groin muscles that surround your varicose veins. It improves muscle contractions. The bound angle pose will be a better solution over other poses, if you have varicose veins in your groin region. This pose also has a very potent effect on hormonal activities.

  • Sit in a staff position
  • Bend your knees and fold them up
  • Open your knees and let them drop toward the floor on their respective sides.
  • Do not let your knees touch the floor.
  • Hold your knees just above the floor.
  • Allow your soles to touch with each other.
  • Clasp with your hands around the feet.
  • Keeping your upper body erect, slightly lean forward.
  • Breathe consciously, and hold the pose for 20-30 seconds.
  • You can repeat this pose a comfortable few times.

In bound angle pose, you can add a layer of exercise for your muscle contraction and varicose veins. Bring your knees up together, and then again opening them on the sides. You can continue this movement throughout. Also remember not to allow your knees to touch the ground, that will put pressure on your groin.

4. Standing forward bend – Uttanasana

Uttanasana - padahastasana variation
Source: Canva

Standing forward bend puts a very strong stretch for your leg muscles. Very few other poses will help your muscles attain more must let contractions, than this pose. In cases of varicose veins in the lower leg, this pose is a must. This pose is also a go-to pose for varicose veins in the hand. Forward bend makes your blood circulation efficient.

  • Stand in a mountain pose.
  • Straight, spine erect, hands by the sides of your body, shoulders pressed down, head pressed back in line with the hip and feet joined.
  • Raise your hands straight overhead
  • Bend forward from your groin.
  • Without bending your knees, bend all the way down so that your face is next to your knees and your hands are touching your feet.
  • You can either hold the position for 5-7 breaths and repeat it for 3 times.
  • Or hold the position for 2-3 seconds. And repeat it 5-7 times.

Try the variation with more repetitions, that will be good for your muscle contractions. Further, do not force your stretch, that could hurt your knees.

5. Thunderbolt Pose – Vajrasana

vajrasana
Image: Canva

The thunderbolt pose is the pose of digestion. In varicose veins, thunderbolt pose will establish efficient nutrients absorption which will help your veins evade damage from a vicious blood flow. The sitting posture will also help the muscle contractions in your legs and groin.

  • Kneel down on the floor
  • Join your legs, knees and feet.
  • Bend and fold your knees and sit back on your feet.
  • Let your sitting bones rest on your heels and press them down.
  • Keep your upper body perfectly erect.
  • Rest your hands on your knees.
  • Take steady breaths.
  • Sit in this pose for 2-3 minutes.
  • You can go upto sitting for 10 minutes if your ankles and knees permit

This posture can be easily supported by adding a folded blanket between your feet. Using it as your seat, rather then letting your heels take the entire weight. Unlike many other support modifications, this support won’t make much difference to the benefits.

6. Boat Pose – Navasana

Boat-Pose
Image Source: Canva

If you have varicose veins in your thighs or even groins, the boat pose will have good efficacy. The boat pose puts a fantastic exercise on your abs, hamstrings, and quadriceps. The muscle contractions provided by the boat pose, are very helpful in pumping the blood back to your heart.

  • Sit in a staff pose.
  • Bend your knees and fold them up.
  • Hold the floor by the sides of your body.
  • Gradually rock your body backward.
  • Keep leaning back to a point, after which you feel like falling back.
  • Hold your upper body to that point, and lift your lower legs up, keeping them parallel to the ground.
  • You can balance your hands by the sides of your body, or support your thighs with them.
  • Do not forget to breathe and hold the pose for 5-7 breaths.

If you are completely unable to lift your legs up, it would be because of poor hamstring strength. Which wouldn’t be uncommon in varicose veins. Thus, use your as a support under your thighs, to lift up your legs.

7. Fish Pose – Matsyasana

fish pose
Image Source: Shutterstock

The fish pose improves the blood flow in the veins of your hands. However, the hormonal and blood circulation benefits of this pose are also quite potent. The fish pose has a strong impact on your cardiovascular health, which can have an indirect effect on varicose veins.

  • Sit in a staff position.
  • Recline back and rest on your elbows.
  • Keep your elbows firmly pressed to the ground.
  • Keep your shoulders pressed down
  • Stretch and open up your chest.
  • Then with an inhale push your chest out and arch your head back, and exhale.
  • Keep breathing, and keep stretching your chest and expanding it outward, put your abs and lower back into this action as well.
  • Then inhale and with the exhale, try to reach back with your head.
  • Try and aim to touch the ground behind you with the crown of your head.

Reaching back with your head won’t come easy at first. Take time at it and even adjust your elbows recline further back, to support your head movement. You can keep your legs stretched out and joined, or fold them in a cross-legged position.

Non-Yogic Exercises for Varicose Veins

Yoga isn’t the only exercise available to help you with your varicose veins. Adding a little variety to your treatment will definitely prove beneficial. Additionally, sometimes your mind not have the time and space for practicing yoga, in such cases, you can avail some simple lifestyle inclusions, that will act as an exercise for your varicose veins.

The following exercises are worthy considerations for varicose veins.

  • Walking – Walking is a holistic exercise, with a notable influence on hormones, digestion, and blood flow.
  • Bicycling – Bicycling is excellent cardio, and will easily tackle the issue of obesity-related varicose veins
  • Swimming – Swimming is said to exercise every muscle and nerve in your body; increasing muscle contractions.
  • Lunges – Lunges are the most traditional stretches there are for your legs.
  • Keep your legs elevated – This will help the blood flow back to your heart, even without you exercising.
  • Leg lift – Leg lifts are gentle and soothing leg exercises that train your nerves for better muscle contraction.
  • Lower leg raises – The lower leg raises will act as a pumping action to the blood in your veins.
  • Ankle role – Your ankle rolls add exercise to your calf muscles, and improve their contraction.
  • Seated and standing hamstring stretches – Hamstring stretches like the ones in dance routines.
  • Pilates – Side lying lifts, leg circles, scissor kicks and side lying kicks are some simple but good options
  • Tai Chi – The basic 24-form Tai Chi chuan will prove effective.

Yoga poses & exercises to Avoid with Varicose Veins

You need to work your leg muscles, true, but that doesn’t mean you go throwing your legs at every leg exercise you come across. Yoga poses like cross-legged lotus position, chair pose, squat pose may not be suitable for varicose veins.

Whilst some exercises are going to be beneficial, some will prove a disaster in varicose veins. The logic behind this is quite simple; simple enough for you to figure out on your own. Any extreme form of leg exercise that will put too much tension on your muscles, will increase pressure within your veins. Undesirably high pressure will further damage the vein walls and valves. Some common harmful exercises are running, sprinting, yogic jogging, and weightlifting.

Conclusion

Varicose vein is a physiological condition where exercise is not an alternative but traditional treatment. You cannot achieve the remedy without exercise.

Now whilst most exercises will address the muscle contractions and even the blood flow in veins. Yoga will do much more than that. With yoga you have the additional benefits of enhanced digestion, blood circulation and hormonal activities.

Whilst most exercises will give you temporary relief of symptoms. Yoga as an exercise has a potential to give you a holistic cure of varicose veins, if practiced dedicatedly.

References

  1. Prevention of varicose veins https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Malar-Kodi-3/
  2. Ashtanga yoga for weight management https://www.sciencedirect.com/
  3. Effect of yoga asanas on nerve conduction https://europepmc.org/article/

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