Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins that are swollen and raised above the surface of the skin. They can be dark purple or blue.
Any vein may become varicose, but the veins most commonly affected are those in the legs and feet, especially the back of the calves or on the inside of the legs. This is because prolonged standing and walking increases the pressure in the veins of the lower body.
Varicose veins develop when valves in the veins that allow blood to flow (pump upwards) towards the heart stop working properly. As a result, blood pools in the veins and causes them to get bigger and uneven.
The veins carry blood from the periphery back to the heart. A vein is an elastic blood vessel that transports blood from various regions of the body to the heart. Veins can be categorised into four main types: (1) pulmonary, (2) systemic, (3) superficial and (4) deep veins.
Pulmonary veins carry oxygenated blood from the lungs to the left atrium of the heart. Systemic veins return deoxygenated blood from the rest of the body to the right atrium of the heart. Superficial veins are located close to the surface of the skin and are not located near a corresponding artery. Deep veins are located deep within muscle tissue and are typically located near a corresponding artery with the same name, for example coronary arteries and veins.
In the legs, most of the blood travels via the large major veins which are situated in the deep areas of the limb. The superficial veins, the one that we can see just under the skin and the ones responsible for the unsightliness of varicose veins, carry the rest and ultimately join the deep system at two main points in the groin and behind the knee. There are other interconnecting veins called perforators in the calf and thigh, which join the deep and superficial systems together. Venous insufficiency is a very common condition resulting from decreased blood flow from the leg veins up to the heart, with pooling of blood in the veins. In this case, the veins cannot pump enough oxygen-poor blood back to the heart.
Normally, one-way valves in the veins keep blood flowing toward the heart, against the force of gravity. When the valves become weak and don’t close properly, they allow blood to flow backward, a condition called reflux. Veins that have lost their valve efficiency become elongated, rope-like, bulged, and thickened. These enlarged, swollen vessels are known as varicose veins and are a direct result of increased pressure from reflux. A common cause of varicose veins in the legs is reflux in a thigh vein called the great saphenous, which leads to pooling in the visible varicose vein below
There are three types of varicose veins:
• Reticular varicose vein are red veins, which cluster together to form a network.
• Telangiectasia or Spider veins also known as thread veins. They are small blue or red veins that appear on the surface of your skin.
• Trunk varicose vein are thick, lumpy, veins, which develop near the surface of the skin. Extremely visible and often quite long and can look unpleasant.
Varicose veins are visible when one stands up. If the legs have tender areas, there may be swelling, skin colour changes, sores, and other signs of skin breakdown. Sometimes, however, at a mild or at an early stage, people may not notice any visible symptoms, but feel achy legs and swelling etc. They find they need to sit down in the afternoon and elevate their legs to relieve the symptoms. In severe conditions, venous insufficiency and reflux can cause skin discoloration and ulcer, which may be very difficult to treat.
• Swelling and calf pain after one sits or stands for long periods of time
• Veins appear in either dark purple or blue in colour
• Veins appear twisted and bulging; often like cords on the legs
• Burning, aching, muscle cramping and swelling in the lower legs
• Itching , itchy and thin skin over the affected vein
• An achy or heavy and uncomfortable feeling in the legs
Varicose veins are caused due to an imbalance in the circulation of blood through the veins, which results in weakened valves in the veins of the legs. The one-way valves in the veins keep blood flowing from the legs up towards the heart.
When these valves do not work, as they should, blood collects in the legs, and pressure builds up. This weakens, enlarge, and twist the veins.
The following are the main causes:
• Family history or hereditary
• Overweight or obesity
• Prolonged standing or sitting
Yoga therapy for varicose vein is an eye opener for everyone.
“Science teaches about the Law of Gravitation, which pulls the energy downwards but yoga teaches about the Law of Grace that which raise the energy upwards.”
Yoga has always been stressing on the importance of the inverted asana as it improves the circulation to the upper body. Due to gravitation and aging, there is lesser circulation to the lower body. In the same way, blood reaching down to the lower extremities does not return back to the heart properly. Blood has got to get back again. When one is lying down, this is not too much of a problem. While preforming an inverted pose, like resting with the feet up against wall, gravity plays an important role in returning blood and removing the blocks in the veins.
A combination of the variations of inverted and other regular asana,s which stimulate the muscular movements like squeezing the calf muscles, can be a great sequence for yoga therapy for varicose veins. People with blood pressure condition should practise with the help of a proper yoga teacher while performing inverted asanas. Below are some of the most important asanas for the remedy of varicose veins.
Viparita Karani (Half Shoulder Stand)
1. Lie flat on the back, keeping the legs stretched straight.
2. Inhale, bend the knees, press the palm down the floor to raise the hip up to the ceiling. 3. When the whole trunk is raised off the ground, bend the elbows and place the palms on the back of the pelvis. The weight of the body is on the palms, elbows and the upper arms. 4. Keep the legs straight and relaxed, or knees slightly bent, so the leg feels lighter.
This pose can also be practised on a Viparata Karani Bench.
1. Just sit on the top edge of the bench and lie on the back or go closer to the bottom edge of the bench.
2. Raise the hip up on the bench, keeping the legs up straight for a while.
3. From here, stretch one leg up and other leg down just like cycling.
4. Do the same bending both legs together down and stretching up few times.
5. Stay for about 2-5 minutes with normal breathing and do the variation for about 10 times for 3 sets.
Benefit : This increases the muscular action in the leg muscles and drains the blood circulation to the upper body by increasing free flow of circulation.
Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand)
Headstand is the king of asanas. The benefit of the asana is to invert the whole body, which improves the blood flow to the upper body.
1.Place both forearms on the mat, with elbows shoulder wide and interlock the fingers firmly.
2.Rest the crown of the head on the mat, so that the back of the head is touching the palm, which becomes support around the head.
3.After keeping the head positioned, raise the knee from the floor by moving closer to the head.
4.Inhale, raise both leg ups with the inner legs together, and toes pointed upwards. Keep the body in a straight line by pressing the upper arm down and the shoulder lifted upwards.
5.Stretch one leg up and the other leg down just like cycling.
6.Keep one leg straight up and the other leg straight down.
7.Stay for 2 to 5mintues with normal breathing and relax.
Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
1. Lie down on the stomach. Stretch the neck and rest the chin firmly on the mat.
2.Raise the hip up, keeping both palms with the fingers closed under the groin. Try not to bend the elbows.
3.Take a few breaths. Inhale, raise the right leg straight up, keeping the toes pointed up without bending the knee.
4.Exhale, lower the right leg down. Lift the left leg in the same way.
5.Inhale, pressing both palms down, shift the body weight forward to the upper body and raise both legs straight stretching up in the air.
6.Stay in the pose for 20-30 seconds and repeat the variation for 10-20 times.
Benefit: The entire legs and abdominal muscles are toned. This increases the muscular contraction to remove the block and narrows the veins.
Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Foot Pose)
1.Lie flat on the back. Stretch both arms on sides of the thighs with the palms pressing on the floor.
2.Exhale, raise both legs together until they are perpendicular to the floor. They should remain stiff, so do not bend them at the knees.
3.Inhale, flex the toes downwards.
4.Exhale, extend the toes upwards
5.Remain in this position for a few breaths. Try and keep the back on the floor. Keep the legs stiff throughout the asana.
6.Repeat this for about 10 times for 3 sets.
Benefit: When calf muscle contraction occurs, the muscles are squeezed and relaxed. It also cures gastritis and strengthens the intestines and improves circulation.
Vajrasana (Diamond Throne Pose)
1. Kneel on the floor with the buttocks resting on the floor. Turn the toes pointed inwards and rest the buttock on the floor or on the sole of the feet.
2.If this position is difficult, place a block under the buttock to give height so the legs do not feel very heavy.
3.Alternatively, keep one leg stretched in the front while bending the other backward.
4.Stay in this pose for a minute with the normal breathing and the hands on the knee.
Benefits: This asana fixes the valves and prevents the blood (refluxing) flowing from the wrong way, when the valves stop working.