By Sanjeev Patel
Good digestion is something that many of us take for granted. For those who do not enjoy a stable and reliable digestive system, life is often very difficult. Frequent diarrhea makes you feel like a prisoner in your own bathroom, while frequent constipation is painful and distracting. We all want our digestion to work well so that we don’t even have to think about it, and for many people yoga is an important key that gets the digestive engine running smoothly again.
Your system of digestion is a complex and amazing process. Digestive ailments sometimes occur when our system is out of balance. At times our diet is to blame, or lack of exercise, but other times the causes are not so clear-cut. Certainly stress and emotional distress cause digestive troubles for some people while for others the culprit is impossible to pinpoint. Happily, yoga training can help in many situations because it addresses a wide range of potential issues; it is a form of exercise but it also improves body imbalances and helps us release feelings of stress or anxiety.
As many of us learn in yoga teacher training, asanas that are spinal twists massage and stimulate the abdominal area are excellent for helping to relieve gas and constipation. As a yoga teacher, you know that Cat and Cow are asanas that are normally done as a pair, and they effectively stimulate digestion while stretching out the spinal area to make sure there are no constrictions there to impede digestion. The Standing Forward Bend also stimulates the digestive system and Downward Facing Dog is an asana that relaxes the entire gastrointestinal system, but because these poses are inversions they are not recommended if you are experiencing nausea or heartburn.
Deep pranayama from the belly also helps to regulate digestion. Breath is an unconscious activity for most of us, but if you notice your breath you may find it is quite weak. When you are breathing short and shallow, your body interprets this as being under attack and releases the stress hormones that interrupt normal body activities, readying your body for fight or flight. Deep breathing has a calming effect on the nervous system, which in turn calms the other systems in your body, allowing them to function normally instead of operating in a state of constant stress. Yoga breathing (pranayama) will calm your body during class and once you learn the techniques you can carry them over to your daily life, as well.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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