Food is the main source of energy for our daily activities. Food also plays a critical role in supplement of vitamins and minerals for the growth, development and recovery of our body.
Food can be classified into 2 categories, namely Organic food and Processed food. Organic food contains high nutrients and can be easily digested compared to processed food. However, organic food are usually pricier to have in the cities. Bustling environment in the city has also raised motivation of home chefs to prepare meals using processed food due to greater convenience. Yet, they may contain toxins unfavourable to our health. Regardless, it is important for us to have a strong digestive system for the healthy growth, development and recovery of our body.
Through digestion, nutrients are being absorbed into our body. An effective digestive system is dependable on 3 factors:
1) Ability food is broken down
2) Ability of intestines to absorb nutrients
3) Ability of body to remove unwanted waste from the body.
There could be many means to improve our digestive systems such as through sports, exercises or medication etc. In this article, I will be sharing some knowledge about using yoga to improve our digestive system.
Yoga is an ancient science, passed on from generations of people, which seeks to optimise body functions through the union of the our body, mind and emotions for the good of the whole body. This is achieved mainly through yoga practices such as shatkarma (cleansing), pranayama (breath control), asana (pose) and ayurveda (medicine).
Constipation has been a issue for me since the age of 9. I was only passing out unwanted waste from my body once a week. Through my 200hr ttc course held at Gyan Yog Breath in Dec 2018, I acquired knowledge and practiced asana and pranayama to improve my digestion and has been able to relieve my constipation problem. I have been able to pass out unwanted waste either daily or nightly with ease. With reduced retention of toxins in my body, my appetite has greatly improved and I have felt more energized than ever. In the spirit of kindness, I would like to share with you 3 different asana and 1 pranayama technique that I found most useful to improve your digestion. All practices should be done 3 to 4 hours after meal.
1) Dhanurasana (Bow pose)
Dhanurasana will massage your liver, abdominal organs and muscles. It helps to tone your pancreas and adrenal glands, stimulating secretion of enzymes, acids and juices to break down food molecules in preparation for absorption of nutrients. Dhanurasana also improves blood circulation generally. In addition, it can also help to strengthen your kidney and relieve constipation.
You should not practice Dhanurasana if you are suffering from a weak heart, high blood pressure, hernia, colitis, peptic or duodenal ulcers. You should not practice this asana before sleep at night as it stimulates adrenal glands and the sympathetic nervous system.
Steps to perform Dhanurasana:
a) Lie flat on your stomach with legs and feet together, arms and hands beside the body.
b) Bend your knees and bring your heels close to your buttocks.
c) Clasp your hands around your ankle.
d) Place your chin on your mat.
e) With deep inhalation, tense your leg muscles and push your feet away from the body. (This is the starting position)
f) With breath retention, arch your back, lifting your thighs, chest and head together while keeping your arms straight. Hold the final position for as long as you are comfortable.
g) With exhalation, return to starting position.
Practice 3 to 5 rounds.
Steps to recover:
a) With exhalation, slowly release your hands from your ankles, bring them in front of your head and on the floor.
b) Place your forehead on mat and relax in shashankasana (rabbit pose)
In the final position, draw your physical awareness to the expansion and contraction of your abdomen. Draw your spiritual awareness to your manipura chakra.
2) Naukasana (Boat pose)
Naukasana helps to stimulate your muscular, digestive, circulatory systems, toning all organs. It greatly strengthens the well being of your intestinal villi for absorption of nutrients during digestion. Improved blood circulation in the intestinal region also facilitates greater rate of absorption by your intestinal villi. Naukasana can also enhance your nervous and hormonal systems.
Naukasana requires the holding of your breath in the final position. If you have heart disease, high blood pressure or asthma, you may perform the asana with normal breathing in the final position.
Steps to perform Naukasana:
a) Lie on your back, keeping your feet together and hands by your side.
b) Breathe in deeply and raise your legs, arms, shoulders, head and trunk off the ground.
c) Keep the shoulders and and feet no more than 15cm from the mat.
d) Balance your body on your buttocks and keep your spine straight.
e) Align your hands to your toes.
f) Open your hands with your palms facing down.
g) Gaze towards your toes.
h) Remain in the final position and hold your breath for 5 mental counts.
Practice 3 to 5 rounds.
In the final position, draw your awareness to the mental counting, tensing of your abdominal muscles in the final position and your breath.
Steps to recover:
a) Slowly lower your shoulders and head and return to supine position.
b) Relax the whole body in Shavasana.
If you wish to tense your body more, you may clench your fists as much as possible in the raised position.
3) Ushtrasana (Camel pose)
Ushtrasana helps to stretch the stomach and intestines, widening the passage way for food digestion in your digestive system from mouth to your rectum. This supports you to alleviate constipation. In addition, Ushtrasana is also useful to improve your reproductive and respiratory system.
Ushtrasana requires you to lean backward. If you have severe back ailments such as lumbago, you should only practice this asana with the guidance of a competent teacher.
Steps to perform Ushtrasana
a) Sit in Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose).
b) Stand on the knees with your arms at the sides. (You may place a cushion below your knee if you feel that is more comfortable.)
c) Keep your knees and feet together (You may seperate them if you feel that is more comfortable.)
d) Lean backward, slowly reaching for your right heel with your right hand and left heel with your left hand. (Do not strain.)
e) Push your hips foward, keeping the thighs vertical.
f) Bend your head and spine backward as far as you feel is comfortable.
g) With normal breathing, relax your body, especially your back muscles, into the stretch.
h) Hold the final position for up to 3mins as a static pose.
The weight of your body should be evenly supported by your legs and arms. Your arms should anchor your shoulders to maintain the arch of your back.
In the final position, draw your physical awareness to the stretch on your abdomen, throat, spine or natural breathing. Draw your spiritual awareness to your swadhistana or vishuddhi chakra.
Steps to recover:
a) Slowly release your hands from the heels one at a time.
b) Bend forward and relax in shashankasana (rabbit pose)
You may accentuate this asana by grasping your right heel with your left hand, and left heel with your right hand.
4) Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows Breath)
Bhastrika pranayama can help you to burn toxins and purifies your blood. Rapid exhange of air in your lungs in this pranayama helps to stimulate your metabolic rate, producing heat and flushing out wastes and toxins. Rapid and rhythmic movement of your diaphragm also massages the stimulates digestive organs, increasing your digestive fire. In addition, Bhastrika pranayama can also help to alleviate inflammation in your throat and any accumulation of phlegm.
Bhastrika is an intensive practice which require large expenditure of physical energy. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, hernia, gastric ulcer, stroke, epilepsy, retinal problems, glaucoma or vertigo, you should not practice Bhastrika Pranayama. If you are suffering from lung diseases or recovering from tuberculosis, or in your first trimester of pregnancy, you are recommended to practise only under guidance of a competent teacher.
Steps to perform Bhastrika Pranayama
a) Sit in a comfortable meditation posture with hands resting on the knees in either chin or jnana mudra.
b) Keep your head and spine straight.
c) Close your eyes and relax your whole body.
d) Perform deep, rapid and forceful breathing through your nose. (Avoid violet respiration. If you have feeling of faintness, excessive perspiration, or vomitting, it means you have perform it incorrectly)
e) During inhalation, your diaphragm descends and your abdomen moves outwards. During exhalation, vice-versa.
f) Continue rapid breathing for 10 times. (You may gradually increase 5 counts of breath per month to extend the benefits of this pranayama)
Gradually increase your speed of breathing, keeping the force of inhalation and exhalation equal. Slow bhastrika is approximately 1 breath every 2 seconds. Fast bhastrika is approximately 2 breath every 1 second.
Steps to recover:
a) Slowly return to normal breathing
b) Remain seated in your comfortable meditation posture resting on your knees for 2mins.
During rthymical breathing process, draw your physical awareness to the abdominal movement. Draw your spiritual awareness to your manipura chakra.
Bhastrika pranayama may be perform using alternate nostrils via Nasgra Mudra (nose tip position), as well as with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention) or with Bahir Kumbhaka (external retention).
Inclusion of spices into food making process not only make dish flavourful, some are also able to aid in digestion and prevent constipation. I like to add ayurveda herbs are Tumeric, Ginger and Cumin. Tumeric is good for balancing the gastric juices in our stomach for digestion. Ginger is good for calming our intestinal system for digestion and absorption. Cumin serves as natural laxative to prevent constipation. Regardless, too much of good stuff may be healthful to our body, hence we should always eat in moderation.
Whether you are taking organic or processed food regularly, or practising other special diet, I hope you find the information above useful to help you improve your digestion. With good digestion, we will be able to live joyfully and energetically. May you be peaceful always.
About the author:
Lee hat ihre 200 Stunden Yogalehrer Ausbildung im Dezember 2018 abgeschlossen.
Die Erfahrung einmal nach Indien zu reisen, gemeinsam mit ihrem Mann, beschreibt sie als wundervolles und einzigartiges Erlebnis.
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