Monthly Archives: April 2013

Yoga for Digestive System

A healthy digestive and eliminative system is absolutely necessary for good physical and mental health. A large number of chronic degenerative and metabolic diseases are secondary effects of long term malfunctions and abuse of the digestive system. In these diseases are included asthma, diabetes, arthritis, heart and vascular disorders, skin diseases, cancers, headache, obesity, mental diseases, sexual disorders and other endocrine mal-functions. There debilitating and often fatal processes have their genesis in disturbed digestion, assimilation and elimination processes.

Therefore, in attempting to ameliorate or manage major diseases, it is frequently necessary to initially strengthen and rebalance the primary digestive processes. Indigestion is everyone’s problem. Everybody has an experience of indigestion in some time in their life. Indigestion is actually a deeper problem than most of us realize. Most of the people have taken for granted that indigestion is a part of life. In most of the houses antacid and digestive medicines are the part of their food intake. Which should not be as it does more harm to our body in the long run. We should use it judiciously. Rather avoid using.

The Causes Of Indigestion:

The various digestive diseases have a multitude of causes, from mental or emotional disturbance, the habit of swallowing air, to gluttony. Other prime causes of indigestion or dyspepsia are a diet deficient in mineral salts, eating too many  refined foods such as those made of white flour and cane sugar products, drinking with meals, hasty or irregular meals, late supper, poor mastication etc. Besides all these causes most of the yoga authors   claim that behind poor digestion is the inability of the mind to digest the situation of life and to metabolize the problems correctly. You must have noticed yourself that when you are experiencing digestive problems, you tend to be pessimistic and easily irritated; conversely a healthy digestive system allows one to be cheerful, happy and optimistic. Yoga is the key to a relaxed, efficient, harmonious, digestive system. A strong digestive system means energy and vitality. It reflects a positive life style.

Signs and Symptoms:

The general symptoms are heart burn, headache, heaviness in the stomach, irregularity of bowels, cold feet, weak pulse. In long standing cases there will be a hacking cough, intermittent fever, palpitation of the heart and irritability.

Specific Disorders:

Hypoacidity, hyper acidity, regurgitation, heart burn, wind, belching and burping.

Chronic Disorders:

Peptic ulcer, duodenal ulcer, colitis, constipation, acute gastro enteritis, mal absorption states the sprue, whipple diseases and ceoliac diseases, chronic hepatitis.

Yogic Management Of The Disorders:

Medical science and yoga both agree that most of the digestive disorders are psychosomatic.  Experiments have shown that the lining of the stomach is an extremely sensitive recorder of our emotional state. Physiologists now recognize that emotional tension and psychic stress factors, including high level of frustration are related to the digestive organs and glands via the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve pathways. So, the first way of managing the digestive disorders is deep relaxation, which can only be attained through asana, pranayam, dhyana and yoga nidra.

Recommended Asans For Digestive Problems:

Abdominal group of asanas like.

  • Uthanpadasana
  • Chakrapadasana
  • Supta pawanmuktasana
  • Padasanchalanasana
  • Supta udarakarsanasana

 

Shakti bandha series like Chakki sanchalanasana, gatyatmak meru Vakrasana etc. Surya namaskar is very beneficial for digestive system. Sitting in Vajrasana at least 10 minutes after food is highly recommended for digestive disorders.

Pranayam- Kapalbhati, Nadisodhan, sheetali, ujjayi are recommended. Deep relaxation techniques like savasana, yoga nidra, meditation should be adopted.

No digestive problem can be cured 100% without the yogic shatkriyas. So sankhaprakhyalana, kunjal kriya, agnisara kriya, nauli, jala neti and basti practices have to be adopted. Whatever yogic practices one needs to adopt should be learnt  under the guidance of an experienced qualified therapist as the therapy is given to the patient taking into  account  all problems of the patient as a whole. The program has to b personalized to get maximum benefit out of it.

 

 

 

Feeding The Fire:

 

Food is the fuel for the digestive fire and therefore must be pure, well combined and in correct quantity. The amount of food one needs to eat depends on one’s digestive power. We must discover our own capacity and set ourselves a standard amount to eat at each meal. Few people however can stop eating at the point of satisfaction or little sort of it. Constantly eating beyond this point vitiates the digestive fire. Undigested food is worse than no food and becomes a detriment to our health.

One must judiciously take a well balanced food comprising of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals according to their personal need. By understanding the qualities of food we are eating, we can manipulate and adjust the body’s function in the same way as we would the control on a gas stove. So, most of the digestive disorders and many more diseases can be eradicated if we consult a good dietician.

There are some other practices which should be followed strictly for the proper functioning of the digestive system.

  • Always drink plenty of water. Preferably in the morning drink 3-4 glasses of Luke warm water. Water in the morning is nectar, water during meal is poison, water after digestion is tonic. This principle should be followed.
  • Never overload your stomach. We all know that after an excessively large meal we feel heaviness in the abdomen and lethargy throughout the whole body. Overloading the stomach and intestine results in loss of energy rather than gain. Blood is redirect from the vain and other organs to aid in the process of digestion, leaving most of the body with only the minimum supply of oxygen and nutrients.

A light meal of grains and vegetables is sufficient for the body’s physical needs and helps the pranic level high. Many people thinks that the energy comes from food, so tasty dishes are prepared for the sick person to induce him to eat. This attitude fails to take into account the fact that one of the first sign of sickness is loss of appetite, a natural warning triggered to help nature’s repair work. Therefore during illness we should reduce the intake of food to minimum to facilitate the repair work of the body. When bacteria invade the body the immune system is mobilized. All available energy is required and therefore physical activity should be avoided. Eating requires a lot of metabolic energy and this energy must be kept in reserve for fighting the disease. Fasting during illness speeds up the catabolic process which occurs in illness, thereby helping to eliminate toxins. Timing of one’s food intake according to yogic philosophy is  from sunrise to sunset when the pingala nadi is active our digestive organs work properly. As petrol is to a car so is the food for our body. When we are ready for activation in the morning we need more food to work. So the breakfast must be  nutritious one comprising of all the nutrients. One should not miss the breakfast as it creates a lot of health problems. In yoga it is said one should eat in the morning like a emperer, lunch like a king and dinner like a pauper. The dinner should be before sunset, as after sunset idanadi dominates which is not meant for the digestion rather it induces the whole system for relaxation.

In the modern urban society it is a general practice to skip breakfast as all are in a hurry and overload the stomach at late night and then go to sleep. Which is very detrimental to our health. There should be a minimum gap of 2hours between our last meal and sleep.

Last but not the least a relaxed mind and good hunger is essential for good digestion. A worried, anxious, depressed and anger state of mind is probably the main cause of indigestion. Enjoy your food without becoming attached to any one way that you think is right rather experience all and fulfill your desire. One thing yoga suggest that you remain aware of what are you doing. Watch what is happening to your body and mind when you eat meat, rich food or when you eat excessively. Then you will know for yourself what is right thing to eat and no neurosis and misunderstanding will arise.

Reference is taken from the book “Yogic Management Of Digestive System”(A Bihar school of yoga publication).

Hatha Yoga Shatkarma Neti

Hatha yoga pradipika by Swami swatmarama is a very well known text in Sanskrit. In this text swami swatmarama does not worry at all about self control and self discipline in the form of yama and niyama. He begins by saying that you should purify the whole body ,the stomach, intestine, nervous system and other system. Therefore shatkarma comes first that is Neti, Dhauti, basti, kapalbhati, trataka and nauli. So, hatha yoga is also known as the science of purification, not one, but six.

The aim of hatha yoga is to create harmony between the two major pranic flows, ida and pingala. To attain that harmony shatkarmas are used to expel the three doshes or humours of the body, bata(wind), pitta(bile), kapha(mucus). According to hatha yoga and ayurveda an imbalance of the doshes create illness.

When you clear the body of these impurities, the nadis function and energy blocks are released. Then the energies move like wave frequencies throughout the channels within the physical structure moving right up to the brain.

Hatha yoga is considered as the preliminary practice of tantra, raja yoga, kundalini yoga, kriya yoga. When the rishis discovered the science of hatha yoga, they did not have yoga therapy in mind. Although yoga and yogic shatkarmas are scientifically proved to be beneficial in many incurable diseases. The therapeutic effect of yoga is only a byproduct and incidental. We know matter in its ultimate form is energy, then this physical body can be transformed into solid energy through the systematic practice of the six cleansing process.

The most important thing one must be aware of is these powerful techniques are to be learned not from any text books or from TV but should be learned under the guidance of a qualified and experienced yoga therapist. Among the six purification processes Neti is considered to be the most beneficial, practical form of process, which each and everyone can practice without any negative effects. Only those persons who have severe nasal bleeding & suffering from ear perforation should not practice Jal Neti. But first time one must learn from an expert teacher.

Neti

Neti is of different type, Jala Neti, mutra neti, ghrita neti, dugdha neti, sutra neti. Among these most practical and easier one is jala neti.All types of neti is having the same effect except sutra neti is useful in rectifying the problem of deviated nasal septrum.

Jala neti-(The preparation)

The most important thing is one should take pure water(bacteria free) for the preparation of the solution. A special neti lota or pot is required. The water should be at body temperature and thoroughly mixed with salt in the proportion of one teaspoonful per half litre of water. The addition of salt ensures the osmotic pressure of the water is equal to that of the body fluids which minimizes the irritation of the mucus membrane. If a painful or burning sensation is felt it is an indication that there is either too little or too much salt in the water. It is generally recommended to use Hypertonic Saline water as it considered being a Mucoactive agent and easily hydrates thick Mucosal secretion. To prepare a hypertonic saline solution at home use 7 gms of common salt/ 100 ml of water (approx. 3 heap full in a litre of water).

Practical tips-

It can be done in sitting position or in standing position near a basin, but the method should be learned from an expert teacher.

If water does not flow from one nostril to other nostril it is an indication of physical, mental or psychic blockage of the nasal cavity or if there is any physical deformity like nasal septum deviation. If there is blockage due to cold and cough or some other reason we still continue the practice by just holding the pot in the nostril for some time. Then after half an hour if you practice it again you may find the blockage is opening slowly and the water is coming out drop by drop. To open up the severe blockage one need to have patience to practice again and again for some days until the passage opens completely. In normal condition we need only 5 minutes for nasal irrigation.

Jala neti can be performed at any time except just after taking food. It is better option to do jala neti after coming back from outing. The most important practice of jala neti is drying the nose. If it is not dried properly one may develop the symptom of cold and there may be headache. So it should be learned from expert guidance. Generally kapalbhati, bhastrika, sasanka asana or pada hastasana is performed before completing the process.

Therapautic Use of Jala Neti

Jala neti is highly therapeutic in nature and it is beneficial in almost all psychosomatic diseases. According to medical science 89% diseases are psychosomatic diseases. The obvious, visible benefits are noticed in almost all allergic diseases respiratory diseases and ear, nose and throat problems. It encompasses innumerable diseases many of them have no cure in medical science and treated symptomatically having a lot of side effects on the body. Jala neti is a boon for the patients suffering from colds, coughs, allergic rhinitis hay fever, Catarrh, tonsillitis, asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis ,inflammation of the adenoids, epilepsy, migraine, pulmonary tuberculosis. It also gives resistance to various diseases of the ears, eyes and throat, such as myopia, tension headache due to eye, strain. Certain cases of deafness such as glue ears and middle ear infection and it inhibits the formation of nasal polyps. Mouth breathing in children leading to poor memory, concentration and development is overcome by neti. Neti relieves muscular tension of the face and helps maintain facial youth and freshness. It releases emotional tension and is beneficial in depression, hysteria.

The practice of neti involves our nose which is the main part of our breathing system. On the physical level irrigation of the nasal mucus removes accumulated mucus from the nostril, associated passage and sinus, allowing air to flow without obstruction. The air conditioning system of our body is inside the nose. The above mentioned diseases are due to the malfunction of the system. Jala neti ensures the correct functioning of this mechanism in our body. It is perhaps the most important nerve centers of our body which corresponds to ajnachakra (The Command Centre). The nerve fibers are not only include the fibers of the olfactory nerve responsible for the sense of smell but also numerous other autonomic fibers which relay information to the brain about the inflowing breath. Not only smell but also environmental temperature, humidity and allergens in the air are all sensed by the nose as inflowing breath is drawn across this mucus membrane.

Neti exerts a relaxing and irrigation effect upon the eyes by stimulating the tear ducts and glands. The frontal lobes of the cerebrum responsible for the higher mental faculties begin to function optimally. Integration of the higher mental faculties leads to genius intuition, creativity and so on.

According to yogi Swatmarama, performing neti leads to divya drishti. Divya drishti is faculty of clairvoyance which manifest with the awakening of ajnachakra. It is a faculty of the higher intuitive mind or the third eye. The practice of neti said to stimulate ajnachakra remove its blockages and bring it into fuller functioning.

-By Bhagawati

(Reference is taken from Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Muktibodhananda Saraswati)

One may refer the paper on Neti research

Reasearch – Tomooka, lance T, Clair, Murphy and Terence M, Davidson Clinical study and literature review.