This month and next month we are offering special issues devoted exclusively to digestive problems and their simplest and most practical solution.

Indigestion is the problem of everyone. Regardless of whether we are suffering from a digestive problem at the moment, each one of us has suffered and will suffer from indigestion in any of its many forms. For most people it is not possible to predict when or how the next bout will come, but that it will come some time is inevitable. This common problem which has such adverse effects on our whole mental outlook and our ability to function efficiently and joyously certainly deserves more understanding and effective treatment than it has been receiving up to now.

Indigestion is actually a deeper problem than most of us realize. In order to understand this condition completely we must examine it from all angles and depths. At the surface we see it as being caused by chronic overeating or bad eating habits. However, beneath the surface mental tensions and negative attitudes which direct us towards debilitating habits are perhaps the most important factors. Working at unconscious levels, these basic seed problems sprout and grow in the digestive tract, and spread from there into other bodily systems.

Anger, tension and frustration lower our functional efficiency level. Eating in these states either makes us physically sick through dyspepsia and other conditions or mentally frustrated through a lack of satisfaction and enjoyment. Thus work suffers, family life and relationships suffer. At the cellular level the body mistimes the various processes because of lack of adequate nervous and endocrine control. When the body's controls break down we become prone to disease. The digestive system, being the most sensitive in many people, is the first to become upset, and the stomach voices the complaint.

Digestive problems are a sign of impending danger, not just at the physical level, but at social and economic levels as well. Poor digestion caused by stress and bad eating habits is definitely responsible for much of the turmoil in the world today. One can well imagine what is subconsciously influencing the minds of politicians, businessmen and top level executives when at some important meeting, perhaps to decide long term policy, a stomach ulcer or painful haemorrhoid begins to play up. How can people in positions of responsibility make correct decisions under constant pressure from external sources while at the same time suffering from the strain of a weak digestive tract. Surely many executives are desperate to find permanent relief from these problems.

Digestive upsets, particularly peptic ulcer, account for a vast loss of working hours resulting in decreased economic productivity. At the individual level they result in suffering and the inability to live active, satisfying and full lives. The obese person is a prime example of one who suffers tremendously from his inability to function efficiently.

Indigestion may not appear to be as catastrophic as some of the disasters and crises facing mankind today. It lacks the pact and dramatic quality of cyclones, drought, war, etc. However, the present state of worldwide indigestion is more insidious than the gross, short-lived, acute catastrophes which make headlines. Indigestion is a serious threat to productive living, not in itself, but in the fact that it seems like such a small and simple disorder in our complicated lives that we tend to neglect it. As a result it becomes chronic and eventually saps our strength, vigour and vitality. We feel run down due to poor assimilation of food, but don't realize the link between the loss of energy and indigestion. In this slow leak process we are actually letting our vital reserves leak away the longer we refuse to acknowledge and repair our faulty digestion. Then, because there is no reserve of good health and resistance, any slight imbalance or stress can tip the scales precipitating us into the disease state.

This complex interplay of emotional and physical states which leads to indigestion has been thoroughly investigated by yoga and allied sciences. Yoga is now internationally recognized as a powerful means to balance the bodily systems and alleviate the stormy passions of the mind which lead to digestive upset. It quells the disturbances which lead to both inner and outer turmoil in the form of dyspepsia, diarrhoea, etc. as well as conflicting interrelationships. Instead of using purgatives, antacids and other harmful chemical substances which sap our strength, willpower and ability to control the inner body processes, yoga offers a way to tackle the problems of the mind that lead concomitantly to digestive upset and external chaos.

A combination of yoga and other sciences aimed at rebalancing the basic body disequilibrium may be the answer to much of our digestive problems. The potential combination of yoga and allopathy should be examined carefully by all members of the healing profession. To many doctors, yoga may seem to be opposed to traditional medical science. From our experience, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Even if yoga proves to be a panacea for all illnesses, there are few people in the world who could utilize it in all situations, especially in the acute or serious disease situation. More than likely, yoga will initially emerge as a powerful adjunct to medical science. Just as doctors now utilize other specialties when they reach the limits of their own field of competence, so yoga can be used. Those people, for example, who prefer the medical means of therapy for the acute stages of digestive illness, can utilize yogic techniques during convalescence when drugs have been withdrawn. In the troublesome field of chronic psychosomatic and degenerative disease, the combination of yoga and medicine may prove to be the answer that many doctors and patients are looking for.

At present medical science: alone is unable to cure many digestive disorders because of the underlying mental factor which is involved. Powerful techniques are required to release the mental problems and purify the body. The science of yoga has developed such techniques over thousands of years, so it is really not necessary to view peptic ulcer, constipation and other forms of indigestion as lifetime diseases. A few weeks of yoga therapy, preferably in the ashram environment, is generally all that is required to initiate a complete reversal in the disease process and to eliminate unpleasant symptoms.

From our experience at the Bihar School of Yoga, in managing a wide variety of disease conditions from arthritis to cancer we have found that the digestive system plays an important role. Not only have we seen that indigestion and poor eating habits play primary role in body breakdown and serious chronic disease but that through the digestive tract we can effectively treat many conditions, for example, asthma. The digestive system running down the centre of the body seems to be the key to good health, in terms of its physical proximity to many organs, its powerful link with the mind and its physiological connection with manipura chakra, the centre of energy and physical health.

Recently the demand for yogic techniques to remedy various digestive problems has become so great that our guru, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, inspired this work in order to help people combat indigestion and end the vicious circle of spiralling bad health. To ascertain the scope of this huge and up to now uncorrelated subject, we have had to rely on the teachings of our guru and on yogic scriptures as well as modem and ancient medical teats. Allopathy, Ayurveda, acupuncture, and modern psychology have all been researched to complete the picture.

By utilizing the theoretical and practical knowledge contained here, you will gain a deeper understanding of the structure and function of the digestive tract and how it is affected by diet and life style. In this way a sensible, positive and creative approach towards food and eating in all its aspects can be developed. This will automatically lead to increased awareness of the digestive process and control over what is ingested. As one's life becomes more natural and simple, the body and mind are simultaneously harmonised and the cloud of indigestion passes to reveal the light of good health, dynamism and sublime equanimity.