Relaxing The Abdomen

Relaxation at the level of manipura chakra frees our energies for optimal digestion.

Tension at the emotional, mental or spiritual levels of our being is reflected into the body as muscle tension. This can be easily demonstrated - when we become mentally tense, we tighten our muscles. The main areas of tension are found in. the neck, jaw and abdomen. Of course, all muscle groups tighten, but some are more easy to relax consciously than others. The abdominal muscles are perhaps the easiest muscle group to relax.

Tadagi mudra

Tadagi mudra is a simple practice which classes me abdomen.

Sit with the legs outstretched and with both hands grasping the big toes. Inhale as deeply as is comfortable so that the chest and abdomen are fully expanded. Then retain the breath and focus your awareness on the abdominal muscles, which are pushed forward as far as possible. Exhale and relax the abdomen. Repeat up to 10 times.

After finishing this practice you will feel a relaxation of tensions in the abdominal region. This is because tadagi mudra offers the perfect counter to tense, tight constricted abdominal musclature. By pushing the abdomen out and simultaneously filling the lungs with air we increase the pressure inside the abdominal cavity. This stimulates and tones the abdominal nerve plexuses and organs and enhances lymphatic drainage. Manipura chakra, which governs the digestive fire, is also stimulated. When the abdomen relaxes, all the other muscle groups of the body are similarly affected because of the central effects on the brain.

Manipura chakra

We lose power m manipura, chakra because of tension and anxiety. At me physical level, tension reflects as poor solar plexus and adrenal gland function, resulting in the symptoms of indigestion. One of the best ways of dealing with this tension is manipura shuddhi, which is preferably practiced sitting in any comfortable meditation asana.

Breathing in ujjayi pranayama, inhale through the navel and straight back to manipura chakra, located in the spinal cord. Retain the breath and awareness at manipura and mentally repeat the bija (seed) mantra Ram 3 times. Then exhale, moving breath plus awareness forward and out of the navel.

Be aware of your breath moving in and out of the navel centre and the rhythmic expansion and contraction of the abdomen. Concentration is not required in this practice, only awareness.

These practices are simple, effective and practical. They require very little time and effort and are very helpful in prevention and cure of digestive disorders.

HATHA YOGA

These practices are some of the most powerful in terms of preventing and curing digestive disorders.

Hatha yoga is thought by many to include asanas and pranayamas. In its traditional form, however, it is much more specific than this. In actual fact, there are only 6 practices: neti, dhauti, nauli, basti, kapalbhati, trataka.

Of the 6 hatha yoga cleansing techniques, only dhauti, basti and nauli are of particular importance in the treatment of digestive disorders. We will deal first with dhauti as its range of application and uses is wide and most beneficial.

VAMAN DHAUTI

Kunjal

Probably the most practical and easy to use of the dhautis is kunjal. It has a multiplicity of variations and can be used in almost all types of indigestive processes, especially acidity and gas nausea, food poisoning and auto-poisoning, and dyspepsia. Kunjal is undoubtedly the most widely used cleansing practice and its assimilation by medical practitioners will be of practical benefit to many people suffering not only from digestive disorders but also such conditions as asthma, headache, epilepsy, etc.

Kunjal is performed by drinking tepid, saline water up to the point where you feel like vomiting. The water should be lukewarm and contain 2 to 4 teaspoons of salt per litre. Drink at least 6 glasses in quick succession, and if you can, continue drinking right up to the point where it is not possible to swallow even 1 sip more. At this point you may vomit automatically, if not, then put 2 fingers down your throat and massage the back of the tongue as far down as possible. By pressing it you will feel the urge to vomit and water will come up in a quick series of gushes. Continue pressing until your stomach is empty.

After kunjal wait for at least 20 minutes before taking food. This practice should be done first thing in the morning and followed by neti. It is also done after shankhaprakshalana.

Kunjal has none of the unpleasant sensations usually associated with vomiting, like nausea and bad smell. The water brought up is usually clean and without bad odour. Because of added salt, mucus and dirt are dissolved and the acid is diluted. The water contains nothing solid, so it comes out quickly and easily. Kunjal makes you feel so light, fresh and clean inside that after the first few times it becomes a pleasure.

NOTE: You are advised to use kunjal under guidance in a therapeutic setting. It is not recommended for anyone suffering from active stomach ulcer, hiatus hernia, high blood pressure, heart disease, or oesophageal varices.

Vyaghra kriya

This is the ideal technique for digestive upsets such as chronic dyspepsia or heartburn. It differs from kunjal in that it is classically performed 3 hours after taking a meal rather than on an empty stomach. However, it can be practiced immediately after eating if there is heaviness or discomfort in the stomach due to overeating or ingesting something poisonous or bad for the digestion.

Vyaghra is a natural method and like many yogic practices it was copied directly from the animals. The tiger gorges itself on its prey and then regurgitates the remnants of the food from the stomach 3 or 4 hours later. Dogs and cats use this technique whenever they have eaten something which does not agree with them. They eat grass as an emetic and then vomit out the poisons that have entered their system.

Three hours after taking food, if there is still heaviness, distort belching or bringing up of contents from the stomach.

then do vyaghra kriya. Follow exactly the same procedure as for kunjal but repeat the practice 2 or 3 times until only clean water comes up. While performing vyaghra kriya try to keep food particles from entering the nose. It is advisable to do neti straight afterwards so as to clean the whole nasal passage in case irritating fluids have entered.

By removing the burden of indigestible foods, vyaghra restores the feeling of energy, lightness and well-being.

NOTE: Vyaghra kriya should be done only when necessary. The same restrictions apply as for kunjal.

VARISARA DHAUTI

Shankhaprakshalana

In yogic therapy no course for indigestion is complete without shankhaprakshalana. The most complete and powerful of yogic cleansers, this technique can accomplish in a few hours what may take days or weeks by ordinary methods of fasting. Its effects, although profound at a physical level are even more intense at the pranic and mental levels.

This practice has 2 forms, a long course which can be performed once or twice a year under supervision and which takes about a hours to complete, and a short course (laghoo) which can be performed every morning, if necessary, in about 10 to 15 minutes.

Shankhaprakshalana cleans the entire digestive tract and frees any old and dried refuse that has become stuck to the walls of the intestines over a period of years. At the same time it allows the digestive system a chance to rest, perhaps for the first time in years. Rebalance occurs in the whole digestive tract, including secretion of acids and alkalis, juices, enzymes, proteins and so on. Laghoo shankhaprakshalana has the same effect, slowly dislodging impacted particles and dirt which have been clogging the mucus membranes and preventing secretion and absorption of nutrients.

The diet restrictions after the practice also help to rebalance the digestive system. The cleansing process that has been initiated by the salt water continues during this time in much the same way as a fast, with elimination proceeding faster than absorption.

After shankhaprakshalana you feel very light, and many report a definite alteration in consciousness. This is because the combination of water travelling down the digestive tract and the various asanas stimulate chakras in the spinal cord, especially mooladhara. This releases a lot of unconscious mental constipation as well as physical constipation. By cleaning the body we also clean the mind, and there is actually a change in the level of our awareness, for by this practice we are altering the state of our cellular consciousness.

The fell form of shankhaprakshalana should only he performed under expert guidance in a happy and relaxed atmosphere. It is done on an empty stomach and involves drinking at least 16 or more glasses of warm saline water. In preparing the saline water it is important to remember that the first 6 glasses should be hotter with a little more salt, while the remaining glasses should be warm with the minimal amounts of salt necessary for the practice. After every 2 glasses, 5 asanas (tadasana, tiryaka tadasana, kati chakrasana, tiryaka bhujangasana and udarakarshan asana) are performed 8 times each. These asanas help to relax the sphincters of the digestive tract and allow the water to pass freely and quickly to the anus for discharge. Some people have a quicker evacuation than others. At first solid stool will come out, then water and stool mixed. The process should be continued until only clear water is finally evacuated.

After shankhaprakshalana, kunjal and neti are easily performed to complete the cleansing process and also to raise the energies. Rest is essential after completing shankhaprakshalana. So lie down or sit quietly for 45 minutes, but do not sleep. During this period the whole digestive system is having a complete rest.

Kichari, a preparation of rice and dal (lentils) cooked together with ghee (clarified butter) must be eaten 45 minutes after shankhaprakshalana. This is necessary to activate and to lubricate the digestive tract in a gentle manner.

Food restrictions are then necessary for at least 1 week after shankhaprakshalana. Chemically processed, non-vegetarian and acidic food should be strictly avoided. Milk, buttermilk and acidic fruits such as lemon, grapefruit and oranges are also restricted. Alcohol, cigarettes, tea, coffee and betel nut preparations such as paan are forbidden. For 1 week the diet should be as pure, simple and non-acidic as possible. After cleaning the whole digestive tract, a sudden induction of toxic or difficult to digest food might produce bad reactions such as fever, indigestion, constipation and all those things you are trying to rid yourself of.

Shankhaprakshalana is highly recommended for sufferers of constipation, gas, acidity and indigestion. However, people with active ulcers, high blood pressure, or those in a weakened condition should not attempt this practice.

Laghoo shankhaprakshalana

This is perhaps the most effective yogic technique for removing chronic constipation. Being a short form the effects are not quite as dramatic as the full course, but because it can be performed every day the effects accumulate and result in a slow but progressive Increase in energy, purity of body and mind and overall health.

Laghoo shankhaprakshalana is performed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Prepare water in the same way as described for the full course. Drink 2 glasses and do the asanas. Repeat this twice more. After 6 glasses of water you should go to the toilet. Usually there is a clear bowel movement plus a large quantity of urine.

After the practice wait for half an hour before eating. There are no diet restrictions. It can be done every morning as a part of therapy.

VASTRA DHAUTI

Vastra dhauti, the cloth cleaning technique, is especially good for acidity, wind and poor digestion. It is a more difficult practice, however, and should not be attempted without expert guidance.

This practice is done on an empty stomach. A special cloth of fine cotton or gauze, approximately 2 inches wide and several feet long is used to clean the throat and oesophagus. The cloth is soaked in warm water until it is soft and then one end is placed in the mouth. It is slowly swallowed, mixing it with saliva as you would food. Using a little warm water the cloth is gradually drawn down, little by little until the whole length of cloth is in the stomach and only a small portion remains out-side. Advanced practitioners can perform nauli at this point. The cloth should be removed before 20 minutes have passed or it begins to pass through the intestines. Do not speak while Practicing.

After completing vastra dhauti do kunjal to wash out what the cloth has loosened from the stomach wall. Then do neti to complete the cleaning.

VAHNISARA DHAUTI (Agnisara Kriya)

Yahnisara dhauti or agnisara kriya is a simple yet effective practice. It removes gas and constipation, tones up all the digestive organs and stimulates the appetite.

This practice is done on an empty stomach. Sit in vajrasana or stand. Place both hands on the knees and lean slightly forward, keeping the arms straight. In the simple form the mouth is kept open with the tongue extended. Breathe in and out while simultaneously expanding and contracting the abdomen. The breathing should resemble the panting of a dog. In the advanced form the action is performed with external breath retention. It is not to be done until at least 4 hours after meals.

NOTE: This practice is not recommended for people with high blood pressure, heart problems, or active peptic ulcers.

NETI

Neti is used to clear the nasal passages after kunjal, vyaghra kriya and shankhaprakshalana. For this practice a lota (small pot with a long spout) is used to pour warm salt water through the nostrils. First the spout is inserted in the left nostril and the head is tilted to the right so that the water flows through the nasal cavity and out the right nostril. Then the process is repeated on the other side. Afterwards clean and dry the nose using bhastrika pranayama.

NOTE: This practice should not be done by people with chronuhemorrhage (bleeding) unless with expert advice.

NAULI

In this practice churning of the rectus abdominii, the two long muscles running down the centre of the abdomen, massages all the abdominal organs and the digestive tract. This makes it a powerful method of removing all digestive ailments particularly constipation, nervous diarrhoea, acidity and wind. However, it is a difficult practice and takes time to perfect. Agnisara kriya is a good preparation for it.

NOTE: Nauli should not be attempted by anyone with high blood pressure, active ulcers or hernia.

BASTI

Basti is traditionally performed standing in a flowing river. Water is drawn into the bowel, held there for some time, then expelled. This is the yogic enema which cleans the colon and removes gas. It is useful for constipation, piles, dysentery and chronic diarrhoea. This practice is not recommended for daily use, once or twice a week is enough.

MOOLA SHODHANA

This technique is performed in a squatting position. First lubricate a turmeric root or your third finger with water, vaseline or ghee and then insert it as far into the rectum as it will go. Rotate it one way and then the other. The practice can be intensified by performing ashwini mudra with the root or the finger inside the anus. Wash the area intermittently and repeat until the anus and rectum are clean.