Dosha Balance with Pawanmuktasana

From Progressive Yoga Vidya Training, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The practices of pawanmuktasana create a balance in the doshas, the humours, in the body. Pawanmuktasana part 1 primarily rectifies the imbalance of vata, wind; pawanmuktasana part 2 that of pitta, bile; and pawanmuktasana part 3 that of kapha, mucus.

Pancha prana and the doshas

To understand how the doshas go out of balance, you need to look into the principle of pancha prana, the fivefold energies in the body. These five pranas: prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana, move in different directions. Apana is a downward moving force, prana is an upward moving force, samana is a sideways moving force, udana is the force in the arms and legs, and vyana is the all-pervasive force. In yoga practices, whether asana, pranayama or other practices, an attempt is made to bring prana and apana together, which means reversing the flow of apana to make it go up, and reversing the flow of prana to make it go down. These are the two major pranas that interact in yogic practices.

Excessive vata, in the form of gas, is produced when the imbalance is mainly in apana and partially in prana – it is eighty percent due to apana and twenty percent due to prana. A part of this excess vata is then distributed from samana to different parts of the body, causing aches in the joints.

Excess of pitta, bile, happens to people who eat without control. With this, samana goes out of balance. When there is anxiety, nervousness and tension, or when the mind is dissipated, people react in two different ways. There is an instinctive response at that time to try and contain the hyperactivity of the system, and many people do it by eating; whenever they are nervous or tense, they eat and eat. There is another group of people, the minority, who avoid food when they are tense; they cannot eat when they are under stress or pressure.

When you eat too much there is an over-production of digestive fluids, which continuously secrete into the stomach, giving birth to a bilious feeling. On the other hand, when you don't eat or eat too little, the bile builds up and there is a sensation of acidity in the stomach. Thus both conditions, overeating and undereating, create acidity.

Take the example of the toilet flushin the bathroom. If you push the flushforty times during the day, there is a greater possibility of wear and tear. If you flushfour times a day, at regular intervals, the life of the flushis prolonged and there is less chance of wear and tear. The same happens with the stomach.

Whenever you eat, the same amount of digestive juices is secreted to assimilate the nutrients and remove the waste product. The stomach does not have a sensor to assess whether you are eating a handful of peanuts or a full meal of rice, dal and sabji, or a whole chicken. Every time some solid goes into the stomach, the digestive process begins and the juices are secreted. Whether you eat too little or too much, the same quantity of juices is floodingyour system to digest the meal. If there is continuous intake of food, then it is like a bath of bile in the stomach. If you eat too little or not at all, then also there is accumulation of bile in the stomach, as it will secrete on time as per the body clock, but it will not be used up.

Pawanmuktasana part 2 specificallydeals with the functioning, maintenance and health of the digestive system as a whole. Digestion is such a beautiful and complex system which no scientist can ever create. The strength, the stamina and the energy to survive is received through nourishment, extracted by the digestive firesfrom the food that you eat, and the waste matter is put out. What a unique system! Each organ works independently and has a specificrole to support life, yet the failure of any organ will lead to distress and eventually death.

The movements of pawanmuktasana part 2 ensure that muscle strength and health of the internal organs of the digestive system is maintained. Once that happens, there is better functioning of the digestive system, including the secretion of the digestive fluidsand hormones of the endocrine glands.

Importance of dietary regulation

To maintain a healthy digestive system, however, another effort has to be made in addition to pawanmuktasana: rectifying the eating habits. Pawanmuktasana part 2 combined with proper eating habits is what will create a balanced pitta. Just doing the asanas and not changing the previous patterns of either overeating or undereating will not help in the long run. There can be some temporary relief, but the conditions will not change. There has to be dietary observation as well as conscious restriction. In the ashram, for example, the rule is to eat all meals between sunrise and sunset at specifictimes.

According to ayurveda, food must be consumed only between sunrise and sunset. The reason is that our nerves respond to sunlight; they are activated in daylight and become sluggish when it becomes dark. The energies of the sun activate the body. Therefore, ayurveda says, sunrise firstthen breakfast; before midday, lunch; and in the evening, not night, dinner. If you feel hungry at night, then have some liquid such as milk or a herbal infusion, but nothing that excites the body such as tea or coffee. These are habits that you need to cultivate. If you already follow them, then try to strengthen them. So pawanmuktasana part 2 along with better dietary habits will take you a long way.

Pawanmuktasana part 3 primarily rectifieskapha imbalance. Several practices in this series predominantly affect the upper part of the trunk and create movement in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, helping to clear the excess mucus from the lungs.