Saturday, January 21, 2012

Yoga for Gastroparesis

Even before having GP I couldn't imagine a day without stretching, how good it feels to reach for the sky, touch my toes and bend or twist.  When in pain, and especially when feeling so full, it's easy to want to curl up on the couch and wish it would just go away.  Though necessary to rest at times, moving has been my savior.  Yoga has a way of healing not only the body but the mind as well.  If you don't already include this in your daily self-care I urge you to give it a try!  The benefits are infinite on digestion.  Here are some tips from my wonderful friend/yoga teacher/future acupuncturist, Debbi Yu.  Thanks Deb for taking the time to share!

*Quick note first: Like any yoga practice, it’s best to practice on an empty or close-to-empty stomach.

Key Terms
Bandhas (to lock) are energetic or muscular contractions to direct the flow of energy and provide structural support for the body during yoga asana practice.

Uddiyana (to rise) Bandha is located at the navel/solar plexus area, also known as the third chakra.  For those familiar with acupuncture points, it is over the area of ren 12 – front mu of the stomach.  To engage Uddiyana Bandha, draw the entire abdominal wall in and up, from the navel to the diaphragm.  Not only is this useful in yoga practice to protect the low back, but more importantly for GP, it stimulates Agni.  Furthermore, it regulates the adrenals, increasing vitality and calming anxiety.  Otherwise known as digestive fire, when agni is strong it allows food to digest more efficiently.  For better understanding read this from the Chopra Center.

I’ll briefly mention Jalandhara Bandha here as well. This is the chin lock and it is achieved by gently drawing the chin downward towards the chest. It is to seal in the energy, to prevent too much from rising up to the head.

Find a horse stance with your feet wide, toes slightly out, heels in and knees bent, pointing in the same direction as the toes.  Bend at the hips, placing your hands on your thighs, just above the knees.  Begin with a normal breath.  As you inhale through the nose, let the belly drop. Then exhale completely through the mouth. At the end of the exhale hollow out the abdomen, drawing it in and up.  Engage Jalandhara Bandha (chin lock). Hold until you need to inhale. Let the abdomen release first, then slowly inhale.  Repeat 3-10 times.

Continue with your favorite sequence.  End with a nice long supine twist of your choice.  Twist with your knee(s) to the left first, then to the right. Hold for 3-5 min each side, breathing and relaxing into the twist. Feels so good and it’s so good for the GI and nervous system!

Holding for 3-5 minutes may seem like a long time, but it will help connect your body to the more “yin” side of things.  Muscles and connective tissue will relax, things will open, you’ll “rest and digest,” and you’ll feel more grounded!

Find one more symmetrical pose – happy baby pose is a personal favorite, where you can bend one knee and straighten the other and rock side-to-side, and “blaahh baa dee doooo bah” it out.

When I said, “one more pose...” I lied. You cannot forget savasana! Otherwise known as corpse pose, this is a time to let your body and mind integrate all that it’s done. Give yourself at least 5-10 min to relax and absorb it all.
 When you find your comfortable seat once again, take just a few more moments to notice, and observe any sensations flowing in your mind or body.  Close with one om, or perhaps a ram – the sound of the third chakra.  Thank yourself – the highest teacher you know - and anything/body else that shared their energy with you today.  Namaste. 

Eaton, Allison. Yandara Asana Manual. Yandara Yoga Institute, 2009. Print.

Debbie OM’d out her first yoga class in 2006 and hasn’t stopped practicing since. The fun and urge for more knowledge led her to complete a 200-hour level yoga teacher training with Yandara Yoga Institute in beautiful Baja, Mexico (February 2010). She currently teaches with the Yoga Club at her school and at Flow Yoga of Redmond. However, it does not end there: the journey for mind body connections continues at Bastyr University where Debbie is pursing a BS/MS in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (2013). Debbie’s goal as a yoga instructor (and future acupuncturist) is to share her new awareness and to inspire students to bring a sense of intuition to their own practice, to use every pose to learn a little more about their body. Then ultimately every aspect will reflect in their “real” life, translating into union with all. 

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