*Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be medical advice! Please consult a doctor if you are suffering from digestive distress of any kind! Stress affects all of us in different ways. Tension in the neck and shoulders, migraines, insomnia, depression or anxiety and digestive disorders are all pretty common physical, emotional and psychological responses to stress in our lives. Today's blog post targets digestive distress. For me, my digestion is the first thing to go haywire when I am stressed emotionally. Whether it's an upset stomach, constipation or diarrhea - my body becomes unable to process the food I take in. Scientific research tells us how important our gut is to our immune health - when our digestive system goes out of whack, it can also affect our ability to fight off disease. Chronic stress can cause more severe digestive disorders like acid indigestion, stomach ulcers, and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Of course, it goes without saying that a healthy diet is an important part of controlling digestive distress. Often times, when we are under stress, we indulge in the worst things for our bodies. Drinking more caffeine to keep us awake if we aren't sleeping well, drinking alcohol to relax us, and binging on comfort foods like chocolate to "make us feel better" - even though, in the long run, they may make us feel worse. After the stress of the recent election, I came down with a kidney infection for the first time in my life. It made me truly appreciate the function of our kidneys in ridding our bodies of toxic waste. I felt like I had no energy and my low back hurt as well as my lower intestines for 5 days. I also had low grade fever and chills. It was like having the flu without the head cold part of it. I also had to pee constantly, which affected my sleeping, because I often had to get up twice at night to go to the bathroom. I first tackled the issue by addressing my diet - switching to foods that support a healthy kidney and bladder and that are easy to digest. No caffeine, no alcohol, no chocolate, no sugar, no animal fat. I ate oatmeal, lots of fresh fruit, veggies and whole grains like bulgur wheat. I drank unsweetened cranberry juice, hot lemon water with honey, and a special herbal tea that supports kidney health. I also took a homemade antibiotic (as an herbalist, I make most of my own medicine - I do NOT recommend this for the lay person!) Needless to say, my morning yoga practice also changed. This is the short restorative sequence that I did - following the guidance of my body and what it wanted and needed. Please note that it can be changed to suit your own needs. I would wait at least an hour after eating before doing this series, or do it first thing in the morning or before bed at night.
1) Restorative Frog. Lie on a bolster or stacked pillows, so that your head is off the top of bolster/pillows.
Use a block if you have one – tilted towards your forehead to rest your head and activate 3rd eye for calming. The bolster should support your torso from pelvis to upper chest. Press your public bone down into bolster. Bend both knees at 90 degree angles and flex feet at right angles also. You can use blankets to cushion your knees. Rest arms overhead in Jala mudra (See photo). This mudra supports the health of the urinary, reproductive, digestive and eliminatory systems. It is the Gesture of Water. Touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pinky finger and extend the other fingers straight out. Rest for 5 minutes. To come out Press your palms down to lift your hips up. *If you are not able to do Restorative Frog pose, an alternative is to fold a blanket and place it under your belly. Place a bolster or pillow under your feet to lift them slightly in a supported Locust pose, with your abdomen pressing into the blanket. This may be slightly uncomfortable at first, but the pressure helps to stimulate the digestive organs.
2) Downward Facing Dog (optional): From Frog Pose, as you lift your hips up, walk your feet back to a Downward Facing Dog and let your head rest on the bolster. Hold for 5 breaths or as long as it feels comfortable. *Note - Down dog may feel too active for some of you, or being upside down may not feel good to you if you are having a digestive upset. For me - I felt a need to stretch my legs and lengthen my spine after lying down for so long, and this pose served as a transition to the next pose. It also allowed my organs to shift and move in another direction. If Down dog doesn't feel good for you - you might try Legs Up the Wall.
3) Child's Pose: Bring your knees back down and sink your hips back to your heels in child’s pose. Adjust your bolster as needed, so your belly rests on it, and your head can also rest on it. Turn head to one side for 3 minutes and then switch and turn head in opposite direction for 3 more minutes. If you have questions about any of the poses, please feel free to contact me through my website, and I'm happy to answer! Self care is so important. Please take care of yourself. Om Shanti. Namaste.