|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 382 ]
The digestive tract is the biological system which extends from the orifice of ingestion (the mouth) all the way to the orifice of elimination (the anal sphincter). The entire system in between is referred to as the G.I. tract, or the Gastro-Intestinal tract.
It is with this whole system that we must be concerned when addressing digestive health, because problems can arise at many points along its course. A full understanding of the GI function is beyond the scope of this lesson, but we will look at a few primary considerations affecting digestive health throughout this system.
As stated earlier, the mind plays a very strong role in digestive health, yet the reasons for faulty digestion are many, and thus the remedy itself may involve various points. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), metabolic disorders such as diabetes, or pathologies affecting proper organ function, such as the liver's ability to secrete bile, all demand specific attention.
But for the otherwise normal functioning system, factors such as poor or improper diet, lifestyles and eating habits, and stress are primary factors which must be addressed.
Beginning at the level of the stomach, we would observe much of concern for the average modern person. Due to the fact that most people eat too much and too fast in most of their meals, the physical state of the stomach has deteriorated (it has become distended and elongated). This is true for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
The result is that residue from previous meals remains within the stomach after the usual amount of time that it would be take for the food to be passed from the stomach to the small intestines. Hence, the stomach never becomes fully empty. Instead, the residual food elements remain, putrefying and decaying within the lower distension of the stomach. This 'rot' then mixes with fresh food that is ingested in the next meal and then proceeds to move into the intestines for absorption and assimilation.
This obviously leads to trouble not only for the entire digestive process, but for the organism as a whole. As well, those who lack physical movement in their lives (aka, 'exercise!') do not stir up this sediment and will invariably experience an even greater settling of food residue in the inferior part of the stomach, causing further distension and deformity.
For this reason, it is essential to eat properly, as directed in an earlier lesson—slowly, with proper mastication (chewing) as well as avoiding overeating. Certain yogic poses, especially the inversions that we will learn later, help to improve this situation as well...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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