|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 380 ]
The process of digestion is perhaps the single-most important biological function for overall health in an otherwise healthy individual.
In a July 2005 report by Philip S. Schoenfeld (MD, MSEd, MSc) on the management of chronic constipation in North America (based on the findings of the American College of Gastroenterology's Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Task Force), he noted that prevalence of chronic constipation alone in North America is approximately 15%, and those patients who seek medical care have noted a much poorer quality of life than the average person.
Digestion is the process by which we break down the food that we have taken in, and assimilate its valuable components into our being for nourishment and growth. The three aspects of the digestive process that we must be aware of are the breaking down of the food matter, the absorption, (the process by which we integrate these digested elements into our internal being); and elimination of any unneeded elements and waste products.
In yoga, and in particular, the yogic medical science of ayurveda, we recognize that good overall health is important for strong, healthy digestion. But the inverse is also equally true: good digestion is essential for optimum health. So we see that the connection between digestive health and overall health and well-being is an intimate and inseparable one.
The yogis know that it is impossible to have good health without good digestion, and so they have always placed utmost importance upon digestive health. Along with lifestyle habits and dietary considerations, which nurture this biological function, they have also developed many techniques for the re-establishment and maintenance of digestive health.
Several asanas and kriyas, such as dhanur asana (the bow pose) and pavana mukhta asana (the wind release pose), as well as pranayamas such as adham pranayama; bhastrikas; and bandhas such as uddiyana bandha (the abdominal lock) and nauli kriya (abdominal churning) are of great benefit to digestion and metabolic health.
Digestion is acutely affected by stress and tension within the abdominal region. So too, tension and stiffness in the lumbar area (low back) can lead to constipation and impaired digestive function. Therefore, much within the body of hatha yoga practices provides great benefit to digestive health...
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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