rest and digest
Everything that enters our body must be digested on some level otherwise it may end up as what Ayurveda, (the sister science of yoga), toxic residue or ‘ama’.
The word ‘vagus’ comes from the Latin word to wander. Our largest cranial nerve (the vagus nerve) exits our skull and wanders through our voice box, lungs, heart and down into our abdomen. Often thought of as our “air-traffic controller,” the vagus nerve helps regulate all our major bodily functions. Breathing, heart rate, digestion, and even how we take in, process, and make meaning of our experiences are all directly related to the vagus nerve.
Holding supported poses for a long time increases our ‘vagal tone’. If we have high vagal tone we are able to recover more quickly from a stressful situation, an argument, able to return to a normal resting heartbeat more quickly and have better digestion of food and experiences. If we have low vagal tone we are more sensitive to stress and disease and are likely to have poor digestion of food and emotions.
Long held yin poses increase vagal tone by activating parasympathetic activity (rest and digest).
If you suffer from poor digestion or are feeling more readily stressed this week take some time out with a few well-chosen nurturing yin poses especially the ones that also stimulate the belly and digestive organs.
Sequence for Digestion. 1 hour sequence.
Begin Kapalabhati breathing: Kapalabhati or “shining skull breath” is a yogic breathing technique that releases stress and toxins from the mind and body. It consists of a series of forceful exhalations followed by passive inhalations Do 3 rounds of at least 10 short sharp exhales followed by a natural inhale. For a demonstration of this go here Kapalabhati Demo.
Relax the belly and pelvic floor. Unclench the glute muscles. Feel the gentle massage of the belly. Hold for 3-5 minutes. Use a bolster under the belly or head if preferred.
4-5 minutes Let your belly be soft relax your shoulders, jaw and muscles around your eyes.
Soften the palms and soles of the feet. Unclench the glute muscles, release the belly and let your breathing be soft.If you have difficulty bending forward in this pose try sitting on some folded blankets.
Get to a place in this pose where you can relax the large muscles of the hips. Use a block if you need to.
Cat pulling tail
Use this pose to wring and squeeze any last bit of tension out of your abdominal organs almost as if you were trying to get the last bit of water out of a sponge. Lie on your right side,drop your left knee bent to the ground in front of you and play with the height. Kick your bottom right leg behind you. You may be able to grab the ankle here or use a strap. This pose is a twist and back bend.
5 minutes each side to fully wring out the digestive organs
Hold for two minutes. If this pose is challenging just lay on your back and hug your knees into your chest. You can choose to use a block under your pelvis for this variation