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Iyengar News Pratica Scienza

22 Ottobre 2022

Seasonality - Fall de-toxifying yoga sequence

Chiara M. Travisi

Sequence and explanations by @chiaratravisi, yoga illustrations by @svenjakarstens



The first sequence I am presenting deals with Fall and is focused on ‘de-toxifying’ the embodiment. Detox here does not have to do with a dietary prescription (which is far the most individual thing), but it regards how, through our yoga practice, we can become able of ‘touching’ some internal areas which are particularly related to the physiological functions of ‘digestion' and ‘de-toxification’, from the effects of what I’ve called the ‘climate outside’, but which are usually far away from the possibility of a direct contact. Yog-asanas and prāṇāyāma give us that ‘magic’ to create such a contact.


In this respect, the abdominal-lumbar area is the pivotal corporeal region to be contacted and stimulated during the practice for two main reasons. Firstly, the lower trunk is the central locus of digestion by processing the food in the gastrointestinal tract. Secondly, it also hosts the main organs responsible for maintaining the internal homeostasis of our body’s fluids (water and blood), and for detoxifying it from toxic compounds due to metabolites or to ingested material.


The sequence I propose is intended to work on the abdominal area as well as on the lumbar area and the diaphragm. Nonetheless, being a yoga practice, it exerts an impact also on our breath, brain and cognition which are also implicated in explaining the beneficial health effects of yoga currently studied by scientific research in many fields. Here in particular, the so-called brain-gut axis is taken into consideration. It refers to the way in which gut microbiota and brain communicate modulating effects on behavior. Emotional distress is known to disturb the autonomic nervous system and is associated to digestive distress which can manifest with different symptoms (Irritable-Bowel-Syndrome IBS, indigestion, acidity, dyspepsia, etc.).


The abdominal area is here ‘divided’ into three portions and the sequence is aimed at contacting and stimulating each of them. The upper digestive tract is where the stomach and liver are. The central part of the abdomen is mainly occupied by the gut; while the lower part is where bladder, rectum, prostate and uterus are. Kidneys and adrenals glands occupy the posterior part of the upper abdominal cavity. Moreover, being aware of research evidences that tend to establish a strong relationship between stress-related psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety with gastrointestinal disorders, I also pay attention to embodied practices that can help balance in the autonomic nervous system.


Liver and stomach are in proximity to the diaphragm and the esophagus crosses its wall. Thus, the diaphragm is indirectly involved in the quality of their processes. In particular, stomach can suffer if the diaphragm lacks in elasticity. Both the diaphragm and the abdominal wall may become stiff and contracted as a consequence of chronic stress or dysfunctional emotions (such as anger, anxiety, fear and frustration). Chronic tension in the abdominal wall and diaphragm squeeze the abdominal organs which tend to lose their motility. Similarly, gravitational compression due to sedentary lifestyle hamper stomach and gut peristalsis.


When the body is under chronic stress, the sympathetic nervous system exerts its dominance over the digestive tract: the blood flow is severely curtailed as the blood is shunted instead to the large muscle of the body and this generate a sluggish blood supply in the abdomen cavity with reduced efficiency in the whole digestive system. Under such circumstances, digestion and peristalsis slow down and the absorption of nutrients into the vascular system is reduced, while acidity increases in the upper digestive tract leading to indigestion and heartburn. Continuous sitting posture typical of sedentary life-style is also detrimental for the structures which are closest to the perineum region (prostate, uterus, ladder and rectum). On the other hand, chronic stress can also induce a heightened bowel counteractivity, which is associated to Irritable-Bowel-Syndrome, IBS.


Liver is the central organ for de-toxification as one of its main functions is the rendering harmless of several substances such as alcohol or stocking persistent toxic compounds (such as DDT or Hg). It has a very high redundancy and regenerating capacity that makes it very resilient.


Kidneys are filtering organs and key elements in the body’s homeostatic mechanisms. They regulate the water balance in the body by hormonal release as well as the composition of some elements of the blood. It is the function of the urinary system to process the bloodstream, to extract all toxic metabolites from it and to homeostatically balance the levels of some its salt components. Adrenal glands produce hormones that contribute to regulate our metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress and other essential functions and are therefore very important in the body’s response and resilience to external stimuli.


The rationale of this yog-asana and  prāṇāyāma  sequence is to indirectly ‘stimulate’ each of these three parts of the abdominal cavity and exert a positive effect on the gut-brain axis thanks to meditative prāṇāyāma techniques. It is develped into six parts. Each part will be presented with an explanation in the coming posts.



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