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While breathing is supposed to be the heart of yoga and help relax practitioners, many people do not relax in a class until they are settling into shavasana. It could be their efforts to concentrate and achieve the perfect downward dog or tree pose. But, inevitably, for some, it is the fear of farting in yoga that keeps them, or certain muscles, uptight.
Yoga classes and farting have a yin and yang relationship, People strain to balance their cultural norms that one does not fart in public with the fact that some yoga poses are encouraged to alleviate flatulence (but not the tell tale red face when an audible toot escapes in class). While it may be embarrassing, the reality is that many others in the room are probably straining to quell the urge to exhale deeply from their bottom as well.
Regardless of whether one practices hatha, Iyengar, hot, strong flow or yin, the various movements are designed to strengthen and improve flexibility throughout the body. Among the muscles affected are those that aid in digestion. They are particularly affected by twists, poses that push knees toward the abdomen and others that put pressure on the abdomen. Besides freeing blocked energy, they free trapped gas and help with bloating.
Besides twists, there are some yoga poses that are notorious for promoting the release of air as well as tension:
- Happy Baby or Ananda Balasana– The pose involves lying on one’s back with legs spread in the air and hands on the feet. Gently pulling the knees to the armpits stretches and relaxes the spine. This common pose, used in nearly every yoga class, is great for gas relief – as many babies happily demonstrate.
- Pavanamuktasana – The Sanskrit name for this position literally translates to wind relieving pose. Clearly, the ancient Yogis knew the movement’s massaging of abdominal organs had a side effect, which comes in handy when one has a stomachache. The position involves lying in a supine position and bringing one knee to the chest at a time with the other leg extended while trying to touch the nose to the knee. After each leg, both knees come in to give the abdomen a final squeeze.
- Plow pose or Halasana – This floor pose involves lifting one’s legs over the head until the toes touch the floor. Besides strengthening the neck, shoulders and abs, it puts pressure on the lower abdomen, which is why it is fart inducing and also not recommended during the first days of a menstrual cycle (or for someone who is pregnant).
- Bow pose or Dhanurasana – This pose involves lying on one’s belly, reaching hands back to grab the ankles and strongly pulling up the legs and upper torso so the body is shaped like an archery bow. The part that remains on the floor is the belly. This position strengthens the back. It also adds with digestion, constipation and relieving flatulence.
Yes, yoga and farting sometimes go together. While some do have noxious orders, farting is natural and no one does it intentionally in class. Everyone doing the above poses is focusing on tensing different muscles at the time and may not have been clenching their sphincter too. Just ignore the musical notes emanating from a neighbor; it could happen to anyone. Yoga helps with many things; clearing the air – from inside – just happens to be one.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
Web M.D.: Yoga
Flatulence Solution: Yoga For Gas Relief
Livestrong: How to Relieve Gas with Yoga Poses
Women’s Health: What to Do When You Fart During Yoga Class (And Other Downward Dog Dilemmas)
Photo courtesy of amyjirsa_yogini’s Flickr page — Creative Commons license