Well, it's Spring now, hard to tell, but it is. It's the time of year we do spring cleaning, to get rid of all the things we've accumulated over the winter to make room for something new. We associate this with the space with live in, but it's also needed in our body. We tend to be less active in the winter, might eat a bit more "comfort" food & before we can create something new within ourselves, it's time to get rid of the old.
A cleanse is one way to do this. Now you don't have to go all out, but even removing things like sugar, processes flour or caffeine can be helpful. Now if even that seems to radical, then start by drinking more water daily. In the Gut Wellness for Vitality workshop we did last weekend at YogaMcc, Rachel Joy Olsen & myself discussed ways to improve our digestion & therefore our health. Did you know that you need at least 2.2 litres a day for women & 3 litres for men? Are you getting enough?
Rachel suggested to drink a class of water before every meal, soon you will find you are getting what you need in fluids each day. The part that shocked us all was for every cup of coffee, caffeinated tea, or alcohol, you need to drink an EXTRA glass of water. You don't have to give these things up, but add more water. Seems like you'd be spending your day drinking water, but like everything, start small by just adding an extra class every day & soon, you will be getting enough.
We also discussed other ways to improve our digestion & therefore our health. Getting more fruits & veggies was a big one. We should be eating 7-10 servings every day. Not the easiest to do in our busy lives.
My family takes Juice + gummies everyday, to fill in the gaps that happen in our diet, my kids love them. My 10 yr old twins eat fairly well, but it's still hard to get them to eat the 4-5 servings they need daily, so the gummies are a great way to have them take their "vitamins" without fighting. There is pill versions too, if you prefer.
If you want to learn more, here are some links for information for Juice +, a simple way to get more fruits & veggies into your diet.
Direct link to the site:
Some great articles on the research done on Juice Plus:
Dr Sears has always been one of my favourites - his books about babies were a godsend when my kids were little:
Now, even if you don't take any of these idea on board, Yoga with it's mindful movement, breathing & meditation can help to cleanse your body.
Deep breathing & yoga poses can be beneficial in reducing bloating, cramping and gas. Yoga increases blood flow to your digestive tract and encourages intestinal action so that digestion becomes more efficient. Yoga and yogic breathing is calming, which is helpful in relaxing your digestive system.
When we do breathing exercises, inhaling and exhaling deeply, our center becomes more relaxed. While we do these breathing techniques our senses are heightened and our organs also are relaxed.
Meditation also helps to melt away stress & anxiety. Our digestive system is one of the biological processes most affected when the body it tense & anxious. So during meditation & breathing practices, blood oxygen levels & circulation are increases which makes digestion much easier.
Also, meditation can help change our mindset that leads us to poor food choices & overeating. It helps us get to the root of why we choose what, how & when we eat. That is the key word, make what you eat a choice. Even if it is all that chocolate that you got this Easter, you can choose to eat it.
Don't say "I can't", as it just makes us want it more. Mindful eating, just like mindful moving we do in Yoga, is about being present as you do an action, in this case eating.
Let go of judging yourself & start to listen to your gut.
Gut as the emotional brain
If you’ve ever “gone with your gut” to make a decision or felt “butterflies in your stomach” when nervous, you’re likely getting signals from an unexpected source: your second brain. Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this “brain in your gut” is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think.
One connection of this emotional brain is located in solar plexus (aka celiac plexus) which is a thick cluster of nerves and supporting tissue behind the stomach, just below the diaphragm. Being the largest autonomic nerve center in the abdominal cavity. It sends and receives impulses and signals to the other organs in the abdomen. The solar plexus is responsible for the nutritional distribution to the other organs, in other words, bodily functions cannot be performed with it.
Solar plexus is part of the autonomic nervous system, that part of the nervous system that we don't voluntarily control. It regulates organ function, constriction and dilation of blood vessels for example & governs organs in the upper abdomen, liver, gallbladder, middle spine, spleen, kidneys, adrenals, small intestines & stomach.
The autonomic nervous system is comprised of two polar opposite systems
▪ parasympathetic stimulation which to calm down the nervous system, increases muscle tone and peristalsis, relaxes the sphincters thereby opening it, increase acid and pepsin production
▪ sympathetic stimulation which is geared to rev you up like the gas pedal in an automobile – it thrives on adrenaline and cortisol and is part of the fight-or-flight response, decreases muscle tone and peristalsis, constricts the sphincters thereby closing it, inhibits acid and pepsin secretion
Autonomic Nervous System has a third system, the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which has also been described as a "second brain," which communicates with the central nervous system through the parasympathetic (e.g., via the vagus nerve) and sympathetic nervous systems.
It is our vagus nerve that provides the gateway between the the parts of the autonomic systems. The vagus routes impulses going in two directions, so our thoughts affect our gut & our gut affects our thoughts. Since the vagus nerve acts as the central switchboard it should come as no surprise that impaired functioning of this one nerve can lead to so many different conditions and problems. Some neurological diseases actually come up from the gut spreading to the brain via the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is known as the "wandering nerve" because it has multiple branches that diverge from two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brainstem that wander to the abdomen touching our heart and most major organs along the way. It meanders all the way down, into the belly, spreading fibers to the tongue, pharynx, vocal chords, lungs, heart, stomach, intestines and glands that produce anti-stress enzymes and hormones, influencing digestion, metabolism and the relaxation response.
The vagus nerve helps manage the complex processes in your digestive tract, including signaling the muscles in your stomach to contract and push food into the small intestine. A damaged vagus nerve cannot send signals to your stomach muscles. This may cause food to remain in your stomach longer, rather than move normally into your small intestine to be digested.
The vagus nerve is used to regulate the heartbeat and the muscle movement necessary to keep you breathing. This nerve also regulates the chemical levels in the digestive system so that the intestines can process food and keep track of what types of nutrients are being gained from the food that is taken in.
Belly breathing, yoga, and meditation help the parasympathetic nervous system over-ride the sympathetic nervous system and calm the vagus nerve.
Researchers confirm that daily habits of mindset and behaviour along with conscious breathing and yoga can create a positive snowball effect through a feedback loop linked to stimulating your vagus nerve. Stressful events disrupt the rhythmic structure of autonomic states, and subsequently, behaviours. Since the vagus plays such an integral role in the regulation of heart rate and heart rate variability it follows that how we breathe when under stress makes all the difference in the world.
So spring cleaning is more than just ridding ourselves of things. It is about letting go of the things that are not working to make room for something more positive & sustaining. To learn how to work with our body to help it to function at it's best.
See the link below for a simple practice that you can do daily to help cleanse your body. Adding a daily practice can help you to keep "cleansing" to allow your best self to emerge. If you attend yoga classes, take a pose or 2 from each class that resonated with you & practice that every day that week. Soon you will have more confidence to make yoga part of your life & to reap the benefits.
If you would like to join me in class to help give you some inspiration, go to https://www.acyoga.net/classes to see when & where you can join me.
Anne Cox E-RYT 500