About the Book:
Faculty diet, tension and lack of exercise are the chief causes of most digestive disorders. This book explains how the practices of Yoga and Yogic diet can be utilized to balance these factors and eliminate digestive problems. Written by Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati under the guidance of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, The Practices of Yoga for the Digestive System combines the traditional medical view with the ayurvedic and Yogic views of healthy digestion.
Includes practical information on food and digestion; a medical section on digestive disorders, their causes and cures; and a practice section complete with detailed illustrations and diagrams.
Swami Satyananda was born at Almora, Uttar Pradesh, in 1923. In 1943 he met Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh and adopted the Dashnami sannyasa way of life. In 1955 he left his guru's ashram to live as a wandering mendicant and later founded the International Yoga Fellowship in 1963 and the Bihar School of Yoga in 1964. Over the next 20 years Swami Satyananda toured internationally and authored over 80 books. In 1987 he founded Sivananda Math, a charitable institution for aiding rural development, and the Yoga Research Foundation. In 1988 he renounced his mission, adopting kshetra sannyasa, and now lives as a paramahamsa sannyasin.
About the author
Dr Swami Shankardevananda was born in 1952 in Sydney, Australia, and graduated in medicine in 1977.
In 1974 he met Swami Satyananda Saraswati and was then able to blend yoga and medicine into a unified sys- tem. In 1977 he came to Munger as Chief Coordinator of the IYFM Research Centre. In 1990 he received his MSc from the University of NSW, and from 1990-2001 he coordinated the Sydney Yoga Therapy Research and Education Centre.
Dr Swami Shankardev- ananda now travels and teaches yoga around the world to support his guru's mission.
The digestive tract is one of the great paradoxes of life. On the one hand it lies within our bodies, controlled by the unconscious aspects of the mind and autonomic nervous system. On the other hand, most people do not realize just how much of their waking live is concerned with this unknown entity; how much of their time is consumed in the various food-related activities of buying, preparing and eating three or more meals each day.
Hunger comes; we become aware of the gnawing feeling, though we are not always fully aware of what is really happening inside; then we satisfy our need. Some time later we feel the urge to empty our bowels, so once again the digestive tract comes into the field of our awareness. What happens in between these times is a mystery of the workings of the body. Things just seem to happen inside and they do not really need our conscious attention or do they? Occasionally the thought does come into our awareness as to what does go on inside this box we call the body.
Even during times when we become aware of our digestive process, we are not fully conscious or able to have complete conscious understanding of the body's workings. For most of us, activity concerned with the digestive tract is habitual, routine, repetitive and subconscious. We rarely enjoy food with the gusto of one eating for the first time and we are taught to regard defection as anything but pleasurable. King Akbar was enjoying a great feast as he sat on a bed of cushions, entertained by beautiful dancing girls.
"What is the most enjoyable pleasure in the whole world?" he asked Birbal, his cleverest minister.
Birbal replied, "Going to the Toilet."
"What! You mean to say you enjoy sitting on the toilet more than all this beautiful food and all these beautiful dancing girls?"
Birbal replied, "Without a doubt, your Majesty, going to the toilet is one of my greatest pleasures."
Everyone laughed at his reply, and so Birbal, determined to prove his point, made a plan. The next evening, as Akbar was being entertained, he put a potent laxative into the king's wine. The laxative quickly took effect and a short time later the king felt a pressing need to relieve his bowels. Just as he started to get up, Birbal ordered one of the king's most beautiful girls to perform his favourite dance, so the king was forced to sit, torn between his two desires.
"I must leave you for a moment, Birbal," he said, once more starting to rise.
"But Your majesty," Birbal protested, "They are just bringing out your favourite meal. Don't you think you should eat it while it is hot?"
Again the king sat down, this time looking a little worried, for the inner pressure was building up slowly but surely. At last, with one mouthful of his favourite food still in his mouth, the king stood up quickly and ran out of the room. A little while later he came back, a big smile on his face.
"You were right, Birbal. There is nothing more pleasurable than that."
The digestive system can be the doorway to some of our most enjoyable moments and, if we treat it sensibly, to dynamic, vital health. Using yoga we can extend the basic functions of the digestive process so as to gain even more pleasure and fulfillment in life, for yoga allows us to become fully aware of the unconscious aspects of digestion. This is a part of the awakening of manipura chakra and results in an incredible injection of power, vitality and dynamism into our lives.
Many people claim to have perfect digestion. However, even these people can improve the quality of their conscious control over the digestive tract and thereby are better able to tap the vast source of energy and good health within the natural processes of the body. The hatha yoga shatkarmas (cleansing techniques), for example, open the door to the immense treasure of energy that remains dormant within each human being.
It is our aim in this book to help open the doorway to the digestive process to all. The first step in the awakening of our dormant power is to gain access to the knowledge of the inner workings of the body and the mind. This is found in the first part of the book (The Digestive Process). Then we must know what can go wrong with the delicate, sensitive but resilient machinery, in the form of disease, as found in part two (Digestive Disorders). Equipped with this theoretical knowledge plus the practical technique of yoga, we can begin to remove the first layer of dirt and impurities which cloud our health in the form of disease. Then we can begin to relax the inner tension until eventually a point is reached when an explosion of awareness and energy takes place.
This book has been written from personal experience, under the training of our guru, Swami Satyananda Saraswati. In becoming able to deal with the yogic lifestyle, each person in this ashram has had to totally re-evaluate their understanding of life. To achieve anything in yoga we must start with the basics, and diet and food are amongst the most essential aspects of our survival. Only when we have gone through the first layer of needs, desires, instincts and intuitions, can we start to really live yoga from moment to moment, opening the doorway to the higher life at the physical, emotional, mental, psychic and spiritual levels.
Swami Satyananda's approach to diet is pure and simple and is the basis of all the material in this book. Most people, who attempt to follow the ashram diet, find that there is always some difficulty in adjusting from a more complicated western diet or the richer, spicier and heavier India diet. Occasionally, diarrhea many occur, or indigestion, or severe and unremitting craving may drive some desperate soul to the local market in an attempt to drown his internal suffering with his favourite food. Whatever the obstacle that comes up, there is a method by which it can be surmounted, and that is by maintaining awareness and a positive attitude.
Whenever an ashramite gets a bout of ashram diarrhea, it is not looked upon as being a disease process but as a cleaning one. All the malfunctions are traced back to the mental scenery. Many cravings arise; hunger may be absent at one time and later we may be ravenous; tastes change; the senses become sharpened; our conscious appreciation of food deepens; our realization of the place of food in our lives is put into perspective with all the other phases of existence. All the so-called problems of life become transformed into the means of expanding our consciousness.
It is our hope that after you have read this book and have started to apply it in your life, your digestion, in all its phases, will become one of the great pleasures in your life.
Indigestion is everyone's problem. Regardless of whether we are suffering from a digestive problem at the moment or not, each one of us suffers from indigestion in any of its many forms at some time or other. For most people it is not possible to predict when or how the next bout will come, but that it will come some time is inevitable. This common problem, which has such adverse effects on our whole mental outlook and our ability to function efficiently and joyously, certainly deserves more understanding and effective treatment than it has been receiving up to now.
Indigestion is actually a deeper problem than most of us realize. In order to understand this condition completely we must examine it from all angles and depths. On the surface we see it as being caused by chronic overeating or bad eating habits but, beneath the surface, mental tensions and negative attitudes which direct us towards debilitating habits are perhaps the most important factors. Working at unconscious levels, these basic seed problems sprout and grow in the digestive tract and spread from there into other systems of the body.
Anger, tension and frustration lower our functional efficiency level. Eating in these states either makes us physically sick through dyspepsia and other conditions or mentally frustrated through lack of satisfaction and enjoyment. Thus work suffers, family life and relationships suffer. At the cellular level the body rrustimes the various processes because of lack of adequate nervous and endocrine control. When the body's controls break down we become prone to disease. The digestive system, being the most sensitive in many people, is the first to become upset and the stomach voices the complaint.
Digestive problems are a sign of impending danger, not just at the physical level, but at social and economic levels as well. Poor digestion caused by stresses and bad living and eating habits plays a large role in the turmoil and chaos of the world today. One can well imagine what is subconsciously influencing the minds of politicians, businessmen and women and top level executives when at some important meeting, perhaps to decide long-term policy, a stomach ulcer or painful haemorrhoid begins to play up. How can people in positions of responsibility make correct decisions under constant pressure from external sources while at the same time suffering from the strain of a weak digestive tract? Surely many executives are desperate to find permanent relief from these constantly recurring and greatly distressing problems. Digestive upsets, particularly peptic ulcers, account for a vast loss of working hours, resulting in decreased economic productivity. At the individual level they result in suffering and the inability to live active, satisfying and full lives The obese person is a prime example of one who suffers tremendously from an inability to function efficiently.
Indigestion may not appear to be as catastrophic as some of the disasters and crises facing humankind today. It lacks the impact and dramatic quality of cyclones, drought, war, ete. However, the present state of world-wide indigestion is more insidious than the gross, short-lived, acute catastrophes which make headlines. Indigestion is a serious threat to productive living, not in itself but in the fact that it seems like such a small and simple disorder in our complicated lives that we tend to neglect it. As a result it becomes chronic and eventually saps our strength, vigour and vitality. We feel run down due to poor assimilation of food, but do not realize the link between the loss of energy and indigestion. In this slow process we are actually letting our vital reserves leak away the longer we refuse to acknowledge and repair our faulty digestion. Then, because there is no reserve of good heath and resistance, any slight imbalance or stress can tip the scales precipitating us into the disease state.
This complex interplay of emotional and physical states which leads to indigestion has been thoroughly investigated by yoga and allied sciences. Yoga is now internationally recognized as a powerful means to balance both bodily systems and alleviate the stormy passions of the mind which lead to digestive upset. It quells the disturbances which lead to both inner and outer turmoil in the form of dyspepsia, diarrhoea, ete. as well as conflicting interrelationships. Instead of using purgatives, antacids and other harmful chemical substances which sap our strength, willpower and ability to control inner body processes, yoga offers a way to tackle the problems of the mind that lead concomitantly to digestive upset and external chaos.
A combination of yoga and other sciences aimed at rebalancing the basic disequilibrium of the body may be the answer to many of our digestive problems. The potential combination of yoga and allopathy should be examined carefully by all members of the healing profession. To many doctors, yoga may seem to be opposed to traditional medical science. From our experience, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Even if yoga proves to be a panacea for all illnesses, there are few people in the world who could utilize it in all situations, especially in the acute or serious disease situation. More than likely, yoga will initially emerge as a powerful adjunct to medical science. Just as doctors now utilize other specialities when they reach the limits of their own field of competence, so yoga can be used. Those people, for example, who prefer the medical means of therapy for the acute stages of digestive illness can utilize yogic techniques during convalescence when drugs have been withdrawn. In the troublesome field of chronic psychosomatic and degenerative disease, the combination of yoga and medicine may prove to be the answer that many doctors and patients are looking for.
At present medical science alone is unable to cure many digestive disorders because of the underlying mental factor that is involved. Powerful techniques are required to release the mental problems and purify the body. The science of yoga has developed such techniques over thousands of years, so it is really not necessary to view peptic ulcer, constipation and other forms of indigestion as lifetime diseases. A few weeks of yoga therapy, preferably in the ashram environment, is generally all that is required to initiate a complete reversal in the disease process and to eliminate unpleasant symptoms.
From our experience at the Bihar School of Yoga, managing a wide variety of disease conditions from arthritis to cancer, we have found that the digestive system plays an important role. Not only have we seen that indigestion and poor eating habits playa primary role in body breakdown and serious chronic disease, but that through the digestive tract we can effectively treat many conditions, for example, asthma. The digestive system running down the centre of the body seems to be the key to good health, in terms of its physical proximity to many organs, its powerful link with the mind and its physiological connection with manipura chakra, the centre of energy and physical health. The demand for yogic techniques to remedy various digestive problems has become so great that our guru, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, inspired this work in order to help people combat indigestion and end the vicious circle of spiralling bad health. To ascertain the scope of this huge and up to now uncorrelated subject, we have had to rely on the teachings of our guru and on yogic scriptures as well as modern and ancient medical texts. Allopathy, ayurveda, acupuncture and modern psychology have all been researched to complete the picture.
By utilizing the theoretical and practical knowledge contained here, you will gain a deeper understanding of the structure and function of the digestive tract and how it is affected by diet and lifestyle. In this way a sensible, positive and creative approach towards food and eating in all its aspects can be developed. This will automatically lead to increased awareness of the digestive process and control over what is ingested. As one's life becomes more natural and simple, the body and mind are simultaneously harmonized and the cloud of indigestion passes to reveal the light of good health, dynamism and sublime equanimity.
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