We all know that our nervous system is complex. Even if we don’t remember the specifics from science class, we can all recall a time in our lives that we were stressed out, ate terribly, and woke up with blemishes on our face. The connection between our gut and head health is recognized by science, yogis and lived out daily through the choices we make daily. Food and emotional balance contribute to our overall health, vibrancy, and longevity.
Merging the ancient wisdom of yoga modern medicine, Yoga Therapists recognize the importance of gut, heart, and head health for creating vital lives. From a very basic principle, we recognize that digestion is a key to live. The way we digest and metabolize our food, thoughts, feelings, and emotions are critical building blocks in healthy lifestyles. It’s not simply what you put in your mouth but also the way our body responds and digests it that is important. Our minds and bodies are all so unique. A lifestyle that promotes a consistent rhythm of nutritious foods is wonderful – but learning to managing stress is also a key component to promoting good digestion.
When early anatomists first explored and categorized the human body, they noticed a nerve that ran from the base of the skull, to the throat, the heart, and the gut. It was named the vagus nerve, ‘the wander.”
Dr. Stephen Proges, a behavioral neuroscientist, later developed the polyvagal theory which suggests that the vagus is not simply a nerve, but a complex system of neural pathways, hormones and immune regulation through the body.
Studies have shown that the brain-gut autonomic feedback loops are highly sensitive to certain areas of the brain, such as the amygdala (which is involved in the fear and emotional arousal), and the hypothalamus the medullary raphe nuclei (which are both involved in the regulation of body). Bad gut health or problems with digestion, such as abdominal, pain, or even nausea frequently co-occur with psychiatric diagnosis marked by irritability, fearfulness, or hypervigilance. In many cases prescription drugs may not heal gut problems.
My journey to good gut health
My skin problems didn’t start until my early thirties. I always ate well but had a strong addiction to caffeine. My caffeine addiction coupled with my post-traumatic stress disorder, made my skin so, so bad. I slept poorly, was always fatigued and my skin was always breaking out. Despite facials, and visits to the dermatologists, my skin didn’t start to transform, until I started to practice Kundalini yoga and meditation daily.
Kundalini Yoga is specifically good for gut health because it strengthens the 3rd chakra = Manipura – or the naval point through movement and mantra. This point in our bodies represents our power, our commitment, and our resilience, as well as our digestive system. By doing practices which strengthen our 3rd chakra, such as leg lifts or plank, we are simultaneously keeping our digestive organs strong and give them vitality to remain emotionally balanced.
When we chant mantras, we connect to the naval point, and it helps to create feelings of peace and allow the body to relax. The adrenals glands are also located in the physical area of 3rd chakra. These glands also play a role regulating our stress. Through chanting we can create rhythmic balance and a deeper sense of emotional balance. When we chant and our tongue hits the roof of the mouth it has a profound impact upon our brain chemistry, including the pituitary gland which helps to which balance our metabolism. This powerful combination of movement and mantra can help transform stress and trauma and bring restorative rhythmic balance throughout the entire body beginning in the gut.
My daily practice – Sat Nam
A seed mantra in Kundalini Yoga is “sat nam.”
This translates to truth is your name.
This practice is about connecting to your truth and sovereignty. When we combine this mantra to our breath, we are able to integrate throughout our entire system. I would inhale and vibrate “sat” and exhale “nam” silently throughout my day. When connecting to our true essence, everything else falls into balance including gut, heart, and head health. You can use this simple mantra to connect to yourself thought out the day.
Putting ‘you’ at the center of your gut health
Often lifestyle choices can solve many of our gut health problems and puts YOU at the center of healing. We all bring our unique understanding to our body and mind, though past experiences, culture, family systems, education, etc. But we all have the ability to stand in our sovereignty and power to create small steps towards healing.
Here are some simple tips that can help you design a plan that works for you:
- Remember food is a powerful tool and medicine.
- Getting a healthy and balanced gut-mind health is not always linear. Be mindful that it can take time to undo damage.
- Set an intention when you cook or before you eat. Pray or talk to the food. Give it good vibrations — you will be eating your prayers!
- Remember that you are what you eat. Eating natural and unprocessed foods is best.
- You should be able to eliminate your food within 18 to 24 hours.
- Eat seasonally. Your diet should find balance with and rhythm with the weather outside. Learn more about the seasonal diets in “The 3-Season Diet” By Dr. John Douillard.
- Create a strong and flexible navel point/abdomen through yoga or working out. This keeps the digestive organs healthy, strong, and flexible.
Always remember to consult your physician before starting any new diet or exercise regime.
Kolacz J, Kovacic KK, Porges SW. Traumatic stress and the autonomic brain‐gut connection in development: Polyvagal Theory as an integrative framework for psychosocial and gastrointestinal pathology. Developmental Psychobiology. 2019;61:796–809. https://doi.org/10.1002/ dev.21852
Khalsa, S.P.K, Kundalini yoga the flow of eternal power: A simple guide to the yoga awareness as taught by yogi bhajan. 1998.
Lumpkin, N. and Khalsa, J.K. Enlightened bodies: Exploring physical & subtle human anatomy, Kundalini yoga as taught by Yoga Bhajan. 2015.
The sensitive gut: How other people make us ill. Retrieved on 02 June 2021. https://thesensitivegut.com/2017/06/07/how-other-people-can-make-us-ill/