Everybody Farts in Yoga

It's truly horrifying to imagine. You're stretching deliciously in down dog. Or maybe you're relaxing in child's pose. Perhaps you're twisting your belly in reclined stomach twist. And seemingly without any prompting from you... ya let. one. rip.

You feel your face flush just IMAGINING it.

I pinky promise you though: everyone farts in yoga.

I've done it. Other teachers I know have done it. I've heard it happen in class.

So if that's what's keeping you from trying a class, let me tell ya: accepting that you're going to fart in yoga and showing up anyway? THAT is the true practice of yoga.

It may seem that I'm being a little tongue in cheek, but yoga was really and truly developed by ancient practitioners (they probably wouldn't appreciate being called ancient...) who were attempting to sit in meditation for long periods of time, but they kept running into the same problems: when they would try to sit in meditation for long periods of time, they would get crampy and gassy and tight and tense and achy and uncomfortable and overall be unable to clear their minds because they kept getting distracted by physical discomfort.

I like to imagine that one day a rogue meditator, let's name him Pete, simply got up and started moving organically in ways that felt interesting to him... all the other meditators were probably nudging each other like, "check this guy out! What IS he doing?!" They probably weren't on board right away, but every day before meditation Pete twisted and bent and stretched his body before sitting down. Every day, Pete could meditate longer and in more comfort. Eventually, other meditators were like... hmmmm... let's follow Pete.

Thus, the practice of yoga was born.  Thanks, Pete!

*I am making up the story of Pete, but the rest is true.  And that's why it's TOTALLY okay to fart in yoga.  It's basically the POINT.

Of course, the other point of yoga is in learning to control what is called by Buddhists "the monkey mind."  The monkey mind (Buddha even called it "the drunken monkey mind" means "unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable."

Controlling the monkey mind means becoming less reactive to external stimuli and instead becoming more responsive. Like most things, it sounds pretty simple, but it is NOT easy.

A small example happened yesterday in my kitchen, and it was one of those small moments where my practice on the mat transferred beautifully into life (to be clear, this is not always the case and this is why I keep practicing).

Yesterday I was in the kitchen all day cooking a Soul Food Smorgasbord, which is a three day whole foods menu I prepare for others. It's not for me, so I have to be extra careful while cooking, being sure to wash my hands throughout, not reuse spoons when tasting, and throwing things away when they hit the floor rather than use them anyway because, I'm going to be honest: *typically* (when I'm cooking just for me), I have a much more laissez faire attitude and it's more of an "anything goes" situation in the kitchen.

I'd been soaking some nuts for about 12 hours and was rinsing and draining them in the sink. When transferring them to the food processor, and I'm still not quite sure what happened, I dumped 1/4 of the nuts and seeds. all. over. the floor.

Old Brittany (and sometimes even today Brittany) would have let loose a litany of expletives and self deprecating/self flagellating comments. She then maybe would have cried? I don't know, I used to get really mad and cry a whole lot more than I do now. I once scared some roommates crying over lost contacts when I was living in New York. They actually thought someone had died from the way I was carrying on and sobbing behind my closed bedroom door. To be fair, I didn't have expendable income at the time... but... I also didn't have Yoga. And I mean... they were CONTACTS.

Yesterday Yoga Brittany was stronger, and I seriously LAUGHED. And then I said, "well, doggonit." And then I scooped up the quarter of useless nuts, figured I still had plenty (I did) and moved on.

In a nutshell... yes, yoga is a great physical practice, but it can also do so much for us. Learning to watch and respond (rather than react) can be boiled down to moderating stress.

Time's are stressful. Being an adult is stressful. Moving through the world is stressful. We're all doing our best, but imagine how much more enjoyable life would be if you weren't constantly moving through it with elevated blood pressure, a tight chest, and mental stress.

And stress is a WHOLE lot more detrimental than merely being an inconvenience in getting through your day.  Stress disrupts digestion. It affects the immune system. It's classic fight or flight response, but almost 24/7.

Fight or Flight - Stress in our daily lives is a very real thing. When we are stressed, our stress hormones kick in (thanks, ah-mazing human body!), namely cortisol and adrenaline.

So, let's say you're being chased by a tiger.

That adrenaline spike is going to make you run faster, harder, stronger. Cortisol is going to step a bit later, maybe after you've been running for a bit, to take care of and regulate other necessary functions in your body. And while adrenaline will fade rather quickly once the danger has passed (thank bejeebus you found that... cave to hide in?), heightened cortisol levels stick around for a bit longer.

Ok, so... we don't often have tigers chasing us around--But guess what? Your body doesn't know if it's a tiger chasing you or a deadline at work or a jackwad in traffic cutting you off and almost causing a wreck.

Your stress hormones are going to kick in due to perceived stress just as readily as if you are being chased by a tiger/bear/Jason and a chainsaw.

We're essentially chronically stressed all. the. time.

All it takes is that little "ping" on your phone letting you know a work email has come in (and on a Saturday, no less!) or a few minutes of watching the news or browsing Facebook for 30 seconds to jolt ya right up.

A 2012 Carnegie Mellon study found that chronic stress is associated with the body’s inability to regulate the inflammatory response. 

When stressed, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and levels of inflammation occur which then promote disease

A similar study by Carnegie Mellon showed that people suffering from psychological stress are more susceptible to developing common colds.  Symptoms of colds are side effects of the inflammatory response that is triggered as part of the body’s effort to fight infection: the greater the inflammatory response, the greater the symptoms.

This is why both diet and stress are so closely linked to how you feel.

So what can you do to combat stress?

When stress arises, begin to ask yourself: how do I let this all go?

Practice bringing more awareness to situations in which you are feeling love/experiencing love: approach it with minute to minute awareness, then, oxytocin levels rise, and this allows for forming new impressions.

Practice yoga. Practice with me. Find a class in your area. 

It's possible for patterns to change. I've seen it for myself. I've seen it for others.

Patterns can change.

And don't be afraid to fart in yoga. Remember: everybody farts in yoga.

Brittany KrigerComment