Yoga and Rumination Syndrome/Acid Reflux

For the last 1.5 years, I’ve lived with a digestive disorder. I have never disclosed this to anyone outside my family or doctors because it is not something I am proud of or want people to know about me. The symptoms I experience are similar to rumination syndrome and acid reflux: I would have effortless regurgitation of undigested food after consumption of a meal. I am sure many people would give a shudder of disgust reading this. While it may seem like a symptom which is difficult to hide, I have been relatively successful in keeping this information private. It has, of course, caused some much inconvenience and discomfort in my life.

You might now ask: how does this relate to yoga?

After trying different types of medication to no avail, I am turning to yoga. In the recent years, yoga has been prescribed by doctors as “last resorts” for people with illnesses which conventional medication have failed to cure. While I am not sure if patients should rely on yoga for a miracle cure, I am starting to understand why so many people turn to yoga as a remedy for their chronic health problems as I reach the end of my 200h TTC. Through the 200h TTC course, I have learnt so much about how yoga can help my disorder.

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1: Pranayama and meditation

Breathing was actually the first type of therapy suggested by my doctors. Like many other illnesses and disorders, rumination syndrome can be aggravated by stress. Pranayamas such as Nadi Shodhana, Sheetali, Ujjayi and Brahmari all work towards reducing stress. Pranayama and meditation also help to promote mental stability. The condition I have is often initiated by trauma, though it was not in my case. However, I have been told that a mental issue may have manifested my symptoms. Breathing really helps me relax and bring awareness to my mind so that I keep mentality healthy.

During the philosophy section of the 200h TTC, I also learnt about chakras, which I believe is strongly related to my condition. The Manipura chakra, located at the navel, is likely to be at an imbalance. This particular chakra mainly affects the functions of the stomach, liver and pancreas. Through pranayama and meditation, I can bring this chakra to equilibrium. One method, for example, would be to recite the mantra “Ram”.

2: Asanas

Other than using pranayama and meditation, asanas can also help to balance out chakras. In my case, some asanas targeting the Manipura chakra would be Dhanurasana, Navasana, Matsyasana, Baddha Konasana and Virabhadranasana.

Besides that, the endocrine system was taught during the theory sections. This was my first time learning about this and it really opened my eyes to the benefits of different asanas. The efficiency of our hormonal glands plays a big part in the way our organs function. For digestive disorders like mine, it is important to know that the pituitary gland in the brain regulates stomach acid production. When too much stomach acid is produced, acid reflux may occur. To stimulate the pituitary gland and ensure that it is working efficiently for your body, certain asanas can be done. These include Sirsasana, Uttanasana, Adha Mukha Svanasana and Sasangasana (rabbit’s pose).

Most of the time, people with digestive issues have a sluggish digestion. It takes longer for food to digest, causing acid to build up and an uncomfortable feeling of food being “stuck” at your chest. Some asanas work to stimulate the stomach, improving slow digestion.  Vajrasana, for example, is a good asana to do after eating, since it cuts of the circulation of blood to the legs, allowing the organs in the torso region to work faster. Asanas like child’s pose and Marichyasana B/D also aid digestion by pressing on the organ to stimulate it.

3: Yogic diet

During the course, I was introduced to the 3 Gunas and the idea of Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic foods. Sattvic foods are food which are natural and fresh, kept without any preservatives or artificial flavours. Whole grains, raw vegetables, fruits, nuts and natural diary products all fall under this category.  Sattvic foods stimulate the processes of digestion and are recommended for people suffering from digestive disorders. Rajastic foods, on the other hand, have strong bitter, sour, salty taste or are excessively hot and pungent. Rajastic foods are avoided in the yogic diet since they cause an imbalance in our body and mind. They overstimulate them, causing physical and mental stress. Thus, people experiencing acid reflux should not consume Rajastic foods such as strong spices and condiments. Finally, Tamasic foods should not be eaten at all. These foods retard our digestive processes, and include food like meat, fish, and alcohol. Not coincidentally, the foods recommended and advised against by my doctor were completely in line to the yogic diet.

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While I am still suffering from the symptoms of my condition, the 200h TTC has really made me aware of the many benefits of yoga. My yoga journey only began a month ago, but I am already confident that I will be cured one day through regular yoga practice. I just hope the ‘one day’ is soon.

– Elaine Law 200h TTC