Eat, Pray, Poop

Posted: January 9, 2012 in Yoga
Tags: , ,

(WARNING:  this post may contain content of a graphic nature, including more information than you ever wanted to know about my bowel movements.  Viewer discretion is definitely advised.)

I experienced something rather, well, both fantastic and unexpected yesterday after my usual Thursday morning hot yoga class.  In fact, just saying that I “experienced” it really doesn’t do it justice; it was more of a revelation, a profound epiphany, or perhaps a momentous epoch in my yoga practice if you will.  Whatever it was it was freaking fantastic.

During the class, our instructor led us through a series of asanas designed to benefit and improve our bowels.  Yeah, yeah, I know… say what?  I thought the same thing while we swayed in circular motions on the floor and lightly drummed on our stomachs like spaced out hippies around a dying campfire: what kind of weird ass shit is this? (No pun intended).

But suffer through it I did, and after the class had ended I cleaned up, dressed and bid my way home again to begin my normal workday.  Except that half way there, a sudden hell storm began to brew inside me and, before I knew it, I was sprinting home at a mad pace; a pace that I’ve never been able to achieve during any of my regular interval sessions.  And me without my Garmin!  Frig!  Lord knows I would have easily set a new PB for the 5k distance.  When I finally managed to make it home and into the bathroom, there I unleashed a titanic-sized dump the likes of which I have never experienced before.  I mean, this wasn’t your normal hunker down and squeeze kind of poop, this was the kind of crap that might have inspired Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or Auguste Rodin to sculpt ‘The Thinker’, or Bob Dylan to write any number of his hit songs.  This was one of those classic ‘bring-something-weighty-to-read-because-you’re-going-to-be-here-for-a-while’ kind of shit.  The only thing missing was an angelic choir singing and maybe a star marking the occasion.  Seriously, this turd was epic!

Now you’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this and what it has to do with triathlon specifically, right?  Well, in my experience (and maybe I’m assuming too much here) but triathletes tend to be a bit obsessed with poop…well, me anyway.  Why?  Well, besides being a good indication that things are digesting and flowing naturally and healthily, it also means that we’re not carrying it around with us when we go for our long workouts.  And anyone who’s ever gone for a long run without dropping a plunkie first after breakfast will tell you, it’s no fun and is ultimately going to end up with a clenched backside and an immediate urgency to find some privacy.   And speaking for myself, any run not ending up in a secluded wooded lot taking a dump without toilet paper is a successful one in my book.

Lest you think I’m being too vulgar (or at least needlessly vulgar), yogic literature backs up this shit (pun intended).  Yoga philosophy says that we have an agni, or fire, in the body, located near the navel and breathing properly directs the fire.  The in-breath creates a wind that moves the flame downward toward the belly, burning up waste matter, and the exhale moves that waste down toward its eventual home in the toilet.  So, if your exhales are twice as long as your inhales, Desikachar writes in The Heart Of Yoga, it provides “more time for freeing the body of its blockages.”  In other words, long exhales lead to making poopy.  This is particularly true if you’re doing your long exhales while upside down.  For this reason, among, I’m sure, many others, inverted postures such as headstand and shoulder stands come toward the end of the practice. Yoga studios might smell very different if they didn’t.

The ‘Yoga Sutra’ talks about poop as well, in its usual inscrutable way.  Desikachar shares this interpretation, straight from the mother-text: “If a farmer wants to water his terraced fields, he does not have to carry the water in buckets to the various parts of his fields; he has only to open the retaining wall at the top. If he has laid out his terraces well and nothing blocks the flow of the water, it will be able to reach the last field and the furthest blade of grass without help from the farmer.”

Translated: You are the farmer, and your body is full of what Desikachar calls “rubbish.”  If you practice yoga properly, regulating your breath in a well-designed series of postures, then your internal fire will literally burn away all the crap in your body.  As a result, you’ll find yourself reading the latest issue of ‘Triathlete Monthly’ in the bathroom with a huge beatific smile on your face just as I did the other day.

Now here’s the kicker:  unfortunately, yoga also tells us not to become attached to pleasurable things, merely to experience and enjoy them when they come up, or out as it were.  It’s unhealthy to desire what cannot happen again.  Therefore, though I may find myself thinking about these excellent poops hours afterward, they can’t be re-created.  You can’t automatically turn your ‘agni’ up too high – it’s not the volume control on your stereo – and still expect the deluge.  Instead, you need to remain dedicated to your practice, to the integrity of your postures and the quality of your breath.  With diligent focus, magical nuggets of reward will emerge from your buttocks regularly, and perhaps when you least expect them.  Having said all this, I personally will be doing more of these types of yogic bowel exercises perhaps the evening before any of my long workouts (or races) to try and ensure a nice, healthy release the morning of.  As the late K. Patthabi Jois once said, “practice, practice, practice, and all is coming”…including, apparently, transcendent quantities of poo.

So how do you consciously release the flood gates?  Try this simple enough routine maybe 1-2 hours prior to any of your long workouts making sure to leave enough time of course to, shall we say, ‘expunge’ yourself prior to running, cycling, etc.

  1. Lye comfortably on your back.
  2. Extend one leg out along the ground and softly pull your other leg into your body so that your thigh hugs softly into your belly and chest.  Repeating this pose with both legs so that it works both the lower right and left quadrants of your bowels.
  3. Using your fingertips, lightly percuss (or tap) all around your abdominal region in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion.
  4. Consciously squeezing your belly to your spine, lightly crunch upwards on your exhales only (x3).
  5. Stretch out lengthwise along the floor and refocus your breathing so that your abdominal region moves first in a clockwise and then counter-clockwise motion.
  1. Angela Sacco says:

    Your very welcome!! Coming from a nursing ba kground I BElieve we are all obsessed with poo!!

  2. darzy says:

    well said Terry and on th
    at note I”m off to hot yoga 😉

  3. Andrea McGee says:

    #6. Be close to the can afterwards

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