Breaking Wind: Yoga and Gas
Gas. Farts. Toots. Whatever way you want to say it, we all pass gas and most of us pretend we don’t. In yoga, we bend, twist, and contort our bodies in various directions and, sometimes, flatulence is a result. Passing gas is a topic that we all have an opinion on but rarely talk about. Especially in yoga class.
I spent years practicing yoga in hot power classes. During those years, I strongly objected to anyone farting. My thought was “if I can hold it, you can too.” Mainly this was because in a hot class, the gas seemed to linger in the air and in 100 degree heat breathing was already a challenge. As a yoga teacher my viewpoint is different.
As a teacher, I applaud the body’s natural process. If we think in terms of Prana, our vital life force, there is apana vayu, the downward flow of energy. Apana, the life force that governs the lower abdomen, is responsible for the elimination of bodily waste products as well as creating grounding forces that allow for stability. As anyone who has ever tried to stand up knows, we must push down to rise up. We need apana, and elimination, for our bodies to work efficiently and pranic energy to flow freely. Yoga even has a pose for this natural bodily function: apanasana, wind-relieving pose. What a nice way to put it.
Although, flatulence is a normal occurrence, when done in the presence of others, it almost always causes embarrassment. We all know what goes in must go out and, often, beginning students are more likely to have to let loose in class than the advanced student. This is not because the beginning student has more gas, but because their body may be detoxing not accustomed to the pressure put on the internal organs in various poses. But even the most advanced students may find their bodies expelling air more on some days than others — anybody who teaches a class the day after Thanksgiving or Super Bowl Sunday can attest to this.
When it comes to the etiquette of relieving wind in class I have two ways of thinking – neither is right, neither is wrong. As a student, my mind thinks “please, just don’t.” As a teacher, I believe to hold gas is neither healthy nor comfortable. Often gas is caused by eating certain foods, drinking carbonated beverages, and not chewing thoroughly. If flatulence is a problem think about coming to class on an empty stomach – after about 2-3 hours after eating. Also, a cup of peppermint or fennel tea after a meal supposedly helps to improve digestion and reduce flatulence. Ultimately, if you pass gas in class, own it and accept that we are all adults in a yoga class or, like most yogis, pretend it wasn’t you. If someone near you lets one slip, just ignore it. We have all passed gas in class and we will all do it again.