Unveiling the Secrets of Yogic Practices
‘On Cecal Constipation’
The modern civilized lifestyle is the root cause of chronic constipation in the present times. The most common causes of chronic constipation are frequent intake of junk food, lack of dietary fiber, a sedentary lifestyle, and reduced physical exercise. In 1924, Swami Kuvalayananda ji worked extensively on yogic practices such as Uddiyana and Nauli and their role in the constipation management. Swamiji stated that chronic constipation can lead to various health disorders such as headaches, loss of appetite, coated tongue, appendicitis, malaria, insomnia, nervous exhaustion, dropsy, chronic rheumatism, tuberculosis, and autointoxication.
Modern-day treatment options such as laxatives, purgatives, and enemas lead to the weakening of the colon over a long period of time and provide temporary relief to the patient. In fact, all purgatives and laxatives are administered through the mouth and before they reach the cecum, they pass through the stomach and small intestine causing unnecessary irritation since the disease lies at the other end of the digestive tract. Purgatives and laxatives provide temporary relief to the patient but render the whole alimentary canal weaker every time. Further, it may be noted, that if the constipation is due to degeneration of abdominal muscles, then it can only be cured by regeneration/strengthening of these muscles. No other means will be effective in this case. Furthermore, constipation treatment should focus on strengthening the abdominal muscles and restoring the muscle tone to improve bowel movement. Additionally, it is essential to have a strong central and sympathetic nervous system controlling the peristaltic movements of the large intestine.
In fact, no amount of purgatives and laxatives can render these muscles stronger, and an enema is useless in this condition. If the drugs and the enema affect anything, it is the intestines and not the outward abdominal muscles. Swamiji believed that the treatment of any disease should be permanent and cost-effective. Several abdominal exercises were devised by the physical culturists of the East and the West for the management of constipation, however, none of these could match the efficacy of Nauli in managing constipation. Uddiyana and Nauli practices require vigorous contractions of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. This improves blood flow to the abdominal area and thus tones up the spinal nerves, which in turn improves nervous control of the peristaltic movement and relieves constipation.
However, this was not established scientifically during those times. Therefore, Swamiji studied the role of Uddiyana and Nauli using a series of X-ray experiments to establish the movement of abdominal muscles as well as the position and redistribution of colon content. He also studied the position of the lumbar vertebrae during these yogic practices. The findings of these studies showed that the position of colon could be changed significantly by Uddiyana and Nauli kriya. In addition, the colon contents could be redistributed, which in turn, helps in normal colon functioning and can be utilized in treating constipation, adhesions, kinks, etc.
In spite of this, Uddiyana and Nauli kriya are higher practices in yoga and are difficult to perform for beginners. Additionally, they require proper technique, and regular practice and must be performed under expert supervision. Considering this aspect, Swamiji suggested a few complimentary asanas such as Shirshasana, Bhujangasana, Shalabhasana, Ardhashalabhasana, and Dhanurasana, which are also effective in relieving constipation. However, since Shirshasana is an advanced asana and might be difficult for beginners, it can be substituted with Yoga Mudra.
The research conducted by Swamiji indicates that Uddiyana and Nauli are very effective in strengthening the abdominal muscles and nervous system of the abdominal region. They are highly efficacious in preventing and curing constipation arising from abdominal muscle weakness. Further, Swamiji suggested alternative yoga asanas to relieve constipation for those who cannot perform these advanced practices.