A YOGI CHA BLOG
Ayurveda : suppressing natural urges disaster
As small children we are being taught very early to control our need for bowel movement and urination. Though this is something that absolutely serves us it also lays down the base of a very controlled and scheduled living. This organised way of deciding when to allow the body to relieve itself is far from natural but instead linked to the convenience of modern lifestyle.
But the natural rhythm of things has been around for much longer than modern society.
When we suppress urges, we are creating tension in the system, very similar to the reaction towards external stress. Putting stress onto something means to increase the tension.
The natural urges of the organism are all related to the VATA dosha since it’s a question of moving energy : flatulence, defecation, urination, belching(burping), sneezing, thirst, hunger, sleep, cough, breathing rapidly with exertion, yawning, tears, vomiting and ejaculation. (Laughter and hiccups are secondary urges that should also be respected.)
What we tend to forget is that every single action in the body has a purpose. Nothing is by hazard. It is natural and necessary to pass gas a certain number of times in the day the same way that it’s necessary to urinate and move our bowel. Most people don’t know this but when your stomach has had just the right amount of food, it releases a small burp. If we would pay attention to this, we would not overeat and we would digest all things we put in there. We yawn for a reason and mainly it’s to bring in more oxygen to the blood stream because the brain is lacking it (hence the tired feeling that proceeds a yawn).
I had a patient telling me her MD’s answer to her irregular bowel movement was that not everyone goes everyday. This is 100% not true. My teacher from India told me that she had never encountered the issue of constipation before having western students. Most of the time, I would even say that constipation is more mental than anything else. It’s a bold statement indeed but when you see how scheduled we all are it really messes with our program if we would have to wait for the bowel to move. And that sensation of the need to “go away” is the body’s response to the suppression of the urge.
Imagine that all these urges have a drive, which we could translate into the signal from the brain to fulfil the need. This drive is what we call VAYU in Ayurveda, or to simplify let’s call it PRANA or energy. There are 5 types of energies in the system, each of which has a direction. It either moves upwards, downwards, inwards or outwards. For instance, our elimination process is driven by the downward going energy called APANA VAYU. For this reason, we can find specific yogic movements and asanas (poses) that stimulate apana vayu and therefore are recommended for constipation or PMS for instance.
So to sum up what we have discussed so far : our organism has natural urges in order to stay healthy and well functioning. These urges don’t happen “just like that” but instead come at very specific times due to the body’s need for regulation. It’s the case of course with bowel movement just like with thirst but also yawning or burping.
If we do not listen to these needs, we create tension in the system which, just like external stress elements, creates imbalance when maintained or when it becomes a regular thing.
If we keep suppressing these natural urges we create imbalance first in our VATA dosha and when that is prolonged, VATA tends to push PITTA quite soon and then KAPHA will move as well.
This tendency to suppress comes from the fact that we live in a schedule that is not taking the urges as a rule of thumb. Instead we have to fit our urges into the schedule even though they have existed with us humans as long as we have whereas the schedule is a new invention.
This means that such a simple action as taking a look at our response to our natural urges can be the first step when we are out of balance.
So why do we buy into this idea that the schedule is more important than our natural urges?
Well, that has me pointing to something I brought up many times from our psychological perspective : our deeply rooted belief that we are flawed.
Why would we not listen to an urge from our body if we trusted it?
Why would we take on what is called “compensatory strategies” if we would just live in harmony with nature and our needs?
Let me take an example to illustrate a common way to suppress the urges : fasting.
Let me state first that I am not against fasting but I do believe that we might not need to fast constantly and I also think that depending on the constitution, the gender, the time of the year and the age of the person, fasting can be helpful or detrimental.
I want to take myself as an example because it is something I have gone through very recently and I believe that I am not an isolated case of this exact intention for fasting.
When fasting is used to control the food intake with the “intermittent fasting” rules of 15, 16 or up to 20 hours of fasting per day, people tend to need something to keep going even though they are hungry. And that might be coffee for instance because it takes the hunger feeling away. I was intermittent fasting for probably 3 or 4 years and noticed that I also increased my caffeine intake during that time. Not only did that then disturb my sleep but being THAT hungry when I finally did eat, it’s not strange that my body switched on the “famine” mode.
It was when I was told that my body seemed to be starved that I put 2 and 2 together. Because I did hear some feedback from women specifically, who felt that they were less mentally sharp before lunch while doing this type of fasting. That was exactly my experience too.
So let’s take a look at this trend and why it would be a good idea. In the world we see today a rather alarming increase of obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, pcos and thyroid problems. But let’s look at how people are living as well : they eat at any strange time of the day or night; they don’t sleep at all when they should and they often eat processed foods.
Due to this, their blood sugar levels are through the roof. And yes, for this problem, fasting is a wonderful tool. But if we look at what Ayurveda suggests in terms of daily rhythm, we discover that there is a natural window of fasting anyway, of at least 13 or 14 hours every day. If you then take in the suggestions of not snacking, of leaving at least 3 hours between eating things of any kind and to keep lunch as the biggest meal of the day, to sleep at 10 pm and be up with the rising sun to move them body, I promise you that the blood sugar levels won’t be through the roof.
So the solution to a toxic relationship to eating is not to change the relationship but to restrain the eating window. That can absolutely work but it does not grant any trust to the natural urges that is for sure.
Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always had a deep curiosity toward eastern and western approaches to understanding the mind, and the ming/body union. You’ll find me in the lovely Canggu Bali, nestled amongst coconuts, palm trees and sunshine 🥥🌴🌞
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