Did you know that there is a direct correlation between thyroid imbalances, bloating, and constipation and our emotions?
Many of my Thyroid Yoga clients, especially women, have a lot of shame surrounding their stomachs and often hold tons of tension there as a result. Abdominal distention occurs when substances, such as air (gas) or fluid, accumulate in the abdomen causing its outward expansion beyond the normal girth of the stomach and waist. Oftentimes this symptom persists chronically as a result of emotional stress and trapped energy in the solar plexus chakra.
I see this trend very often in my clients with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, PCOS, and adrenal fatigue, as bloating and constipation are persistent symptoms. Have you ever thought about the correlation between this tension and the health of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, also known as your gut? The mind and body are more than connected; they are one.
The gut-brain connection.
Our gastrointestinal tract is very sensitive to our emotions since it is connected to our brain's hypothalamus, which controls the feelings of satiety, hunger, and our emotional state of mind. Since the mind and gut are interconnected, emotions such as happiness, joy, and pleasure, as well as anger, anxiety, guilt, resentment, and shame, trigger a physical reaction in our digestive system.
Brain-gut interactions have been associated with eating disorders, IBS, thyroid conditions chronic gut pain and inflammation disorders. It makes sense how intricately interwoven our emotions and our physical manifestations are—being "sick to your stomach," having a "gut-feeling" or feeling "butterflies in your stomach."
A recent NIH article in Cerebrum features the gut-brain axis—an imaginary line between the brain and the gut—as one of the new frontiers of neuroscience. Microbiota in our gut, sometimes referred to as the "second genome" or the "second brain," may influence our mood in ways that scientists are just now beginning to understand. As research evolves from mice to people, further understanding of the microbiome relationship to the human brain could have significant mental health implications.
My Thyroid Yoga protocol for encouraging a healthy gut includes a combination of modalities—yoga, breath exercises, dietary recommendations, and holistic lifestyle practices—including letting go of shame surrounding the belly and encouraging a healthy gut.
Here are three practices that changed my life and keep bloating away:
1. Love your belly, truly.
A personal realization: During the worst of my Hashimoto’s symptoms when I was chronically bloated, constipated, and in a constant battle with my weight, I held judgment and criticism against my belly and how it didn't compare to some of my friends' who shared gorgeous photos of their beautiful bikini bodies on Instagram. During this time, I noticed my belly would stick out more, causing me to feel insecure and even more shameful. The moment I stopped comparing and loved myself exactly how I am in each moment, the weight and bloating vanished, if by miracle. It was like my belly was protruding to get my attention—"I'm starved for your affection; love me tenderly; I only want your nourishment." The simple trick that works wonders: Stand naked in front of your full-length mirror and look into your own eyes as you say, "I see you; you're beautiful." Begin repeating this affirmation as you look at each part of your body.
Self-massage is one of my favorite rituals to do for myself every day and has gotten me comfortable with touching my own body and loving every curve. If you find yourself feeling prone to stomach tension, bloating, gas, or constipation, pick up some peppermint essential oil and give yourself a belly massage—or ask your best friend or partner to help you out.
I love using therapeutic essential oils in my daily Thyroid Yoga ritual, specifically in my abhyanga practice. The ancient ritual of abhyanga is a self-massage technique for treating your body as a temple, all in the comfort of your own home. This ayurvedic healing practice is the process of anointing yourself with oil and massaging it into the entire body before bathing. Its benefits go far beyond the usual paradigm of simply relieving tension and "chilling out," extending to both mind and spirit as well as the body. This practice helps to detox the body, nourish the skin, and impart tone to the tissues of the body. The effects of abhyanga are similar to being saturated in love—what better way to appreciate your body and all the trillions of cells, muscles, tissues, and organs that work in harmony to keep you alive and healthy. After abhyanga and a soothing detox bath, I relieve my belly in another gift of love.
3. Try this 15-minute anti-bloat sequence.
This "quick and dirty" yoga sequence is one of my favorites for relieving a bloated belly, and it works fast, especially to prevent stomach distention, when you practice it daily.
1. Cobra pose pranayama.
Turning facedown on your belly is the perfect way to start the journey of looking deeper, past the thoughts and sensations, into the depth of your breath and your body. Slowing down and going internal is where the deep healing begins. In addition to relieving tension in the digestive organs, this pose and corresponding pranayama (breathwork) is also excellent for easing back pain and is especially helpful if you imagine your breath moving all the way down into your hips and expanding them out and away from one another.
Start facedown on your abdomen. Allow your arms to rest long alongside your body and turn your head to one side as you breathe deeply into your belly for three long deep breaths. Come into a low cobra pose with your palms alongside your breastline and lifting your sternum up, then walk your fingertips forward and keep your fingertips tented as you inhale, straightening your elbows, and exhale, bending your elbows and lowering down, repeating this movement 10 times.
2. Chair pose with eagle-arm variation.
Take five deep breaths in chair pose, knees bent and seat back, then wrap your left arm under right and lift your elbows up and out, reaching your chin over your right upper arm, and breathe deeply into the back of your throat. Take three deep breaths here, then press into your feet to straighten your legs as you keep the arm position and lift your elbows and sternum up, then exhale and release the arms alongside your body. Repeat with the other arm on top.
Repeat five times.
If this information has been helpful to you, I encourage you to share it with all those who may be feeling shame around their weight or physical appearance. I would love to inspire and empower you with potent tools and rituals for your own healing in my upcoming Thyroid Yoga Practitioner Trainings in Costa Rica, Los Angeles, New York, and Australia this year, or join me for a personal retreat in jungle paradise! Share your story and tell me how this sequence helped you; connect with me @fernolivia!
Want more tips for beating bloat? Here's how to beat bloat for good.
And are you ready to learn more about how you can start to feel your best through implementing an elimination diet? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.