Exercise and your Biome – Nov 2022

This is the 2nd Article on nourishing your Biome all in honour of our Yoga Retreat coming up next year: Move Breathe Love 31/3/23 – 2/4/23 in the stunning rainforested mountains of Springbrook, QLD, Australia. It was an article on the Irish ruby team that caught my eye. They were examining the effect of exercise (by analysing stool samples) on the gut microbiome. The Irish rugby team had gut microbiomes 60% more diverse than healthy, normal Irish people. Their guts were comparable to samples taken from Amazonian Indians and the Hunza of Africa. Researchers concluded that the rugby player’s remarkably healthy, diverse biomes were because of regular exercise and a superb diet. Gone are the days when top athletes could play a game and then binge on fried food and beer in the pub. These guys eat amazing diets. But the takeaway from all this is how movement and exercise encourage diversity and good health in our biomes.

None of us would like to embark on the Irish rugby team’s training schedule, but how about moderate exercise like yoga balanced with a bit of hard, sweaty exercise like mountain biking, running or brisk walking? What effect does moderate exercise have on your biome compared to the biome of the couch potato? Well its good news. All exercise is good for your biome and yoga comes out tops. And if you balance your regular yoga workouts with some lovely endorphin inducing hard exercise, you have a match made in heaven.

So how does yoga and breathwork balance and nourish your biome? There are three areas in yoga that really stand out. Forward bends and twists. These gently compress, massage and release the stomach and colon. Also detoxing, the twists and forward bends encourage the liver and kidneys to flush out toxins.  
Core work for lower back health. A strong corset ensures the digestive system is protected in the torso but did you know that your strong muscle corset helps orchestrate peristalsis? And peristalsis, the wave-like muscle contractions from the oesophagus through to stomach and intestine, is what moves the food through our digestive tract. Goodbye constipation.

Psoas- releasing yoga. Aaah, the psoas, the muscle of the soul and my favourite! Hidden in the lower abdomen, connecting the upper and lower body, the psoas is the strongest hip flexor of the human body, with many important functions. It stabilises the spine and the organs in the abdomen. It promotes blood circulation there, it controls the diaphragm, and it massages the lumbar spine and ensures relaxation of the internal organs. Stress (fight or flight), a life of sitting (the psoas atrophies and shortens) and poor control of the breath equates to a tight psoas and an unhappy gut.  

Breathwork (pranayama) targeted to release deep stress in the gut. The term gut-brain connection has proved that constant stress and depression may be related to various digestive conditions from mild intestinal distress to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other chronic ailments. And it works both ways: as I calm my mind I calm my gut. And by nourishing my gut through movement and a diverse diet I calm my mind. Having an unhealthy gut microbiome has been linked to several mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, bipolar and schizophrenia.

Laughter: A gut-conscious yoga practice takes care of the strongest muscle in the human body: our jaw. Stress, frowning, clenching and rigidity means we become “stuck”. From a yogic point of view, the energy now stagnates in the head area. The neck becomes stiff and the shoulders hurt. Neck and shoulder exercises and laughter yoga release the jaw, the gut, the vagus nerve and will result in an endorphin high. It’s going to be a fun, gut changing 2023 weekend retreat – hope you can join us!

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