May 13, 2023

Book Review: Yoga for the digestive system by Swami Shankardevananda


The human digestive system has fascinated me since 12th grade and I constantly explore new avenues to learn more about it.

This book "Yoga for the digestive system" was recommended to me by an Insta follower. An extremely insightful one, filled with multiple revelations.

The author starts by setting context on the digestive system - the various organs, processes involved, the timing of food in each stage and nutrients.

What made this book a page-turner for me was the importance given to mind-gut connection and reiterating how many digestive issues (indigestion, ulcer, constipation, IBS etc) are indeed psychosomatic.

These two statements sum this up so well:

"No other organ system is as susceptible to psychological disturbances as the human gastrointestinal tract"

"Behind poor digestion is an inability of the mind to digest the situations of life and to metabolize the problems correctly"

There is enough coverage about the Ayurvedic interpretation of digestion - three doshas, the role of Samana and Apana Vayu, three gunas, and eating according to season, climate and constitution. Not in depth though, but good enough for someone new to these concepts.

The chapter on digestive Prana talks about how we lose Prana through our eating habits and how to regain it.

The second section has chapters dedicated to various digestive disorders - the cause, symptoms and Yogic way of addressing the same. The author states that the digestive system is a sensitive mirror of the mind. Regarding IBS and its linkage to our thoughts, he says, ".....reflects our conscious or unconscious irritation with life as a whole and ourselves".

This passage summed it up beautifully on the mind-body relationship:

"The mind is like the sea, the body is the land and their sphere of interaction is the seashore. When the mind is peaceful and relaxed, the sea is calm. However, when the mind is troubled, the sea becomes turbulent and waves beat against the shore, tearing away large sections of the land"

The final section has various practical solutions in terms of asanas, pranayama and meditative practices, along with step-by-step instructions.

A must-read book and a must-have one in your home library for continuous reference.

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