Stuck. Stagnant. Constricted. Constipated.
We’ve all been there. Something interrupts our routine, and our intestinal track is out of whack. Perhaps this is related to how you respond to stress. Perhaps traveling is the contributing factor. Ideally this is temporary. You get over your stress or jet lag, chug a bunch of water and you’re back in action. But sometimes the body has a much harder time letting go.
This was the case with me last winter in Morocco. We had a 2 night layover in Paris on the way, during which I indulged in cheese and cream. This surely didn’t help matters within my confused colon. I was a couple days into my Morocco visit and my constipation became all I could think about. We made our way to a little pharmacy in Fez to buy anything that would help me. Since I don’t speak French or Arabic I pantomimed a person struggling with constipation. The woman at the counter directed me to maxi-pads.
I continued my pantomiming, pointing to my stomach, making a squeezed-up, painful face. She directed me to anti-diarrhea medication.
At this point a man came out to assist. Apparently he had witnessed the interaction. With broken English he asked me, “Do you need to…(awkward silence) make the passage?”
He gave me something that did the trick. Ever since, I now pack prunes on all my long trips.
As much as I wanted to blame my constipation on travel and cheese, I realized that was only part of it. I had also been holding on to more stress than normal for months, without my usual methods of release and recovery. My body, being the intricate and wise system that it is, responded accordingly. The gut is our second brain, after all. This network of neurons lining our gut communicates with our brain, influencing mood. It is said that 95% of the body’s serotonin (a neurotransmitter implicated in feeling content and at ease) is found in our bowels!
We all get stuck at times, unable to make the passage. We get stuck in fear. Or paralyzed by the unknown. I’ve been stagnant myself these last couple years regarding how to evolve in my professional path, given the complicated changes in healthcare, in a manner true to who I am. But now as I return from leading an amazing yoga and surf retreat in Nicaragua with 18 other beautiful participants and a magnificent co-leader, I feel refreshed and filled with perspective. My belly is at ease.
After the retreat, I spent a couple weeks exploring Southern Nicaragua and Northern Costa Rica. I learned that crossing the border from Nicaragua into Costa Rica is chaotic and downright random. Plus, there’s this “no man’s land” just after you exit Nicaragua but before you enter Costa Rica. There are no signs, no one is directing you, and you certainly don’t want to ask for assistance from one of the militia standing by with rifles. They’re a little busy managing what has been called the single largest drug transit point in the Americas. With confusion and heavy backpacks, we kept moving forward and before long we were feeling the Pura Vida.
These are the gritty moments of travel that I love. It’s funny how I’m able to view these challenges as part of the adventure while I’m in another country but at home they’re annoying setbacks. So I’m setting the intention to bring this adventurous spirit back home with me and apply it to my professional stagnation. I hereby declare this my sankalpa — sanskrit for a wish or hope that comes from your heart which you will make manifest. Specifically, I will create space for my dream: writing a book* and organizing more retreats.** This will be my practice, my yoga off the mat.
The ancient yogi Desakachar writes that definitions of yoga have one thing in common: “…the idea that something changes. This change must bring us to a point where we have never been before. That is to say, that which was impossible becomes possible; that which was unattainable becomes attainable; that which was invisible can be seen.”
Are you currently stuck in the feeling that what you want is unobtainable? Are you constipated by your fears? Is your belly holding on tightly as a way to keep it all together? Take it from me, the recovering perfectionist – being tightly wound will not protect you from the unknowns in your life.
Dealing with our fears is a complicated matter, of course. But for now, for this moment, we can start simply, one breath at a time. We have our body as a resource to retrain our mind, teaching it that constriction is not the answer, expansion is. Scientists call our gut the “enteric brain” full of neurons delivering information to our brain. Help your belly to communicate and tap into your wise mind, rather than your fearful mind. Instead of shutting down even more in the belly, turn to it as the gateway, the border crossing.
Let yourself inhale fully, generously.
Oddly enough, filling up is the key to emptying out.
Deeply exhale, moving into the lower lobes of the lungs, noticing the strength in your core at the end of the exhalation, your center of empowerment. Massage the belly. Befriend it.
Together with our belly brain, our breath, our adventurous spirit (and the occasional prune + probiotic gulped down with water), our doubts can move through that invisible no-man’s-land within and make the passage to the further shore.
*Forthcoming book is titled “The Pleasure Is All Mine: Your Path to a More Sensual Life”
** Aspirations for late 2016/early 2017 : wine country in Northern CA, a couple’s retreat in Tulum, and a yoga/surf retreat in Nicaragua. Send me your suggestions!
Jennifer David February 17, 2016
Other great things to travel with to keep things moving are Young Living’s Digize as well as Traditional Medicinals’ Smooth Move. Both easily portable for travel. Happy pooping!