You may be surprised to learn this, but your gut is your second brain.
Ever had a gut feeling, get butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous, or experience a digestive issues when you’ve been upset, angry, or stressed? We all have – it’s human nature, but did you ever stop and wonder why?
Scientists and doctors have found that our gut acts in such a way that it can be called our second brain! Yep, who would’ve thought? And all this time I’ve been walking around thinking I just had one brain tucked happily away in my head. Man, was I wrong!
Just like our brain, the digestive tract is lined with millions of neurons and neurotransmitters which are responsible for sending messages through the body. Having as many of these neuro-buddies in the gut as in the brain means the stomach and intestines do much more for mood and health than digest food. In fact, 95% of all serotonin is made by nerve cells in the gut. Serotonin is an amazing little hormone that not only helps to regulate intestinal movements but is also considered the happy hormone, keeping our moods and feel good chemicals in check.
Think about it (with both brains here, please). If one brain is out of order, than it stands to reason that the other might also be leading to anxiety, depression, behavioral disorders, etc. What you put in directly affects what you get out, making it super important to nourish our bodies with good food and plenty of exercise.
Yoga is a science of the mind, and by practicing yoga we aim to “still the fluctuations of the mind” (yogash chitta vritti nirodhah, YS 1.2). Breathing, movement, and meditation come together to create an incredible dose of healthy healing to calm not only the first brain, but the second brain (the gut) as well.
The next time that you feel anxious or upset, try yoga as a way to calm your mind with these simple practices, and see how it impacts your belly.
Ground & Calm Yourself
Balasana | Child’s Pose
I don’t know about you, but when life gets overwhelming, I have the tendency to shut down. When I do, things can get bad for me and my gut. It’s at this time when I stop listening to anything my body may be screaming at me. Usually I’m good about not getting to this point, but from time to time, it happens. It’s important to take time for self-care, whether it be with a breathing practice, a nature walk, or maybe even a little yoga.
One of my favorite postures to calm my restless mind is Balasana or Child’s Pose. This simple posture is easy to do and will ground you, forcing you to focus on the present moment, allowing you to feel safe and comforted. There are many ways to modify this pose. Focus on a deep breath. Deep belly breathing as your abdomen presses against your thighs will help to give your digestive track a massage.
Breathe and Ask: What Do I Need to Know?
This simple breathing and meditation exercise will help you tune in to what your gut is trying to tell you.
Find a comfortable seat. Relax your jaw, neck and shoulders. Close your eyes. Take long deep breaths. If sitting in a chair, make sure your feet are connected to the floor to stay grounded. After a few rounds, deepen your inhalations and exhalations. Notice the breath moving in and out of the body. Take at least ten breaths, or more if needed, to allow your mind to settle. Remember, there is no way to do this wrong. Simply be receptive.
When you’re ready, ask yourself “what do I need to know?” Keep a steady breath pace. Allow space for the answers to follow. Sometimes the answers will come right away, and sometimes they will come later. Do not judge this process or any messages that come up. Instead, be receptive during this meditation. Listen the messages that your body is sending you. This is your inner teacher — your intuition.
Practice for 10 minutes or more if needed. When you are done, journal about your experience and the messages you received.
These are some of my favorite grounding practices. What are yours? Share in the comments below!