By Atul Vyas
There are many organs and systems though not technically part of the digestive system directly impact the function of digestion e.g. Liver, pancreas, and Lymphatic system.
The liver is the biggest organ of the body. Its most important function is to screen all one eats, drinks and ingests for toxic material. It neutralizes the toxins to make them harmless by making it water soluble for excretion through kidneys, fat-soluble for elimination through the colon, or for storage in the body as fat. The liver also removes harmful toxins from the blood, metabolizes cholesterol, fights infections, and stores nutrients, and vitamins.
According to yogic physiology, the liver is not only a chemical detoxifier but also an emotional detoxifier, helping to break down damaging emotions like anger, etc. When the liver becomes weak it loses the ability to break down chemical as well as emotional toxins and turns inwards which often results in depression. With improvement in liver health, one also reverts to the path of normalization from depression.
The pancreas is an integral part of the digestive system. It is largely responsible for controlling the blood sugar levels in the body by moving sugar from the blood into cells. Pancreas also makes glucagon which helps the liver to break down stored sugar. Pancreas also makes three major enzymes for breaking down food namely amylase – which breaks down carbohydrates and its deficiency let more undigested carbohydrates pass into one’s colon causing gas and flatulence without bad smell; Lipase – which breaks down fats and its deficiency can make bowel movement oily, and Protease – which breaks down protein and its deficiency makes protein pass into colon causing gas and flatulence which are stinky.
There are many interventions in yoga to stimulate and keep both the liver and pancreas healthy. One of them is simple Gajasana or the elephant pose.
- Stand erect keeping the legs wide apart by two feet
- Bend forward from the waist and go down till you can place both the palms on the ground flat with open fingers
- Those who cannot touch the ground with straight knees can bend knees in order to touch the floor
- Keep the head right angle to hands
- After stabilizing in the pose, lean backward and forward on your hands and feet
- Move three meters forward and then backward
- Repeat ten times
- Stand up and relax
- Makes gut healthy
- Makes liver and pancreas healthy and strong
- Makes stomach disease free
- Helps in alleviating depression
Note of Caution
Those suffering from ulcers of the stomach, duodenum, and gall bladder stones should perform this pose under the guidance of an experienced and expert teacher.
(The author likes to be called a “Yoga Scientist.” He is a celebrity yoga trainer and has trained several top Hollywood and Bollywood stars. He has trained for years under many eminent yoga gurus including his illustrious mother Daya Vyas, the first lady yoga guru of India.)