Saturday, June 6, 2009

Diet & Inflammation, Part I

In my work as a Yoga Therapist, I’m fortunate to meet many interesting people. Some of them come in search of the inner rewards that Yoga can provide, though the vast majority are drawn to Yoga as a means to relieve their body’s pain. It’s gratifying work, and I find many people find the Yogic path so interesting that they stick around long after they’ve eliminated their pain.

When taking information during the intake session with new students, I’ve found a couple questions integral to a rewarding outcome: is there a history of ankle/foot injury or abdominal surgery? Both of these experiences, particularly when occurring in childhood, alter the body’s movement patterns in ways that often reveal as pain or injury in the second half of life.

Depending on the student’s history, I’ll teach them a handful of techniques that will help resolve their imbalances. These techniques may focus on postural-imbalances or breathing disturbances – usually it’s a combination of the two that yields rewarding and lasting results. While this roadmap has yielded benefit for thousands of students, it’s not infallible. Sometimes students regularly practice the techniques that promise to realign their body and restore healthy breathing, and still they’re plagued by pain. What’s missing?

The missing piece is often dietary. If you’ve spent much time in the yogic realm, you're aware of the emphasis placed on a vegetarian diet. While I cannot argue the philosophical and ethical benefits of this, with regards to pain I’ve yet to find a compelling relationship. In my personal and professional experience, choosing the appropriate foods for the individual is the key to optimal health. There are few foods that can be categorized good or bad – though individual choices of specific foods may bring beneficial or deleterious results.

As we’ve discussed in previous blog entries, the path of Yoga is not one of duality, or black and white. As a non-dual philosophical system, yoga reminds us that our divinity isn’t something external that we have to strive to achieve, but that it’s latent within us. The practices of asana and pranayama can be tools to resurrect our latent connection to the inner spark, and our dietary choices can be an extension of our yogic practices.

While there are very few foods that fall neatly in the categories of good or bad, there are clearly dietary choices that are harmful to an individual’s system. In my work with people living with chronic pain, invariably we find their dietary choices are at odds with their body. Whether they get recognizable signs such as runny nose or gastric distress, the consumption of foods that are at odds with our system will create a ripple of disturbances. Very often these ripples include inflammation of the tissues. Where there’s chronic inflammation, there’s usually pain.

My intake questions are now: is there a history of ankle/foot injury or abdominal surgery, and is there evidence of systemic inflammation? In an upcoming blog entry I’ll explore in greater detail the concept of systemic inflammation, and suggest tools for your own decision making regarding food.


1 comment:

Ngawang said...

but but but....I want to hear more're leaving us all hanging Scott :)