Warning: If you are squeamish about issues related to bodily functions, you may not want to read this post. I will do my best to talk about things in a way that is not too explicit, but I thought you should be given fair warning anyway.
Happy Moon Day! I thought I'll take advantage of this break from our Ashtangic labors to talk about a particular issue that is very close to us (because we all have to do it to stay alive) and yet not very often discussed; at least, I do not know of any substantial blog or even real-world discussion that addresses this issue.
So what's the issue? Different people refer to it in different ways. Some people call it "Number 2", others call it "moving the bowels". Less politically-correct folks might call it "taking a poop", or "taking a shit". But they all refer to the same phenomenon (I think): Essentially, it is what you do when you go to the bathroom to expel the solid waste products of your digestive system.
Are you still reading this? Are you in danger of forcefully expelling the contents of your breakfast from your mouth? If you are, my apologies (but I did issue a warning, remember?). In any case, thank you for staying with me so far.
The question that I want to explore in this post is: What is the relationship between our practice and our bowel movements? I think this is a very important question, not least because many of the postures in the primary series are supposed to have beneficial effects on digestion and elimination (for more details, see Claudia's recent post on the benefits of particular postures in the primary series). If the practice is supposed to have beneficial effects on digestion and elimination, would it be more beneficial for us if we were to move the bowels before we start our practice, or would it be more beneficial to do so after practice? In my personal experience, I have found that on mornings when I move the bowels before practice, I am able to go into the practice with a certain feeling of lightness and ease (The Unbearable Lightness of Being... hahaha! Excuse the tasteless joke here, I just couldn't resist it). But I wonder if this feeling is only psychological: On days when I go into practice without having moved my bowels, my practice really doesn't feel any more heavier or more difficult: So far, not moving my bowels in my practice has not made going into twists or deep forward bends or kapotasana more difficult (another tasteless joke: Shit doesn't get in the way!).
But I have discovered that if I do not move my bowels before practice on a certain day, it is usually a little more difficult to get my bowels to move for a while after practice. I think this is because all the bandha-engagement that goes on during practice has the effect of contracting the muscles that need to release in order to facilitate bowel movement. So usually, I need to drink some espresso after practice and sit around for a bit before the bowels will start moving again.
My apologies if all this is TMI for you. But hey, we are all humans who need to eat, sleep and poop (hopefully everyday): If we don't talk about this, what can we talk about? I'll like to hear your thoughts on this matter. If you don't feel comfortable discussing this in the blogosphere, feel free to email me at siegfried23 at hotmail dot com.