Japanese Macrobiotics, Steiner Bio-Dynamics, Hunza Tribe diets, Pritikin Program, Fit for Life Food Combining Diet, Vegans, Fruitarians, Lacto and Non-Lacto Vegetarians, Raw Food Freaks, Get Ready for Armageddon Survival Diets. There are just so many little pictures and narrow perspectives on food and diet.
But yoga and tantra have always said that food is but one small part of our life which should be integrated in proportion to the rest of it. They have always encouraged a wider vision of life rather than letting any one thing become a neurosis or a fetish. This breadth of vision comes from both the inner and outer application of yoga
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sadhana, or regular practice.
We eat, maybe 3 times a day. With all the associated time of shopping, preparation, cooking, actual eating, and cleaning up, this adds up to quite a large slice of our day devoted to food management. The effects of all that eating are carried over considerably into our lives. For this life-sustaining as well as pleasurable activity, everyone manages to find and set aside that time. Of equal, if not more, importance is the sustenance for the inner spirit, and therefore we also need to set aside some time each day for the techniques of yoga and meditation.
It is not the aim of this chapter to go into great anatomical detail about the workings of the human body. That would put most people to sleep or maybe incite you into skipping this part! However, it is necessary for women planning to be mothers, to have a basic understanding of the scheme of things relevant to the digestive system. The most useful effect of making a small study of the body and its functions, is to re-awaken that awe, mystery and respect that we should have for this amazingly complex structure which nature has evolved for us to live out our lives in. So here goes, I will keep it short and simple, in just 8 pages!
Firstly through the senses of thought, sight, smell and then the taste of food, the metabolic switches enabling digestion are turned on, which get things ready for when the food arrives in the mouth and stomach. Through chewing, the food is reduced in size, and with the action of the tongue, it is mixed with certain gastric juices (enzymes) secreted by the salivary glands.
Through the action of swallowing, food moves down the gullet (oesophagus), and a valve (the lower oesophageal sphincter) opens to allow the mushed up food to go into the stomach.
In the stomach many more gastric juices (enzymes, acids, mucus) are secreted. Automatic muscular actions (peristaltic waves) further knead and mix
the food with these substances and eventually squeeze the mixture out the bottom valve of the stomach (pyloric sphincter) into the next chamber. Food can leave the stomach within 10 - 120 minutes of eating, depending on the type of food, quantity and quality of food and stomach efficiency. The stomach adds water from the body or absorbs it from the food, according to its moisture needs.
Due to the peristaltic waves, the mixture then goes into the small intestine. In the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine), more secretions (bile from the liver and gall bladder, and enzymes from the pancreas) are added. Nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, sugars, amino acids, glycerol and fatty acids are absorbed into the blood stream as breakdown and absorption continues all the way along the small intestine (some 7 metres long) until the remainder passes out through a valve (the ileocecal valve) and enters the large intestine.
Food should have arrived here 2 - 5 hours after eating. In the large intestine (which includes the ascending, transverse, descending and sigmoid colons) only absorption of water and mineral salts (electrolytes) takes place. The undigested and waste food mass in the bowels (i.e. large intestines), moves more slowly, arriving at the rectum some 12 - 24 hours after eating.
Three to 4 times a day, the colon makes involuntary contractions, filling the rectum, urging it to expel the wastes. Failure to respond to this signal by voluntarily opening the anus will, over time, create chronic constipation.