Here's the real reason we fart so much in yoga

Ever find yourself suddenly needing to fart during yoga? You’re not alone. Yogi and writer Lisa Bowman investigates why flatulence while flowing is so common. 

To fully understand why we get gassy during yoga, it’s useful to know what exactly farts are.

“Farts – otherwise known as flatulence – are a release of intestinal gas, which forms as a result of digesting food,” explains Giulia Guerrini, lead pharmacist at online pharmacy Medino.    

“There are three main causes of gas build-up which result in us needing to pass wind. The first is as a result of swallowing air throughout the day, alongside drinking carbonated drinks or taking in air as we chew. The second is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, which can be caused by certain medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, coeliac disease, liver disease or irritable bowel syndrome.  

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“The third possible cause is that carbohydrates in our bodies haven’t been fully digested, and when these partially digested carbs reach the colon, bacteria converts them into hydrogen and carbon dioxide gases.”

She flags that, according to the NHS, most people fart between five and 15 times a day – so the odd rumble in your weekly vinyasa session really isn’t anything out of the ordinary. 

So, now we’ve got the basics out of the way, what’s the deal with yoga and passing wind?

Relaxation leads to release

One of the reasons you might find yourself letting one rip during yoga is because you’re finally allowing your body to relax.

“It’s no surprise that our stress levels are very high nowadays, so when we start to relax, stretch or breathe into the body, a natural detoxification process begins,” explains yoga teacher Rakhee, founder of Superari Life.

“Our bodies respond by releasing anything that will make us feel lighter. Some people need to go for a wee, while others will sigh out their breath – it’s all natural.  

“These days, we hold an enormous amount of conscious and subconscious tension in our belly. When we relax into the belly – which is a really good thing to do, for our mental and physical health – it’s likely some people will release wind.” 

Some yoga poses release more gas than others

It’s not just relaxing that can cause you to let one slip – there are certain yoga poses which are more likely to have you passing wind than others.

“The postures that can cause more wind to release are squats, plough pose, twists, child’s pose and savasana (corpse pose) simply because of the way the organs are squeezed or relaxed in the postures,” Rakhee explains. 

Plot twist – there are also poses which were specially created to make us fart.

“Some people don’t realise this but there are specific postures which are designed to release wind,” reveals Rakhee.

“One of them is called pawanmuktasana, which literally means ‘to leave wind’.”

You may know this posture as ‘wind-removing pose’, where you lay on your back, bending your legs and hugging them into the body. This is my go-to when I have trapped wind – it works a treat. 

Poses like pawanmuktasana are designed to help you release wind.

What happens if you hold in wind?

While farting might be natural, it’s generally not something most of us feel comfortable doing freely in public, but are there any health risks to holding them in?

“Holding in farts can cause some short-term discomfort, like pain, bloating, indigestion and heartburn,” explains Guerrini.

“Although the pain can sometimes feel severe, there’s no evidence to suggest that holding wind in can be dangerous. Research has shown that if you hold in a fart, your body will reabsorb some of the gas into circulation until you eventually release it through another fart or a burp.” 

Is there anything you can do to minimise the risk of farting in class?

Certain foods can make us gassier, though this varies from person to person, dependent on the type of bacteria in your gut, according to Anna Mapson, registered nutritional therapist and owner of Goodness Me Nutrition.

“Gas is produced in the large intestine when bacteria start to ferment foods high in galacto-oligosaccharides, such as onions, garlic and wheat, or pulses such as lentils and chickpeas,” explains Mapson.

“We can also experience gas higher up in the small intestine due to poor digestion of starches, such as fructose in fruits and vegetables, lactose in milk or sugar alcohols, including some sweeteners like xylitol.” 

Mapson advises finding which foods work for you, as well as chewing your food properly, and not eating too fast or talking while eating, which can both cause you to swallow more air.

“Practicing yoga on an empty stomach can also help you avoid releasing wind in class,” adds Rakhee. 

“Going for a short walk beforehand is also beneficial – if you’re at the gym, for example, just five minutes on the treadmill could help.

“If you’re really worried, avoid ‘self practice’ studio classes which are often in silence, and if you’re super self-conscious, go to a class where you know music will be played, so you’re less embarrassed by the noise if one slips out.”

However, if the worst happens, there really is nothing to be ashamed of.

“It happens a lot in my classes,” admits Rakhee.

“Sometimes we have a giggle, but for the most part, the person who has farted feels horribly embarrassed so I try not to bring any attention to it. You really shouldn’t worry about it – just keep going with your practice.”

As always, if you have any concerns about your digestive health, it’s best to seek advice from your doctor. 

Images: Getty

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