Charlotte Watts is a senior yoga teacher and award-winning Nutritional Therapist, specialising in stress-related and digestives issues: exactly the right person then to be compiling a book on yoga therapy for digestive health. The time is right for such a work too, as more and more of us are becoming aware of the link between digestive health and overall well-being. Actually, more and more of us are admitting to issues around digestive health. People are talking more openly about their struggles and are seeking help and advice to alleviate their suffering. That’s where nutritional therapists like Charlotte Watts comes in. With her lived experience as a yoga teacher, Charlotte also brings her knowledge of the powerful effects of yoga into the discussion around digestive health in an insightful, illuminating way.
I, for one, came to this book looking for answers. I am one of those who felt so isolated for many years, struggling alone with my digestive issues and the shame that surrounds that. It was only when I started to be more open about what I was going through that I discovered that many of my friends knew exactly what I was describing because they had similar struggles of their own. After meeting Charlotte Watts at the OM Yoga Show, I worked with her on understanding my own nutritional needs and how to understand my particular stress levels and their effect on my life. It’s an ongoing process, of course, but I have personally always found Charlotte’s approach really down to earth and natural, even though she is clearly an expert in her field. She knows all the big scientific words and yet doesn’t lose me in difficult scientific explanations!
That’s what I hoped for in Yoga Therapy for Digestive Health, that same approachable and yet informative style. I was not disappointed. One of the ways in which Charlotte presents as completely authentic is that she knows about digestive struggles because she has walked that path herself.
One of the reasons I first came to yoga, but most why my practice grew, was the profound effect it had on my long-term digestive issues: crippling Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) from my early teens. Introduction to Yoga Therapy for Digestive Health
Yoga is about the union of mind and body, which engenders a holistic approach to health. Everything is linked. The scientific and the spiritual come together to help us understand how our bodies work and what our bodies are telling us. Even in the Introduction, Charlotte Watts is exploring embodied awareness in language I can understand that relates to my gut. She’s writing predominantly for yoga and healthcare professionals, but in a ways that is accessible to any yoga practitioner like myself.
My aim in this book is not to offer solutions to fix a problem, but rather to offer explorations for you and your students to find your most responsive way towards calming, soothing and quelling energies that might have gone awry or become numb due to trauma. Introduction to Yoga Therapy for Digestive Health
Charlotte Watts divides this work into six distinct parts, so that you can dive right in to the section that is most relevant for you – although of course, reading the whole work from beginning to end will always give the greatest knowledge and best overview of the subject.
Part One explores Traditional Yogis Views in a Modern World. Charlotte starts with the philosophical yoga model out of profound respect for the practice, exploring the subtle body; prana and nadis; the koshas; the vayus; the granthis and the doshas.
Part Two takes the reader on A Journey Around the Digestive Tract and Its Functions. There are lots of diagrams and tables and clearly titled paragraphs to signpost us on this digestive journey from sight and mental anticipation at the top to elimination at the base. The best approach to a distressed gut is ‘not to ‘fix it’, but to move inwardly to the root of the disease with kindness.’ All the content around trauma, stress responses, the vagus nerve of ‘compassion’ and how all these affect the digestive system fascinated me: there is so much useful information here and the illustrations really do illustrate the point.
Part Three explains Physical and Subtle Anatomy of the Digestive Tract and all Its Connections. This is all about movement and how movement expresses feelings. This section does get pretty technical, but Charlotte continues to communicate in a clear style with many practical examples. This is where you’ll find out more about the psoas muscle, the emotional muscle that can directly affect digestion. I warmed to the section about happy curves, which just shows how everything is linked – I really want ‘a happy instep’!
Part Four comes back full circle to the subtle body, looking at Modern Psychology Within Yoga and the Gut. The section on the chakras is clearly laid out and then each chakra is developed further. There’s a useful mindful eating exercise to try, because according to Charlotte Watts, mindful eating is the power of conscious digestion.
Part Five presents The Practices, exploring asana practice with diagrams and step by step instructions, an invaluable resource for teachers and students alike. So we’ve read all the theory – now let’s get down to what we can actually do!
Part Six lists Considerations for Specific Conditions. examining in detail IBS, Constipation, Diarrhoea, Flatulence and bloating, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Ulcers, Indigestion and gastric reflux, Hernias and Diverticular disease. Each condition has a clear explanation and recommended asana.
So that’s it. You only have to flick through the pages and pages of references to see how much research has gone into this incredible book. Anyone who’s suffered from digestive issues knows how complex, frustrating and distressing it can be, but Charlotte Watts has provided us with so much information that this book really feels like a light on the tricky path that we are walking.
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