It’s perfectly normal – but if you’re too shy to let it rip, here are some food, drinks and even medicine to “de-gas” before holding that pose.
So there you are in yoga class, holding your pose and trying to focus on the teacher’s instructions – when you suddenly feel the need to break wind.
Not again, you think to yourself in annoyance, as you will every muscle you possess down there to prevent an audible toot.
Whether you practise yoga or not, everyone passes gas. In fact, we break wind 15 to 20 times a day, said Dr Melvin Look, the director of PanAsia Surgery in hospitals such as Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital and Parkway East Hospital.
“This amounts to between 500ml and 2,000ml of odourless vapours such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, methane and sulphur. It is the latter that produces a pungent and unpleasant smell,” he said.
The source of all that gas comes largely from the digestive processes in the gastrointestinal system.
We break wind 15 to 20 times a day, [which] amounts to between 500ml and 2,000ml of odourless vapours such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, methane and sulphur.
“The bacteria in our colon produces gas by breaking down the partially digested food that enters it from the small intestines. The type of food you eat can, therefore, affect how much flatulence you have,” said Dr Look.
YOGA MAKES YOU FART
But back to yoga. Farting during yoga class is common. In fact, the activities you do during a session are designed to de-bloat you.
“Many yoga postures are intended to aid in digestion and specifically help you pass gas,” said Laura Bong, a certified yoga teacher and trainer.
“There’s actually a yoga pose that’s literally called the Wind-relieving Pose or Pavanamuktasana. Some yoga experts say that this massages the abdominal organs, which expels gas in the digestive tract. The manual pressure that the pose puts on the abdomen may also help to trigger a release of gas,” said Bong.
Yoga poses that involve twisting are also known for releasing pressure and pent-up gas, she added.
Furthermore, Dr Look said that physical activity, such as doing yoga, increases the rate gas moves in your intestines to the colon.
Even the deep breathing in yoga class could cause you to fart more, according to him. “If the swallowed air passes into the small intestine, it may go down to the colon where it can be passed out through the anus.”
Many yoga postures are intended to aid in digestion and specifically help you pass gas.
HOW TO MINIMISE GAS
Watch what you eat for breakfast and lunch if you have an evening yoga class. You may think wholegrain bread for breakfast and an extra side of stir-fried cabbage from the economy rice stall for lunch make a healthy start to the day, but they’ll give you a gassy end.
That’s no thanks to sugars such as raffinose found in beans, whole grains and cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage and bok choy, said Dr Look.
Even seemingly healthy choices such as onions (fructose), apples and pears (sorbitol), wheat and potatoes (starches), and oat bran (soluble fibre) make you pass gas.
Of course, the usual culprits to keep a wide berth from are dairy products (if you’re lactose intolerant) and carbonated drinks.
So what can you eat before class? “You may want to have carbs that produce little gas such as rice (sushi may be a better choice than pasta for lunch) and insoluble fibre such as wheat bran and certain vegetables,” said Dr Look.
Low-carb vegetables don’t make you produce gas as much as carb-rich ones are also worth considering. These include bell peppers, cucumber, kale, spinach, lettuce and tomatoes.
“In those with severe problems with excessive flatulence, you can also try taking activated charcoal or medication such as simethicone to break up the gas,” said Dr Look.
What to eat aside, how you eat can also make you gassy. “We may swallow air when we eat, and more so if we eat too fast,” said Dr Look. A good rule to follow: Chew your food properly before you swallow. This lessens the likelihood of you wolfing down your food along with air.
WHAT’S THE ETIQUETTE IN YOGA CLASS?
Flatulence “can be good therapy for your gut”, said Dr Look. But if you’re shy and don’t want to earn the nickname of Farty Pants in class, he said that “holding your flatulence in will not be harmful to your body”.
Bong, who has been practising yoga since 2003, is all about letting it go. “Well, if you have to, you got to release, right?” she said.
Bong added: “In general, everyone creates and passes gas. Some just have an easier time holding it in during yoga class.
“For others, it comes down to two factors: Relaxation and stretching. The next thing you know, you’re accidentally exhaling through the wrong end of your body”.
Are yoga teachers like herself offended by the occasional toot or ripping blow-out during class? “No, this is a natural part of our system. My usual reaction is to let it slide and just go on with the class,” she said.
My usual reaction is to let it slide and just go on with the class.
If you’re self-conscious, Bong said that it is “totally fine from a yoga etiquette perspective” to excuse yourself from class and do what you need to do in the bathroom.
What’s her take for students who accidentally cut the cheese in class? “Laugh it off or just silently move on in class. Passing gas is totally normal. We all do it and it’s really nothing to be embarrassed about, even when it happens in a semi-public setting like a yoga class,” said Bong.