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Why you fart in yoga class


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Photo: Elena Mudd

Ever walk into a yoga studio and smell palo santo wafting through the air? Sure, your instructor might tell you that it’s a smudging tool, meant to cleanse the room of stagnant energy left over from the class before. They might tell you that scent is one of the memory’s most powerful tools and that the woody, earthy notes in the smoke help your brain to recognize that it’s time to settle into your practice…but really they’re just trying to cover the smell of yogis breaking wind.

“Because you’re moving around—maybe you’re twisting or maybe you’re folding—you’re pressing on your intestines, the air that’s already in there has to go someplace so it’s natural, and it happens, and I just pretend that I don’t hear it and I keep it moving,” says Beth Cooke, a New York City yoga instructor and the co-leader of the Well+Good Retreat at the Cedar Lakes Estate in Upstate New York.

But while the scientific understanding of why you might be a bit gassy on your mat isn’t completely understood (the same way that the cause behind Runner’s Diarrhea is totally unknown), it’s a thing among yogis. And there’s interesting science that links the gut-brain matrix together, which might be a key to learning more on why. Researchers, for instance, found that a group of participants with IBS (who experienced tummy pain and discomfort, plus bloating) could help alleviate some of these symptoms through their yoga practice.

Twists, for instance, are commonly thought to be a detoxifier for the body, helping to rinse out the intestines and move things around; however, according to Cooke, the yoga community is divided on whether or not that’s true. “They help move things around for sure, but there’s no scientific proof per se, but I think we believe that’s what’s happening,” she tells me. Plus, she adds, “if you feel like something in your body, the power of thought is huge.”

Of course, there’s another possibility on the table: the queef (AKA: when air leaks out of your vagina and makes a noise). “When you get into a shape where you’re tightening the muscles of the vagina, also like a kegel, the air has to go someplace and so it makes a sound. It’s totally normal and way cooler,” says Cooke. “I’d rather hear that in my class.” While these bodily noises certainly come unplanned, if it happens to you, just move through it and keep on going. Still, Cooke says that “if you feel like you need to release something—and it’s not tears from a breakup or stress from a boss—if it’s a bodily function, consider leaving the room to do it.” Out of, you know, mindfulness.

News you already know: Yoga isn’t all queefs and windbreaks, it can do some pretty amazing things for your sex life. These are the 5 yoga poses for better sex and this is how yoga and CrossFit can boost your libido.

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