There you are in Vinyasa class, flowing through your sun salutations like a boss. But as you pull back into a perfect downward dog, you realize, horrified, that you've let out a butt blast. Or, more eloquently put, a yoga fart.
Embarrassing? Maybe a little. Uncommon? Hardly. As it turns out, the way that yoga poses contort your body, combined with the relaxation it causes, brews up the ideal conditions for flatulence.
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Here are six reasons why you feel the urge to fart in yoga class. Plus, tips to put the breaks on breaking wind.
6 Reasons You're Farting in Yoga
1. Your Pelvic Floor Muscles Need a Tune Up
Let's take a deep dive into anatomy to understand how your body deals with flatulence. Inside your anal canal (the last few inches of your large intestine) are anal sphincters, ring-shaped muscles that prevent stool and gas from escaping. When you hold in a fart, your anal sphincters squeeze the anus closed.
But sometimes, your sphincter might not be able to keep gas in check. "Injury to the anal sphincter or lack of pelvic floor motor control could cause gas incontinence," says physical therapist Rachel Gelman, DPT, founder of Pelvic Wellness in San Francisco. The result: accidentally dropping an air grenade during pigeon pose.
Your pelvic floor is the hammock of muscles that stretches across the base of the pelvis, supporting the bladder, urethra, intestines and rectum — in addition to the cervix, vagina and uterus in people assigned female at birth (AFAB), according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
A weak pelvic floor might occur after injury, childbirth (more on this later), aging or frequent pooping or straining during bowel movements.
The good news: Yoga can help! Practicing Mulabandha yoga can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, according to a small September 2021 study in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. This yoga style focuses on activating your root chakra, located at your perineum (the space between the anus and genitals). The movements in this practice engage this area of your body, strengthening your muscles.
2. You’re Contorting Your Body
When you twist and bend through common yoga poses, you compress your abdomen. As a result, there's less space for air inside your GI tract, so your body naturally releases some of it.
"In addition, the increase in intra-abdominal pressure [in poses like these] can put more load on the pelvic floor, causing gas to slip out easier," Gelman says.
3. You’re Super Chill
Many yoga fans practice regularly for a sense of total tranquility. But those chill vibes you're soaking up can also make your sphincter muscles relax a little too much, allowing air to sneak out. "Gas is more difficult for your muscles to hold in compared to a solid," Gelman says. "So relaxing your muscles can allow gas to escape."
4. You're Pregnant
One side effect of having a baby on the way is an uptick in flatulence. Translation: You're not the only one cutting the cheese in prenatal yoga class.
Folks who are expecting have higher levels of the hormone progesterone, which causes relaxation, according to Yale Medicine. As a result, your anal sphincter may not tighten as much as usual, increasing the likelihood of releasing gas.
Progesterone also relaxes the muscles used during digestion — and the longer food hangs around in your system, the more gas builds up. Also, during your third trimester, the baby presses against your internal organs, which slows down digestion even more.
5. You’re Postpartum
Progesterone plummets after childbirth, usually resolving pesky gas caused by muscle relaxation. But you're not in the clear yet: Giving birth puts serious strain on your back door. "Injury to the anal sphincter can occur during a delivery," Gelman says. "This can lead to difficulty holding back gas."
If your symptoms last more than a few weeks, it's probably best to pay a visit to your doctor.
6. Exercise Speeds Up Digestion
It's not just yoga: Whether you're leaping into a plank, riding your stationary bike or simply walking to the mailbox, you're simply more likely to let it rip when you're active.
"Movement helps with peristalsis, the process that nudges stool through the gut," Gelman says. "During peristalsis, gas is also pushed along and out."
3 Ways to Prevent Yoga Farts
Although the occasional toot during yoga is totally natural and normal, we get that it can be embarrassing — especially if yoga farts are a habit. Try these tips to keep flatulence at bay.
1. Avoid Gassy Foods Before Class
Common fart triggers include apples, peaches, pears, cruciferous vegetables, legumes, dairy, whole grains, drinks with high-fructose corn syrup and sweeteners ending in -ol (such as sorbitol and xylitol), according to the NIH. So, try cutting back on a few of these foods before class.
2. Do a Warm-up
One easy way to not fart in yoga class: Get it all out beforehand. "Exercising prior to yoga class can help move gas out of your system," Gelman says. Farting it out during a jog or long walk to the studio means you're more likely to be gas-free once you hit the mat.
3. Swallow Less Air
Any oxygen you ingest eventually has to come out somewhere — meaning, in the form of either a burp or a toot. So, minimizing the amount of air you gulp pre-yoga can help.
Here's how: Steer clear of gum, fizzy drinks, smoking, drinking with a straw and sucking on hard candy. Eat slowly and while sitting, as opposed to on the run. Chew with your mouth closed and try not to talk while chowing down.
Excessive flatulence could be a red flag indicating an underlying health condition. If your gas is bothering you or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms — stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea and weight loss — call your health care provider, according to the NIH. They can check to see if a bigger issue, like a digestive disorder, is the root cause of your symptoms.
- National Institute of Health: "About Pelvic Floor Disorders (PFDs)"
- Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine: "Assessment of the effect of Mulabandha yoga therapy in healthy women, stigmatized for pelvic floor dysfunctions: A randomized controlled trial"
- PLoS One: "Yoga an effective strategy for self-management of stress-related problems and wellbeing during COVID19 lockdown: A cross-sectional study"
- National Institute of Health: "Gas in the Digestive Tract"
- Yale Medicine: "Women, Are Your Hormones Keeping You Up at Night?"