The 6 Stages of Toilet Meditation with Shelly Prosko
Mindfulness practices are gaining popularity and even appear to be quite trendy these days. Perhaps it is because we know, and have experienced, that there is tremendous value in being present and mindful throughout our day.
We talk about mindfulness during many activities such as driving, walking, exercising, eating, socializing, etc; so why not also be mindful while going to the bathroom? Yes, mindful toileting!
Being fully present and aware of our bodies, minds and emotions can help release the pelvic floor muscles (PFM’s) when we perform our toilet duties, resulting in successfully completing our task. We oftentimes are in a hurry and rushing with the attitude of ‘hurry up and just get it over with, I have something important waiting’ or our minds are elsewhere as we are texting or reading, which can be distracting from our present intention of the moment: to empty and eliminate!
This could lead to not fully relaxing and releasing the PFM’s, or not fully emptying the bowel or bladder, which may potentially contribute to or exacerbate a variety of pelvic health issues like urinary urgency, frequency, incontinence, constipation or pelvic pain conditions.
I have a short 'Toilet Meditation' that I like to share with my clients/students that involves 6 stages, using the acronym “AIRBAG” to help you remember.
If you are sitting on the toilet, it’s a good idea to place your feet up on some blocks so that your knees are slightly higher than your hips. This is an ideal position for your PFM’s to be released and allow for proper elimination, particularly for bowel movements. If you are standing during urination, these toilet meditation stages of “AIRBAG” can still be performed:
- A = Awareness: a brief body scan from head to toe simply observing sensations that you may be experiencing both externally and internally, without judgment. You may include awareness of thoughts and emotions, without elaborating on a story or analyzing.
- I = Imagination: use your visualization skills to imagine your pelvic floor and the general area where the PFMs are located: they expand across the inside of the front, sides and back of the pelvis, the tailbone and sacrum. Visualize where the bladder and bowel are positioned and imagine them emptying and that the PFM’s spanning across the pelvic floor are healthy and functioning optimally.
- R = Release & Relax: let go of any tension in the PFM’s as best as you can. Releasing and relaxing these muscles can sometimes be difficult for a variety of reasons. Letting go may take courage, trust, concentration and practise.
- B = Breathe: allow your natural breath pattern to emerge. Sometimes when we ‘try’ to breathe, we create more tension that results in unnatural patterns that don’t serve a relaxed state. As you quietly inhale, the belly will naturally go ‘out’ and the pelvic floor will descend. As you exhale, the belly and PFM’s will return to their resting positions. During toileting, see if you can simply allow the quiet rhythm of the abdomino-pelvic diaphragmatic breath to happen on its own without trying to change it.
- A = Allow: this ‘allowing’ is a little more than just releasing and relaxing or allowing the breath to happen on its own. See if you can really give yourself permission to trust that your body knows what to do and when to do it. Perhaps you feel the need to ‘push’ gently (do not strain) or you do feel like you want to take a deep breath or lean forward or place your feet in a different position. The more refined your awareness skills are, the more you can trust what feels right, and not always what you think you should do.
- G = Gratitude: I think it is a healthy practice to not only be completely present and mindful when toileting, but to also honour this sophisticated and truly complex function that our body does for us on a daily basis without us even asking it to. So each time you complete your toileting event, see what it feels like to send a little gratitude to your body and all its incredibly phenomenal parts to end your toilet meditation (TM)!!
PT, C-IAYT, CPI
Shelly is a Canadian physiotherapist, yoga therapist, educator, writer and clinician dedicated to empowering individuals to create and sustain meaningful lives by teaching and advocating for the integration of yoga into modern healthcare. She is a respected pioneer of PhysioYoga, a combination of physiotherapy and yoga.
Shelly guest lectures at medical colleges, teaches at yoga therapy schools and yoga teacher trainings, speaks internationally at yoga therapy and medical conferences, contributes to academic research, provides mentorship to healthcare professionals and offers onsite and online continuing education courses for yoga and healthcare professionals on topics surrounding chronic pain, pelvic health, compassion and professional burnout. Her courses and retreats are highly sought after and have been well received by many physiotherapists, yoga professionals and other healthcare providers. She is a Pain Care Yoga Trainer and has contributed to book chapters and is co-editor and co-author of the textbook Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain by Singing Dragon Publishers.
Shelly is a University of Saskatchewan graduate and has extensive training in yoga therapy and numerous specialty areas with over 20 years of experience integrating yoga into rehabilitation and wellness care. She emphasizes the immense value gained from clinical experience and learning from her patients, the professionals she teaches and the colleagues with which she collaborates. She considers herself a lifelong student. She maintains a clinical practice in Sylvan Lake, Canada and mentors professionals who are interested in pursuing this integrative path.
Shelly believes that meaningful connections, spending time in nature and sharing joy can be powerful contributors to healing and well-being.
Please visit www.physioyoga.ca for more info and resources.