Friday, May 22, 2009

Bodily Functions & Fitness 101: Gaseous Emissions

I did yoga this morning. Per usual, it was a sweaty-yet-relaxing good time and I enjoyed myself immensely (fave part: the stares when I did my headstand inversion, pregnant belly and all). But there was one part at the end that got a little awkward. It’s called Happy Baby Pose:
It ought to be called Embarrassing Baby Pose. Don’t know why? Try it. Just do it. I don’t care if you’re at work. Just tell your boss it’s an experiment for science. Still don’t get it? Pull down on your feet a bit harder and… ahhh. There you go. Hint: it’s doubly dangerous if you’re a woman. As if that’s not enough, yoga actually has a Breaking Wind Pose - although strangely in all my years of yoga this is not one I see often in a class setting. In fact, yoga has a whole slew of poses specifically designed to, well, expel gas from various orifices.

It’s one of those quirks about being human. If you have an orifice and it is in proper working order then that means that sometimes things will fly out of it. Burping, farting, sneezing, hiccuping and if you’re a woman - that other thing (which due to advertiser restrictions I cannot name but judging from the number of e-mails I get about this topic, you all know what I mean) - all happen. And for the most part you can’t really control them. Sure you can “hold it” and sometimes that works. But sometimes holding it just leads to a bigger, noisier explosion in the end. (Side note: I had a friend in high school actually crack a rib from trying to hold in a sneeze!)

So I’m going to skip the recommendations on how to prevent these particular occurrences and go right to the good part: what to do when it happens. And it will happen eventually. It’s not just yoga that brings out the gassiness in us. While each person has their own personal “Happy Baby” trigger, common offenders are ab works, straddles & deep squats and any class requiring a perfectly quiet room.

How To Deal With Gas
1. Hold it. This is generally the first strategy people try but unless your gas is just teasing you then this technique won’t work very long. It also has the unfortunate side effect of possibly making things worse when your Old Faithful finally does blow. Case in point: One evening I made the mistake of eating a massive bowl of edamame (soy beans) 15 minutes before a Turbokick class. My body doesn’t react well to soy, especially not soy that is swallowed and then jostled around to aerobically remixed Hip Hop. Being of a generally inoffensive nature, I dutifully held it in. And watched my stomach expand like a hot air balloon. Which led me to…

2. Escape. Leave the immediate area - preferably to go somewhere well ventilated like outdoors - and then let ‘er rip. Be sure to walk around a bit or fan yourself with a newspaper so you don’t bring it back in with you. The problem with using escape is that a) you have to have enough time to get out and often gas erupts with little warning, especially that other thing and b) you have to have someplace to go. If you are deep in the bowels (forgive me) of a mega gym then your chances of finding someplace unpopulated quickly are slim. Me and my now-tight-like-a-drum belly tried to escape but the studio was surrounded by the cardio floor, weight floor and track. I’d have to go to an entirely different level to find an exit! Which led to my next option…

3. Cover it up. If you have loud music, like we do in Turbokick, then you’re golden. Belch, scream, sneeze, and even do the Happy Baby with impunity as nobody will know the difference. If you do somehow end up louder than the music you can always pretend it was part of the remix. No one will notice. If you don’t have loud music, like in yoga, a well-timed “cough” or giggle can cover a multitude of sins. Unless, of course, there is a smell attached. Soy bean farts, sadly, have a very distinctive smell thereby necessitating

4. Dispersion. It doesn’t matter if you failed the physical sciences in school, the laws of nature will still work regardless of if you understand them. And the one you want to invoke here is the law of particle dispersion. What you need to do is dilute the smell so that it dissipates quickly in the air but more importantly so people won’t be able to trace it to you. There are several methods of dispersion: the fan technique (generally too obvious although I have seen it done!), the wandering away technique (nice try but the scent usually follows you like the paparazzi on Jon Gosselin), and - my personal favorite - the jumping around technique. The latter requires lots of big movements in an effort to stir up the air and get some fresh stuff mixed in. The trick, of course, is to do it without letting on why you’re doing it. It’s a fine art and one that I’ll admit I’m still working on. Oh, but there’s one more little science factoid you need to know about dispersion: it doesn’t work well in an enclosed environment. Like a class studio. Oops. No matter how much I jumped and kicked and punched, the gas crept across the room like a putrid cloud. Which led to…

5. Accept and apologize. Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. Everyone in yoga is doing their (silent) centered breathing and your butt decides to go off like a machine gun on automatic followed up by a high pitched squeal and a pop like a firecracker. Or you’re trying this straddle move in the middle of the weight floor and you surprise all the meatheads around you with a Happy Baby incident. Or you ate too much soy and now the smell has people on the other side of class asking what died (true story). If you’re all adults then chances are most people will ignore the incident out of courtesy and while you will still be red faced, nobody will say anything. However, if you’re like me and the Gym Buddies, you’ll probably laugh. I can’t help it. I know it’s juvenile but it just comes out of me. And once the perpetrator starts laughing then who can resist a good chuckle? Last resort is to apologize. A sincere straight-faced “Sorry, dude, I ate soy for dinner” can go a long way. Plus it’s a small price to pay for a comfortably deflated stomach.

Although once you have reached this stage in the process you know that you’re never going to live it down, right?

Any of you have a patented gas technique? What’s your worst trigger? What’s your most embarrassing gasseous emission story? Anyone actually get down and try Happy Baby??