During a recent conversation with my sister, I expressed that I had once again had had a bout of nausea triggered by, I suspected, unsettling emotions. I went on to recall my first reading of Jean-Paul Sartre’s La Nausee (Nausea) in college. His descriptions of existential angst and its accompanying physical manifestations were an eye-opening relief for me; feelings that had been seemingly unexplainable began to be untangled by this French author. The book also served as an early harbinger of my later exploration into the inextricability of body and mind; eventually, I would come to understand the omnipotent role of unseen spiritual force that governs the whole.
After my revelations, I heard my sister utter a sigh of recognition; she, too, had been having bouts of nausea. She had considered physical causes of the discomfort, but ultimately reckoned that emotions were the likely root of the problem. Certainly, the two of us have been wrangling with the same familial issue for more than a year; I suspect that the crux of the nausea is a lack of clarity, leading to our inability to make a decision; further, there is an overarching heavy-heartedness that the issue is upon us at all.
Mind you, nausea is an inarguable physical sensation, and certainly may arise from a host of physical concerns. In addition to “la nausee,” I have been prone to actual motion sickness my whole life: car rides, fair rides (even something as benign as a merry-go-round can rev up the feeling), turbulence, boat rides. etc. Dramamine was ever-present in my carry-on.
Enter yoga and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both modalities underscore the interconnectedness of mind and body, and both exalt spiritual energy in the mix of a balanced being. I first used a mudra and a qi pressure point to address physical motion sickness; later, I added techniques to calm and steady the Spirit. The combination of tending to physically generated nausea, and of guiding emotionally based dis-ease to a place of peace results in a multi-pronged approach to resolving “(e)motion sickness.”
Today’s Silent Sunday offering may be considered a kit of remedies for physical or spiritual nausea. First, I offer the two anecdotes that I have used many times when I know that nausea is the result of physical motion or illness. Typically, I call upon Pushan Mudra for such cases: On the left hand, touch the thumb, middle, and ring fingertips together; on the right hand, the thumb tip touches the index and middle fingertips. Lie or sit quietly with the mudra, breathing deeply, eyes closed, until the unpleasant sensation begins to dissipate. I have found relief in 1-3 minutes; repeat as often as necessary.
The qi point that I use when afflicted with nausea borne of movement is Pericardium 6. You may know that the pericardium surrounds and protects the heart; this is the first metaphorical link to the role of Heart—or Spirit—energy in feelings of nausea. To locate PC6, look at your open palm, and the wrist crease at the base of the palm. Place the first three fingers of the opposite hand on the wrist just below the crease, bringing you to a spot on the forearm about 2 inches below the wrist crease. At this point, apply thumb pressure directly between the two tendons in the center of the lower wrist/forearm point. Maintain pressure on PC 6 as you breathe deeply; if you prefer, you may inhale as you press, and exhale to release.
If you suspect that your vague nausea emanates from unresolved or complex emotions, I suggest a focus on Heart energy. The Heart works to maintain a calm, open Spirit; when discomfited, anxiety, insomnia, “heartburn,” and overall, low-grade unwellness may take root. In order to dispel nausea connected to an uneasy Heart, tap into the energy of the Heart 7 point, or Spirit Gate (Shen Men point). This is another point found on the wrist.
Again, look at your open palm; then, press into the wrist crease just below the base of the palm on the pinky (ulnar) side. I also find that tucking that edge of the wrist tightly into the crook of the opposite hand is very comforting and effective: For example, if you are working with Ht7 on the left hand, place the pinky edge of the wrist firmly into the web of flesh between the thumb and index finger of the right hand. Bring this configuration to settle in front of the solar plexus, left palm facing the body, and breathe deeply for as long as you like, eyes closed.
Finally, I suggest a side-lying posture, either stretched out or tucked in, like a fetal position. The introverted fetal pose may feel more secure if emotions are overtaking you and creating nausea; perhaps you would like to start in fetal, and begin to lengthen out as you sense the release of stagnant energy. If you intuitively select a left-lying position, it will help digestion and the Liver organ system; if you choose to lie on your right side, an overall calming effect takes place. Either choice feeds into the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is often referred to as the seat of “Rest and Digest” actions.
If lying on your side is uncomfortable, a bolstered version of Baby Pose or Seated Forward Bend can ease any remnants of nausea. Even if you are capable of the full pose without a prop, bolstering provides a deep feeling of support and comfort; nausea of any kind needs soft steadying, first and foremost. To that end, place a large pillow or cushy folded blanket between your torso and thighs as you fold into Baby Pose or Forward Bend. Breathe deeply, eyes closed; you may choose to activate a mudra or qi point from the options described above. Remain in the pose for as long as you like, helping to settle “la nausee.”