QUESTION: I am a yoga practitioner and teacher. Having gone through a full hysterectomy almost one year ago, I can not say enough about how yoga is helping me stay centered and calm the challenges that come over me sometimes. It has given my own body the chance for natural self-healing without any modern medicine. I am so grateful for that. My confidence was lost for a while, but is now returning, thankfully.

I have Hepatitis C, and was wondering if could you please suggest any qi movements to help shift "old wounds" in the body? I’m about to make new changes in my environment in the fall, so my liver is talking to me. It feels a bit heavy at times because I am doing something that my body doesn’t like: changes.

ANSWER: So wonderful that you have your practice as an ally to heal the trauma that you have undergone. Any body centered practice is a powerful adjunct to the healing that the bodymind needs to undergo. Obviously be gentle with yourself as you go through this change.

I obviously can not give you medical advice without actually examining you, but there are several things I have found helpful for liver conditions over the years that I will share with you. Let me start by putting on my clinical cap:

In terms of Hepatitis C, which is so prevalent right now, having annual blood work and an ultrasound of the liver is important to keep abreast of what is going on. I understand your stance against modern/allopathic medicine. It is a powerful tool for acute trauma/infections, etc., but is sorely lacking for chronic issues. At the same time, its strength does lie in clinical diagnosis and, as such, can be useful here. So, finding a physician that works with complementary medicine or a naturopath can be helpful in order to do those tests to see what physical shape the liver is in. The liver is an amazing organ, in that it can self-heal more than most, given the proper attention.

On a nutritional level, sugar, fried and processed foods as well as alcohol do severely affect the liver, so stay clear of those, as I am sure you already are. Green lightly-steamed vegetables are excellent in all forms, as are small amounts of fresh green vegetable juices. Digestive enzymes with meals are good to make sure the digestion is complete and taking pressure off the liver. Also, beware of cooking in iron pans: high iron is contraindicated for liver health. A liver cleanse using nutritional/supplemental support is also desirable. Many times without such support, and using diet alone, much of the toxins are reabsorbed by the body.

Supplement-wise, a high potency daily milk thistle supplement is crucial. There is much research on this and it has no side effects. UltraThistle by Natural Wellness is one I use myself. Keeping Glutathione levels high is also crucial, but since this substance does not do well in the digestive tract, the precursors of NAC and alpha lipoic acid are readily available and quite useful. Again, I recommend that you work with a practitioner familiar with supplements to get the appropriate dosing for your situation.

As an energetic structure, the liver is prone to disturbances from stress more than most organs. The term “livery”, where a person is agitated, is connected to this link. Remember that chronic thinking is the biggest stressor - which, in turn, leads to shallow breathing. As such, any form of daily relaxation/meditation/exercise does wonders. Deep breathing is helpful, as stress leads to shallow, irregular breathing. Pranayama is useful, and since the liver tends to run “hot” energetically under stress or viral attack, cooling breathing exercises, such as Shitali, are helpful.

In terms of qi exercises, the Six Healing Sounds meditation is a powerful tool addressing the main internal organs. Mantak Chia has some clear material regarding its practice. These types of practices are best learned from a practitioner, so that one gets clear direction. There are practitioners that have studied his techniques spread across the country.

Any emotional work is also important. Whether accessing this through therapy or the myriad of techniques available nowadays, releasing old emotional junk helps lighten the load on the liver, literally.