Yoga for Digestion
Digestive upset? Gas? Constipation? Bloating? These Yoga poses can help!
Not only will it relieve a wide range of symptoms, but will assist in managing digestive diseases and boost energy and vitality.
Whether you’ve eaten the wrong thing or too much, are feeling stressed or suffer something more severe like IBS or Chrons disease, we have all experienced digestive problems during our lives.
In the Ayurvedic and Yogic tradition, the state of our digestive system can create health and vitality, or be the root cause of disease. In this tradition, the metabolic energy of digestion is called Agni, and the key to health is to keep this burning strong. When this fire is burning strong, it breaks down dense physical matter into nutrients, vitamin etc. that the body and mind require to function. When it’s weak, it creates toxic build up, leading to disease.
An easy way to support digestive Agni and therefore create balance in the body and longevity is through Yoga.
How does Yoga help in Digestive Health?
With a combination of deep breathing, twisting and stretching, the asanas (postures) support digestion in many ways.
The asanas coupled with conscious breathing and the emphasis of drawing the navel into the spine and expanding on the breath is like giving your internal organs a massage. This increases circulation and energy in our vital digestive organs such as the liver and pancreas. This aids in the release of the digestive enzymes such as hydrochloric acid, bile, pancreatic enzymes etc. which supports us in breaking down food efficiently, minimising reflux, bloating and wind.
Asanas support peristalsis (the movement of food through the digestive tract), creating good eliminations and encouraging the body to cleanse toxic materials from the tissues and cells that accumulate through weak digestion, wrong diet, and unhealthy lifestyle.
Yoga is also extremely beneficial in helping one of the main reasons for digestive issues in the first place which is: stress. The ancient yogis understood that excellent digestion is key to radiant health and sought to understand the mind-body connection. All of the tools practised in Yoga (asana, pranayama, meditation, etc.) together reduce the stress response of the body, rebalancing the autonomic nervous system. When we are constantly in a stressed or anxious state (a flight or flight response), your body is unable to relax and digest properly. Yoga soothes the sympathetic nerves system supporting us to move to a parasympathetic nervous system state which helps us to digest.
By practising the following yoga poses, you’ll get everything flowing in harmony again on the level of the mind, and body, so you can move through life with a happy belly.
Yoga poses that Support Digestion
The following yoga practice incorporates poses like forward folds, which help massage and stimulate the internal organs; twists, which support the detoxification pathways of the body; conscious breathing, which helps boost circulation and supports digestion too.
Hold each post for 10 deep breaths or up to a minute if it feels good. Breathe deeply through the poses.
You can practice these poses daily to manage chronic digestive issues, or use them after a meal or whenever you have any gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, cramping, reflux, bloating to find relief.
Seated side bend: Parsva sukhasana
This pose gentle encourages a stretch of the abdominals, creating space and supporting digestive, assimilation and elimination. Creating space between the iliac crest and the lower ribs on one side as you close the area on the other does wonders for the organs of the digestive system: stomach, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder, as well as all aspects of the colon.
- Sitting in a sukhasana (comfortable or easy pose) – a simple crossed legged posture
- Inhale and raise the right arm, then exhale and take the right arm over to the left side, bending into
- a stretch.
- Keep the hips grounded and breath deep.
- As you inhale, return to the upright position.
- Repeat on the other side.
Half Lord of the Fishes pose: Ardha Matsyendrasana
This pose stimulates the digestive fire – Agni. It gives your vital organs a squeeze, encouraging gentle detoxification.
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you in Dandasana (Staff Pose)
- The left knee draws into the chest, left foot placed on the floor outside your right knee.
- Keep the right leg straight, toes flexed, or draw right foot in towards left sit bone.
- Ground down your hips to the earth
- Left hand moves behind (in line with the centre of your sacrum)
- Inhale, wrap your right arm around then left leg – drawing the left knee into the right armpit. Lift your spine straight out of the pelvis.
- Continue the twist of the torso by turning it to the left – looking over your left shoulder.
- Hold for 10 breaths, gently sink deeper with every exhale. Unwind and repeat on the other side
Beneficial to remove gas and bloating. This pose gently stretches the abdominals and massages the internal organs to encourage the movement of food through the stomach and creating correct elimination. This relieves stress, gas, and bloating.
- From a seated position, make your way to tabletop, with your hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips, tops of the feet flat on the floor.
- As you inhale, draw your navel to the floor, look up to the ceiling as you lift the heart and hips to the sky.
- Exhale, round the upper back, draw navel to spine, tuck the tailbone, place the chin to chest, gazing towards the navel.
- Continue this movement on each inhale and exhale for 10 breaths. As you inhale, lengthen the spine and look up, as you exhale, draw everything into the centre.
- Let the breath guide the movement and create one continuous flow.
Extended Puppy Pose: Uttana Shishosana
This pose is especially useful for stretching the belly to relieve cramps after a large meal.
- Start in tabletop pose – with your hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips, tops of the feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping your hips where they are, walk your hands forward. Release your head onto the floor or a block and allow gravity to open your heart.
Also known as ‘Wind Relieving Pose’ as its one of the best poses to alleviate bloating, distention, pain, colic and gas. Apana in the Yogic tradition means vital force moving outward. Apana, therefore, helps the body expel toxins and waste. Its also a powerful pose for relieving stress, mild depression and anxiety.
- On an inhalation, slowly bring both knees to your chest. Wrapping your hands around your knees and giving them a hug.
- Hold for 10 breaths. If you like you can lift your head to meet your knees for a deeper stretch.
One Leg Wind Relieving Pose: Ardha Pawamuktasana
Pawan (Air/Gas), Mukta (Release) – the name says it all! The pose compresses the ascending colon got the right side and descending colon on the left. This compression encourages the gentle release of built up gas, simultaneously stimulating the nerves to aid elimination.
Hug your right knee in toward the right side of your ribcage. Draw the spine down towards the earth.
Keeping the left leg straight.
Hold for 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat on the other side.
Supine Spinal Twist: Supta Matsyendrasana
This pose rinses your internal organs and restores energy. Twists alleviate sluggish digestion and boost metabolism.
From Ardha Pawamuktasana, on an exhale breath, drop your right knee over the left side of your body and keep your left hand resting on your knee.
Stretching your right arm straight out to the right, turn your head to the right, relax.
For a deeper stretch, use your left hand to push your right knee closer to the earth gently.
Hold this pose for 1 minute or as long as feels right.
On an inhale breath, slowly come back to the centre, bring both knees into your chest and repeat on the other leg.
Bridge Pose: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
This backbend compresses and stretches the digestive organs and delivers fresh blood to the area to strengthen digestive function.
Start in savasana – lying on your back.
Bend the knees, place your feet flat on the floor as close to your sitting bones as possible. Feet are hip width apart. Place your arms by your side, palms facing down.
Exhale and press your inner feet and arms into the floor while stretching your knees forward – Lifting the hips and the belly button up to the sky and come to rest on your upper back – creating a bridge shape with your body.
Take 10 deep breaths here, then slowly roll your spine down to release.
For more information or to book an health consultation or private yoga class, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Tegan Wallis
Holistic Health Practitioner.