To Your Belly With Love: Yoga Poses for Digestive Health

By Marta Swiezynska- Yoga Teacher -

I love my food and enjoy it at great length!

However, the truth is that despite being blessed with a vast capacity of my seemingly small stomach, with love for food and furious metabolism, I am mindful of what I eat and do care about how this system of pipes, hollows, drains, valves and waste removal works. Yoga practice helps me to observe and support that system in a way that is organic and tuned into what the body needs.

This short article could potentially evolve into a book. It would be a short book of how yoga practices can support healthy digestion. Or a really big book if we take into consideration how yoga postures and breathing can affect digestive tract, organs, bowel movement, hormones and how breathing practices can influence energy of digestion. Or volumes if we start thinking about all digestive problems that occur from bad diet, lack of physical activity/sedentary lifestyle, stress, allergy to certain food products and improper eating habits to name a few. But we are keeping it short. Short and sweet so it is easy, attainable and simple.

For that reason however, if you are suffering from any diagnosed condition related to your digestive tract, spine or heart, please consult your doctor before embarking any of the postures below.

This handful of selected practices can help with heavy stomach, acid reflux, gas, stomach pain and constipation. Many of the above are a result of accumulated chronic stress, tension and anxiety, in which case taking a moment to breathe or to slow down should be your starting point.

Cat Pose

1) Start on your hands and knees.

2) Inhale as you lengthen your spine (keeping it straight in the lumbar region with your core engaged), lifting your breastbone away from the belly button.

3) Exhale as you round your upper back, hollowing your belly, dropping your gaze to your navel and pressing your hands and feet into the earth.

4) Repeat 10 times.

Cat pose

Cat pose

Breathing deeply in these poses will massage your organs and compressing and subsequently releasing the intestines restores the flow of oxygenated blood to the epithelial tissues, which are responsible for food and water absorption.

Extended Puppy Pose

This pose is especially useful for stretching the abdomen to relieve cramps after a large meal. Also known as Heart Chakra, the pose helps to relieve chronic stress and tension while helping to treat insomnia.

Extended puppy post

Extended puppy post

1) Come onto your hands and knees as if you were moving into Cat Pose.

2) Then keeping your hips over the knees, walk your hands forward.

3) Place your forehead onto the floor and allow gravity to open your chest.

4) Hold the pose for 10 breaths and bring the sitting bones to the heels into Child’s Pose to release.

Bridge Pose

This pose has been shown to be beneficial for many conditions including digestive issues and lower back ache as well as promoting relaxation. It is a great backbend which invigorates the abdominal organs, delivers fresh blood to the heart relieving any fatigue that may be caused by poor digestion and stimulates thyroid gland to assist in regulating metabolism.

Bridge pose

Bridge pose

1) To enter Bridge Pose, lie flat with your knees bent and place your feet flat on the floor close to your sitting bones.

2) Exhale and press your inner feet and arms into the floor while lifting the hips up, peeling the lower and middle back off the ground.

3) Stay in pose for 10 deep breaths here, then slowly release by rolling your spine down.

Windbreaker Pose

This does what it says on the tin! This pose compresses alternately the ascending colon on the right side and descending colon on the left, stimulating the nerves to aid elimination.

1) To start, hug your right knee to the chest pressing the thigh to the belly.

2) Keep your left foot on the floor and the knee bent.

3) Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Windbreaker pose

Windbreaker pose and Supine twist

Supine Twist

The pose shown by the photo above comes easily after the windbreaker. Twisting movement helps to release (think “wring out”) accumulated toxins trapped in the body, while it tones and energizes abdominal organs.

1) With both feet on the floor and the knees bent, release your knees to the left, stretching both your arms straight out to the sides.

2) Stay in the posture for several minutes on each side, watching your breath until you feel the body softening into the posture.

3) At the end, hug the knees to the chest to neutralise the spine.

Shavasana

This pose is a panacea for all ailments, a switch that allows the “fight or flight” response to become a “rest and digest”. This pose of relaxation that counterbalances stress is all about becoming comfortable and still in the posture. It addresses the reason of physical and emotional discomfort, while alleviating the symptoms.

Shavasana

Shavasana

1) Hug the knees to the chest (this compression will stimulate transverse colon and will help elimination).

2) Then straighten your legs gently to the floor, walk your shoulders away from your ears and roll the arms away from the trunk of the body.

3) If your lower back is not entirely happy with the legs straight, bend your knees, or support the back of your knees with a rolled up blanket or bolster. Simplicity of this pose can be baffling, but all you do in Shavasana is be still, breathe.. and smile.

To your belly, with love.

 

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