Updated: Feb 26, 2021
When your digestion is off, it can affect your whole day. Yoga can help boost your digestion, regulate your bowels and decrease bloating. I know – this is often way too uncomfortable to talk about – but keeping digestion issues hidden can make you feel miserable. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a group of symptoms in which people experience bloating, abdominal pain and discomfort. IBS is the most prevalent gastrointestinal disorder in the world. It’s also often associated with other conditions like anxiety, depression, headaches, and fatigue. In this study, yoga was examined as a therapy for IBS. Going on previous studies that have shown that stress highly correlates to IBS makes yoga a helpful way to manage symptoms. Stress has been shown to be related to many gastrointestinal diseases including acid reflux, peptic ulcer disease, as well as IBS. Clinical trials on IBS patients have shown abnormalities in the function of their autonomic nervous system, leading to increased sympathetic activity compared to healthy controls. The relaxing and calming effects of yoga can provide a short time-out from stress and help regulate the nervous system. By calming the nervous system, we allow for more efficient digestion to take place. When the body stays stuck in the sympathetic nervous system for too long, it pulls all available energy and resources to survival. This allows for you to get moving in the case of a threat but takes energy and resources away from the organs of digestion. Healthy nervous system balance includes time to “get going”, as well as plenty of time to “rest and digest”. Yoga can help eliminate constipation, decrease gas, reduce acid, and improve absorption of food. Here are 7 yoga poses to help support your digestive system:
1. Cow Pose
Come into a hands and knees position, with your hips directly over your knees and your shoulders directly above your wrists. If your knees are uncomfortable, place a folded blanket crosswise in the middle of your mat to cushion your knees. Now, evenly spread your palms and fingers, and press your hands into the floor. As you inhale, gradually arch your spine into a backbend shape. Start by moving from your pelvis, lifting your tailbone and sitting bones up as your pelvis tips forward over your leg bones, relaxing your belly and lower back down, and lifting your chest and head forward.
2. Puppy Pose
Come onto your fingertips with both hands far out to the front and a little wider than your shoulders. Place your knees on the ground and send your sitting bones back and up. At the same time, let your chest melt toward the ground and create length in the side body. Move the pelvis further back and lift your armpit up but let the chest sink down. Maintain this pose for a few breaths then release and come into a table-top position.
3. Supine Twist
Lie on your back with your knees up and feet planted on the ground. Twist to your left, and let your knees both fall to the left. Extend both arms out to your sides. Turn your head to the right and relax for 10 breaths. Switch sides.
4. Childs’ pose
Come to all fours, sit back on your heels with your knees hip-width apart and your palms on the thighs. Lower your torso toward the thighs while your arms stretch overhead, and the forehead and palms rest on the floor. Finally, bring your arms back to your sides, palms facing up.
5. Downward facing dog
Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under. Draw your shoulders away from your ears and lift your sitting bones high. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Roll the upper thighs inward slightly.
6. Wind relieving pose
Lie on your back with your feet together. Breathe in and as you exhale, bring your right knee towards your chest and press the thigh on your abdomen with clasped hands. Repeat this pose with the left leg and then with both the legs together. You may rock up and down or roll from side to side 3-5 times and then relax.
7. Bridge pose
Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor – hip width apart. Bring arms to the side of your body, palms down. Press your feet into the floor, inhale and lift your hips keeping the knees hip width apart. Press into your arms and shoulders to lift the chest and engage the legs to lift your hips higher. Hold for 4 breaths then lower down on an exhale.