Health & Wellness

Yoga for Gut Health: Try These 4 Basic Yoga Poses for Better Digestion

It’s no big secret that yoga can be a great way to relieve stress. But did you know that yoga is actually an effective form of exercise for your whole body? One of the many reasons I love doing yoga is because it helps me to find calm and stillness. But because of the trouble I’ve had with digestive issues, I also love using yoga poses for digestion.

You may be surprised to learn that just a few simple poses can help you find relief from many different symptoms of digestive distress. So, let’s examine how yoga can help your digestive system and review a few easy yoga poses for digestion that will help provide you with relief (should you ever need it).

 

How Can Yoga Help with Digestion?

Research has shown that yoga has many therapeutic benefits because it helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. [1] As you may recall, there are two parts to the nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is the part that helps your body to slow down and relax. The other part of your nervous system is called the sympathetic nervous system, which speeds things up and is what causes the “fight-or-flight” reaction.

From helping to improve sleep, respiratory, and heart health to boosting flexibility, muscular strength, and mental health and relieving stress, yoga can support your health in many ways. [2, 3]

Many studies have also revealed that yoga can help to improve digestion.  Much of the research on yoga poses for digestion has focused on how yoga can help irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In fact, some results indicate that yoga poses and other techniques such as deep breathing and meditation can help to relieve both primary and secondary IBS symptoms. Studies have shown that yoga therapy led to improvements in digestive symptoms and pain as well as secondary symptoms such as anxiety and mood. [4, 5]

Another key aspect of yoga, deep breathing, has also been found to help the digestive problems caused by IBS symptoms. The combination of physical poses and breathing exercises can be used for an even deeper therapeutic benefit. [6] It’s great when you need to rest and digest!

People suffering from IBS struggle with bouts of constipation and diarrhea. Several research studies on patients with IBS show that using yoga for digestion and constipation and diarrhea can be beneficial. [7]

 

4 Yoga Poses for Digestion

I interviewed my friend, yoga instructor Heather Ballard, about the best yoga poses for digestion. Below, I’ve shared some of her top recommended poses that can help provide gentle ways to support your digestive system and ease some common digestive issues. Each of these poses can help improve digestion in a variety of ways; you really can’t go wrong no matter which pose you choose.

To get the best results, be sure to do these exercises at least once daily. Avoid exercising right after eating. This allows the body to send blood to the digestive system to process your nutrients. If you start to exercise right after a meal—like if you try to cram it into your lunch hour–the body will divert blood to the muscles and not your digestion. Including these poses into your daily routine can help you support your body by restoring its natural digestive process.

You can complete these yoga poses for digestion any time of day, for one 10- to 15-minute session, or even for smaller moments throughout your day. The goal is to calm the sympathetic nervous system output and focus on the parasympathetic activity.

As always, use caution if you have any health conditions or injuries. Speak with your healthcare practitioner first before trying any new exercises if you have any health concerns or if you are pregnant.

 

  1. Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)

Not only does this pose help your digestive system, but it’s also fun! Other names for Butterfly pose are “Bound Angle Pose” and “Cobbler Pose.” For this pose, sit on the floor with your legs bent and resting on the floor with your toes touching. “Flutter” your knees up and down a few times. This pose helps to stretch your hips, pelvic region, knees, and inner thighs. Because of the areas it focuses on, it’s great for relieving abdominal discomfort such as digestive and menstrual cramping. If you have lower back problems, sciatica, groin, or knee issues, avoid this pose. [8]

 

  1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Whether you’re dealing with digestive problems or not, Child’s Pose is a fantastic pose to find calm and relaxation. It’s often used in between other poses in a yoga sequence as a “rest” pose for good reason. If you find yourself dealing with constipation, Child’s Pose can be a useful pose to help find relief. It’s pretty simple to do as long as you’re not dealing with any knee, hip, or other mobility issues.

Sit on your knees and then gently lower your forehead and belly to the floor and place your arms alongside your body. Your body should be relaxed. Take a few deep in-breaths and exhalations. Let your tension go. [9]

 

4 Yoga poses to help digestion - Dr. Pingel

 

  1. Wind-Relieving Pose (Pawanmuktasana)

Wind-Relieving Pose does just what it says it does: It helps to relieve gas! For this pose, lie on your back with your feet together and arms alongside your body. Breathe in and as you exhale, bring your right knee towards your chest and gently press it towards your chest, a slight stretch.

Inhale again, and as you exhale, lift your head and chest off the floor and touch your chin to your knee. Take a few deep breaths. Then exhale and relax back to starting position. Repeat with left knee to chest. Then repeat and bend both knees into your chest. Feel free to rock back and forth a little while in a ball with both legs bent into your chest.  [10]

 

  1. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

If you practice yoga or you’ve been to a yoga class, you are probably familiar with your yoga teacher guiding you into Savasana or Corpse Pose. This pose is typically done at the end of a yoga class to allow the body to rest and relax and incorporate the physical, mental, and even spiritual wellness gained from the sequence. However, it can be done at any time to help quiet the body and the mind.

Because this pose allows the body to relax, it’s great for calming the nervous system and the digestive system. If your tummy is upset, this can be a great one to try. Basically, it’s like lying on the floor with intention. Start by lying flat on the floor in a neutral position. Rest your shoulder blades against the floor and your arms alongside your body. Keep your lower back softened. Close your eyes. Soften your jaw. Take several deep calming breaths. If you are pregnant or have any back problems, don’t try this pose. [11]

 

Key Takeaways

  • Not only can yoga help you to relax and relieve stress, but you can also use many yoga poses for digestion.
  • Four yoga poses to try if you’re having digestive problems include Child’s pose, Wind-Relieving pose, Butterfly pose, and Corpse pose.
  • If you are having chronic digestive problems, see your doctor. Also, use caution when trying these poses especially if you have any back or abdominal poses or if you are pregnant.

 

You might also enjoy: Why You Need to Eat Fermented Foods: Discover 4 Benefits of Fermented Foods

 

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