June 26, 2023 by Guest Blogger

A traditional practice that people have used for over a thousand years to connect the body and mind for good physical and mental health is yoga. For some, there is also a spiritual element. The practice combines gentle movement with breathing techniques and meditation. Yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system – or the rest-and-digest system. 

In considering digestion, the breakdown of food, we’ll also talk about related symptoms such as bloating, discomfort, and gas, as well as stool appearance and frequency. The communication system of biochemical signals and nerves that connect the digestive system to the brain is the gut-brain axis. Your digestive system can react to physical and mental stress with symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomach ache and changes in appetite. 

Yoga increases circulation and reduces stress 

Yoga may aid in digestive health in a few ways such as increasing circulation and encouraging physical movement of the gastrointestinal tract, along with reducing stress. For people with irritable bowel syndrome relief may be found in practicing yoga. Regular movement and reducing stress likely aids in calming the overactive sympathetic nervous system. People with inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease may also find help with symptom management, but it’s important to continue taking prescribed medications and consider yoga as a supplement.

Is yoga safe for those with digestive issues? 

Yoga is generally safe, though some people with health conditions should consult with their healthcare professional before beginning. It’s also a good idea to speak with your doctor if you are experiencing ongoing digestive issues. 

Yoga is a wonderful supplement to enhance digestion, and the benefits can be increased further by starting your day with a good stretch then eating right and starting your day with a wholesome breakfast. 

For quick and easy overnight oats check out this link — it’s also handy to have a backup plan or something to keep in your bag for on-the-go or if you’re working from the office. That’s where I love the blueberry cinnamon granola from Safe and Fair with some greek yogurt and berries. There are so many different positions in yoga, so which ones are most beneficial for digestion? 

Three yoga poses that may aid digestion and related symptoms

  1. Starting simple with a beginner move is the Seated Side Bend. This move stretches the lower and upper back, shoulders, belly muscles and obliques. The gentle stretch may aid in relieving gas and bloating, as well as helping digestion in general. Sit cross-legged on the floor, arms by your sides and hands touching the floor. Raise your left arm into the air and lean to your right gently. Place your right forearm on the floor, and slowly breathe in and out 5 times. Once that’s done it’s time to switch to your other side and mirror the stretch. 
  2. While seated it’s a good time to move into the Seated Twist. As the name suggests, the twisting motion may aid in bowel regularity and bloating. Start with both legs straight. Bend your left knee and cross it over your right knee (or thigh) and place your left foot on the floor, where it will stay during the pose. Gently lean on your right hip then bend your right knee (if you can). Now move your right elbow to the outside of your left knee and gently twist your trunk left. Move your left palm to the floor to the left of your buttocks. Gently twist your neck to look over your left shoulder. Hold this position for five deep breaths. Switch sides and mirror the stretch. 
  3. The Supine Spinal Twist increases mobility in the spine and stretches the lower back. It may relieve bloating and constipation, as well as aiding in general digestion. Lie on your back, bend both knees with your feet flat on the floor. Lift both hips gently off the ground by 1-2 inches then shift them an inch to the right. Lower yourself back to the ground. With your left leg straight out, take your right knee towards your chest. Gently twist to the left and bring your right knee above your left. Don’t force your knee down, let it rest over your left leg. Straighten your right arm and place it on the ground, vertical to your body. Hold for five deep breaths, then swap sides and mirror the stretch. 

Other stretches that may help aid digestion 

There are many other stretches that may aid in digestion. Knees to Chest massages the large intestine to encourage bowel movements. Cat-Cow is a combination of two classic poses and improves circulation, gently massaging your organs. Cobra pose stretches your belly muscles and helps general digestion. Bow Pose helps digestion and constipation by stretching your back. Belly Twist increases circulation and encourages gut peristalsis. Corpse Pose aims to achieve relaxation through meditation and controlled breathing. 

There are even more poses to try to help aid digestion such as:

  • Downward-Facing Dog Pose
  • Extended Triangle Pose
  • Revolved Triangle Pose
  • Extended Puppy Pose
  • Bridge Pose
  • Half Gas-Release Pose

Want to feel fit, healthy and give your body some love? Check out the free classes at The Yoga Collective https://www.theyogacollective.com/free-classes/ to get started.

Written by Jacob Mason