Yoga for Digestion

Since integrating yoga into my daily routine I have noticed a real improvement in my overall health and well-being and I want to share this with you all.

Currently, I am learning about the digestive process on my Nutritionist Course and it is interesting to see the overlap between my studies and my yoga practice when it comes to digestive health.

To delve deeper into yoga and digestion, I have interviewed my yoga teacher, Rebecca Hersh at Laughing Lotus in San Francisco. If you are SF based then check out Rebecca’s upcoming yoga retreat and her site for upcoming events.

Here is a summary of our interview

How is yoga beneficial for digestion?
There are a number of reasons that yoga aids digestion as your mind and body are interconnected. The main ones are breathing, relaxation and posture.

  • Relaxation and breathing are important; when you are stressed your body goes into sympathetic mode, which is a stress response where digestion is inhibited so your body can focus on survival. For optimal digestion you need to be in parasympathetic mode, a more meditative relaxed state. In yoga, when you go into a deep state of relaxation often your stomach will growl as your body is able to focus on digestion.
  • Yoga poses help massage your internal organs and create good alignment for digestion.

What yoga poses are best for digestion?
Yoga in general helps your breathing and relaxation; the following poses are particularly good to aid digestion, as they help massage your internal organs and create the correct alignment of your digestive tract. It is important when you are doing yoga (especially when it comes to aiding digestion) that your breath focuses on full exhalations.

  • Downward facing dog (Adho mukha śvānāsana Adho mukha śvānāsana)
  • Inversions
  • Squatting (Malasana)
  • Forward folds, standing and seated (Uttanasana and Paschimottanasana). You can roll a towel/blanket and place it on your stomach. When you fold forward the roll gives your stomach a further massage, but this can often feel uncomfortable.
  • Mountain pose (Tadasana)
  • Twists: High lunge twist, revolved lunge twist, seated twist and supine twist.

What yoga poses are best for bloating?
The same poses for digestion are good for bloating, but you may find it uncomfortable and so a gentler version will be best. There are some other poses that can help bloating, but a word of warning; you may feel more comfortable at home as these poses may encourage the release of gas.

  • Supine twist – gentle side twist
  • Gentle forward fold (Uttanasana)
  • Bow pose (Dhanurasana)
  • Knee to chest pose (Apana Asana), take your knees into your chest one at a time and then together. This is actually what you do to babies who have trapped gas
  • If your bloating is period related then it is lower down and is the best pose (Supta Babakonasna)
Here is Rebecca in some of the stated poses

When is the best time to do yoga?
Mornings are better, before you have eaten but after a bowel movement. If you need to eat, have something light and easy to digest like a banana. Rebecca recommends having a hot water and lemon drink when you wake up to kick start your body and digestion.

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