The next time your digestive tract has you feeling bloated and uncomfortable, grab a mat, get on the floor and try a few yoga poses.
Known to enhance physical and mental wellbeing, recent studies point to yoga as an effective practice for improving digestion and, more specifically, managing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Several studies published by the National Institute of Health have shown that people with IBS experience significantly fewer symptoms and report improved quality of life after participating in a yoga program for six months.
One of the best things about yoga is its accessibility. It requires minimal space or equipment, and there are a lot of in person and online class options. You can also practice on your own - no class required! In this post we are breaking down 5 easy yoga poses - also known as asanas - that support digestion. Each pose has both mechanical and systemic benefits. Poses that gently stretch, twist or compress your body stimulate the abdominal muscles and encourage stool or gas to move down the intestinal tract. When combined with deep breathing, the postures ease tension and reduce stress (which often trigger digestive discomfort).
To ease abdominal discomfort and maintain digestive health practice these asanas at the beginning or end of your day, or at least 2-3 hours after a meal. Hold each pose for 8-10 rounds of breath.
PAVANA MUKTASANA - Wind Relieving Pose
Strengthens abdominal muscles, releases tension in the digestive tract.
- Lie flat on your back with legs stretched out
- Keeping the left leg straight, draw your right knee toward your right armpit and into your chest.
- Check-in with your tailbone. Aim to keep it flat on the ground.
- Press the knee into your chest and take several long, deep breaths.
- Repeat on the left side and then with both knees.
- These three movements make one set.
Ardha Matsyendrasana - Seated Twist
Releases trapped gas and stimulates liver function.
- Begin seated with your legs extended. If your hamstrings are tight you may want to sit on a pillow or rolled towel so you can maintain a long spine.
- Place your right hand behind you while bringing your right knee to your chest.
- Take a big breath in and as you exhale twist toward your right knee
- Hook your left elbow around the right knee to deepen the twist.
- Breathe deeply as you hold the position for 30-45 seconds.
- Return to neutral, take a breath and switch sides.
Marjariasana - Cat Cow
Alternatively compresses and lengthens the intestines.
- Start on all fours with hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips
- Inhale slowly as you tip your tailbone up, release your belly toward the floor and pull your chest through your arms. Your spine is now in a gentle extension or arc.
- Exhale and push the floor away, creating a dome with your spine. Gaze toward your belly button.
- Repeat these two steps for 6-8 cycles with breath.
Balasana - Child’s Pose
Releases tension from the body and eases constipation
- Begin kneeling on the floor with your toes touching and knees wide.
- Press your hips back to rest your buttocks on the soles of your feet.
- Slowly walk your arms forward, draping your chest over the thighs as you lengthen your spine.
- Stretch the arms forward, palms down.
- Rest here for 8-10 cycles of breath.
Supta Matsyendrasana - Reclined Spinal Twist
Massages abdominal organs, strengthens spine and reduces constipation.
- Lie on your back with legs extended
- Draw your right knee into your chest and give it a hug.
- Extend your right long (think “T” shape).
- Place your left hand on the outside of your right knee. Take a full breath in.
- Exhale as you guide your right knee across your body and over to the left. You may need to shimmy your hips a few inches to the right.
- Turn your head to the right if it feels good.
- Relax and hold this pose for 6-8 breaths.
- Bring your right knee back to center on an inhale.
- Release the right knee and repeat on the left side.