Yoga Asanas for Better Digestion
We know that what we put in our bodies impacts our abilities to create, and how we carry ourselves throughout our day. The food we eat serves as our building blocks; our foundation for productivity, and is responsible for our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Although we strive for plant-based foods at the center of the table, sometimes life calls for a little indulgence. A night out with friends leading to one too many cocktails; a morning meeting treat with ultra gooey baked goods; a late night ice cream run with your bae...whatever the occasion, life’s all about balance.
And while it’s completely acceptable to indulge in something satisfying, sometimes those little sprinkles of decadence may invite a not so friendly feeling in our gut. Bloating, indigestion, gas, constipation, or IBS anyone?
Before you go poppin’ some Pepto or slurp on curious digestive tonics, give your yoga mat a roll out!
There are a host of yoga poses designed to help naturally remedy many of our digestive ailments. Give these asanas a whirl to reset and get yourself back on track:
Marjaryasana/Bitilasana // Cat/Cow Pose
Benefits: stretches the neck and spine, while providing a soft stimulation to the abdominal organs. It also opens up the chest, allowing you to breathe more at ease (perfect when you feel over-stuffed!).
How to: Come onto all fours, hands and knees. Stack your shoulders over wrists, while the hips are aligned over your knees. The legs are hips-width distance apart. Spread fingers nice and wide, gripping the palms down. Begin with cow pose by inhaling; sink your belly and lift up through your chest and tailbone, as you direct your head and gaze towards the ceiling. Exhale for cat pose, coiling and rounding your upper back, pressing it up towards the sky. Tucking your chin into your chest, activate your abdominal muscles as you coil in. Press the floor away with your hands. Repeat these movements with your inhales and exhales for about 7-20 times.
Paschimottanasana // Seated Forward Fold
Benefits: Stimulates the liver and kidneys, which helps the body detoxify. This in turn improves digestion, and also helps with relieving stress and calming the mind.
How to: Come to your seat, and extend your legs out long in front of you (dandasana). Sit up tall through your spine, hug your belly in towards your navel, and activate your legs by engaging the muscles and flex your feet by pointing your toes towards your face. On an inhale, sweep your arms up and overhead as you draw shoulders down the back. On an exhale, fold forward from the crease of your hips. The hands will come to the outer edges of your feet, but if your back rounds, continue to find more length with a straight spine and let your hands rest wherever they meet on your legs. Eventually, let your neck soften as the head drops down towards your legs. Breathe deeply for 8-10 breaths.
Marichyasana III // Ray of Light Pose
Benefits: Massages the abdominal organs, especially the liver and kidneys. Again, hello detox! This pose also stimulates brain activity, helping you think more clearly.
How to: Begin in dandasana, bend your right knee and place the heel of the right foot in front of your right sitting bone. Sit up tall, and flex your left foot and ground the left hip down to make sure both sitting bones are rooted. Place your right hand a few inches behind your right hip, and press down into the floor. Extend your left arm up towards the sky on an inhale, and then as you exhale hook your left elbow outside of your right knee. Have both frontal hip points remain facing forward as you twist your chest towards the right, finding an easy gaze beyond your right shoulder. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Apanasana // Energy-Freeing Pose
Benefits: As it’s name also translates into “wind-relieving pose,” this one’s pretty self explanatory. When held long enough, it’s been known to help relieve gas, constipation, menstrual and abdominal cramps.
How to: Lie flat on your back, and hug your knees into your chest. Your hands can hold onto the tops of the shins or the backs of your thighs. Rest your head and shoulders on the ground, or prop them up onto a blanket. Hold for 1-2 minutes.
Salamba Sarvangasana // Supported Shoulderstand
Benefits: Inverts the blood flow from your peripherals, drawing the blood back to center and re-setting the system. Helps with digestion, and also relieves stress and depression.
How to: Come onto your back, and hug knees into chest just like apanasana. Place the feet hips-width distance down on the ground, and place a block (either at the lowest or medium height) underneath your sacrum. Moving from supported bridge, float your legs up into the sky. Press through the balls of the feet and flex your toes. Arms can rest by your sides, while the head rests on the floor. Draw your chin away from your chest to give the front of the neck space to breathe. Hold here for at least 5 minutes if you can! You’ll feel refreshed and energized after.
*Photo: Hans Feurer, Vogue 1977