There are many dimensions to yoga. Some do yoga to lose weight while others might use it for muscle therapy and toning. Though yoga is a holistic spiritual practice in itself, you need not know or study it whole to benefit from it. The asanas or poses prescribed in yoga are designed to impact specific groups of muscles and organs. When done regularly, they bring balance and harmony to your body and its various systems.
Digestion is one of the most important processes that happen in your body. The food you eat is broken down into nutrients in the stomach and then goes through your small and large intestine where most of the absorption takes place. Your gut also has a complex community of microorganisms known as gut flora that help in the digestive process. The health of your gut is a direct measure of your overall health.
However, digestive issues like indigestion, cramping, bloating, constipation, and irritable bowels have become increasingly common because of the types of food people eat and sedentary lifestyles. There are several poses in yoga that can help both stimulate digestion and encourage bowel movement. Though practicing any form of yoga every day can be helpful, this list consists of 5 specific poses that have a greater impact on digestion.
1. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- Start by lying flat on your stomach with your chin on the mat and your hands resting at your sides.
- Exhale and bend your knees. Bring your heels as close as you can to your buttocks, keeping your knees hip-distance apart. Reach back with both hands and hold onto your ankles.
- Inhale and lift your heels up toward the ceiling, drawing your thighs up and off the mat. Your head, chest, and upper torso will also lift off the mat. Draw your tailbone down firmly into the floor, while you simultaneously lift your heels and thighs even higher.
- Lift your chest and press your shoulder blades firmly into your upper back. Draw your shoulders away from your ears. Gaze forward and breathe softly. Hold for up to 30 seconds.
- Exhale and gently lower your thighs to the mat. Slowly release your legs and feet to the floor. Place your right ear on the mat and relax your arms at your sides for a few breaths.
2. Headstand (Sirsasana)
- Coming to your knees, make a triangle with your hands placing them flush with the wall.
- Place the top of your head down on the yoga mat in between your hands.
- Take some of the pressure off of your head and into your forearms, pulling your shoulders away from your ears.
- Slowly straighten the legs, coming onto the toes.
- Push more of the weight into your forearms and shoulders, and use your strong core to lift the toes away from the mat.
- To come out of the pose, bend the knees first, then bend at the hips, slowly coming down to the mat.
3. Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)
- Start from all fours, bring your right knee forward and place it more or less behind your right wrist. Place your ankle somewhere in front of your left hip.
- Slide your left leg back, straighten the knee and point the toes. Make sure your leg is behind your body and not drawing outwards and your heel is pointing up to the ceiling.
- Draw your legs in towards each other to help keep your hips square. Gently lower yourself down and use some support under your right buttock if needed, to keep your hips level.
- On an inhale lift your upper body, come on your fingertips, hands shoulder width apart, draw your navel in, tailbone down and open your chest.
- On an exhale walk your hands forward on the fingertips and lower your upper body to the floor. You can rest your forearms and forehead on the mat.
- Stay here for 5 breaths or longer and on an exhale try to release the tension in your right hip. Balance your weight on both legs.
- Come out of the pose by pushing back through the hands and lifting the hips, move the leg back into all fours.
4. Plough Pose (Halasana)
- Resting flat on your back, place your palms on the mat beside you. Inhale, activate your core, and lift your feet off the floor until they’re at a 90-degree angle.
- Support your hips and lower back with your hands as you lift them off the floor. Continue to lift up as you hinge at the hips and rest your feet directly above your head.
- Press your toes firmly into the mat beyond your head and energetically press into your heels. Lift your top thighs and tailbone toward the sky and pull your inner thigh into the pelvis.
- Create space between your chin and your chest. If you’d like an additional shoulder opener, remove your hands from your lower back, extend them on the mat in the opposite direction, and clasp the hands. Press them down on you mat to lift the hips and thighs up even higher.
- To exit slowly and with control, place your hands on your back, hinge at the hips until your feet are high in the sky above your hips (90 degree angle), and slowly roll down vertebra by vertebra.
5. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
- Stand with your feet together. Line up your heels behind your second and third toes. Face your kneecaps over your toes. The weight should be even on each foot, from front to back and side to side.
- With your arms alongside your body, turn your biceps and palms to face forward. Align your neck so it feels long and even on all sides.
- Take a big breath in and lift your rib cage evenly away from your pelvis; exhale and hug in the sides of your waist to create lumbar (low-back) stability. Stay here for 10 breaths.