Is your busy lifestyle leaving you with a host of niggling digestive disorders? Does an odd spot of overindulgence throw your tummy off gear? Poor appetite, low energy, constipation, acid reflux can all be signs that your digestive system is functioning below par. While it’s always good to get professional medical advice, you can also look at natural ways to help your body. Yoga therapy, with its ability to tone, strengthen, and relax, also benefits our internal organs and helps them function optimally. Try a few simple yoga poses for digestion and feel the difference.
Harness Agni Or Digestive Fire Through Yoga
According to ayurveda, agni or digestive fire is the force that comprehensively regulates our living bodies. It breaks down not just what we eat and drink but everything else we ingest from the environment, eliminating waste and metabolizing what the body needs. Our appearance, physical strength, energy, and ojas, the vitality which puts a spring in your step and a glow on your face, all this and more are determined by agni. Agni also keeps diseases at bay. In modern parlance, a comparable, though less evocative term for agni would be metabolism. When agni is weak, say through bad eating habits or lifestyle factors, our digestion takes a hit.1
Yoga actively helps the function of agni and can benefit the digestive process in many ways:
- Yoga improves blood flow to the digestive organs.
- It can stimulate agni to increase our appetite.
- Yoga stretches manipulate and tone abdominal muscles, improving their ability to move food efficiently through the digestive tract. This also helps regulate bowel movement, prevents constipation, and keeps fat deposits in check.
- Specific yoga poses help to revitalize the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, spleen, and intestines, thereby enabling the body to beat back a host of digestive disorders.
- Yogasanas help the body eliminate the toxins that get stored in our bodies due to poor dietary choices, unhealthy habits, and stress. 23
While a regular yoga regimen can help all your bodily functions, the following asanas are especially useful when it comes to digestion.
Ardha Matysendrasana (Seated Half Spinal Twist): To Improve Digestive Movement
Abdominal twists like the ardh matysendrasana stimulate metabolism and massage internal organs such as the liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and colon, thereby improving blood circulation and bowel movements. It also relieves constipation.45
- Sit on your mat with your legs stretched out.
- Bend the right knee, cross your right foot over the left thigh.
- Bring your left arm around your bent knee, slowly turning your chest toward the right.
- Support yourself with your right hand, placing it palm down near your back, fingers facing away from your body. You will now feel the twist in your upper spine.
- Hold your head and neck straight up and gaze over your right shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Return to starting position and repeat on the other side.
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose): To Tone Abdominal Muscles And Stimulate Digestive Organs
- Lie flat on your stomach, feet slightly apart, and arms extended downward.
- Fold your knees upward, reach your arms back, and hold your ankles firmly with your hands.
- Inhale, lift your chest off the ground, and pull your legs up and back.
- Look straight ahead and take long, slow breaths.
- Hold this taut pose for 15–20 seconds (less, if you don’t feel comfortable).
- Let go of your ankles and gently lower your legs and torso, coming back to starting position.
- Relax completely for several minutes after dhanurasana.
Pavanmuktasana (Wind Relief Pose): To Release Trapped Gas And Other Toxins
This asana presses down and massages the ascending and descending colon, stimulating blood flow to the digestive organs. The compression helps to relieve gas trapped in the abdomen. Pavanamuktasana can be a part of your daily yoga routine. Additionally, this is a good pose to perform after a heavy meal, if you’ve overindulged yourself and are feeling the consequences!89
- Lie flat on your back.
- Inhale deeply, drawing up your bent knees toward your chin.
- Slowly lift your head off the ground and bring it forward until your chin touches your bent knees.
- Wrap your arms around your legs, hands meeting at the shin area. Your legs should be gently pressing the abdomen.
- Hold this position, inhaling and exhaling deeply.
- Now, return your body to the ground and relax.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend): To Stimulate Blood Flow To Digestive Organs
Uttanasana improves digestion by compressing the abdominal region and stimulating blood flow to the digestive organs. It is also a deeply relaxing pose.10
- Stand with your feet slightly apart, feet firmly anchored on your mat.
- Inhale deeply, extend your arms skyward, then exhale s-l-o-w-l-y as you bend forward and down. If possible, let your hands reach the floor and rest on the mat.
- Your head, neck, and upper body should be completely relaxed. Breathe deeply with eyes closed. Stay in this position for 30 seconds to a minute.
- After a few breaths, put your hands on your hips, and inhale and rise up slowly. Feel the stretch in your abdominal muscles as you come up.
Shalabhasana (Locust Pose): To Tone Abdomen And Strengthen Digestive Organs
The locust pose tones the abdominal region and solar plexus, with particular benefit to the kidneys, pancreas, and liver. It helps resolve any digestive malfunctioning and strengthens the bladder.11
- Lie flat, chest down, on the ground.
- Place your palms under your thighs or facing up at your sides.
- Exhale, tighten your abdominal muscles and lift both legs off the ground, as high as you are able. Your body weight should move toward the chin.
- Let your arms remain anchored to the ground, supporting the pose.
- Hold the pose for a minimum of three breaths, a few more if you can.
- Focus on your solar plexus and taut abdominal muscles.
- Slowly lower your legs to the ground and bring your arms back to normal position.
Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose): To Ease Digestion And Fight Stomach Issues
The thunderbolt pose helps the body overcome hyperacidity, indigestion, constipation, gas formation, and ulcers. It also helps to improve weak digestion. Practise vajrasana daily after a meal to ensure that your food is well digested. Avoid sitting in vajrasana if you have stiffness in the feet, ankles, or knees or if you have a slipped disc.1213
- Kneel on your mat and lower your back to rest comfortably on your bent legs.
- Your feet should ideally be close together.
- Place the open palms of your hands one over the other on your lap.
- Close your eyes, relax and focus on your breath. Some teachers recommend visualizing a thunderbolt of glittering diamonds running down the spine filling your body with its radiance and power.
- Hold the vajrasana pose for 3–5 minutes.
Keep These Yoga Dos And Don’ts In Mind
- Practise these poses regularly every morning on an empty stomach to aid digestion. The vajrasana and pavanmuktasana can be done after a meal as well to aid digestion.
- Get a good night’s sleep so that you are fresh and alert while performing yoga. Remember, not getting a restful night’s sleep can wreak havoc on your digestive system too.
- Avoid performing digestion-related asanas if you are suffering from hyperthyroidism, diarrhea, or recovering from hiatal hernia or abdominal surgery. Sciatica, menstruation, and pregnancy are also conditions under which these asanas are contraindicated.
- If you are new to yoga, consult your physician before attempting the asanas. Enrol in a good yoga school and incorporate these asanas into your routine under the guidance of a qualified instructor.
|↑1||Heyn, Birgit. Ayurveda: The Indian Art of Natural Medicine and Life Extension. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co. 1990.|
|↑2||Yoga asanas for good digestion. The Art Of Living.|
|↑3||Gupta, Durgesh, and A. C. Kar. “CONCEPT OF AGNI–AN AYURVEDIC REVIEW.” International Ayurvedic Medical Journal.|
|↑4, ↑10||6 Post-Feast Yoga Poses to Help Your Digestion.The Chopra Center.|
|↑5||Yoga Exercise for Constipation and Gas Problem. The Art of Living.|
|↑6||PANDE-BHARGAVA, Navodita. Yoga: The Oriental Healing. Partridge Healing. 2014.|
|↑7||Dhanurasana – bow pose. Art of Living.|
|↑8||6 Post-Feast Yoga Poses to Help Your Digestion. The Chopra Center.|
|↑9, ↑11||Belling, Noa. The Yoga Handbook. New Holland Publishers. 2008.|
|↑12||Ajmera, Ananta Ripa. The Ayurveda Way: 108 Practices from the World’s Oldest Healing System for Better Sleep, Less Stress, Optimal Digestion, and More. Storey Publishing. 2017.|
|↑13||Vajrasna – Adamintine Pose. Art of Living.|