Healthy Gut, Healthy You
If you're still recovering from the holidays, then you're like most people as we venture into a new year. One thing that may have been an indulgence for you over the holidays may have been a lot of eating. This may have resulted in some weight gain, upset stomachs, and compromised digestion. Did you know that yoga can actually help with digestion? If you're wanting to have better gut health, here are 9 yoga poses that can help with healthy digestion.
There are variety of yoga poses you can practice that can assist digestion. Some categories of postures include Twisting Postures, Abdominal Conditioning, and Back bends/Side bends.
1. TWISTING POSTURES
Engaging in twisting postures in yoga can stimulate good blood flow and internal organ manipulation for efficient digestion. When you twist, you are rotating the trunk of your body. This will certainly affect your liver, kidneys, intestines, and stomach in a positive way.
1.1 Seated Twist
A basic twisting posture to start with is a Seated Twist. You can do this sitting on the floor with your legs crossed or even sitting upright in a chair. Be sure your spine is fully extending as you sit tall in your seat. Take a full inhale to help lengthen your spine. Also, place your right hand behind you on the floor at the base of your spine with your left hand on your right knee. As you exhale, gently rotate to your right. You do not need to twist too far to activate the benefits of the pose; even a minor rotation will be sufficient. Once you have engaged the twist, hold it for 10 to 20 breaths, then unwind to a neutral position. Be sure to practice the pose on the other side.
1.2 Revolving Side Angle Pose
This is a standing lunge yoga posture that targets several parts of the body, but you can practice it as a twisting pose to help with digestion.
You can start this posture in a runner's lunge position: right foot forward with your left leg behind you. Both of your hands can rest on the floor on either side of your front foot. You can practice this pose with either your knee on the ground or with it lifted. While keeping your left hand on the floor, inhale and extend your right arm forward. This will help create a full length in your spine. When you exhale swing your arm up into the air toward the ceiling. This will create the desired twist in the torso. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths before releasing. Practice the posture on the other side.
1.3 Spinal Twist
One more twist to practice can be done on the floor or even in bed. This is a nice one because you can do it after you've eaten and before going to sleep.
Lie down flat on your back; hug your knees toward your chest. Be sure to keep your back mostly flat on the ground when you hold your knees. You want to maintain a good length in your spine before performing any twist. Gently take your knees over to the left side and extend your right arm to the right side. This will create the twist. You can hold this posture for up to a minute since you're in a more relaxed position. Like the other rotations, you are stimulating the internal organs that can help with digestion. In particular, your kidneys and intestines are affected for necessary blood flow and eventual elimination. Practice the twist on the other side, too.
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2. ABDOMINAL CONDITIONING
Another set of yoga postures that can assist with efficient digestion are abdominal stretches. The lengthening process of this particular muscle set is great for increased blood and oxygen flow. This is conducive to faster more efficient digestion of your bodily system. A feature of these postures is that you'll be lying on your stomach; the added pressure in the front body can aid the digestive process.
2.1 Cobra Pose
This yoga position is actually a mild backbend, but it can create a lengthening sensation through your lower and mid-abs. Start the pose lying on your stomach with your legs extended behind you. Place your hands underneath your shoulders. (Your elbows will point upward toward the ceiling.) Grip the mat with your finger tips and gently pull yourself forward. At the same time, press into the floor enough to lift your head and upper chest off the floor. There is no need to lift any higher. This is Cobra Pose. It will create a mild backbend, but as your stomach connects to the floor, it applies a pressure and stretching feeling that can help with digestion. Hold the posture for about 10 breaths.
2.2 Seated Forward Bend (with a Pillow or Bolster)
As a counter pose to your Cobra Pose backbend, you'll want to allow your abdominal and stomach region to relax. A good posture is Seated Forward Fold. Using a bolster or pillow lying across your legs will actually assist further digestion. Come to a sitting position with your legs extending out in front of you. Inhale to lift your arms into the air to help lengthen your spine. As you exhale, proceed to fold forward over the bolster. This will not only produce a stretch in your back, but it creates a light compression in your belly to maximize blood flow in this area. Hold the posture for 10 to 20 breaths.
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3. BACKBENDS / SIDE BENDS
Backbends in yoga are considered heart-openers, but due to the nature of the position, you are also opening the whole front side of the body. Further, it stretches the abdominal region and lifts the diaphragm which has a direct effect on your internal organs responsible for digestion.
3.1 Bow Pose
This is another backbend, but it is more dynamic than Cobra Pose. It is called Bow Pose. The name references the bow of a "bow and arrow." Your body forms the shape of a bow in this backbend. Start the posture lying on your stomach with your legs extended behind you and your arms down by your side. Bend your right knee to bring your right foot close to your back side. Grab hold of the foot or ankle with your hand. If you have the flexibility, do the same with the other foot. (You can also do this pose one leg at a time.) If you're able to hold both feet, feel your chest lift up and forward. Further, lift your feet toward the ceiling; this will create a very dynamic backbend. Your stomach and pelvis will be pressing into the floor. This will help to achieve that massage-like sensation in the lower abdominal region to encourage healthy digestion.
3.2 Fish Pose
Something less intense is Fish Pose. It is a backbend, but there is more lengthening and stretching involved in this yoga position. Lie on your back to begin this posture. Extend your legs in front of you on the ground. Bring both arms underneath your body. You'll end up lying on both arms while you sit on your hands. You may need to squeeze your shoulder blades together in order to get your arms in the proper position. Now, press your elbows into the floor to raise your upper body; imagine you were living up in a reclining chair. Tip your head back so the top of your head rests lightly on the floor. This will create the elongated backbend. Your chest will be the highest point in the pose. Keep your legs engaged by pointing your toes. In this milder backbend, you target the front and back sides of your body; this stimulates a stretch and quality blood flow throughout your system.
3.3 Bridge Pose
Another backbend to add to your routine is Bridge Pose. It carries the same benefit as the other backbends mentioned: energetically creating a cooling in the body, lifting the diaphragm, and extending the abdominal region. Bridge Pose, though, can be done with a little more support with props if needed. Come to your back to begin the posture. Bend your knees and plant your feet firmly into the floor. Press into the ground to lift your hips. Slide a yoga block or bolster underneath you to sit on. This keeps the pelvis lifted, but keeps the body relaxed while holding the backbend. It allows the front body to stretch to relieve any tension in the abdominal region. This helps to facilitate digestion; when you're tense, it is more challenging for the digestive system to function properly.
3.4 Triangle Pose
This is a standing yoga posture that has several benefits. When practiced, it stretches the sides of the body, lifts the diaphragm, and lengthens the top portion of the stomach to enhance digestion.
Come to a Warrior 2 Pose with your right foot forward and left leg behind you. The front knee will be bent while the back leg remains straight. Your upper body will be facing the left wall. Extend your arms out over your legs parallel to the floor. To move into Triangle Pose, lengthen your front left; both legs will be straight for the duration of the posture. Extend your right arm forward creating an angled upper body. Rotate your arms so that your right arm reaches down toward your straight front leg and the left arm reaches for the ceiling. Keep your upper body opened to the side of the room. In this posture, you create the described intentions for efficient digestion.
If you're needing assistance with this bodily system, try some of these yoga postures to generate positive results.
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