Yoga is a practice thousands of years old. This form of exercise elongates and strengthens the muscles, supports healthy joints, burns fat and increases flexibility. What it can also do is help improve digestion to relieve common symptoms like gas and bloating, stomach pain and heartburn.
Why Try Yoga?
Are your pants extra tight after a meal? Are you regularly reaching for antacids? You may not have considered yoga for digestion before, but it really can contribute to digestive health in multiple ways, such as:
- Stimulating circulation
- Massaging the internal organs
- Aligning the spine
- Relaxing the gastrointestinal tract
- Stretching tight muscles
All of these effects on the body can mean reduced pain and discomfort and a flatter, less puffy abdomen. It may also help with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), as noted in the International Journal of Yoga. You'll experience these benefits not only after eating, but throughout the day.
How to Use Yoga for Better Digestion
Making yoga a regular part of your routine is beneficial on so many levels. In order to reap its digestive benefits, you have to first consider timing. Try it first thing in the morning to open up the body for the day or practice after a meal -- just be sure to give your stomach some time to settle after eating (up to one hour) to prevent additional discomfort. Aim for at least 15 minutes of yoga and work your way up from there.
Now, let's talk about poses. You want to choose a series of postures that is soothing and gentle, but also appropriately challenging. These exercises should stretch and contract the abdomen in multiple ways to reduce gas and get the digestive system moving. There are our seven favorite postures for improved digestion:
- Bridge -- Begin lying on your back. One at a time, bend your knees at 90 degrees so your feet are flat on the floor, hip-distance apart. Push the hips up in the air and hold.
- Seated Twist -- Sit with a tall spine and your legs straight out in front of you. Bend one leg and cross it over the other so your foot is flat on the floor. Twist your torso toward the bent leg and hold.
- Butterfly -- Sit with your legs bent so the bottoms of your feet are touching and your legs are open, like butterfly wings. Hold right here with a straight spine or slowly bend forward and hold.
- Camel -- Kneel on both knees, spaced as wide as your hips. Bring your hands to the small of your back and begin to arch your back to stretch your abdomen.
- Downward Facing Dog -- Bend at the waist so both feet and both hands are on the ground, forming a triangle shape with the body. Push back on your heels and straighten the spine.
- Open Triangle Twist -- While standing, bring one foot forward into a wide stance. Bring your arms out straight at your sides to 90 degrees and gently twist the abdomen toward the front leg. Lower the body down toward the ground, bringing the opposite hand to foot and hold.
- Forward Fold -- Stand with feet hip-width apart. Slowly bend forward, keeping the legs as straight as possible. Let the spine round as you reach for the floor and hold.
Remember to breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth throughout each movement, holding each posture for at least 15 seconds. You can repeat these postures as many times as you like and add more of your own, depending on how you feel.
More Tips to Prevent Indigestion
There are some tried-and-true ways to change up your diet to help prevent indigestion. Consider these options to keep your gut happy:
- Eat food slowly -- chew one bite about 20 times before swallowing.
- Make sure your diet includes plenty of fiber, which binds with waste within the body to remove it comfortably and regularly.
- Add a probiotic supplement to your routine to protect the health of the gut.
- Reduce stress and anxiety that can upset the gut.
- Add more ginger to your meals, which can reduce indigestion.
Give yoga a try to help with your digestive issues and experience the whole-body benefits. Check back tomorrow for more health news!