26 Jul Yoga for a strong digestive system
It is important to ensure you have a strong and healthy digestive system. Strong digestion leads to balanced weight, reduction of inflammation and improved resilience for your body. In our busy modern-day lives, however, it’s often the last thing we consider. We often think of digestion as primarily related to what we eat, but the truth is there are many other factors that might be even more important than what you’re putting in your mouth.
You may be familiar with the nervous system’s connection to the digestive system. You may also be familiar with the importance of slowing down to eat so that the parasympathetic nervous system can kick in to do its job of digesting and absorbing the vital nutrients from your food. Knowing this, from a holistic yoga perspective, we can influence digestion in several ways.
Constipation results in reduced bowel movement everyday. Sometimes people can go weeks without bowel movements, which leads to chronic constipation and long-term damage to the excretory system. I have been hearing about this discomfort for a long time but no one wants to talk about being constipated.
People have a tendency to think of constipation as a small disease. However, it is just the beginning of a major problem and can get worse over time. Action should be taken to overcome this problem. There are many artificial remedies available in the market but they have an adverse effect on your health.
Yoga is the best and natural way to overcome constipation and improve our Digestive Systems. It will not only help to cure constipation but also prevent it from coming back, if followed properly.
What causes constipation?
Cause of constipation may vary from person to person.
- An unhealthy diet can be one of the reasons that can cause constipation. In today’s busy schedules, people fail to get a proper diet. They eat junk and processed foods which do not have sufficient fiber that helps in digestion, resulting in dry and hard stools that are difficult to eliminate.
- People taking medication for calcium deficiency have been observed to experience changes in their bowel movements.
- Dehydration is the most common reason for constipation. Our body requires a certain amount of water to carry out daily functions. When we fail to fulfill this requirement, our intestine absorbs less water that results in hard and dry stools.
- Pregnancy can also be the reason for constipation as a result of hormonal changes. Pregnant women are more likely to have changes in bowel movements.
- Stress can be the cause of decreasing bowel movement. In stressful situations, people sometimes eat unhealthy diets, decrease the amount of exercise they perform, and drink less water, which cause constipation.
Symptoms of constipation
- Passing stools less than thrice a week
- Stomach ache
- Feeling bloated and nauseous
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Straining to have bowel movements
How yoga can help with constipation
Working out consistently is the best way to regulate your bowel movements. However, yoga can improve your mental as well as physical health.
If I have to describe yoga I’ll say it is an art of peace with physical benefits. Constipation is mainly caused by stress and irregular bowel movements. Practicing yoga regularly can help you feel calm and stress-free.
Simple meditation and deep breathing can contribute a lot in curing constipation. Yoga also helps us be more flexible. Yoga poses massage our digestive organs, increase blood flow and oxygen delivery, aid the process of peristalsis, and encourage stools to move through our system.
Yoga poses for constipation relief
1. Marjaryasana-bitilasana (cat-cow)
Bring your hands beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Inhale as you drop your belly button towards the earth and lift your heart and hips to the sky into bitilasana (cow pose). Spread your shoulders. Exhale as you round your upper back toward the sky, dropping your gaze to your navel and pressing your hands and feet into the earth in marjaryasana (cat pose). Continue for 10 rounds.
Breathing deeply in these poses will massage your organs as you alternately compress and lengthen the intestines, bringing fresh blood to the epithelial cells, which are responsible for healthy gut function.
2. Adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog)
Come into plank pose to set up your hands and feet. Place your hands shoulder-distance apart and feet outer-hip-distance apart. Then, use your core to press your hips up and back. To broaden your back, bend your knees slightly to lengthen your spine and spread your shoulders wide.
Use this downward dog to take deep breaths into your belly, pulling the navel up and in towards the back of your heart each time you exhale, to nourish your intestines.
3. Trikonasana (triangle pose)
Place your right foot forward into a low lunge and then straighten the leg. Move your left foot forward 6 inches and turn the foot at a 45 to 60 degree angle to the front of the mat with your heel flat on the earth. Rest your right hand lightly on your right shin or the floor and reach your left hand to the sky with your palm facing outward. Stretch the crown of your head forward as you reach your tailbone toward your left heel.
Hold utthita trikonasana for 1 minute and then move to pavrtta trikonasana before switching sides.
4. Parivrtta trikonasana (revolved triangle pose)
Release your left hand to the earth and level your hips by dropping the left hip down in line with your right. Keep your legs stable and strong as you lift your right arm with the palm facing away from your body.
By compressing and subsequently releasing the colon in this pose, you will stimulate the movement of accumulated toxins trapped in the body. For those with inflammatory bowel disease, Jean Koerner, yoga teacher and former co-owner of Be Yoga Studios, advises proceeding with caution in this pose, as it may cause unwanted wringing of the organs.
5. Uttana shishosana (extended puppy pose)
Get down on your hands and knees as if you were moving into cat-cow pose. Then keeping your hips where they are, walk with your hands forward. Release your head onto the floor or a block, and allow gravity to open your heart.
Uttana shishosana pose is especially useful for stretching the belly to relieve cramps after a large meal.
6. Setu bandha saravangasana (bridge pose)
Setu bhanda is a great back-bend pose for compressing the digestive organs, while simultaneously delivering fresh blood to the heart and relieving any fatigue that may be caused by poor digestion.
To enter this pose, place your feet flat on the floor as close to your sitting bones as possible. Exhale and press your inner feet and arms into the floor while stretching your knees forward. Take 10 deep breaths here, then slowly roll your spine down to release.
Modification: if your thighs get tired, place a block beneath your sacrum for a more passive back-bend.
7. Pawamuktasana (half gas release pose)
Look no further than the name of this posture—pawan (air/gas) mukta (release)—to discover its healing benefit. This pose compresses the ascending colon on the right side and descending colon on the left, stimulating the nerves to aid elimination. First, hug your right knee in toward the right side of your ribcage. Keep pressing your straight left leg into the earth as you clasp your hands around your right shin to pull it closer to the floor. Hold for 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat on the other side.
8. Supta matsyendrasana (supine twist)
From ardha pawamuktasana, release your right knee to the left, stretching your right arm straight out to the right. For a deeper stretch, use your left hand to gently push your right knee closer to the earth or take your left hand to your outer right foot and extend the leg straight out. Relish in this deep, releasing twist as long as it feels good.
Try a pre-meal pranayama practice.
It’s often overlooked, but it is incredibly helpful to take 5–10 minutes before meals to let your nervous system transition to eating mode.
This is especially useful if you’re at work, under a lot of stress or feeling intense emotions of any kind. The quickest way I have found in my own experience and with my patients is to do a simple pranayama technique to directly address this nervous system transition from stress mode (sympathetic nervous system) to digestion mode (parasympathetic nervous system).
Begin by turning away from your work and finding a comfortable seat. Close your eyes. Start deepening your breath to inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 4. As that becomes comfortable, slowly start to increase the duration of your exhalation a little bit at a time until you get to a 4-count inhalation and an 8-count exhalation. The key is to increase the duration of the exhale slowly so there is a sense of ease in your breathing. If that is not the case, you can remain at a 4-count inhale and a 6-count exhale. Once you make your way to 4 counts in and 8 counts out continue for 3–5 rounds. When you are finished, simply release the breath and breathe naturally for a moment, noticing the effects before you prepare to eat. Once you are comfortable with this process, it only takes a few minutes and over time your nervous system will adapt and become more familiar with it, making it easier and more effective.
Begin your meal mindfully.
We often plan our meals around social engagements, which is a great way to connect to those we love, but it can also be a distraction to the process of digestion and our ability to absorb the nutrients in our food.
In fact, much of our digestion begins before we even place the food in our mouth. Smells and thoughts send signals to our brain to prepare for what’s to come.
Practice this digestion-boosting pose between meals.
This digestion-boosting posture can help stimulate the digestive process. It is best done on an empty stomach between meals.
For this pose all you need is a blanket that you can roll up to be about 3–5 inches in diameter. To begin, place the roll horizontally across your mat and lay on the roll so that the blanket is underneath the soft part of your belly (between the ribcage and pelvis). Rest your head on the floor or grab a pillow. Begin by inhaling into your belly, gently pushing the roll away with your belly and as you exhale simply relax the belly and let the roll sink deeper into the abdomen. Continue for 2–5 minutes then slowly release. If this is too much and you want less intensity, just unroll the blanket a little to make the diameter of the roll smaller.
Practice this restorative pose between meals.
This restorative posture can help stimulate the digestive process. It is best done on an empty stomach between meals.
For this pose you will need two blankets folded into rectangles and placed on top of each other. Sit with your right hip next to the blanket and your knees stacked on top of each other. Place your forearms on each side of the blankets and lengthen out your torso before you lay down over them, bringing your head and ribcage to rest on the blankets. Turn your head in the direction of your knees and find a comfortable position.
Breathe deep and focus on the sensations of your body to go deeper and experience the therapeutic benefits of yoga. You can have it all! Breathe deep, smile and find what feels good!
“The more happier we are inside , the more happier we are outside.”Tiffany Cruikshan
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