Yoga combines various spiritual practices and techniques that unify the mind, body and spirit in an effort to attain enlightenment and unification with the universe.
It is a discipline that uses breath control, meditation and a series of poses to achieve universal oneness. However, becoming one with the universe isn’t all that yoga can do for you.
Yoga is a popular form of exercise that promotes weight loss, relaxation, healing and help with mild to severe digestive problems. Apparently, meditation and all those weird twists and bends can make your digestive system start working for you.
How Yoga Improves The Digestive System
Stress can really wreak havoc on your digestive system, causing a variety of illnesses and digestive disorders, including indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and celiac disease.
When your body is under stress, it activates a natural defense system known as “fight-or-flight” response in the central nervous system. According to The Body Soul Connection, “blood is shunted away from our digestive tract and directed into our muscles and limbs.”
This action keeps the digestive muscles from properly contracting, thus preventing food and the fluids and secretions required to aid in digesting from moving through your body. After the stimulation of the “fight-or-flight” response, your body needs to relax and recover.
Benefits of Yoga Exercises
Yoga exercises can help your body recover from fight-or-flight response known as survival mode. According to an article written by Kristen Butera and published by YogaLife Institute, “Yoga poses work on the soft tissues of the body, like a hand gently squeezing a sponge.
When the organs of the digestive system are compressed in poses, stale and waste-bearing fluids in those areas are encouraged out of the tissues.” When your body releases these materials, it can dispose of them better.
The poses massage all organs affiliated with the digestive system, activate the digestive muscles and increase the involuntary contraction and relaxation of the intestine muscles known as Peristalsis. Even yoga breathing exercises can improve the digestive system by aerating the cells with oxygen and allowing nutrients to enter.
You can’t avoid stress because it’s at work, home, school and in your everyday activities. However, yoga exercises can help you undo the negative effects that stress inflicts on your digestive system.
1. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
Get down on your hands and knees (table position). Ensure your hands are flat on the floormat under your shoulders, while your knees are lined up under your hips.
With your head and heart pointed upward, inhale as you lower your belly to the floormat and push your tailbone upward. Your back should be arched. This is called the “Bitilasana (Cow Pose).”
As you exhale, gently lower your head down, tuck in your hips and press your hands against the floormat so your elbows are straight and your upper back and shoulders are rounded. This is called the Marjaryasana (Cat Pose). Repeat 10 to 20 times.
The Cat-Cow Yoga poses works your intestines and digestive organs. According to Yoga Journal, “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. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Get into the table position and tuck your toes under. Walk your hands out in front of your shoulders with your palms and fingers spread. Then, press your hands into the floormat and raise your hip upward.
Your head should be down and you should be able to see your feet. For beginners, you can keep your knees slightly bent. However, if you’re comfortable enough, you can straighten out your hamstring and your knees until your heels touch the floormat.
To unleash the key benefits of this pose, you have to master its breathing techniques. Inhale to completely fill your lungs and belly. Exhale, pulling in your abdomen to your back. Hold the pose for one to three minutes. Complete two to five rounds, as comfortable.
The Downward-Facing Dog Pose can relieve the annoying feeling of bloating and tension trapped inside your intestines.
3. Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
Stand with your hands on your hips. Spread both legs apart. Turn your right foot outward and slightly turn your left foot toward the right. Ensure your legs are straight and both heels are aligned. Tighten your thighs and keep your hands on your hips so you can keep track of your movements.
Start to lean your right side toward your right thigh bone. Lower your right hand from your waist and hold your shin or rest your hand on a yoga block. Let your breath circulate through your body. Raise your left arm firmly to the sky with the palm facing out. Spread your collar bone and breathe.
Gaze forward or turn your head toward the sky. If you have a neck injury, gaze forward instead. Hold pose for one minute and perform two to five rounds, as comfortable.
The Extended Triangle Pose can stimulate your abdominal organs, improve digestion and can help alleviate stress and anxiety.
4. Revolved Triangle Pose (Pavrtta Trikonasana)
Place your hands on your hips. Spread your legs far apart. Turn your right foot outward and bring your left foot in about 45 degrees. Both heels should be aligned. Make sure your right and left hips are pointing to the right. Inhale, as you raise your left arm toward the sky.
Exhale, as you reach down – without bending your legs – to touch your right shin with your left hand or balance on a yoga block. Inhale, as you straighten your torso. Then exhale, as you turn your shoulders, ribs and abdomen to the right. Raise your right hand toward the sky. Keep your head facing right, or turn it to down to the floor.
Lengthen your left leg and make sure your heel continues touching the floormat. Hold for one minute and perform three to five rounds, as comfortable.
You should perform the Revolved Triangle Pose after the Extended Triangle Pose. It can deliver the same benefits to your digestive system.
5. Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Assume the table position. Keep your hips in the same position, but exhale as you walk your hands to the front of the floormat until your chin touches the floormat or a yoga block.
Press into your hands, extending your elbows. If your shoulders feel uncomfortable, put your elbows on the floormat. Hold the position for one minute. Repeat two to five rounds, as comfortable.
The Extended Puppy pose stretches your belly out. It can relieve stomach cramps after a large meal.
With the above five yoga exercises, your digestive system will surely appreciate the newly adapted routine and thus your well being will increase.