Proper digestion has the ability to make or break one’s holistic wellness. Digestion is the nucleus of our energy regulation, and we don’t operate well when we're feeling sluggish, bloated, or queasy. Optimal digestion leads to regular elimination, which is the body’s natural way of flushing out toxins and waste. At the risk of TMI, let’s just say that without regular elimination we're left in a very yucky, heavy state!
As yogis, we know especially well how uncomfortable it is to practice when full, bloated, queasy or constipated. So here are three simple, easy ways yoga can improve your digestion.
Apanasana, knees hugged to belly, is known as the “wind-relieving pose.” Hugging the right knee into the belly massages the ascending colon, while hugging the left knee in massages the descending colon. Try this simple pose for improved digestion:
Come to lie on the back. Settle into your yoga mat or wherever you are. Place your feet to the floor, directly beneath the knees. On an inhale, take your hands to your knees. On an exhale, hug the knees comfortably to the belly. Only hug in a comfortable amount. Stay here for 5-10 full breaths.
(Optional: follow with hugging one knee in at a time, first the right and then the left).
We’ve all heard yoga teachers say, “Twisting aids digestion.” It used to go in one ear and out the other, until my own yoga teacher training. Compressing the colon in specific ways (right to left) can really aid in digestion. Detoxifying twists can stimulate the movement of those toxins that accumulate in the body and help usher them out.
Move from apanasana into a simple spinal twist. Hug the knees in gently and take an inhale. On the exhale, drop the knees to the left, compressing the right side of the body. Turn the head to the right for a nice neck stretch. Stay for at 5-10 full breaths. On an inhale return the knees to center and repeat on the other side.
Balasana, Child’s Pose, compresses the abdomen and massages the internal organs. Similar to apanasana, this pose stimulates the digestive system.
From lying on your back, hug the knees in once more. Roll to your right side, using the right arm as a pillow for the head. Take an inhale and, on the exhale, use the top arm to push up to seated. Come to kneel on the knees and sit back onto the heels. Bringing the knees comfortably wide, fold over the legs and rest your forehead on the floor. Either place the hands back by the feet or stack them under the forehead as a little pillow. Deeply inflate the lower belly against the upper thighs with each breath in Balasana, and remain here for 5-10 full breaths. On the last inhale take your hands to the floor beneath your shoulders and, on your exhale, press up.
If you’ve ever suffered from indigestion, irregular elimination, food allergy symptoms (basically, if you’re human!), you could benefit from these digestion improving yoga postures.
Practicing yoga is excellent at generally increasing one’s physical awareness, which can lead to more mindful eating and, thus, better digestion.
With that, digestion Namaste: the holistic wellness in me bows to and recognizes the holistic wellness in you!