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Photo by Christine Hewitt
March 30, 2017

Some of the best parts of traveling—seeing new terrain by plane, train, bus, or car; changing your diet in order to try new foods from different cultural cuisines, and living in an entirely new place (possibly unsure of where you'll find your next pit stop) are unfortunately also some of the things that can leave you with a clogged digestive system while you're away.

The gut is sometimes referred to as the "second brain," or the enteric nervous system, which is said to be in control of your gut independently of your brain. Your tummy can tell when you're away from home, and if that creates constipation and bloating, soon you can start to feel increased stress and depression too.

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I'm sure that's not the way you want to spend your vacation! If you already practice yoga regularly, you're probably familiar with the digestive benefits of poses like happy baby and twists. These poses, as well as the ones listed below, become even more important when you're traveling. A combination of the right yoga moves along with plenty of fiber and water are key to keeping your gut healthy and happy throughout your vacation.

Start with these four moves before and during your travels to help keep you flowing while you're traveling. For best results, do them an hour or two after a big meal.

1. First, get to know your abdomen.

To help with constipation, it's important to understand the shape of your large intestine (or colon). You'll want to move starting from your ascending colon, across your transverse, then down your descending to help most effectively with your elimination. So let's begin by locating those areas.

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Lie down on your back and rest your palms on your abdomen. Take slow, deep breaths here and bring to mind the shape of your large intestine: It's similar to a large horseshoe with the top of the horseshoe below your front ribs. Lightly take your hands to the lower right portion of your abdomen (slightly "in" of your hip bone).

Trace a line up to the upper right side of your abdomen (just beneath your right front ribs). This line traces your ascending colon where your waste has entered from your small intestine. Then continue straight across to the left upper corner of your abdomen (just under your left front ribs). This is your transverse colon.

For the third section, draw your hands straight down to the lower left portion of your abdomen (this is "in" of your left hip bone, this time slightly closer to the midline of your body). This is your descending colon, where waste finally goes to sigmoid colon (the curvy part just before your rectum) to release.

Make a few more gentle circles—like a light self-massage—tracing your fingers from the beginning of your ascending colon, across the transverse, down the descending.

2. Wind-relieving pose

Yep, really! This pose is supposed to help get that "wind" out of your system, so find a spot (away from other tourists) where you can relax and release. Let 'em rip!

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Start on your back and bring your right knee into your chest, hold it in firmly so you can feel a compression on the right side of your abdomen (where your ascending colon is). Take eight deep breaths here.

Extend your right leg up to the ceiling and then slowly lower it down to the floor. Now bring both knees into your chest; similarly hug both knees tightly in (compressing your transverse colon). Take eight deep breaths here. Keep your left knee into your chest and release your right leg down to the floor. Hold this knee in (addressing your descending colon on the left side of your abdomen) for eight breaths, then extend your left leg and lower it to the floor.

3. Deep-breathing spinal twist

Every breath you take can help massage your internal organs. Plus, in these twists you'll again be able to compress and release your ascending and descending colon.

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Bring your right knee into your chest and guide it across your body until you are in a spinal twist. Open your right arm out to the right and rest your left hand on your abdomen. As you inhale, feel your body (and belly) expanding, and as you exhale allow your right shoulder and knee to come closer to the floor.

Concentrate on relaxing the right side of your abdomen and imagine that your breath is massaging your ascending colon (which runs along your right side). Take eight slow breaths and then do the same thing on your left side for your descending colon.

4. Potty squat

This pose is the best way to give your body the signal that it's time to go. People in many cultures even poop like this. Why? Because squatting aligns the rectum and allows the surrounding muscles to relax, for quick, easy, complete elimination.

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Start standing with your feet a little wider than your hips, feet slightly rotated externally. Bend your knees to let your hips lower down,* and place your elbows on the inner part of your knees and bring your palms together at the center of your chest. Let your hips descend, simultaneously lift your chest up toward your hands, and broaden across your collarbones. Take eight deep breaths here and let the muscles around your pelvis and rectum relax.

*If you're unable to put your heels on the ground, roll up a towel and put your heels on the towel and your toes on the ground. If this isn't suitable for your hips or your knees, sit on something slightly higher (like a yoga block or short stool).

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Elyse Sparkes
Elyse Sparkes

Elyse Sparkes is a fitness coach, personal trainer, and yoga teacher living in Brooklyn, NY. She helps people add fitness into their lives with ease, balance, and kindness. As a former professional dancer, she was stuck in a never-ending under-eating → over-exercising → binging cycle. And worse, beating herself up about it every second of the day. After incorporating mindfulness and yoga into her own approach she now works virtually 1:1 with clients and develops online video programs to help other people blend fitness mindfulness to live in their most positive, joyful, confident bodies (without any shame, guilt, or stress)! Join Elyse with these free stretch breaks to un-slump your computer posture at www.elysesparkes.com.