So far, I’ve talked a lot about food on this blog. Yes, food is my passion, and I spend a lot of my time thinking about or preparing foods. I do do other things as well. And YOGA is one of them. I started practicing yoga in college when I was 20 years old. I actually took a yoga class for college credit at Sonoma State University. It was called the Psychology of Yoga. It sounded interesting, so I took it. Little did I know that it would start a life-long journey for me. This year will mark 20 years for me and my yoga practice. Over the years, I have practiced daily and then sometimes only once a week. But I always practice. It just isn’t always on my mat.
Once you begin on the journey of yoga, you realize that the work can be done in every day life as well. One thing that I have learned is that yoga makes my life better. I feel more grounded. I feel more relaxed. I feel less stressed. I feel stronger in my body. My body feels happier. I’m a better parent. And I am generally more pleasant to be around. What I also realize is that yoga is great for improving the digestion as well. Just like a full body massage relaxes and invigorates your physical body, a sequence of yoga postures can stimulate and heal your digestive system.
Your mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine make up your digestive system, with your teeth, tongue, salivary glands, liver, gall bladder and pancreas acting as accessory organs. Throughout the day your digestive system is ingesting food, secreting fluids, breaking down and digesting fiber, absorbing nutrients and defecating waste. This is when it is all working correctly. Many of us, however, suffer from indigestion, acid reflux, bloating, pain, constipation or diarrhea. A regular yoga practice can help alleviate these uncomfortable symptoms. Yoga poses such as forward bends and twists compress your abdomen to release gas. Practicing yoga also increases blood flow to your bowels and digestive tract, which can improve your digestion. It can also help you feel more relaxed and in turn relaxing the digestive system. Yoga also can help with eliminating waste more efficiently, reducing acid in the stomach, and strengthening digestive muscles.
And it doesn’t take a lot of time. As a yoga teacher, I like it when students come to class. But I always tell students that it’s better to practice 10-15 minutes a day at home than to come to class just once a week. It is long-term, sustained practice that heals the body. Taking just a few minutes a day to get on your mat can make a huge difference in how you feel. Either in the morning or in the evening, set aside a little time in a quiet place to get on your mat. The results are amazing. Not only will you feel more calm and grounded, but your body will start to unravel the stresses that we accumulate throughout our busy daily life. Here are a few poses that can help improve digestion. You can do them by themselves or add them together as a short yoga sequence. I would love to hear your experience with yoga and your belly…..
It’s as simple as that. Breathe in. Breathe out. Yogis use pranayama, or breathing exercises, to help them both activate their bodies and relax. Since many stomach pains (gas, bloating, indigestion, and heartburn) occur in part because air gets trapped in the digestive tract, practicing breathing can keep air flowing through your body more efficiently and smoothly.
CAT AND COW
Slow movement between these two poses makes a great warm-up for your practice and helps bring circulation to your abdominal organs. It also gently stretches the spine and helps relieve tension there that can disrupt good digestion. Breathe in as you press your shoulders back and lift your head up into cow pose, and exhale as you round your back into cat pose.
Spinal twists help to relieve stress from the entire torso, which will keep your digestive organs healthy. Your gastrointestinal tract gets a nice massage to help prevent sluggishness. For that reason, this pose is ideal therapy for constipation, gas, and bloating, but it’s not recommended if you suffer from diarrhea.
Bridge is another pose to stretch and stimulate the abdominal area. It brings your organs into alignment so that they can operate most efficiently. Bridge pose also stimulates the thyroid, an important gland for digestion and food metabolism.
One of the most widely recognized yoga poses, downward-facing dog is an all-over stretch that brings the body into alignment and relieves stress to aid with digestion. Since it inverts the torso, it’s not recommended for those suffering from nausea, heartburn, or indigestion; but downward-facing dog can help relax your gastrointestinal tract and become aware of your body as you’re eating.
STANDING FORWARD BENDS
Standing forward bend, also called big-toe pose, stimulates the liver and kidneys to help eliminate toxins that impede digestion. It also helps to calm the mind and relieve the stress that often contributes to stomach woes. Again, this is a pose that inverts your esophagus, so don’t try it with an upset stomach or if you have heartburn.