Our digestive system is a reflection of our emotional and mental health. It is sensitive to emotions – anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut. When you’re stressed, your gut knows it immediately, and you also might experience gastrointestinal upset or stomach pain.
Yoga asanas combined with breath work will not only take care of the digestive system, but also help to maintain a positive & healthy mindset. Kristen Butera in her article yoga therapy for digestive health said, “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. Once these materials are freed up, the body is better able to eliminate them.”
Here are few postures that will improve your digestive health.
Vajrasana or Thunderbolt Pose
How to: Vajrasana is one of the beginner’s pose that can be performed after meals. Kneel down, sit on your heels with your toes pointing out and big toes touching each other. Keep your head, neck and spine straight and place your palms on the thighs. Take long deep breaths and sit in this position for 10-15 minutes after meals and feel the difference.
Benefits: Vajrasana improves blood circulation in the lower abdomen, helps in the digestion of food and relieves flatulence. It strengthens the legs and thighs, and can also be performed during meditation and pranayama.
Contraindications: People suffering from slip disc, spinal problems should avoid this pose. Also if you are facing trouble with your feet, ankle and knees, its better to avoid this pose.
Pavanamuktasana or Wind-Relieving Pose
How to: Lie down flat on your back or in supine position. Inhale and as you exhale, bring the left knee towards the chest and rest the thigh on the abdomen. Wrap your hands around the knee and interlock your fingers around the left shin. The right leg remains flat on the ground.
Inhale and as you exhale, lift your head and try to touch the tip of the nose/chin/forehead to the left knee. Hold the pose for 5 to 7 breaths and while exhaling, first bring the head down, then release the grip and lastly, bring the left leg back on the floor. Perform the same steps with the right leg and then repeat the entire sequence with both the legs together.
Benefits: This pose massages the abdominal muscles and the intestines, thereby helping with digestion. It tones the stomach and is also great for people suffering from backache.
Contraindications: People suffering from high BP, hernia, heart ailments or slip discs and women after the second trimester of their pregnancy should not perform this pose.
Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend Pose
How to: Sit on the floor with your your legs straight in front of you and your buttocks supported on a folded blanket, if needed. Make sure your spine is straight and toes flexed towards you. Press the heels on the floor and contract the thighs. As you inhale, lift both the hands up, lengthen the spine and as you exhale, stretch forward, bending from the waist.
Always lengthen the front torso into the pose, keeping your head raised. If you can, hold your toes and pull them to help you go forward. Place the abdomen right above the thighs and if possible, touch your forehead to the knees or shins. Stay where you are for 5 to 7 breaths.
With every inhalation try to go deeper into the pose, but ensure your back is not rounded. To come out of the pose, inhale, lift your arms back up, exhale and come up in sitting position and lower the arms. Repeat this pose two to three times.
Benefits: This pose massages and tones the abdominal and pelvic organs, stretches lower back, hamstrings and hips. Improves digestion, relieves constipation and gastric troubles. Also, restoring mental health, it reduces high BP, stress and headache.
Contraindications: People suffering from back injury, knee injury or diarrhea should avoid this pose.
Ardha Matsyendrasana or Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
How to: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your left knee and place the left foot flat on the floor, over the right leg near the right thigh. Then slide your right foot near the left hip.
As you inhale, elongate the spine and twist from the torso (shoulders relaxed) towards the left side.
The entire right side of the abdomen will be pressed against the left leg, press the left hand against the floor just behind your left buttock, and the right elbow is placed outside the left knee.
Turn your head to the left side and stay for 5 to 7 breaths and with every breath try to go deeper in the twist. Release with an exhalation, return to the starting position, and repeat to the right for the same amount of time.
Benefits: Ardha Matsyendrasana massages the internal organs in the digestive system, along with the kidney and liver & enhances their performance, which further aids in digestion. It stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck, treats fatigue and also helps in relieving menstrual cramps.
Contraindications: Those suffering from back injuries should avoid this pose till they recover.
Malasana or Garland pose
How to: Squat with your heels pressed on the floor, as close together as possible. If this seems difficult initially, place a blanket underneath your heels for extended support. Inhale and separate the thighs wider than the torso. Exhale and lean your body a little forward.
Bringing your palms together in Namaste Mudra press either the elbows or the upper arms against the thigh to maintain a wider gap between the legs. This will help lengthen your front torso. Hold this pose for 5 to 7 breaths, and inhale to straighten your hands and stand up. Repeat this two to three times.
Benefits: Malasana improves the bowel movement as it works on all the muscles in the abdomen region (transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques) & creates pressure on the digestive tract. Opening the groin muscles along with the hips, this pose is great for pregnant women as well.
Contraindications: People suffering from knee injuries or knee pain should not perform this pose.
Halasana or Plow Pose
How to: Lie on your back with your arms on the side. Take a deep breath, tighten the abdomen and as you exhale press both the hands on the floor and lift the legs straight up at a 90 degree angle. Breathe normally and supporting your hips and back with your hands, lift them off the ground.
Allow your legs to sweep in a 180 degree angle over your head till your toes touch the floor. Keep your back perpendicular to the floor.
You may find this difficult initially, but make an attempt for a few seconds. Make sure you don’t strain your neck. Stay here for 5 to 7 breaths. Then slowly bring your legs down.
Benefits: Plow pose stimulates the digestive system and helps in strengthening the abdominal and back muscles. It is effective in weight loss as it enables healthy bowel movement, trims the waistline and also removes blockages in the intestines. It also calms the nervous system, reduces stress and fatigue.
Contraindications: Women during pregnancy and menstruation should not perform this pose. Also, people suffering from neck injury, back injury or high BP should avoid this pose.