Yoga Your Way To A Healthy Gut

| Fitness

pain in stomach

When you think about fitness and exercise, a healthy outward appearance becomes a top priority; however, when you work out, you are actually doing some wonderful maintenance on the inside. This is especially the case with yoga, a physical practice that emphasizes breathing, body positioning and blood flow. Yoga also helps the mind and body connect, ultimately relieving stress and reintroducing control. Unfortunately, when people feel stressed, the digestive system is one of the main punching bags (think ulcers, pancreatitis, bloating, indigestion, nausea, constipation and more). Take a look at these yoga poses that will specifically improve the function of your gut.

1. Seated Cat-Cow: These two positions are often combined and usually performed on all fours. By coming to a seated position, you can stay upright as you relieve tension in the spine and lift the chest. Think of it as an assist to peristalsis, the wave-like muscle contractions that move food through your gut. See more on the move here.


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2. Savasana or Corpse Pose: Most practices end with this pose, lying on your back with your palms up and completely relaxed. It provides a stillness, releasing tension from places you didn't know you were storing it. By being completely horizontal, the blood flow isn't challenged by gravity and can easily flow straight through the gut, from head to toe. Learn more about it here.


3. Legs Up on Wall: Lie on the floor and scoot your hips close to the wall. Send the legs straight up, so they're stacked over the hips. Bring the arms out to the sides like a "T" with palms on the floor. You can even roll up a towel or use a yoga block under the tailbone for a little boost. It gives you the same benefits as an inversion (going upside down) would, like improved blood flow to the superior blood vessels and moving fluids with a little push. See more on this pose here.


4. Chair Pose: Stretch and strengthen the spine while you stabilize through the legs and core with this pose. On the inside, you'll tone the digestive organs and promote detoxification. Add a twist by bringing the hands together, elbows out, and rotating only the upper body to one side, pressing the lower elbow into the legs. See more on the chair pose here.

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5. Seated Twist: Any time you can perform a supine twist or wringing of the backbone, take advantage. This reverse movement helps you to fully exhale while squeezing out toxins. This pose should be held in one direction for about 30 seconds, or five good breaths. Try this move if you're constipated or feeling bloated (and make sure to avoid these foods). Get details on this pose here.


6. Apanasana or Knees to Chest: Lie on your back and lift the legs toward you. Grab the knees with your hands and pull them close to your chest like a hug. With every exhale, pull them a little bit closer. This is also known as the "wind-relieving pose" and often mimicked on babies with gas.

Knee to Chest-apanasana
(Photo: Photo Courtesy Athleta)

7. Bridge Pose: This moderate inversion utilizes the gluteal muscles to lift and lower, firing off an SOS for energy. With an increased blood flow and a pull toward the tummy and chest, this pose stimulates the thyroid and helps align the organs. Exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower. See more on this movement here.


8. Open Triangle Pose: Depending on your flexibility, try this pose to shake things up. Notice the foot positioning and rotation of the torso. You'll release pressure on the colon as you twist open and can even compress it by maintaining your stance as you twist the chest open to the other side. Respect your limits. Try using a yoga block to rest your hand on if you can't reach the floor.


9. Pranayama: This is a vital part to your practice: breathing. Take a moment anywhere to sit down, lift the chest and open your lungs. This control of breath is a force of energy that your body can use to replenish itself while calming the systems and resetting order. Many people add the fingers over the nostrils to emphasize intake and output. For now, use deep breaths through the nose and full exhales out of the mouth.


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