Yoga For Digestion – Exercises that relieve bloating and pain
Relieve bloating, wind, stomach pain and poor digestion with these simple exercises!
We all know that food can either be medicine or poison, and that what we eat certainly can aid or hinder our digestive health. But what about the way we move? Can movement heal our gut?
Our digestive system responds greatly to activity. We’ve all learnt that inactivity can lead to poor digestion and even constipation. Did you however know that gas, bloating, indigestion and heartburn often is caused by trapped air in the gastrointestinal tract, and that some very simple movements can help alleviate the problems?
You don’t have to be any kind of expert to reap the benefits of yoga. Try our simple step-by-step exercises, and see for yourself!
Yoga can help increase gastrointestinal circulation, better food absorption and decrease gas. It will also help to relieve stress, which is a very potent contributor to digestion issues in its own right! Yoga couples exercise with rhythmic breathing, which not only relaxes the mind and body, but also teaches us to breathe from our bellies, thus supplying the body with the right amount of oxygen to replenish our vital organs.
The remedial benefits of yoga can be compared to that of a body massage, where the working and stretching of your intestines will increase healthy movement, blood flow and circulation.
Did you also know that yoga can help alleviate abdominal pain? Perhaps you can try the following poses the next time you’ve been exposed to gluten, rather than reaching for the painkillers? (See also 6 steps to faster healing – dealing with accidental gluten exposure)
This last week I have been lucky enough to work with Stine Hartmann, a Scandinavian fitness and yoga enthusiast. Not only is she incredibly skilled, she is also a brilliantly bubbly and positive person that I had tons of fun with! Stine has been featured in major publications on several occasions, and currently works for Norway’s largest teen magazine. She will be visiting Thank Heavens from time to time, to give you the best and latest in movement and exercise. This magazine article shows Stine at a Soul Cycle class in LA:
Needless to say, I am very excited to welcome Stine to the Thank Heavens team, and I can’t wait for our next project!
This week we have chosen to give you some simple yet very effective yoga exercises. If you dedicate a little time every day to do these very easy poses, you will quickly reap the benefits. It need not be complicated to be effective! All of the poses and exercises shown in this post are suitable for any level of fitness, and can be done in your own home without any special equipment. Don’t worry if you cannot get it perfectly right the first time. Give yourself some time to practice the poses, focus on your breathing, and grow into the movements day by day. Your tummy will thank you for it!
Later we will build on these exercises so that the ones of you who feel ready can incorporate a new level of movement.
These exercises are best performed in the morning on an empty stomach, so the best thing to do would be to set your alarm for a little bit earlier, and just enjoy some time to yourself before the day begins.
If you can, drink a cup of warm water before you start. Don’t hurry, and try to think of something nice during the workout. Eat a light breakfast afterwords, perhaps a smoothie (delicious smoothie recipes) or some fruit. Try to wait 15 minutes before you have a hot bath or shower after your exercises, making sure to let your body calm down.
Begin by sitting on your heals, relaxing your shoulders and neck and with palms meeting in front of your torso. You can put a folded towel or a yoga block between your legs to relieve any strain on your knees.
- Tighten your core by pulling your bellybutton in, feel a straightening of your spine and let your bum sit heavy on your heels.
- Close your eyes and inhale slowly, feeling the air fill your whole ribcage, and counting to 5.
- Exhale counting to 7 and let your chest sink slowly back into neutral.
- Repeat the exercise 5 times.
- Staying in your position, use your eyes to guide you, revolving slowly to the right and looking over your shoulder.
- Keep your bellybutton tucked in and your back straight to get a nice rotation of the spine.
- Hold and breathe slowly, counting to 7
- Return to center and repeat movement to the left.
- Extend your arms forward and lean your body downward onto the mat. Feel a lovely stretch.
- Try to place your bum onto your heels. If you can’t quite reach, just open your knees slightly, keeping your feet together.
- Breathe normally and relax your whole body
- Stay in this position for 30 seconds
The Cat Stretch or Marjari:
- Stand on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position. Keep your head in a neutral position, and make sure your hips are directly above your knees and your shoulders above your hands.
- Exhale as you roll your spine towards the sky, making sure to keep your shoulders and knees in place. Let go of your head and let it roll gently towards the ground without forcing it towards your chest.
- Inhale, release and move directly into the Cow Pose below.
The Cow Pose, or Bitila Asana:
- Keep standing on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position with your head in a neutral position, and make sure your hips are directly above your knees and your shoulders above your hands.
- As you inhale, lift your bum and chest towards the sky, whilst sinking your belly towards the ground. Lift your head to look straight forward.
- Exhale as you slowly come back to tabletop position.
- Proceed into the cat stretch, and repeat sequence 3 times.
The next exercise is called the “wind freeing posture” or Pavanamukta Asana
- Lie on your back
- Exhale, hug your knees and draw them into your chest as much as you can without forcing your body. Grab your own elbows while you keep your neck, head and shoulders completely relaxed on the mat.
- Roll the pelvis down towards the mat whilst pulling your knees towards you with your arms. Use your back muscles to push your sacrum downward, and breathe normally.
- Exhale as you lift your trunk up off the floor whilst touching your knees with your forehead. If you can’t completely reach your knees then simply go as far as you can without straining. With each out-breath you should be able to reach further.
- Stay in this pose for as long as it feels comfortable, the release slowly.
- Repeat 3 times.
The revolved triangle pose
- Stand upright (Tadasana pose), exhale as you place your feet apart by about 3 -4 feet. Raise your arms and gently reach out wide to either side, so they are parallel to the floor, facing your palms down.
- Turn your left foot so that your toes point forward, and move your right foot out to the side 90 degrees, toes pointing to the right, and knee cap aligned with your foot. Make sure your heels are aligned.
- Tighten your bum and activate your core by squeezing your bellybutton inward using your abdominal muscles. Focus on keeping your right thigh facing forward so that your bum doesn’t poke out behind you. Ideally your back and bum should be aligned and as straight as possible.
- Bend from the hip-joint (not the waist), exhale and extend down to the right. Press your left heel firmly to the floor to anchor the movement. lengthen your tailbone towards the back heel, keep your legs straight and rotate the torso to the left keeping the two sides equally long.
- Go only as far down as you feel comfortable with. Your level of flexibility can differ from day to day, and you should work in tune with your body. Stine shows the option of touching your shin, but you can lean down less or more as you please. The most important thing is to keep your back straight, bum tucked in, thigh facing forward and core turned on. It defeats the purpose of the exercise to lean over further but failing to move correctly. It is better to lean less and focus more on getting the movement right.
- Stretch your upper arm toward the sky, and try to gently gaze at your hand.
- Stay in this pose for 30 seconds before you slowly inhale to come up, pressing your heel into the mat and reaching to the sky.
- Repeat the pose on the reverse side.
Once you have done all the movements you can fall back into the Child Pose and just relax for a moment before you start your day. Repeat these exercises each morning if you can, as regularity will have a huge impact on the results.
“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured
and endure what cannot be cured.”
~ B.K.S. Iyengar
Although these are safe and easy exercises, it is important that you consult your doctor if you are suffering from a hernia, appendicitis, are recovering from surgery, or have any other conditions that may worsen with exercise.