Many people know that practicing yoga supports mental health, but few know the benefits of yoga for digestive health. Adding yoga to your health and wellness routine is a natural way to help improve your GI system and could help alleviate GI symptoms associated with specific conditions.
Yoga is thought to help improve GI health through specific poses and breathing techniques that stimulate the digestive system and promote blood flow. Below, explore how you can use yoga to support a healthy digestive system and improve any uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
Poses That Stimulate Digestion and Relieve Bloating
To support a healthy digestive system, consider adding these poses to your yoga routine. These poses are thought to help stimulate digestion and improve GI symptoms.
Knees to Chest (Apanasana)
A simple yoga pose, "knees to chest" starts with lying on the floor and bringing your knees toward your chest. Lie flat on your back and bring your knees to your chest, slowly bending them as you go. You can also use your arms to help bring your knees closer. Hold this position for a few breaths and then release.
This relaxing yoga pose can also relieve low back pain, a symptom that is sometimes correlated with constipation. By bringing your knees to your chest, you'll gently massage the large intestine, which can help support constipation relief.
Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
A seated twist yoga pose can help food and waste move along the GI tract more efficiently through a twisting motion. This pose starts with sitting on the floor with both legs straight. One knee is crossed over the other, keeping the opposite foot stable on the floor. Be patient with yourself, as mastering this moderately difficult pose can take some time. Watching YouTube videos can help visual learners understand this yoga pose better.
Other Yoga Poses
The key to improving your GI health with yoga is to find poses that work well for you. In addition to the seated twist and knees-to-chest position, try these other yoga poses to help improve your digestion.
Yoga Practices for Individuals With Digestive Disorders
Practicing yoga is great for any person to promote healthy motility in their GI tract. People who have GI conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel diseases could benefit even more from trying yoga as part of a symptom management plan.
In a study conducted in 2018, researchers concluded that practicing yoga alongside a low-FODMAP diet had positive effects on IBS symptoms. Other medical studies have found similar results that suggest reducing stress via yoga can improve GI health and potentially improve symptoms.
Breathing Techniques to Aid Digestion
How you breathe directly impacts your body's ability to digest the food you consume. Breathing from your chest tends to come more naturally, especially when stressed or in pain. This natural "fight or flight" response causes blood to move from the gut to larger muscles, which interferes with healthy digestion.
Switching to an abdominal breathing technique may help your digestion if you find yourself chest breathing. Abdominal breathing starts in the belly and involves taking slow, deep breaths. This breathing technique is also called diaphragmatic breathing. Switching to this breathing technique reduces muscle tension and supports healthy digestion.
The Mind-Gut Connection for Healthy Digestion
Yoga can help support digestive health partly due to the gut-brain axis, a communication system between the GI tract and your brain. This system includes many nerves and biochemical signals that travel through the blood and connect the digestive system to the brain. These two body systems are intertwined, which can mean your GI tract responds to psychological stress with physical symptoms such as stomach pain or nausea.
The mind-gut connection can also be used to your advantage. Adding yoga to your exercise routine can reduce anxiety and stress that trigger gut symptoms. In a study that followed people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a clear link was found between psychological stressors and worsened IBS symptoms.
Maintaining a Balanced Diet
Adding certain yoga poses to your routine can improve digestion and relieve bloating. But supporting your gut involves more than just exercise – it's also important to eat a balanced diet. Food intolerances, such as dairy or gluten intolerance, can worsen symptoms, so it's important to try removing them from your diet.
Everyone's idea of eating a balanced diet can be a bit different, but it usually includes a healthy balance of proteins, fats, and carbs. If you pay attention to what you eat and follow mindful eating techniques, you can also become more aware of your food choices.
Support Your Gut Using Yoga
Yoga can improve gut health and reduce uncomfortable GI symptoms such as abdominal pain or bloating. Many of yoga's "gut nurturing" effects come from physical yoga poses that stimulate your digestive organs. Using specialized breathing techniques during these poses can also help aid digestion even further. Practicing yoga is also effective in relieving stress that can negatively impact your digestive system.
If you suffer from gastrointestinal issues, support your gut by trying yoga poses developed to improve gut health. Learn more about gut health and its importance on the ActiveFit+blog and explore new ways to help boost your overall well-being.