Yoga-Gut-Health

Do you all agree, that in one way or another, we have our unique love-hate relationship with food? Nothing can beat a good food memory, whether it is samosa-jalebi on a rainy day or the sumptuous spread of a marriage banquet. And we may also have the not-so-pleasant ‘Delhi-belly’ memories and that is what we are talking about in our blog today.

Common digestive issues like indigestion, bloating, heaviness, stomach cramps, flatulence, acidity, or constipation may occur for many different reasons. Besides physiological issues like an irritated gut, they can occur because of our over-indulgence in our favorite meals or eating food that our body disagrees with.

It is interesting to note that Indian Naturopathy, Ayurveda, or traditional Chinese medical philosophies, all focus on the ‘digestive system’ to manage our overall health. Even Hippocrates, who is considered the father of modern medicine believed that; ‘All disease begins in the gut. So, besides paying attention to what you eat, the quality and nutrition, and being aware of how different foods impact our body experience, another great Indian philosophy to help us with our gut health is Yoga.

How does yoga help with gut health?

As most of you already know, our gut or digestive system encompasses our mouth, esophagus, our stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon, and rectum. Many of you may have experienced the ‘butterflies in the stomach sensation when faced with a particularly stressful situation in life, yoga helps us by working on our parasympathetic nervous system, it makes use of the body-mind connection to help us with our overall good health.

  1. Yoga helps with balancing the body’s digestion process and managing our hunger
  2. Yoga asanas help us stretch and gently massage our internal organs to help move food effectively along our digestive tract
  3. It facilitates our digestive processes by helping increase blood flow to the digestive organs
  4. It helps relieve abdominal stress and pressure caused by bloating, flatulence, or constipation
  5. A regular yoga practice facilitates the bodies detoxification processes and even prevents fat deposits

10 Yogasanas

Here are 10 Yoga asanas you can add to your daily fitness routine. You can combine them with ‘pranayama’ (breathwork) and ‘dhyana’ (meditation) to aid your body’s rest and digestion system to promote optimal gut functioning.

Things to keep in mind before practicing these ‘Asanas’:

Know your body and strength level. These practices may not be appropriate for people with back or neck injuries, pregnant women, or those with high blood pressure.
If you are suffering from chronic digestive issues, please consult a healthcare professional. They may be able to identify the root cause.
Also, before starting any new fitness practice it is best to consult with your doctor.

1. Apanasana (Wind relieving pose)

Benefit: Promotes bowel movement by gently massaging the large intestines

How to do it:

  • Lie down straight on your back with your legs straight.
  • Slowly bend both your knees and bring them toward your chest, using your arms to pull them closer.
  • Hold this position for 4–5 deep breaths.

2. Pawanmuktasana (Wind-relieving pose)

This ‘asana’ is similar to the apanasana’ shared above, but it is a bit more intense as the head is off the ground and the neck bends towards the encircled knees.

Benefit: Relief from Gas

How to do it:

  • Exhale and while inhaling slowly raise the legs to a 90-degree angle from the floor
  • Bend both legs at the knees and rest the thighs against the abdomen, keeping the knees and ankles together
  • Encircle the knees with both arms, hands clasping opposite elbows
  • Bend the neck and place the chin on the knees. Continue to maintain the asana, breathing normally

3. Marjaryasana-Bitilasana (Cat-Cow Pose)

Cat-Cow Pose transitions between two classic yoga positions: Cat Pose and Cow Pose.

Benefit: It stretches the back and belly muscles to improve circulation and gut peristalsis

How to do it:

  • Start by standing on your hands and knees, back and neck should be in a flat straight line parallel to the floor (this is your neutral position). Make sure your knees are aligned with your hips and your wrists are aligned with your shoulders.
  • Start with the Cow Pose tilt your pelvis so that your tailbone goes up and your belly moves down. Be sure to engage your core.
  • Gently roll your shoulders back and raise your head by looking upward. Make sure to avoid overextending your neck.
  • Hold for 4–5 breaths.
  • Return to the neutral position.
  • Next, do the Cat Pose Tuck in your tailbone, draw your belly button towards your spine and roll your shoulders forward so that you’re arching your back.
  • Hold for 4–5 breaths.
  • Repeat this 2–3 times.

4. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Benefit: It helps stretch the belly muscles to promote overall digestion

How to do it:

  • Start this pose by lying flat on your stomach. Keep the palms of your hands flat on the floor by your lower ribs, elbows bent and your feet hip-width apart.
  • Now, slowly bring your head and chest up pressing down on your hands. Keep your elbows slightly bent as you slowly straighten your arms. Roll your shoulders back and down.
  • Keep your lower abdomen or pelvic area on the floor and only bring your chest and upper back upward.
  • Hold for 4–5 breaths.

5. Uttanasana (Standing forward bend)

Benefit: This improves overall digestion and relieves constipation.

How to do it:

  • Start by standing tall. Bend your knees slightly if just starting your yoga practice. Let the big toes touch, heels slightly apart, tailbone tucked under and arms beside you.
  • Inhale and stretch your arms out to the sides then above your head.
  • Exhale and slowly and gently bend forward from your hips, lengthen your spin. Now, lower your upper body over your legs embracing them.
  • Hold for 4-5 breaths, and release slowly. Come back to starting position gradually.

6. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Twist)

Benefit: The ‘twist’ movement promotes gut movement and detox. This pose thus helps with regular bowel movements and also relieves bloating.

How to do it:

  • Sit on the floor, with both legs straight. Bend your left knee and cross it over your right knee or thigh.
  • With your left leg crossed and left foot planted firm, take your right elbow and place it on the outside of your left knee while you gently rotate your trunk to the left.
  • Now, let your left palm rest on the floor near the back of your hips. Also, turn your neck so you are looking over your left shoulder.
  • Hold this position and breathe for 4–5 deep breaths.
  • Now, switch sides and repeat on another side, alternating legs, and hands.

7. Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)

Benefit: It helps with gut mobility, overall digestion, constipation and bloating

How to do it:

  • Start by lying straight on your back. Next, bend both your knees at the hip, keeping both knees close together.
  • Open your arms full length to your sides.
  • Now roll both knees to the right side, stacking them one on top of the other, keeping both shoulders firmly rooted on the ground. Remember to twist from the hips only.
  • Now turn your neck and head towards your left side.
  • Breath for 4-5 breaths.
  • Bring your knees back towards your center starting position and now twist to the other side.
  • Now hold for 4-5 breaths on the other side.

8. Malasana (Yogi Squat) – knee issues and lower spine be careful

Benefit: It helps with overall digestion and is great for relief from flatulence or gas

How to do it:

  • Sit back on your heels and squat down until your bottom nearly touches the floor. For those who need extra support, sit back on something hard like a yoga block or just sit on your heels and skip the next step.
  • Bring your hands in prayer position at your heart and use your elbows to push against your inner thighs.
  • Hold for 4-5 breaths.

9. Balasana/Shishuasana (Child’s pose)

Benefit: This pose helps with overall digestion by compressing the abdomen and thus massaging the internal organs. As most of you know, stress is an important element when managing gut health, this asana has the additional benefit of reducing stress.

How to do it:

  • Start with a seated kneeling position. For your convenience and comfort, your knees can be as wide apart or close together. You can also place a blanket underneath if your knees are uncomfortable.
  • Drop your buttocks toward your heels as you stretch the rest of your body down and forward, with your stomach resting on your thighs, your forehead on the mat and your arms stretched forward.
  • Hold for 4-5 breaths.
  • Gently return to the seated kneeling position.

10. Savasana (Corpse pose)

This asana is great to do at the end of a yoga session. It gives you the opportunity to enjoy relaxation by allowing the stress to melt away.

Benefit: This asana helps with overall digestion; relaxation and de-stressing

How to do it:

  • Start by lying straight on your back, with your legs straight and your arms by your sides.
  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath to the count of four. Now, hold for a count of four, and then, exhale for a count of four.
  • Try to stay focused on your breath, and notice your chest and stomach rise and fall. Allow gravity to relax your muscles.
  • Continue this for at least 4-5 rounds or, as long as you want.

A Holistic Approach to Gut Health

Incorporating these asanas into your daily routine will ensure a good set of habits for your digestive health. Together with our other blogs in this series on gut health, these guidelines constitute a holistic approach to not only eating well but also taking care of our organs that digest the food we eat and provide the best nourishment to us for our health and well-being.

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3 Comments

  1. Sudhanalini sarangi 08/11/2022 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Very nice information, I have just a need for it

  2. MANORAMA DAS 12/11/2022 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    So important article on Yoga. Thank you.

  3. Aryan Raj 17/11/2022 at 8:41 am - Reply

    Very fortunate to read this awesome blog. These suggestion helps me a lot.

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