Feeling sluggish lately? Find it hard to beat the bloat? Here, Yogi Kate Kendall explains how yoga can help everything flow a little easier (excuse the pun!) and its positive influence on maintaining good gut health.
What exactly is it about yoga that enables it to assist with digestion?
It’s a couple of things – the breath being the essential ingredient. When we’re breathing consciously and deeply (without gripping the abdomen – which can cause all kinds of digestive issues) our digestive system improves as does our circulation which also effects digestion. And when we fully exhale, drawing the navel into the spine and up slightly, it creates a massage-like action on the internal organs which is incredibly beneficial to aid elimination. Any kind of forward folding and twisting using that emphasis on exhalation is incredible.
What movements in particular are best for eliminating bloat and easing digestion?
It doesn’t really come down to one particular shape and movement but rather a focus in general on breath and how the exhalation is used in the above mentioned twists and forward folds. So postures like Paschimottanasana (forward fold) and Matsyendrasana (twist) are examples. Other postures typically beneficial for easing digestion are downward facing dog, cobra, bow pose and bridge.
What other physical / mental benefits do these particular yoga poses have and what connection does this have to the gut?
This sequence requires you to stay accountable for breathing each breath fully – without anticipating the next. This encourages us to stay present – breath by breath whilst improving both the nervous and circulatory systems. Both, when in balance, have a profoundly positive effect on the digestive system.
It also builds strength and stamina (through the planks, chaturangas and breath of fire) which is what we need to make choices (lifestyle and health related) that contribute to our digestive health. Sometimes choosing to eat the more nourishing option takes will power and strength which can be cultivated on the mat.
With so much gut health talk of late, we’re all now so aware of this space being our ‘second brain’. When we look after it by feeding it nourishing foods that agree with our individual constitutions and breath into it trustingly, we watch the world around us change. Small acts of discipline – huge freedom and clarity.
Try Kate’s favourite sequence of easing digestion below!
Do all of this on left side swapping out cobra for Bow pose at the end. Finish with a few rounds of breath of fire (great for digestion and building core strength and stamina)
Image credit: Bianca Cheah