Yoga for gut health: 5 exercises to aid in digestion, reset your system
Apart from mindful eating and identifying the food items that cause digestive issues, it is important to incorporate Yoga asanas into your fitness routine to have a positive impact on digestion and gut health. This is because Yoga poses help to stretch the muscles, massage the internal organs and stimulate the digestive system.
The digestive system or digestive tract comprises of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon and rectum. This complex and interconnected mesh of organs form the gut or our gastrointestinal system.
Yoga for digestion is crucial as it ensures gut health by targeting the stomach, small intestine, large intestine and the liver meridians. Here are 5 Yoga asanas for detoxifying and rejuvenating the gut to perform optimally, calming the mind and keeping the stomach active to ensure better digestion.
1. Chakravakrasana or Cat-Cow stretch
This Yoga asana targets the spine and abdominals and involves moving the spine from a rounded position (flexion) to an arched position (extension).
Method: Stand on all fours to form a table top with your back while your hands and feet from its legs. Keep your arms perpendicular to the floor and place your hands flat on the floor, right under your shoulders while keeping your knees hip-width apart.
Curl your toes under and tilt your pelvis back so that your tailbone sticks up. Without moving your neck, let this movement ripple from your tailbone up your spine while letting your belly drop down.
Draw your navel in and keep your abdominal muscles hugging your spine. Now, without cranking your neck, take your gaze gently up towards the ceiling.
All this arching was for the cow pose while inhaling and now for rounding the cat pose, exhale and release the toes you had curled. Tucking your tailbone, tip your pelvis forward and let this action move up your spine again to make it naturally round.
Draw your navel towards your spine, drop your head and take your gaze to your navel. Matching the movement to your own breath, repeat the Cat-Cow Stretch on each inhale and exhale for 5 to 10 breaths.
Benefits: Apart from supporting the back and easing pain, this exercise helps maintain a healthy spine during those long work duration before a computer screen by helping in improving the circulation in the discs in your back. The calming pose works as a good stress- reliever apart from helping one to improve their posture and balance.
2. Uttanasana or Yoga’s Standing Forward Bend
Method: Place your hands at your hips while standing on a Yoga mat and begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Slightly bend your knees and fold your torso over your legs, hingeing from the hips, not the lower back.
Your hands may land next to your feet or on the ground in front of you. Inhale and extend your chest to lengthen your spine then exhale and gently press both the legs without hyperextending.
Lift the kneecaps and slowly spiral back your upper, inner thighs while during exhalation, extend your torso down without rounding your back. Lengthen your neck while extending the crown of your head towards the ground and draw your shoulders down your back towards your hips.
Benefits: It not only strengthens the thighs and knees but also stretches the hamstrings, calves and hips. It relieves headache and insomnia by calming the brain and helping relieve stress and mild depression, improves digestion, reduces fatigue and anxiety and helps relieve the symptoms of menopause.
3. Ustrasana or camel pose
Method: Kneel know on the Yoga mat and keep your knees and feet together. Lean in the backward direction by pushing your hips in the forward direction.
Bend your head and the spine as backward and farther as possible without straining. Rest your hands on your feet, relax your body and the muscles of your back, hold onto the position for a few seconds before releasing.
Benefits: From stretching and strengthening the shoulders and back to opening up the hips and stretching deep hip flexors, Ustrasana not only improves respiration by opening up the chest but also improves digestion and elimination by expanding the abdominal region. It loosens up the vertebrae, relieves lower back pain, improves posture and reduces fat on thighs.
4. Trikonasana or the Triangle Pose
Method: Stand straight on a flat even ground with your feet comfortably apart. Turn your right foot to face outside while keeping the heel inwards. Both heels should be in a straight line.
Inhale and bend your body from your hip to the right and raise your left arm straight up. Meanwhile, your right hand can either rest on your ankle or shin or even on the mat if you are comfortable.
Keeping your head in line with your torso, you can gaze up at your left palm if comfortable. With every exhale, let the body relax a little more
Benefits: This asana is an amazing stretching exercise as it helps to improve flexibility in your spine and pelvic region. This pose will help you develop strength and balance too.
Since Trikonasana involves the whole body, its benefits are immense including treating the neck sprain, stimulating and transporting the blood flow throughout the veins and body hence, reducing any risks of a block or stroke, stimulating the digestive system, improving the flexibility of the spine and correcting the alignment of shoulders. It also relieves gastritis, indigestion, acidity and flatulence while strengthening the ankles and the palms, reducing the piled up stress and anxiety and reduces discomfort.
It is especially useful for pregnant women since it not only shifts their center of gravity but also stretches and opens the hips which can be a big help during delivery.
5. Vajrasana or Thunderbolt Pose/Diamond Pose
Method: Start by kneeling on the floor and rest your pelvis on your heels. Keep your heels close to each other by pulling your knees and ankles together and point your feet in line with your legs.
Place your palms on your knees or on your thighs and adjust your pelvis slightly backward and forward until you're comfortable. Exhale as you sit back on your legs.
Benefits: Vajrasana not only helps in keeping the mind calm and stable but also cures digestive acidity and gas formation, helps relieve knee pain, strengthens thigh muscles and helps to relieve back pain. The exercise aides in strengthening sexual organs and helping in treatment of urinary problems.