Yoga for Digestion

CDHF

Written by: CDHF

Updated: October 5th, 2022

Yoga can be beneficial when practicing mindfulness, relaxation, improving strength and balance. But did you know that yoga can be great for the gastrointestinal tract?

That is because your brain and your gut is connected. Gastrointestinal diseases can result in side effects of stress, anxiety and may make it difficult for individuals to live their day-to-day lives.  Your digestive tract is comprised of 100 million mesh-like body neurons, which is the network of nerve cells referred to as the enteric nervous system. It is so extensive that some scientists call the enteric nervous system our “second brain.”   

The vagus nerve (a thick cable of neurons running between the base of the brain and our gut) allows the brain and the gut to communicate with each other, with information flowing bi-directionally.  Because of this, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause OR the product of stress, anxiety, or depression.

Techniques such as meditation, yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy, gut-directed relaxation training, and exercising are all proven therapies to help you better deal with stress levels and improve mood, and consequently symptoms of digestive discomfort.

Studies have shown that video and in-person yoga classes significantly improve anxiety and quality of life in patients with GI disorders. [1] Individuals with IBD specifically have reported reduced stress and improved ability to manage physical symptoms after partaking in yoga.[2] Mind-body interventions are great alternatives to standard gastrointestinal disease treatments.

We’ve compiled ten yoga poses that support the GI tract. Scroll through these poses and try them out yourself!

*Note: The images shown are directional- everyone’s body is different! Always speak to your healthcare provider to determine what is best for your body.

Wind relieving pose

This pose relaxes the abdomen, hips, thighs, and buttocks. Relaxing your body, especially your bowels and intestines, can help you pass gas and thus make going to the bathroom easier. Doing this pose may also help with bloating and trapped gas through compression and release.

How to:

Forward Fold

The forward fold compresses the digestive organs and stimulates circulations which helps to encourage digestion.

How to:

Virasana

The kneeling in this pose creates stimulation in the stomach area, which is good for relieving bloating and can improve digestion.

How to:

Twisting Chair

The act of twisting helps improve mobility and motility!

How to:

Child’s Pose

This pose gently stretches your spine, thighs, hips, and ankles. It can also be used as a resting pose during yoga practice before and after more advanced poses. The light compression on your stomach in this pose can activate digestion.

How to:

Cobra

This pose stretches belly muscles, improves posture and supports general digestion.

How to:

Bow

This posture can increase blood flow to the digestive system, helping with constipation, digestion, and bloating.

How to:

Seated Spinal Twist

This pose massages the intestines and abdominals and stimulates blood flow, which can increase movement in the digestive tract.

How to:

Bridge

A mild inversion that helps move blood flow in the opposite direction, encouraging digestion.

How to:

Waterfall

This pose reverses blood flow which stimulates circulation and digestion.

How to: 

To learn more about the brain-gut connection and its role in digestive disorders, view our webinar with Dr. Christopher N. Andrews, MD, MSc, FRCPC, AGAF, Clinical Professor, Gastroenterology and Dr. Maitreyi Raman, MD, MSc, FRPC, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Calgary, Gastroenterologist, Physician Nutrition Specialist.


References: 

  1. Wilke, E., et al. “Effects of Yoga in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and on Frequent IBD-Associated Extraintestinal Symptoms Like Fatigue and Depression.” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, vol. 45, Elsevier Ltd, 2021, pp. 101465–101465, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2021.101465.
  2. Arruda, Jenna M., et al. “Yoga as Adjunct Therapy for Adolescents with Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Pilot Clinical Trial.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine, vol. 41, Elsevier Ltd, 2018, pp. 99–104, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2018.09.007.

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