Yoga for Constipation - 12 Poses to Improve Digestion
Improving digestion and eliminating constipation often requires a holistic approach. Incorporating stretching, yoga and gentle movement is an important piece of the healing puzzle for many of our clients. But you might be wondering if yoga for constipation really works and what are some of the best yoga poses to improve digestion, reduce bloating and just generally get things moving? Well, if you find yourself namaste-ing on the toilet too long every day, this is the blog post for you.
We know that for most chronic constipation cases, finding and treating the underlying root cause often involves scientific testing, supplements and dietary inventions. However, movement and stress reduction are not only helpful for short-term symptom relief, they can also be an important tool during treatment and longer term prevention. While we’re not professional yogis (as you might have guessed from the pictures below!), our own personal and clinical experience, increasingly backed by scientific studies, is that yoga can be an effective adjunct therapy for IBS and other digestive conditions.
Our approach to yoga for constipation from a clinical perspective is focussed on two main aspects; gentle movement and stress reduction. As such, the best way to incorporate the below poses into your yoga practice (for the less experienced yogis among us, anyway) is to think about them as stretches. We typically recommend holding each pose for about one minute and focussing on moving in a way that makes your body feel good - you don’t need to force these postures or pretend you’re auditioning for Cirque du Soleil. Just work with what feels good for you, and your bowel (and overall health) will love you for it.
Downward Facing Dog The downward facing dog is a full-body stretch that can help get things moving by releasing tension and helping to relax the intestines and digestive tract. TIP: If you have tight hamstrings, slightly bend your knees in this pose so that your back and abdomen still stay straight. This will allow the full benefit of stretching through the digestive system.
Seated forward bend / butterfly pose The butterfly pose is a relaxing one that allows the body to digest in a peaceful manner. While the seated forward bend is a stretch that massages the abdominal muscles and organs, and can provide relief from bloating, cramping and constipation. TIP: If you find it hard to straighten your legs in the seated forward bend, you may like to place a rolled up blanket under your knees for extra support.
Standing Forward Bend This pose is a stress-reliever, calming the nervous system and the digestive system. Compressing the abdominal muscles also aids in digestion, and helps to relieve constipation. TIP: Aim to bend from the hips not from the waist so that you are lengthening your torso. To deepen the pose, place your hands around your ankles.
Plough Pose This is a stress-releasing pose that strengthens the back muscles, stimulates the abdominals and aids in digestion. TIP: Do not force your feet to the floor. Lower your legs to the floor very slowly and gently and only take your feet as far over as feels comfortable.
Cobra Pose This pose is also good for strengthening your back as well as your abdominal muscles. It can aid in the release of wind and is useful in easing constipation and other digestive issues. TIP: For a more gentle stretch, you can do this pose on your forearms rather than your hands.
Bow Pose This pose strengthens the abdominals by applying pressure to the digestive areas and assisting with elimination. It is a workout for your abs! And great for chronic constipation if done regularly. TIP: You can modify this pose by holding one leg at a time. Use your spare arm for support on the ground.
Crescent Twist Twisting your body is great for massaging your digestive areas and encouraging movement along the GI tract. TIP: If you feel too much strain in your legs or hips in this pose, bring your back knee to the ground, untuck your toes and continue to twist.
Seated Twist This twist stimulates the digestive tract by massaging the intestines and may even stimulate detoxification, as well as ease constipation. TIP: Every time you inhale, lift your sternum up higher and twist by pushing your back hand into the floor to help.
Supine Twist Like all the other twists, this one massages the intestines and abdominals, and stimulates blood flow to the area, which can increase movement in the digestive tract. TIP: Try to keep both shoulders flat on the floor, this may mean that your knee will not touch the ground but will allow the gastrointestinal tract to experience a deeper stretch.
Wind Relieving Pose No prizes for guessing why this one is named wind relieving pose. Or why it's one of our go-to yoga for constipation poses. It works by quickening the movement and expulsion of gas in the intestines. It also stimulates the bowels and stomach to aid in overall digestion, when it is performed in a particular order - right side first, then left side. TIP: To deepen this pose lift your head off the ground and bring it towards your lifted knee. Be careful not to strain your neck while doing this.
Child’s Pose This pose aids digestion by gently stretching the hip area, and relieving stress, which builds up in our bodies and contributes to digestive issues. It is simple to do and is perfect for all levels, whether you’re a beginner or advanced. TIP: This is a resting and relaxation pose. Rest your forehead on the floor, and feel free to stay in this pose as long as you like. We suggest a few minutes to feel the full benefit.
Don’t forget to breathe
We’ve covered our favourite poses here, but breathing is an important part of yoga that can further help to improve energy, increase blood flow and relax a busy body to rest and digest. Try your best to make your breath slow, gentle and natural.
Everyone's practice is unique so feel free to experiment with some of the above poses to understand what works best for you. Let us know what your favourite digestion-improving and yoga for constipation poses are in the comments below.
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