30 Dec 5 poses for digestion
There are many different types of poses that you can practice to help with your digestion that can be found in my book Mind Body Cleanse. Twists are quite remarkable because they not only massage, tone and rejuvenate your abdominal organs and promote digestion and peristalsis, but also improve the suppleness of the diaphragm and relieve spine, hip and groin disorders. The spine also becomes more supple, allowing for the correct spacing and alignment in between the spinal vertebrae. This in turn improves the flow of blood to the spinal nerves and increases energy levels.
Ardha Matsyendrasana – half Lord of the fish
Step by Step
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, buttocks supported on a folded blanket or block. Slide your left foot under your right leg to the outside of your right hip. Lay the outside of the left leg on the floor.
Exhale and twist toward the inside of the right thigh. Press the right hand against the floor just behind your right buttock, and set your left upper arm on the outside of your right thigh near the knee. Pull your front torso and inner right thigh together.
With every inhalation lift a little more through the sternum, pushing the fingers against the floor to help. Twist a little more with every exhalation. Be sure to distribute the twist evenly throughout the entire length of the spine; don’t concentrate it in the lower back. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then release with an exhalation, return to the starting position, and repeat to the left for the same length of time.
Anatomical Focus – Upper back
Therapeutic Applications – Sciatica
Benefits – Stimulates the liver and kidneys, Stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck, Energizes the spine, Stimulates the digestive fire in the belly, Relieves menstrual discomfort, fatigue, sciatica, and backache.
Contraindications and Cautions – Back or spine injury: Perform this pose only with the supervision of an experienced teacher
Parivritti Trikonasana – revolving three angle or triangle posture
Step by Step
From standing, turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees. Align the right heel with the left heel. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, so that the centre of the right kneecap is in line with the centre of the right ankle.
Square your hip points as much as possible with the front edge of your sticky mat. As you bring the left hip around to the right, resist the head of the left thigh bone back and firmly ground the left heel. Draw the left hand and arm as far forward as possible.
With an exhalation, turn your torso further to the right and extend forward over the front leg. Reach your left hand down, either to the floor (inside or outside the foot) or, if the floor is too far away, onto a block positioned against your inner right foot.
Beginning students should keep their head in a neutral position, looking straight forward, or turn it to look at the floor. More experienced students can turn the head and gaze up at the top thumb. From the centre of the back, between the shoulder blades, press the arms away from the torso. Bring most of your weight to bear on the back heel and the front hand.
Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute. Exhale, release the twist, and bring your torso back to upright with an inhalation. Repeat for the same length of time with the legs reversed, twisting to the left.
Anatomical Focus – Ankles, Legs, Hips, Groins, Lower back, Abdomen, Shoulders, Spine
Therapeutic Applications – Constipation, Digestive problems, Asthma, Lower backache, Sciatica
Benefits – Strengthens and stretches the legs, Stretches the hips and spine, Opens the chest to improve breathing, Relieves mild back pain, Stimulates the abdominal organs, Improves sense of balance
Contraindications and Cautions – Back or spine injury. Perform this pose only with the supervision of an experienced teacher or avoid it altogether. Also avoid this pose if you have: Low blood pressure, Migraine, Diarrhea, Headache, Insomnia
Jathara Parivritti – Revolved Abdomen Pose
Step by Step
Lie on your back on the floor with your arms outstretched from your shoulders, like the letter T, palms facing the ceiling. Let there be a straight line running from your chin, to your sternum, to your pubic bone. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
Lift your hips off the floor and swing them to the left. Take your knees toward your chest and drop them toward the floor on the right side of your body. Inhaling, lengthen your spine. Exhale both shoulders toward the floor. Soften your gaze; quiet your hearing; relax your jaw.
Hold the spinal twist for three complete breaths. Lift your legs off the floor and place your feet back down to centre your hips on the floor. Repeat everything to the other side. Repeat this up-down movement on the left side 10 times, or until your waist or back muscles begin to tire.
Benefits – Good for sluggish digestion, low energy, stifled breathing, and a variety of spinal muscle aches and pains. Improves breathing, eases back and neck tension, and soothes frazzled nerves
Focus – In your mind’s eye, trace a diagonal line from your right knee to your right hand and then lengthen through the torso along that line. If you feel yourself kinking up in the right waist, place your right thumb in the hip crease and actively draw the right hip away from your shoulder and toward your feet. Then bring the right arm back to its place
Contraindications and Cautions – Back or spine injury. Perform this pose only with the supervision of an experienced teacher or avoid it altogether. Also avoid this pose if you have: Low blood pressure, Migraine, Diarrhea, Headache, Insomnia or if you are pregnant
Twists and the benefits to your consciousness
Like any yoga posture, you should practise twists with mindfulness and care. Remember the following principles as you move through them.
Let the breath be your guide. Because twists tend to compress the diaphragm, they leave you with little breathing room. But there are ways to let your breath support and guide you through your twisting explorations. Here’s one approach: as you inhale, lengthen the spine; as you exhale, revolve gently into your twisting posture. Pause and lengthen again on the next inhalation, then rotate further as you exhale. Continue breathing and moving in this wave-like fashion until you feel you’ve nestled into the depths of the pose. Breathe as steadily and rhythmically as possible for several breaths, then slowly come out of the pose.
Practise evenly on both sides. Because twists are asymmetrical postures, it’s a good idea to spend equal time revolving in each direction to promote balance. That said, if you know that one side of your body is tighter than the other, you might try doing a twist for longer on that side.
Enjoy the after-effects. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy the sensations of clarity, vitality and ease once you’ve emerged from your favourite twist.
Inversions for fighting gravity
The ancient yogis called gravity ‘the silent enemy’. Gravity has a profound effect on the physiological processes of the human body; it slowly but surely weighs us down and saps our strength. We stand, sit or walk with the head above the heart, and the legs and pelvis beneath.
Lymph, like the blood returning to your heart via the veins, is dependent upon muscular movement and gravity to facilitate its return. Because the lymphatic system is a closed pressure system and has one-way valves that keep lymph moving towards the heart, when you turn upside down the entire lymphatic system is stimulated, thus strengthening your immune system, relaxing the gut and stimulating the elimination system too.
Sarvangasana – salamba = with support (sa = with alamba = support) sarva = all anga = limb
Step by Step
Fold two or more firm blankets into rectangles measuring about 1 foot by 2 feet, and stack them one on top of the other. OR use blocks. You can place a sticky mat over the blankets or blocks to help the upper arms stay in place while in the pose.
Bend your elbows and draw them toward each other. Lay the backs of your upper arms on the blanket and spread your palms against the back of your torso. Raise your pelvis over the shoulders, so that the torso is relatively perpendicular to the floor. Walk your hands up your back toward the floor without letting the elbows slide too much wider than shoulder width.
Inhale and lift your bent knees and straighten your legs toward the ceiling.
As a beginning practitioner stay in the pose for about 30 seconds. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds to your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Then continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in the pose. Again gradually and 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes. To come down, exhale, bend your knees into your torso again, and roll your back torso slowly and carefully onto the floor, keeping the back of your head on the floor.
Benefits – Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression, Stimulates the thyroid and prostate glands and abdominal organs, Stretches the shoulders and neck, Tones the legs and buttocks, Improves digestion, Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause, Reduces fatigue and alleviates insomnia, Therapeutic for asthma, infertility, and sinusitis
Contraindications and Cautions – Diarrhea, Headache, High blood pressure, Menstruation, Neck injury, Pregnancy: If you are experienced with this pose, you can continue to practice it late into pregnancy. However, don’t take up the practice of Sarvangasana after you become pregnant.
Forward bends are important in the Mind Body Cleanse because, during forward bends, your abdominal organs are compressed and this has a unique effect on your nervous system as these organs relax, your frontal brain is cooled and the flow of blood to your entire brain is regulated. Your sympathetic nervous system is rested, bringing down your pulse rate and blood pressure. The adrenal glands are also soothed and they function more efficiently. Since your body is in a horizontal position in forward bends, your heart is relieved of the strain of pumping blood against gravity, and blood circulates through all parts of the body easily.
Paschimottanasana = intense stretch of the west (pashima = west uttana = intense stretch)
Step by Step
Sit on the floor with your buttocks supported on a folded blanket and your legs straight in front of you.
Keeping the front torso long, lean forward from the hip joints, not the waist. Lengthen the tailbone away from the back of your pelvis. If possible take the sides of the feet with your hands, thumbs on the soles, elbows fully extended; if this isn’t possible, loop a strap around the foot soles, and hold the strap firmly. Be sure your elbows are straight, not bent.
When you are ready to go further, don’t forcefully pull yourself into the forward bend, whether your hands are on the feet or holding the strap. Always lengthen the front torso into the pose, keeping your head raised. If you are holding the feet, bend the elbows out to the sides and lift them away from the floor. The lower belly should touch the thighs first, and then the upper belly, then the ribs, and the head last.
Stay in the pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. To come up, first lift the torso away from the thighs and straighten the elbows again if they are bent. Then inhale and lift the torso up by pulling the tailbone down and into the pelvis.
Benefits – Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression, Stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus, Improves digestion, Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort, Soothes headache and anxiety and reduces fatigue, Therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis, Traditional texts say that Paschimottanasana increases appetite, reduces obesity, and cures diseases
Contraindications and Cautions – Asthma, Diarrhea, Back injury: Only perform this pose under the supervision of an experienced teacher
Beginner’s Tip – Never force yourself into a forward bend, especially when sitting on the floor. Often, because of tightness in the backs of the legs, a beginner’s forward bend doesn’t go very far forward and might look more like sitting up straight. Be Patient!
EMPOWERING CHANGE WITH A 12 DAY PLAN
In my book I look at how many digestive complaints, such as IBS can be traced directly back to the effects of diet and lifestyle. The book focuses on how we can bring ourselves back into alignment with our natural state of optimal health and wellbeing by adopting lifestyle changes that specifically, focus on the gut. Mind Body Cleanse explores how patients can become active participants in their own health and recovery.
The easy-to- follow, and transforming 12-Day Plan includes a challenging, enjoyable and highly rewarding combination of fasting diet, yogic exercise and breathing, meditation and a wealth of healing and health-care tips to do at home.
For more tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle, check out my new book, which is available on Amazon, and all leading bookstores, including Waterstones and Borders.
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