09 May Yoga tricks for better digestion
Digestion is the keystone to good health. In our busy modern-day lives, however, it’s often the last thing we have time to consider!
Using Yoga techniques and Yoga tricks we can influence digestion in many ways. Here are a few ways to jump-start your digestion:
1. Try a pre-meal pranayama practice for better digestion
When you eat on the run, or inhale your food at your desk, you are eating with your flight or fight response turned on, or the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Your blood flow is shunted away from the digestive system, so your gut slows down and comes to a holt. This is useful in an emergency when you need blood circulation and oxygen directed into your arms, legs, and brain for a speed response. However, when the flight or fight response is prolonged, your abdominal muscles contract and peristalsis comes to a halt, resulting in constipation, abdominal pain, and gut disorder.
It’s often overlooked but incredibly helpful to take 5–10 minutes before meals to let your nervous system transition to eating mode.
Turn away from your work and find a comfortable seat. Close your eyes and observe your breath. Allow the natural breath to settle. As you breath starts to deepen, gently increase the duration of your exhalation a little bit at a time until your exhalation is as close to double the length of your inhalation. Make sure that there is a sense of ease in your breathing, and try not to struggle with the inhalation or exhalation. When you are finished, simply release the breath and breathe naturally for a moment, noticing the effects before you prepare to eat.
2. Begin your meal mindfully
When we eat too quickly, we can limit the nourishment our body is able to draw from our food.
As you begin your meal, take some time to pay close attention to your sensory experience. Sit still for a moment. Take note of the smells, textures, and tastes and allow yourself to be fully immersed in the process of slowly eating and experiencing the food.
This practice is quite simple but easy to forget—slow down, experience all the senses, take in the full experience, and consider the nourishment you are consuming with gratitude. Read my blog on Mindless Eating.
3. Practice this restorative pose for better digestion between meals
The above may not look like a Yoga pose, but this restorative posture can help stimulate the digestive process. Practice on an empty stomach inbetween your meals.
Fold two blankets into rectangles and place on top of each other. Sit with your right hip next to the blanket and your knees stacked on top of each other. Place your forearms on each side of the blankets and lengthen out your torso before you lay down over them. Rest your head and ribcage on the blankets. In this position the side of your hips should be on the floor and your belly should be mostly off of the blanket turning toward the floor. Let your belly be soft and take a few deep breaths into your belly before you let the breath be natural and stay for 3–5 minutes. Repeat on the other side.
4. Yoga bunnies you can try this forward bend inbetween meals
This pose stretches the back of the body and compresses the intestine in the lower belly. It is a wonderful pose to stimulate bowel function, relieving bloating, constipation, and reflux, and it creates space for all the organs to flow and function. It can really help to get your bowels moving!
Step by Step
Sit on the floor with your buttocks supported on a folded blanket and your legs straight in front of you. Turn the top thighs in slightly and press them down into the floor. Press through your palms or finger tips on the floor beside your hips and lift the top of the sternum toward the ceiling as the top thighs descend.
Draw the inner groins deep into the pelvis. Inhale, and 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.
With each inhalation, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. In this way the torso oscillates and lengthens almost imperceptibly with the breath. Eventually you may be able to stretch the arms out beyond the feet on the floor.
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.
Contraindications and Cautions
- Back injury: Only perform this pose under the guidance supervision of an experienced teacher
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!
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