Have you ever been smack in the middle of your vacation, only to find yourself bloated, gassy, or draggy with fatigue? Experienced your summer walk interrupted by "Uh-oh" tummy pains? Or worse, spent the first week of your holiday constipated and stressed?
Summer, with it's travel and, for most of us, more frozen treats and happy hours, can bring on abdominal woes. While it's good to pay attention to diet, the following yoga poses all help your digestion stay healthy and calm. Use them as a sequence, or choose 2-3 that speak to you.
Seven Poses for Healthy Digestion
This classic spinal warm-up also wakes up abdominal organs in a gentle way. Breathe deeply as you alternately stretch and compress your intestines and belly.
Place your hands beneath your shoulders and knees under your hips. On the inhalation, lift your heart and head toward the sky, creating a gentle back bend as your tummy drops toward your mat (this is the Cow pose). As you exhale, round your mid and upper back, dropping the head last. Press into your mat with your hands. Repeat for 6-10 rounds.
From Cat-Cow, press up into this classic pose. The forward-bending action helps nourish intestines with a gentle massage. Use your breath to press your belly button toward your back as you exhale. The gentle inversion helps to energize and refresh brain fog caused by poor digestion.
As you press up, focus on hinging from the creases where legs meet pelvis. Imagine your sit bones spreading wide. Your hands should be shoulder-distance apart and your feet under your outer hips. "Walk" your dog by bending one knee and then the other to help lengthen hamstrings and ease into the pose. Bend both knees slightly to help lengthen the spine. Spread your shoulders wide.
This pose provides a gentle twist for the abdominal organs, flushing out toxins and helping to release gas.
From your Down Dog, lunge forward on one side. Straighten your bent forward leg, and bring the back foot forward a bit. Line up the arch with the heel of the front foot. The back heel should rest on your mat. Reach your upper hand toward the sky, and rest the lower hand on your shin or the floor. Extend the crown of your head forward as you reach your tailbone toward your back heel. Repeat on the other side.
Child and Puppy Poses
Come to your hands and knees to rest in Child's pose. Use a blanket under the torso if you can't bring your forehead to the floor. This gentle bend helps with stress, fatigue, and massages the abdomen gently. (If you actively have diarrhea, you should skip forward bending poses.) Hold this pose for up to five minutes.
From Child, come onto your hands and knees. Keep your hips where they are and walk your hands forward. Place your forehead on the floor or a block. Your back will arch and heart open. This is a nice opener for an over-stuffed belly that is feeling crampy and stressed.
Seated Forward Bend
Forward bends massage the internal organs and assist with the release of gas and encourage sluggish bowels to move (don't do this pose if you have loose stools).
Come to a seated position. Use a blanket or wedge under your sit bones if you need to modify, and use a strap to help you maintain proper alignment and access into the stretch.
Legs are stretched out in front of you. Begin with the palms flat on the floor by the side of the hips. Breathe here a few moments, and then extend forward from the hips, extending the arms (or strap) forward to catch the toes/feet. To stay in correct alignment, don't round the upper back to fold forward. Try to keep the back straight or concave. Take more breaths here. If you are tight in the low back and hamstrings, you may round forward for a few breaths, bending the knees, to let the belly meet the thighs. Sit up on an inhalation.
Backbends stimulate acupuncture meridians and the digestive organs. Some people find that backbends induce nausea so be gentle or skip them if you know this to be true for you.
To enter Bridge pose, place your feet flat on the floor. You want your feet as close to your sit bones as possible. Keep your arms long by your sides, palms down. On the exhalation, press feet, arms, and palms into your mat while extending your knees forward. Take 5-10 deep breaths here, and releases the pose by rolling down gently, one vertebrae at a time.
After your bridge, try this mild twist to wring toxins from the intestines.
Lay back with legs extended. Bend your right knee and release it down and over to the left. Stretch your right arm out straight, to the right, keeping your shoulder on the mat. Enjoy this twist as long as it feels good! Repeat on the other side.
Bring your knees to your chest to neutralize the spine. Then straighten your legs and lay arms by your sides, palms face up. Breathe naturally and relax all your muscles. Let they eyes sink in their sockets and the tongue to become thick and wide in your mouth. Close your eyes and relax.
Yoga benefits every system in the body. These poses help digestion, but they also aid your body to become more flexible, your heart more open, and your mind more clear. A regular yoga practice can even eliminate many health problems over time. As always, however, get the right support from health professionals and yoga instructors.