Stretch your way to a calmer gut and improve digestion during National Yoga Month with gentle twists, forward folds and restorative postures
You are lying with your back against the floor, your feet fall out to the side while your palms face upwards. Your eyes are gently closed and your head and neck softly rest on the floor. As you slowly inhale and then exhale, your weight begins to melt into the ground and you don’t have a care in the world. This is the posture of total relaxation and a potential ingredient for a calmer stomach — Corpse Pose (Savasana).
If you regularly do yoga, you may notice the stretches making you more flexible and the poses strengthening your muscles, but have you ever considered its benefits for your gut?
Imperial College Health Centre, London claim stress and anxiety can contribute to the long-term digestive condition Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
To improve symptoms, the clinical commissioning group say: “It may be as simple as eating healthily and changing lifestyle factors.” They suggest trying yoga to reduce stress.
The IBS Network also recommend the discipline as a self-help method for sufferers.
Corpse Pose is just one of the many movements which encourages better gut health. September is National Yoga Month and to celebrate we have compiled a list of poses guaranteed to benefit your gut.
Easy Pose with Twist (Parivrtta Sukhasana)
- Hold for: 30 seconds to 1 minute
- Why it works: Twists are great for your gut as they massage your organs. Turning across your body while sitting will stretch your abdomen.
- How to do it: Sit cross-legged, balancing your weight evenly. Inhale, extend through the crown of your head and place your right hand behind you. Exhale and bring your left hand to the outside of your right knee as you gently twist to the right. Gaze over your right shoulder. Exhale as you come back to the centre. Repeat the twist on the opposite side for the same length of time.
Wind-Release Pose (Pavana Mukta Asana)
- Why it works: This is a sequence rather than a posture, but it is good for removing any congestion in the digestive system as well as any emotional congestion. Although you may not feel an immediate release (thank goodness), it is powerful for your gut.
- How to do it: Sit up straight, with your legs out and breathe in. Bring one knee to your chest and put your chin towards it, hold and press and then release by exhaling forcefully through your mouth and spreading your arms out to the side. For best results, do this three times with each leg and then three times with both legs.
Half Boat Pose (Ardha Navasana)
- Hold for: 20 — 30 seconds gradually increasing to 1 minute
- Why it works: Not only is Boat beneficial for the stomach muscles but your internal organs too; it strengthens your core, in addition to your hip flexors and spine, while also stimulating your kidneys, regulating your bowels and decreasing bloat.
- How to do it:
- Sit on your mat with your knees bent and feet flat against the floor and support yourself with your hands positioned slightly behind your hips.
- Place your hands on the backs of your thighs just before your knee joint. Exhale draw in your naval to firm your core, then inhale and begin to tilt backwards, raising your legs until they are parallel to the ground. Balance on your tail bone, ensuring not to round your back.
- Release your hands from under your thighs and strongly stretch them out either side of your legs.
- If you’re feeling brave, you could straighten your legs and point your toes to form a ‘v’ and Full Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana).
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- Hold for: 15 — 30 seconds
- Why it works: This stretch is good for your abdomen and back as it loosens tension within these areas.
- How to do it: Lie on your belly with your hands either side of shoulders; inhale and push up with your hands and breathe out to come back down.
Bound Angle Pose with Forward Bend (Baddha Konasana Uttanasana)
- Hold for: 1 — 5 minutes
- Why it works: Claimed to be one of the best hip openers around, it loosens tight hips and groins following long periods of sitting in chairs. Plus, it stimulates abdominal organs and soothes menstrual discomfort.
- How to do it:
- From a seated position, with extended legs, bend your knees and pull your heals towards your pelvis. Drop your knees out to the side and place the soles of your feet together.
- Grasp the big toe of each foot with your first and second finger and thumb — alternatively, wrap each hand around the same-side ankle or shin.
- Inhale, extend your spine, then exhale and lower your head towards your feet. Each time you inhale, lengthen your spine and each time you exhale, lower a little further. Allow gravity to pull your head towards the ground.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
- Hold for: 5 minutes for every 30 minutes of practice
- Why it works: Sometimes referred to as the final relaxation pose, this restorative posture can be challenging to master but reduces stress by enabling your muscles to relax. The aim is not to fall asleep but to remain aware and present and create a deeper connection with yourself and the world around you.
- How to do it: Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms by your sides. Rest your hands with your palms facing up. Let your feet fall open. Close your eyes and breathe naturally. Working from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head, consciously release every part of your body. Relax your face.
Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
- Hold for: 5-15 mins
- Why it works: This restorative posture takes the pressure off your heart pumping blood around your body and, consequently, lowers blood pressure by elevating the legs. Leading yoga lifestyle experts, Yoga Journal say: “There’s a consensus among modern yogis that Viparita Karani may have the power to cure whatever ails you.” For instance, digestive problems including IBS. Tip: This pose should be avoided during menstruation.
- How to do it: Sit sideways with your right side against the wall. Exhale and in one smooth movement, swing your legs up onto the wall, enabling your back, shoulders and head to rest gently on the ground. Make sure you have sufficient support under your back and head. Enjoy your body being supported by the wall.
Which is your favourite? Get in touch.