Find relief from stomach discomfort and encourage healthy bowel movements with these gentle abdominal twists and calming postures
One in seven — this surprisingly high ratio is the number of adults who are affected by constipation at any one time in the UK, meaning it’s probably more common than you might think. For most, this isn’t a serious issue and is usually temporary, but it can leave us feeling uncomfortable. So, what can we do to help get things moving?
Well, when you’re experiencing persistent bloating or a dull backache that often comes with constipation, getting into a lunge position and twisting your body might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but evidence shows that yoga poses like these can offer a natural way to relieve constipation by massaging your digestive organs and encouraging the digestive tract to pass stool. Plus, yoga can alleviate stress which can help the digestive system to function optimally.
So, in honour of National Yoga Month, we’re sharing the best postures to help you find relief from constipation. And, there’s nothing strenuous or wacky here; these are simply gentle poses to help promote regular, healthy bowel movements, all of which can be practiced in the comfort of your own home.
Be mindful about how your body feels when practicing these exercises. If something feels uncomfortable or painful, then stop. Simply doing a seated meditation instead is effective for helping to tackle constipation.
Wind-Relieving Pose (Pavanamuktasana)
- Hold for: 1 to 2 minutes
- Why it works: The clue is in the name with this one. It is an easy pose that helps to alleviate gas associated with constipation and remove congestion in the digestive system. You may not feel an immediate release, but it can have a powerful, positive impact on your bowel movements.
- How to do it: 1. Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Place your hands on or around your shins. 2. Tuck your chin in and lightly press your back into the floor, gently pulling your knees toward your chest. 3. Stay in the pose for a few deep breaths. You can rock from side to side to give your lower back a gentle massage, if you like, then release.
- Option: Alternatively, you can extend one leg out while the other knee is pulled in toward your chest. Hold for a minute, then switch.
Supine Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
- Hold for: 1 minute each side
- Why it works: This calming exercise not only encourages relaxation, but it expels waste and increases blood flow to your gut. The twisting motion helps to improve movement in the bowels.
- How to do it: 1. Lying on your back, bend your left leg and hug it into your chest. Leave your right leg extended. 2. Bring the arms out to the side in a T-position. 3. Gently let your bent left leg drop to the right, across your other leg, keeping your shoulders flat on the floor. Look towards the left. 4. Hold the pose for a few breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
- Option: You can place your hand on your bent knee to help to draw it to the ground.
Crescent Lunge Twist (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana)
- Hold for: 1 to 2 minutes
- Why it works: This pose involves twisting your torso more substantially than seated or supine twists, which may help to promote a bowel movement.
- How to do it: 1. Lunge forward with your right leg bent and your left leg straight. Ensure your right knee is directly over your right foot and your back leg is straight, supported by the ball of your back foot. 2. Place your hands in prayer position in front of your chest. 3. To twist, bend your left shoulder toward your right knee and press your left elbow against your right knee. Gaze upwards. 4. Remain in this position for a few breaths, then return to standing and repeat on the opposite side.
The Adamant Pose (Vajrasana)
- Hold for: 1 to 5 minutes
- Why it works: Considered one of the best postures for constipation and indigestion, it improves blood circulation to the abdominal region and aids digestion. It also strengthens your digestive organs and digestive tract. Simple yet powerful.
- How to do it: 1. Kneel on your yoga mat with your knees and toes touching and your heels apart. Sit in the gap between your heels. 2. Lengthen your spine and rest your hands on your lap. Take deep breaths while in this pose.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- Hold for: A few seconds
- Why it works: This pose strengthens all the abdominal muscles. It is particularly beneficial for alleviating gas associated with constipation as it places pressure on the abdomen. As it is a more advanced posture, take care when attempting it and do not overexert yourself.
- How to do it: 1. Lie flat on your stomach with your head facing the ground. 2. Bend your knees, reach your arms back and clasp your ankles, if possible. 3. Gently raise your chest off the floor as far as is comfortable, then try to lift your thighs and upper body off the floor. 4. Hold for a couple of breaths, then release everything back to the ground.
- Option: You can repeat this for a few rounds if desired.
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- Hold for: 1 minute each side
- Why it works: This seated twist gently massages your digestive organs to stimulate detoxification.
- How to do it: 1. Begin in a seated position with your legs extended out in front of your body. 2. Bend your right leg and place it over your left knee, with your foot on the ground. 3. Bend your left leg and tuck your left foot under or near your bottom, if possible. 4. Wrap your left arm around your right knee and place your right hand on the floor behind you, twisting your body. Look over your right shoulder. 5. Take a few deep breaths in this position, then repeat on the opposite side.
- Option: Instead of tucking your foot under your bottom, leave your leg extended and perform the twist as above.
What is constipation?
Constipation is a common issue which is generally described as having infrequent bowel movements or difficulty in passing stools. Many factors can cause constipation, but the most common are not eating sufficient fibre, not drinking enough fluids, being less active, alterations to your diet, a side effect of medication, stress, anxiety or depression. Digestive conditions such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) can also result in constipation. Signs and symptoms of constipation include having a bowel movement less than three times per week, difficult or painful bowel movements, dry or hard stools, feeling bloated, feeling lethargic, flatulence and pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen or back.
Have any of these poses worked for you? Which is your favourite? Get in touch.
While yoga may help to alleviate constipation and its associated symptoms, it should not be used as a substitute for medical care. Consult a medical professional if you are concerned about your digestive health.