Using Yoga to Ease Digestive Ailments

Eating a healthy diet and keeping the body hydrated are very important to digestive health but do not guarantee a life without digestive disturbance.  Sometimes we eat foods that our bodies are not able to breakdown and absorb, even though they are “healthy”, because our bodies lack the necessary digestive enzymes.  Lifestyle and stress can also cause the digestive system to create more acid in the stomach than is needed.  Stomach acid can also leak into other areas of the body if the cardiac sphincter, located between the esophagus and the stomach, or the pyloric sphincter, located between the stomach and the small intestine, do not close properly.  Then there are digestive disturbances caused by bacteria and other organisms that invade the body.

Luckily yoga can help maintain a healthy immune system and keep the abdominal muscles strong to help with the movement of food through out the digestive system.

Specific yoga asanas are useful for many of the ailments.

Constipation occurs when there is an obstruction in the intestines or the colonic transit is slow. Helpful yoga asanas are headstands, sirsasana and sarvangasana, which help engage the parasympathetic nervous system, aiding in digestion and blood flow to the area.  Jathara parivartanasana helps to strengthen and tone the transverse abdominals.  Pashimottasana and uttanasana  are standing forward bends helpful in toning and engaging the area.

Diarrhea occurs when there are multiple loose and liquid bowel movements within a day. Colitis is inflammation of the colon, large intestine, that causes extreme diarrhea, cramps, bloating and anemia.  These ailments respond to gentle back bending asanas that open the stomach and increase blood flow, such as shalabhasana and dhanurasana.  Restorative asanas that increase blood flow to the abdominal area are virasana and supta virasana.  Inversion asanas help to calm the nervous system and aid in digestion.

Acidity that travels to other parts of the digestive system occurs when the sphincters at the beginning and end of the stomach are not functioning properly.  Twisting and revolving asanas are helpful such as parivritta trikonasana, parivritta  parsvakonasana, ardha chandrasana and marichyasana.  Like for the other digestive ailments forward bending, back bending and inversions should be practiced.

Nadi shodana and ujjayi are useful pranayamas for all of the listed aliments.  Meditation and relaxation techniques are always beneficial but especially so when we are experiencing digestive discomfort.