Yoga Asanas for Digestion

Since young, my digestion had always been sluggish with irregular bowel movement. My stomach used to be really bloated even as a kid, my mom told me our family doctor once asked me if I put a balloon inside my tummy when I was four or five years old.

Since late last year, while going through bouts of nasty acid reflux and heartburn, I have been taking digestive enzymes to help on my digestion. They are god-sent to me and I would never want to run out on these digestive enzymes so surely I stock up!

When I started the teacher training course 6 weeks ago, I realized that the need for me to take these supplements has decreased significantly. After being introduced to the anatomy of the human body where we learnt how yoga and our body work in the theory classes, I began to understand why I needed less of the supplements. My digestive system has improved from practicing asanas intensively for 5 days a week!

Below I share some very simple and accessible poses which can improve digestion.

Vakrasana (Seated Twist Pose)

A simple seated twist like the Vakrasana has great benefits to digestion. This pose is designed to twist the spine to both the right and left side from a seated position. Think of elongating your spine and then twisting your spine so that you are facing towards the back while still sitting on the same spot on your sitting bones.

This pose will warm and stimulate the abdominal organs necessary for the digestion process. The digestive system needs warmth to function better, this is the same reason why Ayurveda diet recommends avoiding cold drinks at meals as it will slow down digestion. Stimulating the organs will allow the organs to work more efficiently for example, twisting will keep the smooth muscles in our stomach supple which is necessary for propelling contents through the digestive tract.

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Bhujangasana is usually done as part of the sun salutation series. In this pose, the back is arched and contracted and the front of our torso is extended. This pose has multiple benefits, not just for digestion – it will strengthen the back muscles, reinvigorate the abdominal organs in the lower body and the reproductive organs in the pelvic area. There will be pressure on your lower abdomen and the reproduction organs against the floor which will feel like a massage. The lower abdomen is where the small intestines are located, the small intestines are where most of the food gets digested hence stimulating and massaging this area will greatly aid the digestion process.

Uttanasana or Paschimottasana (Standing forward bend or seated forward bend)

Forward bends are therapeutic for digestion as this pose will massage all the digestive organs. If you have tight hamstrings like me, you can micro-bend your knees, the benefits on the digestive organs will not be diminished just because you bend your knees! This pose will stimulate all the important digestive organs like the stomach and small intestines. The next time you struggle in your forward bends (like I do sometimes due to my tight hamstrings and hip flexes), just think of the pleasant therapy you’re giving your digestive organs, focus on your breath and just hang in there.

The beauty about these asanas is that they not only have just one benefit, their physical benefits are indefinite! For example, vakrasana will also keep your spine flexible, bhujangasana will strengthen the spinal muscles, forward bends stretch the hamstrings. All the poses described above are accessible and suitable for beginners, however if you have serious health conditions do consult your doctor before practice.