Yoga & Digestive Health

HOW DOES YOGA HELP WITH DIGESTIVE HEALTH?

In Yogic tradition, the state of our digestive system can create health and vitality, or be the root cause of disease. The metabolic energy of digestion is called Agni. When this fire is burning strong, it breaks down dense physical matter into nutrients and vitamins that the body and mind require to function. When it’s weak, it creates toxic build up, leading to disease. Yoga can support Agni, creating balance in the body and longevity.

When the organs of the digestive system are compressed in poses, waste and toxins in those areas are encouraged out of the tissues and the body is better able to eliminate them. This then enables nutrients to circulate into the cells. Twisting postures can help to enhance your digestion and encourage your liver and kidneys to flush out toxins.

  • Massages vital organs of digestive tract
  • Stimulates muscles and increases peristaltic movements
  • Pranayama (breath control) techniques send oxygen deep into the cells of the body (which can help with bloating) and help it to absorb nutrients and excrete waste products thoroughly
  • Reduces stress response of the body
  • Dynamic poses improve blood and lymph circulation

COMMON DIGESTIVE DISORDERS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a group of symptoms manifesting as a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder in which patients experience abdominal pain, discomfort, and bloating that is often relieved with defecation. For people with IBS, the nerves of the digestive system become oversensitive. The digestive tract overreacts to food, stress, and other demands on your body and mind.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive disorder that affects the lower oesophageal sphincter, the ring of muscle between the oesophagus and stomach. In GERD, the sphincter relaxes abnormally or weakens, causing the stomach’s acid to flow back up into the oesophagus. This constant backwash of acid irritates the lining of your oesophagus, often causing it to become inflamed.

Gastritis

Gastritis is a general term for a group of conditions with one thing in common: an inflammation, irritation, or erosion of the lining of the stomach. It can occur suddenly (acute) or gradually (chronic).

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic illness characterised by gross inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  The latter is limited to the colon or large intestine. The former, on the other hand, can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to anus. The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease remains unknown. Possible causes are an immune system malfunction and heredity.

ASANAS FOR DIGESTIVE HEALTH

1.Pawan Muktasana (wind relieving pose) 

Benefits

  • Flatulence – speeds up movement of trapped wind in digestive tract to help expel intestinal gas
  • Constipation – stimulates bowel movement and encourages defecation
  • Digestion – compresses and massages your ascending and descending colon, and encourages blood flow to digestive organs
  • Provides relief for a sluggish liver or flabby abdomen 

2. Marjaryasana-Bitilasana (Cat-Cow) 

Benefits

  • Pain and bloating – by alternately compressing and lengthening the spine, your intestines will fold and unfold, this movement massages and stimulates organs, particularly the stomach and intestines, bringing a boost of fresh blood and oxygen to cells responsible for healthy gut function

 3. Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend)

Benefits

  • Traditional yogic texts say that Paschimottanasana increases appetite, reduces obesity, and can cures diseases
  • The gentle but deep intra-abdominal compression massages and strengthens the digestive organs – esp liver, spleen, pancreas, intestines
  • Enhances the peristalsis, relieves indigestion (dyspepsia), belching and gastritis

4. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Benefits

  • It has been used for thousands of years as a constipation-relieving pose.
  • The rocking bow pose gives the internal organs a powerful massage – particularly the liver and pancreas – the massage aids with better absorption of nutrients, facilitates digestion and elimination of waste and toxins from the body
  • Effective in weight loss – by balancing the entire weight of your body on your abdomen, it provides maximum stretch and toning for the abdominal and oblique muscles, thus reducing fat-buildup around the stomach