By Claire Diab and Dennis Boyle
A healthy digestive system is essential to a healthy body. Our digestive system converts the foods that we eat into nutrients and energy that the body needs to function and thrive. Optimal digestion also leads to regular elimination, which is the body’s way of flushing out toxins and waste. Efficient digestion and elimination are the keys to radiant health!
Billions of dollars are spent each year on prescription and over-the-counter medications for common digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, GERD, irritable bowel, indigestion, and heartburn. Fortunately, the practice of yoga is beneficial for stimulating and revitalizing the digestive system, and it’s FREE! Yoga increases blood flow and oxygen to the digestive organs, strengthens the digestive organs, increases the efficiency of elimination, and decreases gas and bloating. And the relaxation effects of breath work and yoga help to manage stress, which is commonly associated with digestive disorders.
As we move through our yoga poses, we are compressing and releasing the abdomen, massaging the digestive organs, releasing old fluids, and welcoming in fresh blood and oxygen. Even holding a simple yoga pose or assuming good posture while we breath deeply massages the organs as the diaphragm moves up and down.
Below are three gentle yoga poses to benefit digestion:
- To begin, come onto all fours, on hands and knees, with your knees directly below your hips and your hands directly below your shoulders.
- Rock backward, bringing your buttocks toward your heels, and rest your forehead on the ground.
- If your forehead does not reach the ground, you can stack your hands and rest your head on your hands or use a pillow or rolled towel to support the head. Breathe deeply 8-10 times.
Seated Twist Pose:
- Come to a seated position with both legs out straight.
- Bend your right knee, bringing the sole of your foot flat. You can keep the foot on the inside of the left leg or cross it over the left leg if you are flexible enough to keep the sole of the foot flat.
- Hug your right knee with your left arm, and reach back behind you, planting your right hand behind your tailbone.
- Sit up tall, reaching through the crown of your head to lengthen the spine.
- Breathe deeply, bringing the belly and the chest farther around with each exhale. Repeat for 6-8 breaths.
- Repeat on the other side.
Knees to Chest Pose
- Lying on your back, hug your knees in to your chest.
- Be still or gently rock side to side
- Breathe deeply for 6-8 breaths.
- Twist option: Release your legs and bring the soles of your feet flat to the ground, keeping the knees bent and hips width apart.
- Inhale deeply and then, as you exhale, gently rock your knees over to the right, turning the neck to the left if it feels comfortable for you.
- Inhale, the knees back to center, and exhale to the left, turning the head to the right if you choose.
- Continue twisting side to side, coordinating with the breath for a nice abdominal massage!
Claire Diab is an internationally recognized Yoga therapist. She is the director of the Yoga Program for the Chopra Center founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon. She is an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at Seton Hall University. She is the author of several books and DVDs on Yoga including “Yoga For Firefighters.”
Dennis Boyle is a retired fire director and acting chief with the West Orange (NJ) Fire Department. He was the recipient of the 1999 New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs “Fire Officer of the Year” award.