This Evidence Based article was written by Melissa Gundersen
What happens behind the bathroom door is something most people don’t like to talk about and prefer to keep private. Although, when gas, bloating, and constipation strike, it seems to be the only thing we can focus on. When someone doesn’t pass regular bowel movements, they aren’t eliminating toxic waste the body needs to get rid of in order to function properly. This can lead to belly bloat, nausea, an overall sluggish feeling, and a slew of other health problems. Unfortunately, nearly 63 million Americans suffer from chronic constipation. Often times constipation is caused by poor diet, stress, and lack of physical activity. So rather than reaching for dangerous laxatives, why not work to fix the root cause? Start eating clean, take some time to relax, and exercise!
Exercise Your Way To Better Digestion
You may not realize it, but when you exercise you’re not only working your leg and arm muscles. Inside your intestines, there is also a layer of muscle that is constantly contracting to help food waste pass. If you aren’t getting enough physical activity, though, your intestinal muscles may become too relaxed. This makes it extremely difficult for food to move through the digestive tract and ultimately exit the body.
Yoga For Digestion
While yoga benefits the body in many different ways (i.e. stress relief, weight loss, and pain relief), it’s also one of the best workouts for relieving constipation. With a combination of deep breathing exercises and twisting poses that massage the organs, yoga works your intestinal muscles and helps release any trapped toxic stool. Below, you will find a basic yoga sequence filled with 12 poses that have been known to help improve digestion and relieve constipation.
1) Cat-Cow Pose
Start by placing your hands and knees on the floor. Once you’re comfortable, take a deep breath in and drop your belly button toward the ground. As you do this, lift your heart and hips up toward the ceiling. This is called Cow Pose.
Next, exhale and reverse. As you exhale, round your back toward the sky and tilt your head and hips to the ground. As you tilt your hips to the ground, you will feel your stomach muscles contract (which really benefits your digestive health). This is called Cat Pose. Repeat these poses 10 times.
It’s very important that you take deep breaths during this exercise. Between deep breaths and drastic hip movements, you’ll immediately massage your digestive organs and increase the blood flow to your intestinal area.
2) Extended Puppy Pose
Remain on your hands and knees for this next pose. Keeping your hips where they are, slowly walk your hands out in front of you. As you do this, your head and chest will naturally lower to the ground. Your tush should still be up in the air, though. Hold this pose for about one minute. By doing this, you are stretching out your stomach muscles. It’s a great pose for relieving cramps, which are often associated with constipation and poor digestion.
3) Triangle Pose
Just like it sounds, you want your body to represent a triangle in this pose. First, spread your feet about four feet apart. Then, raise your arms parallel to the floor, keeping both your shoulders and palms down. The angle of your feet is very important in this pose (see the photo below for guidance). Once your feet are set properly, reach down and place your hand lightly around your ankle (or on the floor). If your right foot is extended, you will use your right hand to grab your ankle. If your left foot is extended, you will use your left hand to grab your ankle. Next, extend your free hand to the sky and look up toward your hand. Hold this pose for one minute and then switch sides.
4) Revolved Triangle Pose
While this pose requires a bit more twisting, it’s very similar to the last one. Keep your feet planted about four feet apart with your arms parallel to the ground. This time, though, your arm is going to cross in front of your body, reaching opposite hand to opposite foot. Rather than grabbing onto the ankle, this time, the goal is to reach around your foot and rest your hand behind it (see photo for guidance). Next, extend your free hand to the sky and look up toward your hand. Again, hold this pose for one minute and then switch sides.
As you twist, release, and twist again, you will naturally contract your stomach muscles. This will stimulate the release of toxic waste trapped in your intestines.
5) Half Gas/Wind Relief Pose
As you can tell by the name, this pose is extremely effective at releasing trapped gas in the intestines. If you’ve ever experienced a sharp gas pain, then you know how painful it can be. So this pose is extremely beneficial!
To enter the pose, lay down on the ground and hug your right knee. Your knee should be tightly pressed against the right side of your ribcage and your left leg should be extended straight. Don’t let your left leg lift off the ground. Work to keep it planted on the ground. Hold this pose for one-to-two minutes and then switch sides.
6) Supine Twist
Remain lying on the ground for this pose. Releasing your right knee from the previous pose, stretch it across your body and try to rest it on the floor. Use your left hand to gently push your right knee closer to the ground. At the same time, keep your shoulders planted on the ground and your right hand extended out (away from the body). Hold for about one minute and then switch sides.
7) Half Lord Of The Fishes
Sit up, keeping your both legs extended. Next, cross your left leg over your right. Your left knee should be bent (as shown in the photo below). Then, twist your body to the left. Press the back of your right elbow against your right knee to help you hold this pose and achieve a deeper twist. Remember, every time you twist and then release, you are massaging your digestive organs and loosening up any trapped stool.
Hold this pose for between 30-seconds to one minute and then switch sides.
8) Bridge Pose
Lay down on your back again and place your feet flat on the ground. Try to put your feet as close to your tush as possible. As you exhale, press your feet and arms into the ground and lift your hips into the air. Take several deep breaths while holding this pose and then slowly lower yourself back down to the ground. Repeat five times.
This pose benefits digestive health in a few ways. It helps to stimulate and stretch the abdominals. It also stimulates the thyroid, which is key for better digestion and metabolism. Plus, the movements of this pose help to deliver fresh blood to the heart, making it both energizing and rejuvenating. Since constipation can make people feel extremely sluggish, this is a great pick-me-up.
9) Boat Pose
This next pose helps to stimulate the core, aiding healthy digestion. While Boat Pose looks simple, in order to properly achieve it, you need to know a good balancing technique. Watch this video to find out how you can master this pose in no time:
10) Camel Pose
To enter this next pose, rise onto your knees with your shins on the ground. Your knees should be placed hip-width apart. Inhale and put your hands on your hips. Exhale and gently arch your back. Repeat several times and then bump it up a notch. Reach your right hand toward your right heel and your left hand back toward your left heel. Your weight should be on your knees (not your arms). Lower your head behind you and take five deep breaths.
11) Wide Child’s Pose
To enter this popular yoga pose, remain kneeling. This time, though, inch your knees slightly wider than hip-width apart. Allow your big toes to touch behind you. As you exhale, lean forward. Extend your arms out in front of you, lower your head in between your arms, and lower your tush. Remain in this position for 10 deep breaths. This pose will help create heat in the stomach area, letting your digestive juices flow.
12) Downward Facing Dog Pose
Relax your gastrointestinal tract with downward facing dog. To begin, come onto your hands and knees. As you inhale, enter the classic upside-down “V” shape. Your knees and your arms should be straight. Once you’re comfortable, relax your head in between your arms. You should be looking at your legs. Hold this pose as you take 10 deep breaths.
To exit the pose, walk your hands back toward your feet and then stand tall. Now, calmly walk yourself to the bathroom and do what you gotta do!
Not Just For Constipation Relief
While the yoga sequence above is great for relieving constipation, you don’t have to be backed up to do it! Rather than being reactive whenever digestive pain strikes, start trying to be proactive. By ending every day with these basic yoga poses, you can help keep your digestive muscles in tip-top shape. Also, since the poses in this sequence are extremely relaxing, it’s considered a great “before-bed” routine. So, if you think about it, adding this sequence to your nightly routine is really a double bonus — you’ll get a better night’s sleep and improve your digestive health!