Upset tummy? Try yoga for digestive relief
What else can yoga do for you? If you’ve overeaten or are facing digestive discomfort, fifteen minutes or so of yoga can make all the difference, according to Zayna Gold, creator of Healing Through Movement and a Boston-based yoga instructor. Here are just a few of the poses she recommends for settling your tummy, flattening out bloat, and easing stomach pains.
Don’t worry; these moves are very gentle and will work with the lightest of touches on calming your insides (both literal and metaphorical!). “You will feel less stress when your nervous system is relaxed. The health benefits will spread to the rest of your body and ease your digestion,” says Gold. Plus, the less you train your body to rely on over-the-counter meds like Pepto Bismol and Tums, the better! The natural, effective way is always preferable for long-term benefits.
Practicing Apanasana, knees-to-chest pose, is a gentle way to restore proper flow and function to the organs of your torso. As you release excess pressure from your digestive organs and low back, your mind will begin to release its pressures and tensions, as well. It’s a simple way to encourage your body, mind, and spirit to remain pure and balanced throughout your day, as well as gives relief from excess digestive air, indigestion, bloating, flatulence, acidity, and constipation. Suffering from irritable bowel syndrome? This is the pose for you.
Plus, this pose helps to keep your low back limber. It is often used as a soothing counter-pose to backbends and spinal twists. Because your body is compact in the pose, your thoughts are more easily drawn inward, which is useful for calming the mind and rebalancing your energy.
However, make sure not to practice this pose if you are recovering from abdominal surgery or a hernia. Also avoid this pose if you have a spinal, knee, or hip injury. If you have a neck injury, do not lift your head.
Try It Out:
Begin by lying on your back, with your legs and arms extended.
As you exhale, draw both of your knees to your chest. Clasp your hands around them. If it is possible for you, wrap your forearms over your shins and clasp each elbow with the opposite hand.
Keep your back flat on the mat. Release your shoulder blades down toward your waist. Broaden across your collar bones.
Draw your tailbone and sacrum down toward the mat, lengthening your spine even more.
If it is comfortable for you to do so, softly rock backward and forward or side-to-side for a gentle spinal massage.
Tuck your chin slightly and gaze down the center line of your body.
Hold for up to one minute. Keep your breath smooth and even.
With an exhalation, release and extend both legs along the floor and rest. Repeat up to six times.
Bridge Pose is a chest, heart, and shoulders opener and works to stretch the spine, the back of the neck, the thighs, and the hip flexors (front hip joints). Because your heart is higher than your head in this pose, it is considered a mild inversion (less strenuous than other inversions, such as Headstand) and holds all the benefits of inversions, like relief from stress, fatigue, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and mild depression. Get ready to have your mind be calmed and your blood pressure treated, and if you have asthma, it’s great for increasing lung capacity by opening the chest.
Why is Bridge Pose so great for digestion? It also stimulates the abdominal organs and thyroid glands, which improves digestion and helps to regulate metabolism. Because it revitalizes the legs and stretches the shoulders, it can be a particularly rejuvenating pose for those who spend the day sitting in front of a computer or driving.
Practicing Bridge Pose can be a potent lesson in learning to slow down and listen to your body. Your spine, shoulders, and thighs will tell you how far to take the pose. The less you push, the more the pose will open up. Turn your awareness inward and notice how your body releases its grip when you don’t force it. Let your Bridge be a connection between your body, mind, and spirit.
Try It Out:
Lie supine on the floor, and if necessary, place a thickly folded blanket under your shoulders to protect your neck. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible.
Exhale and, pressing your inner feet and arms actively into the floor, push your tailbone upward toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) the buttocks, and lift the buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders.
Lift your buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over the heels, but push them forward, away from the hips, and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees. Lift the pubis toward the navel.
Lift your chin slightly away from the sternum and, firming the shoulder blades against your back, press the top of the sternum toward the chin. Firm the outer arms, broaden the shoulder blades, and try to lift the space between them at the base of the neck (where it’s resting on the blanket) up into the torso.
Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.
Seated Forward Bend
Seated forward bend, or paschimottanasana, stretches the spine, shoulders, pelvis, and hamstrings. It also stimulates and balances the liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, ovaries, and uterus. And while traditional yoga texts say Paschimottanasana can cure disease, modern-day yoga teachers agree to its many other benefits, which include relief from stress, improved digestion and appetite, relief from menstrual pain and symptoms of menopause, a calmer mind, reduced anxiety and fatigue, improved sleep and relief from insomnia. This pose is also believed to be therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, and sinusitis. It is reputed to be beneficial for overcoming obesity, as well.
Though Paschimottanasana can feel “intense,” it can be easy to push your body too much, seeking more intense sensations as signs of progress. Be careful not to misinterpret painful, sharp, or piercing sensations as positive signs! Back off if you are injuring yourself.
The more you relax in the pose, the more naturally your body will open up. Forcing forward folds will actually cause your muscles to shorten and resist even more. Breathe deeply and evenly. Settle into the moment. Turn your thoughts inward and allow resistance to gently fade away.
Try It Out:
Sit on the floor with your buttocks supported on a folded blanket and your legs straight in front of you. Press actively through your heels. Rock slightly onto your left buttock, and pull your right sitting bone away from the heel with your right hand. Repeat on the other side. Turn the top thighs in slightly and press them down into the floor. Press through your palms or finger tips on the floor beside your hips and lift the top of the sternum toward the ceiling as the top thighs descend.
Draw the inner groins deep into the pelvis. Inhale, and keeping the front torso long, lean forward from the hip joints, not the waist. Lengthen the tailbone away from the back of your pelvis. If possible take the sides of the feet with your hands, thumbs on the soles, elbows fully extended; if this isn’t possible, loop a strap around the foot soles, and hold the strap firmly. Be sure your elbows are straight, not bent.
When you are ready to go further, don’t forcefully pull yourself into the forward bend, whether your hands are on the feet or holding the strap. Always lengthen the front torso into the pose, keeping your head raised. If you are holding the feet, bend the elbows out to the sides and lift them away from the floor; if holding the strap, lighten your grip and walk the hands forward, keeping the arms long. The lower belly should touch the thighs first, then the upper belly, then the ribs, and the head last.
With each inhalation, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. In this way the torso oscillates and lengthens almost imperceptibly with the breath. Eventually you may be able to stretch the arms out beyond the feet on the floor.
Stay in the pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. To come up, first lift the torso away from the thighs and straighten the elbows again if they are bent. Then inhale and lift the torso up by pulling the tailbone down and into the pelvis.
The perfect way to wrap up your yoga therapy, Child’s Pose helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. It gently relaxes the muscles on the front of the body while softly and passively stretching the muscles of the back torso.
This resting pose centers, calms, and soothes the brain, making it a therapeutic posture for relieving stress. When performed with the head and torso supported, it can also help relieve back and neck pain. Sometimes used as a counter-pose to backbends, Child’s Pose restores balance and equanimity to the body.
Life is the period between one breath and the next; the person who only half breathes, only half lives. He who breathes correctly acquires control of the whole being.
Regular practice of Child’s Pose also teaches conscious exploration of the breath. As the front of the body releases onto the thighs, the frontal ribs and abdominal muscles become slightly compressed. This restriction allows for a deeper opening of the back of the torso as the lungs expand behind the body. As this happens, keeping the breath slow, long, and steady allows for a new awareness of the breath’s path through the front and back of the body.
Try It Out:
Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Broaden your sacrum across the back of your pelvis and narrow your hip points toward the navel, so that they nestle down onto the inner thighs. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of the pelvis while you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back.
Balasana is a resting pose. Stay anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Beginners can also use Balasana to get a taste of a deep forward bend, where the torso rests on the thighs. Stay in the pose from 1 to 3 minutes. To come up, first lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis.
Spring Cleansing with Kriya, Asana and Pranayama
Spring has arrived once again and joyfully we begin to see budding flora & blooming fauna as they come out of winter’s hibernation. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver is related to this fresh and vibrant season in which it is strongly influenced by. It’s a great time to assist the body in its natural cleansing process by toning and strengthening the liver organ so it can efficiently process and remove toxins from the body. This in turn will help to strengthen other body systems such as the immune, digestive & endocrine systems which will help to increase energy levels, promote radiant & vibrant skin, maintain healthy weight for your body type as well as promote a deep sense of peace & well being.
There are many ways in which we can support the body to reach and maintain optimal health & wellness, exercise, nutrition, relaxation and a healthy positive attitude…to name a few! Here are a few tips on using kriya, yoga asana and pranayama for toning, cleansing and strengthening the entire body and mind:
3-Part Breath – Dirga Pranayama
A deeply cleansing & grounding breath, helps to balance emotions, move stagnancy out of lungs, increases lung capacity, purifies toxins from the blood.
*Incorporate this breath several times throughout the day to focus attention to the present moment.*
Kapalabhati Breath – Breath of Fire
Cleanses the lungs & entire respiratory system, increases lung capacity, increases oxygen throughout entire body, massages digestive system improving overall function, purifies blood, brings balance into sympathetic and para-sympathetic parts of the nervous system, stimulates normal functioning of the endocrine system and tones abdominal muscles.
*Beneficial for those who experience seasonal allergies.*
Twisting poses release tension in the body, improve digestion, help to “wring” out toxins from the spine and other internal organs, tone the spinal nerves and improve the functioning of the spinal cord, flushing & cleansing action of the kidneys & liver, brings balance into the nervous system, massages & tones abdominal organs making it helpful to eliminate constipation, brings balance into the adrenal glands & hormone production, beneficial for menstrual disorders, improves round shoulders.
*Twists energize the body and can help give a boost when feeling sluggish or tired.*
Face, head, neck, shoulders, chest, abdomen & low back) – boosts the immune system by increasing production of T-cells, reduces stress, energizing, increases focus, promotes strength & vitality, balances left of right hemispheres of the body.
*Tapping is a great “pick-me-up to increase focus and rejuvenate the body & mind”.*
Enhancement of olfactory senses, loosens and flushes dried mucous, dust and other pollutants in nasal cavity, reduces frequency & severity of colds & sinusitis.
*Neti Kriya is a beneficial practice for those who experience symptoms from asthma, allergies, sinusitis & hay fever.*
Cat & Cow Pose
Cat and cow pose massages and stimulates internal organs for increased digestion & detoxification, opens chest cavity for increased lung capacity, helps to expel stagnant matter from the lungs.
*If you feel the urge to cough while practicing this movement, allow yourself to do so to remove excess mucous from the lungs.*
Forward Bends – Uttanasana & Paschimottanasana
Forward bends massage abdominal organs, stretch & strengthen the spine bringing balance into nervous system, regulate digestion, menstruation & body temperature, calm & soothe the mind.
*Tones organs responsible for urination, defecation, ejaculation, menstruation and child birth.*
Shoulder Stand – Salamba Sarvangasanam
Shoulder stand pose stimulates blood and lymph flow to enhance detoxification, carries new blood to liver & kidneys which assists in increased detoxification, activates pituitary and pineal glands synergizing them to balance hormone levels in the body, increases blood circulation to the brain which will promote higher levels of concentration and mental sharpness.
*Because of the many benefits to this pose it is considered the “Queen of Asanas”.*
Meditation is a subtle yet powerful practice to assist with cleansing & purification of body & mind, increases blood flow, decreases muscle tension, enhances energy, strength & vigor, increases focus & concentration, promotes self confidence, increases communication between the two brain hemispheres, grows a stable, more balanced personality, helps keep things in perspective, helps us tune into the present moment and experience a sense of “oneness”.
*Meditation can be practiced by anyone regardless of spiritual or religious practices, age, or gender.*
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