Tummy Troubles? Just Say “Om”

Find inner peace -- not in your brain but in your belly -- with yoga. Certain gentle yoga poses focus on the muscles surrounding the digestive tract and, as a result, may help aid digestion and ease bloating or cramping. [1] Yoga is also a great way to relax. [2] Since stress has been shown to exasperate irritable bowel syndrome and other common digestive problems, yoga can become another tool in managing these health issues. [1, 3, 4] (Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.) [5] The following four poses (and one breathing exercise) are suitable for beginners and can be done daily at any time. [1]

Seated Twist

Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs crossed. Gently turn your torso to the left, placing your right hand on the left knee for leverage. Place the left palm on the floor near your tailbone, with fingers facing away from you. (This posture will straighten the spine and prevent slouching.) Turn your head to the left and gaze over your shoulder. Hold for five slow inhales and exhales. Switch hand positions as you gently twist to the opposite side. Do one twist for each side, or more if it feels good. [1]

Knees to Chest

Lie comfortably on your back and hug both knees to your chest. Hold for five slow inhales and exhales. Then, on your fifth exhale, extend one leg forward (heel just a few inches off the floor) while continuing to hug the opposite knee. Inhale as you switch sides. Continue alternating legs and breaths for 30 to 60 seconds, or for as long as is comfortable. [1]

Child’s Pose

Kneel on the floor with your big toes together, knees apart (slightly wider than hip-width), and your bottom resting on your heels (if possible). Slowly lower your torso toward the floor, letting your thighs rest against your calves. Settle your chest and belly into the space between your knees and thighs, and drop your forehead to the floor. (If necessary, rest your forehead on your fists.) Your arms can either extend in front with palms down or extend behind at your sides with palms up. Slowly inhale and exhale for five breaths, or as long as is comfortable. [1]

Supine Twist

Lie on your back and draw both knees to your chest. Extend arms out to a T position, palms on the floor. Slowly let your knees fall to the left until the outside of the entire left leg touches the floor with the right leg stacked on top (knees remain bent). Hold for 60 seconds or more, slowly inhaling and exhaling. Repeat on the right side. [1]

Belly Breathing

Lie on your back (or sit in a supportive chair) and place one hand on your belly, just below the navel, and the other hand on your chest. Inhale slowly through the nose while feeling the belly inflate as the chest remains still. Then exhale slowly through the nose while feeling the belly deflate as the chest remains still. Continue for 5 to 10 minutes (or as long as is comfortable.) Try doing this after meals and throughout the day to center and relax you. [1]

SOURCES:

Author is a registered yoga teacher instructor.

1. Yoga Therapy for Digestive Health

http://asktheyogateacher.com/wp-content/themes/yogalife/sandbox-layouts/images/mediakit/YogaTherapyforDigestiveHealth.pdf

Accessed 9/9/2013

2. Mayo Clinic: Yoga

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/yoga/CM00004

Accessed 8/9/2013

3. Johns Hopkins Medicine: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/digestive_disorders/irritable_bowel_syndrome_ibs_85,P00384/

Accessed 8/9/2013

4. NDDIC: Indigestion

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/indigestion/

Accessed 8/9/2013

5. American Council on Exercise: Before You Start an Exercise Program

http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy_living_fit_facts_content.aspx?itemid=94

Accessed 8/9/2013