Good digestion is essential to our overall health, if we have poor digestion our body is not able to absorb food and get the nourishment it needs. Not only is yoga great for relaxation and stress reduction, it is also a great way to look after the health of your digestive system too! So how exactly does yoga help digestion? Read below to find out more!
What is digestion?
Digestion is the process of breaking down foods; our body needs to be able to break down nutrients efficiently for energy, growth, and cell repair. The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow tubes starting at the mouth and ending at the anus.
Digestion works by moving food through the GI tract. As the food passes through it is mixed with digestive juices to break larger food molecules down into smaller ones. The body then absorbs these food molecules into the bloodstream to be delivered to the rest of the body.
Why is good digestion important?
The digestive system is connected, in one way or another, to all of the other organs in your body, so the health of your digestive system will have an impact on your overall internal body health. If your digestion is poor, your body will not be absorbing food and getting the nourishment it needs properly.
Your digestive system can affect your mood in the same way that your mood can affect your digestive system. It is often said that the gut is the second brain with 90% of the body’s feel good neurotransmitter serotonin being produced there. So, if one is out of balance, it is most likely that the other will be out of balance too. Poor digestion can allow certain bacteria to cross the lining of your digestive system which can aggravate a number of digestive and mental symptoms alike. When we suffer from mental health ailments like depression we often overeat or eat very little, which will then have a knock-on effect to the digestive system.
Stress is one of the biggest factors that affect the digestive system. Like all animals, human beings are designed to experience stress. In small amounts stress is a beneficial survival tool, helping us stay alert and avoid danger. However, continuous stress not only affects our mental wellbeing, but it can also have damaging effects on the body such as headaches, stomach problems (like diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea), high blood pressure, and chest pain.
What’s more, stress can also leech our body of important minerals such as magnesium and chromium which are responsible for a range of functions including mood regulation, preventing fatigue and supporting our muscles. Stress shuts down our digestive system resulting in symptoms like constipation and depression. So what can we do to support our digestive system in its time of need? Yoga!
How yoga can help to improve digestion
Helps you breathe easy – Yoga combines body movement with mindful breathing. Using the full capacity of the lungs and working on opening up the front of the torso gives more room for digestion to take place. Practicing yoga can relax the abdominal muscles and massage the internal organs to help encourage digestion.
Keep things moving – If we spend most of our time sitting it is no wonder that our digestive system can become stagnant too. Practicing yoga helps to ease uncomfortable symptoms of digestive issues like IBS. Moving the external body gently, whether by yoga or another form of exercise, will help to keep the internal body moving as well.
Improved circulation – Any form of exercise improves circulation and the body’s efficiency at delivering blood and nutrients to individual cells and the organs in the body. Yoga postures compress and release certain areas of the body. When a posture is released, fresh, highly oxygenated blood enters and delivers the nutrients needed.
Stress management – Yoga is a well-known stress relief tool and can help ease stressful thought processes. It helps to reverse our fight or flight response that is triggered by the sympathetic system and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as the rest and digest system).
Effective stress management can help improve digestion and ease stress-related digestive problems like constipation. Yoga in combination with natural herbal remedies like Linoforce is a great way to relieve symptoms of constipation.
Other ways to improve digestion
While yoga is a great way for improving digestion, it often doesn’t address the causes of poor digestion. Improving your diet by eating more whole, fresh foods (rather than processed foods), drinking more water, and switching regular teas for herbal teas are just a few of the ways you can improve your digestion.
Silicolgel is another great way to soothe a disruptive digestive system. It targets heartburn and reflux as well as symptoms like nausea, flatulence, stomach ache, and diarrhoea. Silicolgel forms a soothing, protective layer over the lining of the stomach and intestines, and binds to any harmful substances so that they can be removed naturally through the intestines.
Top yoga moves to help digestion
Side extensions massage the internal organs and lengthen the spine, abdominal muscles, hip, and thigh muscles. They improve flexibility in the spine, aid and regulate digestion, elimination, and metabolism. Side bends stretch the muscles between the ribs (the intercostal muscles) which often get short and tight through long periods of sitting and slouching.
Cat/cow creates fluidity in the spine and is one of the best movements to ease back pain; it improves posture whilst also strengthening the spine and opening up the chest. Cat/cow contracts and relaxes the abdominal muscles, massaging the internal organs, which makes it a great movement to improve digestion.
Forward folds help relieve stress and anxiety and stretch the back, shoulders, and hamstrings. Placing a bolster or rolled up blanket on top of the thighs compresses the abdominal organs and internally massages the digestive tract.
Twists lengthen the spine, engage the abdominal muscles, and massage the internal organs to assist digestion. They help to expel waste and supply fresh oxygen and nutrients to nourish your digestive organs.
Backbends are great restorative poses; they compress the digestive organs, ease cramps and relieve fatigue. On the release of the pose the organs are supplied with fresh, oxygenated blood. Backbends calm the brain, alleviates stress and stimulates the abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid.
Wind relieving pose
This pose applies gentle pressure to the abdominal organs to help release unwanted gases from the digestive system. It also helps to relieve indigestion, bloating, and constipation.
How to get started
Walking into your first yoga class can sometimes be intimidating but, with a good welcoming teacher you’ll soon feel right at home. If ‘yoga class’ has you quaking in your shoes investigate some online videos that are targeted towards beginners. Another option is to investigate the option of doing a one-on-one session with a yoga teacher where you have all of the teacher’s attention and you’ll be able to explain to them that you want to focus on some yoga to help relieve some of your digestive ailments.