Yoga For Digestion: The Best Asanas For Gut Health

September 14, 2022

No one is perfect; we all overeat from time to time or consume foods we know are not good for us! We then suffer the consequences; bloating, constipation, and a general uncomfortable feeling of fullness. 

Fortunately, yoga can help us recover from overindulgence or a dodgy gut. A gentle yoga practice the following morning can be highly beneficial, getting things moving and offering relief from the discomfort. 

However, when practicing yoga for digestion, some asanas are better than others. Read on to learn what practicing yoga does to the digestive system and which postures will give you instant relief from constipation and other gut issues. 

The Benefits Of Yoga On The Digestive System

Yoga can improve the functioning of the digestive system both directly and indirectly. 

Specific yoga postures, such as twists, forward folds, and inversions, are said to stimulate peristalsis (muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract). 

These asanas massage and compress your digestive organs, which increases blood flow and oxygen delivery. The massaging effect also stimulates the digestive fire known as Agni, which helps improve appetite and balance metabolism.

Yoga for the digestive system

Practicing yoga asanas, pranayama, and meditation can also aid the digestion process indirectly due to their powerful impact on the gut-brain connection. As a calming, mindful practice, yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, also called the “rest and digest” response, which is responsible for digestion. 

Many people now live high-stress lifestyles where their nervous systems are stuck in the sympathetic nervous system response (fight or flight mode). In this mode, critical bodily functions like digestion are disabled, which, over time, can severely impact your gut health, causing issues like constipation and IBS. 

Therefore, the calming properties of yoga bring the nervous system back into balance, regulate bowel movements, and help relieve digestion problems. In particular, a 2015 study found that yoga is an effective remedial therapy for managing symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

Top 6 Yoga Poses For Gut Health 

The PlayPauseBe Yoga Deck makes it super easy to create a flow for gut health. On the back of each asana card, you’ll see 10 benefit icons. The third one down on the left column signifies digestion, so look for this when building your sequences.

To help you get started, here are five of our favorite yoga poses for digestion that can be found in the PlayPauseBe deck. 

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Twist)

Yoga for digestion: seated twist
Seated twist pose, Card 67 from PlayPauseBe Yoga Deck

This seated twist is one of the best yoga poses for stimulating peristalsis. The deep twist squeezes the digestive organs to help move things along the digestive tract. It also helps to improve liver and pancreas function.

Begin in a seated position with both legs extended. Bend the right knee, placing the foot on the ground to the outside of the left thigh. Bring your right hand behind you and as you inhale, extend the spine and reach the left arm up to the sky. 

As you exhale, twist the spine and bend the left elbow, placing it outside the right knee. Lengthen the spine on the next inhale, then exhale to deepen the twist by gently pressing the elbow against the knee.

Take five full and long breaths here, going deeper on each exhale. After, take a brief counter twist to the left side before switching legs and performing the twisted posture on the other side. 

Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Yoga for digestion: locust pose
Locust pose, Card 36 from PlayPauseBe Yoga Deck

Prone postures like Locust Pose apply pressure to the abdominal organs, stimulating the digestive process. The back bending aspect also stretches the stomach and intestines, helping digestion further.

Start in a prone position with your arms by your sides. Keeping your feet together, press your pelvis into the ground and lift your chest and feet on an inhale. Hold as you exhale, and on your next inhale, press the pelvis down again to find more lift and a deeper backbend. 

Keep your legs active with the thighs hugging each other. Hold for five breaths, release, and take a few moments to realign the spine before moving on. 

Apanasana (Knees To Chest Pose)

Yoga for digestion: knee to chest
Knee to chest pose, Card 78 from PlayPauseBe Yoga Deck

Knees To Chest pose (Apanasana) is a reclined forward fold with many benefits. First, it relieves tension in the lower back and is an excellent counterpose to backbends like Locust Pose. What’s more, as you actively hug the knees to your chest, you apply pressure to the abdominal organs, improving digestion.

In a reclined position, bend your knees and hug them to your chest by wrapping your arms around your shins. You can grab the elbows with the opposite hands to increase the compression in the abdomen. Keep your head and shoulders on the ground, gently rocking side to side. 

Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Twist)

Yoga for digestion: supine twist
Supine twist pose, Card 75 from PlayPauseBe Yoga Deck

Like the seated twist, the twisting motion of this gentle supine twist stimulates and aids the digestion process. From a reclined position, hug your right knee to your chest, keeping the left leg straight on the ground. 

Place your left hand on your right knee and bring your right arm, extended, on the ground, in line with the shoulder. Slowly drop your right knee towards the left side. Keep your right shoulder rooted as you gently press the knee closer to the ground. Hold for 10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Viparita Karani (Feet Up The Wall)

Yoga for digestion: feet up the wall

This restorative inversion helps digestion by reversing the blood flood in the body. With the feet raised, stagnated blood in the ankles and legs moves down towards the hips and abdominal organs, helping to get things moving. The calming pose also activates the relaxation response of the nervous system.

Bring your hips as close to the wall as feels comfortable, and swing your legs up, placing your head and back on the ground. Rest the heels against the wall, keep the legs straight, and relax the arms by the side. You can also place a bolster or cushion under the hips to increase the inversion. Stay here for one to two minutes. 

Can I Do Yoga Right After Eating?

You should never practice yoga straight after eating, but how long you need to wait depends on what and how much you eat. As a general guideline, you should wait 3 to 4 hours after eating a large or heavy meal or 1 to 2 hours after a snack or light meal. If you eat fruit or drink juice, it should be fine to do yoga after 30 minutes or so. 

Aside from feeling nauseous, you shouldn’t do yoga immediately after eating because the body requires a lot of energy to digest food. Thus, you’ll have less energy to maintain the postures if you practice yoga while digesting. This is why traditional yogic teachings suggest that you practice on an empty stomach. 

Final Thoughts On Yoga For Gut Health

Improved gut health is just one of the many benefits you can enjoy from a regular yoga routine. Practicing yoga one time may help relieve digestive discomfort, yet a consistent at-home yoga practice will keep things working in tip-top condition.
Looking for an easy way to build your self-practice? The innovative features of the PlayPauseBe yoga deck make self-practice accessible, fun, and effortless, regardless of your existing yoga experience.

Playpausebe yoga deck for digestion
An example of yoga sequence with PlayPauseBe Yoga deck
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Gemma Clarke

Gemma is a qualified Yoga teacher and freelance writer. She has over 4 years experience teaching Vinyasa, Hatha and Yin yoga. She has also studied Buddhism, Yoga Nidra and Thai Yoga Massage. Gemma is passionate about spreading the benefits of mindfulness and yogic living through movement and words.

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