Got a poor, sluggish and tired digestive system? Nothing that a good dose of yoga, breath work and mindfulness can’t move.
The following yoga poses will help power up your ‘agni’ (which is a Sanskrit word for your digestive fire) and eliminate some of those toxins that have been sitting dormant in your digestive system for far too long.
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This, along with some gentle and conscious breath work and mindfulness – both on and off your mat - will help relieve some of those gut ailments also.
Remembering that yoga isn’t just what we do on the four corners of our yoga mats for 60 minutes at a time – rather it’s your whole approach to life – the awareness that you cultivate on the mat extends beyond it allowing you to make more conscious decisions about diet and lifestyle, including what you ingest, say and do.
Yoga sequence for digestion
These 6 poses will twist out toxins, rinse organs, get your digestive system moving and motivate the gut.
Do all of our yoga poses for digestion on one side first and then the left.
To turn this into a dynamic flow, you could do multiple rounds.
The first round on each side is held for five breaths at a time and every round after that is one breath per movement.
1. Downward dog
Great for: Stretching the whole back line of the body. Plus it’s technically an inversion so it’s great for both energy and digestion as well as decompressing the spine and stretching the chest and shoulders.
Note: Best not to practice this one just after a main meal (leave it at least an hour before practising) and go easy if you’re heavily menstruating.
1. From all fours, place hands just in front of shoulders, curl toes under and lift knees so that your sit bones aim up and back towards the space behind you where wall and ceiling would meet.
2. Bend the knees a little, press firmly the palms (with fingers spread) into the earth and ease the sit bones up and back to get that true length in your spine.
3. If you can lengthen heels to earth without rounding through the spine, do but not at the cost of rounding out or tensing the shoulders. Better to have long spine over long legs. This will help you get the full digestive effects of the inversion.
2. Three-legged dog (inversion)
Great for: Love, love, love this posture for lengthening the standing leg’s hamstring and calf, strengthening the arms as well as feeling all that prana (energy) rich blood rush to the head.
1. From downward dog, press firmly and equally into both hands as you inhale the right leg up and back behind you, keeping both the hips and shoulders square to the ground.
2. Dial your right little toe down to the ground and spread through toes. Breath generously. Feel what you feel.
6 yoga poses for digestion
3. Crescent lunge
Building heat and strength in the legs whilst releasing through the back hip flexor.
From downward dog, exhale the right foot through between hands and, as grounding into the front foot and pressing into the back heel, inhale the arms above head with hands shoulder distance apart. Use the exhalation to ground down by dialling your tailbone down and then forward.
1. Work to square your hips forward.
2. If you need a little more space for your lower back, bend the back knee and lengthen the tailbone down (this will also give you a sweet stretch or sensation into the back quad also. Bonus!)
4. Crescent twist
This sweet little (intense) posture has all the essential ingredients for vitality, strength, balance and an easeful digestion.
The spinal twist is great for spinal health and digestion, the balance trains us to stay focused and present and the lunge means you’re further strengthening and cultivating that inner fire which only stokes agni and digestive fire. Breathe calmly through it all.
1. From crescent lunge, inhale to lengthen the spine.
2. As you exhale, begin to lean forwards and then twist to the right, placing your left elbow over the right knee.
3. Press firmly into the back heel, or, if too intense or you’re having a wobbly day, lower the back knee for more stability and balance.
4. As you breath calmly, imagine each inhalation to lengthen the spine and each exhalation to gentle twist the spine as if rinsing out your internal organs.
5. Wide legged forward fold or Prasarita
This is an absolute beauty for stretching the hamstrings, calves and inner thighs. It also tones the quads and because the hips are higher than the heart, it’s an inversion which means, when coupled consciously with breath, it’s a powerful motivator for the digestive system.
1. From crescent lunge, inhale and (using balance and awareness) lift the torso and turn your body to the left side of room or mat placing hands on hips.
2. Turn your toes ever so slightly in so that they are pigeon toes. Inhale ease your tailbone down to lengthen the lower back and lift your chest to broaden it.
3. Exhale begin to hinge forward from the hips and place hands to ground or a block if the hands don’t come all the way down. You can also bend the knees if needed.
4. Inhale lift the chest half way to lengthen the spine with hand son block or ground and then exhale and fold back in. Stay for 5-10 breaths.
5. Each exhalation, draw the navel gently in and up a little which not only creates a little more space for you to move into but rinses out your internal organs serving the digestive system.
6. Seated twist
Both grounding and great for your digestive system, this one enables you to rinse safely and cleanse your internal organs.
Think of each inhalation as creating space and bringing awareness into your internal organs which may be holding toxins, and each exhalation as rinsing those organs gently out like a sponge. It’s also magic for your shoulders, spinal health and hips. We’ll all experience sensation here in different places.
1. From prasarita, lower down into a seated posture and lengthen the left leg out in front whilst bending the right knee and placing the right foot over the left leg beside the left hip.
2. If both sit bones can stay easily grounded here, you could also fold up the left leg (as pictured)
3. Inhale lift your left arm up into the sky as you place the right hand back behind you for support.
4. Exhale begin to twist gently to the right and (just like in crescent lunge) snuggle the left elbow over the right knee.
5. Inhale to re-lengthen the spine (keeping your body in the twist) and exhale to twist gently.
Hint: I love closing the eyes and watching the spine gently lengthen and twist. It can have a huge effect on how you experience the posture.
Repeat all of the above on left side.
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Kate Kendall is the Co-Founder and Director of Yoga at Flow Athletic. Follow @activeyogi to be inspired to move into more shapes for better wellbeing.