The digestive system is in charge of absorbing and transporting all the nutrients your body needs in order to thrive and to get rid of all the waste your body doesn’t need. It consists of a number of hollow passageways that start at the mouth and end at the anus. Enzymes and hydrochloric acid are being secreted, micro villi are busy being attracted to specific nutrients, our stomach is contracting frequently and waste is being prepared for our next trip to the toilet. After a meal our digestive system is busy churning, secreting, moving, mixing, absorbing and eliminating. So with all this activity taking place is it okay to eat or drink before a yoga class?
Yoga on a full stomach is really uncomfortable. That’s because doing yoga asanas, especially ones that involve forward and reverse bending or twists place pressure on the abdominal organs which may push food upwards. Asanas can be challenging as you are moving and bending in folds, angles, twists, up and down, backwards, inverting, holding poses and engaging in yoga breathing. Doing this, while at the same time giving your body the extra work of digestion, could mean you end up experiencing cramps, nausea, or vomiting. Digesting food takes energy and that can make you lethargic in the class as well.
On the other hand, if you haven’t eaten much during the day and you do a strenuous yoga class at the end of the day, you may start feeling dizzy and lightheaded as your body is working hard and looking for fuel and energy that is not there. So it is important to keep your blood sugar levels in balance. If you need a quick snack before the class, stick with lighter foods that digest and leave your stomach faster. This could mean eating nutrient dense but easy to digest snacks like some yogurt, or a piece of fruit such as an apple or banana or a handful of almonds an hour before your class. This will give you energy to do the class but not leave you feeling heavy or nauseous during a pose. Staying hydrated is important too, so make sure you drink some water an hour or two before the class, sip as needed during the class and drink plenty of water after your class, to rehydrate.
So while our digestive system is busy digesting it is best we are not busy doing yoga. However, in between digesting doing yoga is helping our digestive system. Remember how your body feels after a good massage, well your digestive system will feel much the same after a sequence of yoga postures.