An Interview with ASMY Yoga Teacher Amby on Yoga Asanas and Digestion
Q: Namaste, can yoga practice help digestive functioning and if so, how?
Ambi: Yes, yoga asanas can help support digestion. For example, bending forward restricts the blood flow to the digestive area and when you release the pose the digestive tract is supplied with new, fresh blood and oxygen, which is good for the digestive tract. Twisting poses also restrict blood flow and oxygen to the abdominal area and upon release a fresh supply of blood, nutrients and oxygen is brought into the abdominal area which both nourishes and helps to remove toxins. During twisting poses you are massaging and squeezing the abdominal organs, helping to improving both digestion and elimination, when there is difficulty. Inverted postures ease the stress of digestion by relieving the pressure of gravity. They are a good pose for easing constipation.
Q: What are some yoga asanas that target the digestive system?
Ambi: Poses that incorporate forward bends when you are either seated or standing help. So does an inverted posture, such as
half shoulder stan
d, and twists when you are seated or supine, on your back. The cat movement, both up and down and sideways, will support digestive functioning as do asanas that open up the abdominal area such as hero pose or half hero pose. Another pose that works
in the abdominal area is the bridge pose. It opens up the abdominal area and by breathing deeply into this area the breath is focused in the lower lungs, which both brings in oxygen and helps unblock energy channels. Apana asana, which is where you lay on your back and bring your knees to the chest and your chin to your knees also helps, actually it’s known as gas relieving pose.
Q: Are there any contraindications with any of these poses in relation to digestive function?
Ambi: Yes, if you are in an active state of diahorrea don’t practice any forward bends. However inversions, back bends and hip opening postures may help relieve diahorrea.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add to this conversation?
Ambi: You can improve your digestive fire through yoga movements like salute to the sun and any energising standing poses such as warrior pose. There is also a breathing technique called kapalabhati breathing where you breathe in deep and then forcefully draw your abdomen in on the exhalation. It’s warming for the abdominal area, energising and stimulating, and in turn this makes your digestive system able to work more efficiently. If your digestive process needs to slow down, then you would practice slow gentle yoga asanas like floor stretches in conjunction with the breath.