A healthy digestive system in the age-old Ayurvedic healthcare system and Yoga is linked to the foundation of our well-being. On these holistic sciences perspective a healthy digestive system is revered as the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle while most of the diseases are believed to arise from a poor digestion. The metabolic energy of digestion is called agni. It helps in eliminating the body wastes and toxins, breaks down food into subtle energy while also keeping the body healthy by generating internal warmth. A weak agni will result in not enough digestive power to metabolise food into energy and, as a result, more toxins are built-up in the body.
Yoga helps to improve digestion by stimulating the agni coupling physical postures with rhythmic breathing among other techniques. This balances your agni so that you can digest your meals efficiently and smoothly.
The lack of agni can lead to the following digestive problems:
- Excessive gas
- Fatigue after eating
- Irritable bowel syndrome
But… It’s not only about Agni
Yoga helps stimulating major systems like the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and endocrine systems. This, in turn helps to improve the digestive system by:
- Relaxing ourselves and, in turn, our digestive system
- Improving blood flow and oxygenation to digestive organs
- Eliminating waste more efficiently
- Decreasing gas
- Reducing acidity
- Strengthening digestive muscles
Twisting, Forward bends and specific types of Backbends help with our digestion by stimulating the circulation in the area while activating the movements required for a good digestion. Check out 03 asanas with simple clarification on why they help out in a better digestion. Try it out at home every day and if you have constipation just drink two small glasses of warm water before this practice.
Twisting asanas produce a gentle “twist” massage for the internal organs, especially liver and intestine improving the blood circulation in the area. They also activate the area (sacral parasympathetic ganglions) responsible for regulating the bowel movements, which is very important for a good evacuation.
Vakrasana a great twisting technique:
- Sit erect with legs stretched and heels together.
- Place your palms by the side of the buttocks and facing the ground. Sit erect so that the spine is at right angle to the ground.
- Now bend the right knee and place the right foot by the side of the left knee.
- Straighten and turn your waist towards the right side.
- Bend yout left arm and press the elbow agains the outter thigh (close to the knee)
- Move your right shoulder back and place the right palm in the line of your sacrum but slightly away from the body, so as to keep the spine erect yet twisted.
- Keep your face relaxed, with natural breathing. Hold this final posture as long as it is comfortable.
- It is recommended to hold the final pose from 20 seconds at first, building up to a minute.
- Return back to the original position by bringing your hands one by one to original position and straighten your right leg.
- Repeat the pose on the other side.
- Avoid practicing Vakrasana if suffering from ulcer and enlargement of liver.
- After folding right leg only the right hand has to be taken to back, not the left hand. Do not practice for more than 2 rounds.
Backbends also helps by activating the ganglions responsible for bowel movements. However, there is a particular type of backbend that deals with improving our digestion: the prone ones. Prone backbends create a great pressure in the lower abdomen, giving an intense massage to specially the intestines.
Cobra a great back bending technique:
- Lie down on the stomach by keeping your legs and toes together.
- Put your palms between your chest line and your shoulders while your head should rest on the ground.
- While inhaling raise your head up to your navel region to fix your gaze either at front or upwards. Try not to use your hand support to keep you up.
- Maintain this position for 10 while steadily inhaling and exhaling. Stay while confortable.
- Come to the original position slowly with deep exhalation.
- Repeat the process for 3 to 7 times.
- Do not practice Cobra if you are pregnant, have fractured ribs or wrists, or recently underwent abdominal surgeries, such as for hernia.
- Also avoid doing Cobra if you suffer from Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.
- Practice Cobra Pose under a Yoga teacher’s guidance if you have suffered from chronic diseases or spinal disorders in the past.
Forward bending improves the intra-abdominal circulation with the stretch on the back muscles and pressure in the abdomen so that the glands responsible for the peristaltis are also activated as well.
Paschimottanasana a great forward bending technique:
- Sit down straight with your legs stretched-out in front of you. Keep your head neck and spine erect.
- Place your fingertips on the floor by the side of your hips
- Bend forward from the hips. With the help of your fingertips keep your chest opened while you fold. If it is confortable hold your toes with your thumb, index and middle fingers.
- Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Use the exhalation to relax into the a deeper forward fold. Touch your knees with your head only if it is confortable.
- If your head meets your knees, bend your arm and try to touch your elbow on the floor.
- Keep breathing and being aware of your breath while you stay in this posture for 15-20 seconds
- Slowly return to your starting position with the help of your fingertips.
- Breathe normally.
- Repeat this for 3-4 times.
- Do not practice Paschimottanasanaif you are pregnant.
- If suffering from slip disc, sciatica or asthma; Paschimottanasana should be avoided at all costs
Yoga offers us a great way to stay healthy, the digestive system being an integral part of that healthy lifestyle we so deserve. All we need to do is to practice yoga daily and eat regularly and healthy. The lifestyle we choose is essential to our overall health while Yoga is a gift we give ourselves… An opportunity to enhance our health and contentment.
An extra Tip: Drink a glass of Lassi for Constipation
Another simple tip popular in India, which is known for improving digestion is a fresh yogurt drink called lassi. Lassi is light and contains lactobacilli, necessary bacteria that lubricate the intestines to help digestion go smoothly. Lassi help to reduce gas and bloating. It also taste delicious and can make a meal more satisfying and nutritious.
1 cup room temperature water
1/4 fresh homemade yogurt
1 pinch ground ginger
1 pinch ground cumin
1 pinch ground coriander
1 pinch salt
Blend all the ingredients together and drink during lunch time.