A healthy digestive system is the prime indicator of good health. As the saying goes - we are not just what we eat, but we are also what we absorb. Good gut health means your system is regularly absorbing the nutrients required by your body, and eliminating toxins. When digestion is imbalanced it can lead to problems like acidity, bloating, constipation, headaches, and many more conditions. What could also start off as discomfort every now and then can lead to more severe diseases as we grow older.
When we take steps to take care of our digestive health we feel more balanced and energetic. Digestion begins in the mouth. For example, eating mindfully and knowing how much to eat is the first step. According to Ayurveda, we should always eat only half of our stomach’s capacity. Quarter should be left for water and the rest should be left for digestion. Chewing our food properly (it is said we should chew 32 times to break down the food completely) makes it easier for our digestive organs to process, break down and absorb the nutrients. Practicing asanas and cleansing techniques regularly removes the toxins and particles that are stuck on the intestinal lining.
Furthermore, the biggest factor that influences digestion is stress. When we are stressed, we overeat or don’t care about what we consume. We eat what doesn’t suit us. The hormonal imbalance doesn’t aid digestion and triggers all the common disorders. So yoga practices that keep our stress levels low and activate the parasympathetic nervous system are also useful for better digestion.
The below asanas are simple, yet extremely effective in aiding digestion. They are also practiced as part of a cleansing technique called Shankha prakshalana, which means the cleansing of the conch.
Mountain pose or Tadasana
Tadasana lengthens and strengthens the back and core. It creates more space in the body, helping the digestive system organs work better and more efficiently.
Swaying palm tree pose or Tiryak Tadasana
This asana is particularly useful for digestion. It activates the Manipura chakra or the solar plexus, igniting the digestive fire (agni). This immediately has a stimulating effect on the digestive system organs. Practice while focusing your attention on the abdominal region. Also, like Tadasana, it creates space in the body as well.
Standing spinal twist or Kati Chakrasana
Kati Chakrasana not only strengthens the spinal nerves and muscles, but has a strong impact on the abdominal muscles too. It adds pressure on the stomach and intestines, releasing constipation. It also promotes the production of digestive juices and enzymes that help in digesting food.
Yoga asanas for better digestion
Cat and cow or Marjariasana
The movement in Marjariasana massages all the abdominal organs, therefore activating and improving the digestive process. It provides a compression to the intestines, improving blood circulation as well.
Locust pose or Shalabhasana
Shalabhasana massages the abdominal organs improving blood circulation. It prevents disorders like constipation by creating pressure on the stomach and intestine. Furthermore, the asana promotes the production of digestive juices and enzymes that help in processing various food types like proteins and carbohydrates.
Thunderbolt pose or Vajrasana
This is the only asana that can be practiced soon after eating. It has a wonderful effect on the digestive system. It blocks the blood flow to our legs and thighs, increasing it in the abdominal area. This improves digestion, bowel movements and relieves acidity, gas and constipation.
Seated forward fold or Paschimottanasana
You can adapt a variation when practicing for digestion. Gently round the back as it will create a compression on the stomach. This will not only massage the stomach and other organs, but also make digestion better, and relieve constipation, and gas.
Half-lord of the fishes pose or Ardha Matsyendrasana
In this asana too you can round the back slightly so there is more impact on the abdomen. The contraction in the abdomen helps release toxins, massages the organs, improves circulation and blood flow. It also improves liver and pancreatic health. The increased activity in the region improves overall digestion.
Wind-relieving pose or Pawanmuktasana
This asana also massages all the abdominal organs, strengthens the muscles in the region and improves blood circulation. It presses on the stomach aiding digestion and releasing constipation.
Shoulder stand or Sarvangasana
Sarvangasana improves digestion, prevents constipation and aids in relieving other digestion related disorders. It also relieves acidity and acid reflux. It improves absorption as well as elimination.
In 400 BC Hippocrates was quoted saying, “Bad digestion is the root of all evil!” This holds true even today. Keeping our digestive fire strong is an absolute must to remain healthy and balanced. Agni, according to Ayurveda, is the source of all nutrients and intelligence. Stronger our agni, stronger our health. Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar is one of the best practices to activate the digestive fire and release toxins. Practice yoga regularly with an experienced teacher to keep your gut, mind and body healthy and strong.