Let's be honest: The average Joe probably doesn't think about how interconnected their organ systems truly are. Biology? We left that back in high school with 90210 and hammer pants.The highest concentration of nerves in your body is in the gut, second only to the brain.
Welcome to adulthood. As New York City's own yoga instructors and movement educators Melissa Gutierrez and Kim-Lien Kendall explain, it's important to consider how your body functions in order to ensure long-lasting health. For instance, did you know that the quality of your breath can determine the quality of your digestion?
Picture this. When functioning at their best, your organs "dance" with every breath cycle, say Melissa and Kim, meaning that they fluidly shift around inside your body as you inhale and exhale in order to make room for the movement of the lungs. This movement also facilitates natural processes like digestion of food, peristalsis (digestive muscle contractions) and the absorption of nutrients.
This process doesn't always go off without a hitch, and there are a couple of reasons why.
1. Tension held in the abdominal muscles, diaphragm and even the intestines themselves.
2. Overeating. Extra belly bloat leaves little room for your diaphragm to function properly, therefore decreasing the amount of space and movement your lungs have to take in air.
Fortunately, there are ways to improve your digestion. One such trick: Up your pranayama practice, which is the part of yoga that focuses on breathing. Forward bends are another possible route to relief, as seated forward bends gently compress the digestive organs. When combined with steady and calm breath, these efforts may be able to aid the digestive process.
A note: If you experience discomfort while in a forward bend (some find the compression to be stifling, alarming or inhibiting to the breath), then get out of it. Sticking around in a claustrophic pose can exacerbate those digestive issues you're trying to solve in the first place. When it works, however, this is a wonderful example of how breathing and relaxation can put your digestion back on track.
Knowledge is power. For an in-depth look at the above information, Kim and Melissa delve deeper into the subject here.