Banishing Bellyaches with Yoga

By: StacyAtZeel

Stomach gurgling? Don't reach for the Pepto, at least not yet. These Zeel Yogis have all the key poses for improving digestion.Adjusting your posture and breathing can help with certain digestive issuesAdjusting your posture and breathing can help with certain digestive issues

Restorative Yoga

Kim-Lien Kendall, a yoga instructor and movement educator in New York City, recommends restorative yoga. "For immediate relief (for instance if you ate a meal not so long ago, or are feeling bloated or experiencing indigestion) the best kind of yoga is restorative yoga," she says. "This generally involves making a supportive base (with props) for a non-strenuous posture. Stay in it and relax for a few minutes. Whatever position you choose, be sure that it does not require a great deal of effort."

Kim goes on to explain that the logic behind this is that it's important to balance the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic branch is known as the "fight or flight" branch, and the parasympathetic is "rest and digest." One branch often works better when the other branch is at rest.

"Putting yourself in strenuous postures, therefore, is mostly counteractive to the digestive process," she says. "Doing restorative postures, however, may promote parasympathetic activity, such as digestion."

Yoga with a Twist

"Twists are great for digestion because they direct blood flow to the stomach," says San Diego-based yoga instructor Laura Plumb. She also recommends seated forward bends, as well as shoulder stands and all poses that help you relax, release stress and restore inner peace. All these can benefit the digestive process.

Laura's explanation is similar to Kim's. In slightly different words, she describes: "Under stress, the nervous system shuts down the workings of the gut, sending blood and energy to the arms and legs to be available for the fight or flight response. Only when stress is reduced, the breath is deep, slow and even and the mind is quiet, does the system go back to rest and digest."

Lastly, be sure to incorporate at least a few minutes of shavasana every time you practice. "The benefits go beyond digestion to include anti-aging, mental clarity, emotional stability, hormone health, energy and vigor and so much more!" Laura exclaims.

Waiting to Exhale

"Believe it or not," begins New York City yogi Melissa Gutierrez, "a focused breathing practice can often be more helpful than any asana or pose." Of course, this depends on what kind of digestive issues are being addressed specifically.

She goes on to explain that "breathing increases the flow of energy, oxygen and blood to the stomach and intestines, thus toning and improving digestive processes. Having a focused breath or pranayama practice can get you in touch with your abs. It improves posture and strength and helps alleviate stress."

In other words, get in touch with your core muscles. The more you are, the easier it will be to deal with stress and keep your digestion strong and elimination steady. "Movement is excellent!" says Melissa. "I highly encourage practicing yoga, but maybe the question you should ask yourself is, "How well am I breathing today?"