By Lauren, Grace and Louisa
After a possibly cold season of comfort eating and extra kilos, here’s how yoga can help with detoxing and improving our digestive health!
BETTER FOOD CHOICES
One of the ways that Yoga contributes to healthy digestion is the ability to slow down eating habits and make healthier food choices. Yogis seeking a positive quality of mind, relaxation and good digestive health will naturally choose foods that will give rise to a sense of balance and harmony. Yoga practices offer a way for individuals to engage in a self-discovery process and a better understanding of the relationship between food choices and physical well being.
PRANAYA MA FOR DIGESTION
Abdominal Breathing: This breath stimulates peristalsis and relaxes the abdomen. It can be performed seated, lying down or standing. Inhale through the nose, slowly, gently and directing it down to the abdomen, expanding the belly out like a balloon. Then filling up the chest cavity from the bottom right up to the apex.
As you exhale, release through the nostrils and relaxing the belly back towards the spine. Ujjayi Breathing: Tapping into the Ujjayi breath, which is as above in abdominal breathing, but as you exhale, the air is released through a constricted part of the back of the throat making an oceanic sound, or you may sound a little bit like Darth Vader from Star Wars! Shifting into Ujjayi breathing has a balancing influence on the cardiorespiratory system, it is a warming breath that will also aid in increasing your metabolic rate and digestive power.
YOGA ASANAS FOR IMPROVED DIGESTION
Pawanmuktasana – Wind Release Pose (Yep, that’s right!)
Lying on the back, with knees drawn in and fingers interlacing and drawing the knees in towards the chest. With inhalation, raise the head above the ground and try to touch the forehead towards the knees.
Benefits: Strengthens the back and abdominal muscles as well as massaging the intestine and other abdominal organs, hence aiding in digestion and elimination of waste. This pose also enhances circulation to the hip joint, eases tension in the lower back and strengthens the arms and legs.
Navasana – Boat Pose
Sit up on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. Bend both knees in and place both hands under your knees to grip onto your legs. Inhale lift both feet up to the level of your knees making sure you draw your belly into your spine and keep the spine straight. Beginners hold in this position for 5 breaths. For advanced, exhale as your straighten your legs and pointing your toes away whilst releasing your hands from your legs and keeping your arms stretched out straight in front of you.
Benefits: Strengthens the abdominal muscles improving digestion whilst also stimulating the kidneys. Navasana also strengthens the hip flexors and spine.
Dhanurasana – Bow Pose
Lying down on your belly, bend your knees and point the toes towards the ceiling. Bring both your arms back and grip onto both ankles with your hands. For beginners, inhale and raise your chest off the floor while pressing your feet back to help you give you that lift in the upper body. Keep thighs press down with knees remaining on the ground.
Benefits: This pose not only strengthens the abdominal muscles but also the thighs and reduces rounded hunched shoulders. For more advanced, as you inhale raise your chest and knees off the floor as high as possible, balancing the weight on the abdominal region. Hold this pose for 5 breaths. Exhale as you release and lower the chest and legs back on the floor, releasing your grip on the ankles.
Visisthasana – Side Plank
From a plank, lift your hips up slightly, then shift your weight into one hand as you roll your whole body open to the side.
Benefits: Stabilising to strengthen core muscles. This pose requires you use all muscles of the core and not just the abs. For beginners, try balancing on the forearm instead of the hand. For more try lifting the top leg.
Chaturanga Dandasana – Four-Limbed Staff Pose
From plank pose, firm your shoulder blades against the back of your ribcage. With an exhalation slowly lower your torso and legs to a few inches above and parallel to the floor. There’s a tendency in this pose for the lower back to sway toward the floor and the tailbone to poke up toward the ceiling. Throughout your stay in this position, keep the tailbone firmly in place and the legs very active and turned slightly inward. Draw the pubis toward the navel.
Benefits: Not only does this pose strengthen and tone the core, it also builds upper body strength and gets the heart rate up. For beginners you may try this pose with keeping your knees on the floor. Otherwise keep the knees off the floor and legs straight and strong.
You can find more articles like this in our Spring 2015 issue e-magazine!
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