Asana: Yoga Practices to Support Digestion

Multiple Practice Modalities

Expert recommendations include static poses, dynamic flows, Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga.

In How to Practice if You Have Digestive Problems, Baxter Bell & Nina Zolotow of Yoga for Healthy Aging suggest techniques for those with a sensitive digestive system and those who are currently experiencing digestive issues, providing suggestions for both static poses and dynamic flows:

  • Select poses that strengthen and stretch the abdominal muscles and support the digestive organs
  • Choose dynamic postures and flow sequences that stretch and twist the abdominal area to improve blood and lymph circulation, thereby supporting improved digestive functioning overall, and effective elimination in particular.

In Yin Yoga for Digestion, Janice Quirt suggests yin poses that “gently massage the digestive organs” which may alleviate gas and improve digestion, plus postures that are intended to strengthen the spleen and stomach.

Twists, Forward Bends & Side Bends

  • Twists and forward bends gently compress the abdominal contents, thereby increasing blood flow.
  • Twists are often suggested to help with digestive issues as these poses are designed to contract and release muscles in the torso.
  • Since the muscles and tissues that are being affected during twisting surround the digestive organs, the twisting actions are causing the internal digestive organs to move around and to, in effect, be “massaged.”
  • Side bends, also, alternate contraction and release of muscles may affect the digestive organs in a similar way.
  • See also: Twisting,  Lateral / Side Bends

Restorative Yoga

All digestive issues respond to restorative poses. — Baxter Bell & Nina Zolotow

  • Restorative postures and conscious relaxation are highly recommended for digestive system health.
  • See also: Restorative Yoga

Pose Examples

Some specific considerations include:

  1. Standing StretchesBackbending Poses – such as Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1)Locust (Salabhasana)Bhujangasana (Cobra), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose) and Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
  2. Side Bends – such as Standing Side Bend and Seated Side Bend and other poses that stretch and strengthen the sides of the abdomen such as Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) and Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose).
  3. Forward Bends – including seated and standing poses which apply pressure to the abdominal area
  4. Twists – including seated and reclined twists which squeeze the abdominal area
  5. Sun Salutations
  6. Cat-Cow Flow
  7. Sample Flow: Tadasana (Mountain Pose) – Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute) – Uttaanasana (Standing Forward Bend) (Yoga for Healthy Aging)
  8. Other flows involving seated twists and side bends
  9. Yin Yoga
  10. Practice “digestion boosting poses” between meals – Tiffany Cruikshank suggests laying face down with a rolled blanket underneath the soft part of the belly
  11. Lunges to lengthen abdominals and child’s pose to bring aware of the belly and press into upper thighs (Kristin McGee)