The breathing, stretching and twists involved in yoga help support healthy metabolism and digestion for freedom mentally, spiritually and gastrointestinally. Adding yoga to your routine whether it’s once a week or daily can bring regularity and ease to your entire GI tract. Next time you feel bloating or discomfort, roll out the mat and soothe your mind and body with a sequence of yoga poses for digestion that relax and relieve the stomach and intestines.
Why does yoga help digestion?
Yoga helps aid digestion through dynamic flow that jump-starts the cardiovascular, metabolic and digestive system via poses that expand the vital organs, massage the stomach, and wring out the intestines. This makes way for detoxification and the healthy movement of gas and food through the gastrointestinal tract.
Can you do yoga after eating?
Yes and no. It is definitely not recommended to do a full out yoga session right after eating, as it’s advised to do yoga on an empty stomach about 3-4 hours after a heavy meal or 1-2 hours after a light meal. However, a straight spine and gentle stretches can help support the digestive process.
The best sequence soon after a meal are these two gentle poses:
Virasana. Come to Virasana, or Hero Pose, by first coming to all fours briefly then bringing knees and ankles to touch and seating your hips back onto your heels. Stay seated here with a straight spine for a few counts, breathing deeply through the nose and exhaling fully.
Gomukhasana. Mindfully shift into Gomukhasana, or Cow Face Pose, by first coming back onto all fours then bringing your seat to the ground in a gentle cross-legged pose, then shift to stack your knees over one another and bring either foot alongside the outside of the opposite hip. Now that you have your foundation, bring your arms out straight to your sides then lift the left arm up with palm facing forward, and right arm down palm facing back. Bend both arms and grab your fingers or palms from behind your mid back. If you can’t reach, you can use a strap or scarf to assist. Breathe here, enjoy the stretch for a few counts, then repeat on the other side for both legs and arms.
It is not recommended to do much more than the above right after a meal. It is also not recommended to lie down after a meal so sitting up with a straight spine and adding on some minor stretches, or taking a leisurely walk, are both good ideas for directly after a meal.
11 Best Yoga Poses for Digestion
Practice these 11 poses for digestion on an empty stomach either first thing in the morning, 3 hours after a large meal, or an hour after a light meal. You can do these poses in the sequence below for a nice complete yoga flow for digestion.
1. MARJARYASANA-BITILASANA (CAT/COW)
Marjaryasana-Bitilasana is like a little internal massage for the stomach and intestines, which can help ease bloating and discomfort.
How to do cat/cow:
- Come onto all fours – hands should be aligned with shoulders and knees aligned with hips.
- Inhale, tuck the toes, drop the belly, arch the back and look up toward the sky for cow.
- Exhale, point the toes, curl the back, look in toward the belly button for cat
- Repeat as you move through your cat/cow for 10-20 breaths.
2. URDHVA MUKHA PASASANA (THREAD THE NEEDLE)
Urdhva Mukha Pasasana stretches the digestive organs, preparing them for healthy processing of foods throughout the day
How to do thread the needle:
- Start on all fours
- On an inhale, lift the right arm up toward the sky to the side, opening the heart.
- On the exhale, bring the extended right arm under the left arm, then extend the left arm forward.
- Hold in this twist while breathing for 3 breaths.
- Bring your right arm back out and up toward the sky.
- Come back to hands and knees and repeat on the other side.
3. UTTANA SHISHOSANA (EXTENDED PUPPY)
In Uttana Shishosana, your hips are the highest point of the body, helping to relieve pressure and release trapped gas from the GI tract.
How to do extended puppy:
- Come to all fours.
- Walk your hands as far forward as you can, arms active and elbows off the ground.
- Tuck your toes and bring your hips up and sink your chest down, spine straight and long.
- Bring your chin or forehead to the floor or a blanket and stay here inching your fingers forward and bringing your hovering hips backward, stretching your spine and side body.
- Breathe and hold for 30 seconds to a minute then bring your buttocks to your heels to release.
4. BHUJANGASANA (COBRA)
Cobra pose opens the chest and diaphragm for clear breathing and peristalsis of the intestines for healthy digestion and relief from constipation.
How to do cobra pose:
- Come into a prone position on your belly with feet hip-width apart and forehead on your mat.
- Point your toes back and press the top of your feet into your mat and bring your hands beside your ribs.
- Press lightly into your hands lifting your head and chest and rolling the shoulders back.
- Straighten your arms maintaining a slight bend in the elbow, keeping the shoulders away from the ears and neck long.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds and release your body back down on an exhale.
5. DHANURASANA (BOW)
Bow pose stimulates digestion as the stomach and pelvis press against the floor thereby massaging digestive organs on every inhale and exhale to relieve stomach discomfort.
How to do bow pose:
- Lie on your belly with forehead on the mat, you may place a blanket under the pelvis for cushioning if needed.
- Bend knees with toes active and flexed and reach back to grab your ankles.
- On an inhale, gently kick the legs up and lift your head, chest and rib cage off the floor.
- Gaze forward and hold here deeply inhaling and exhaling, maybe finding a gentle rocking motion.
- Stay here for 5 breaths then release back to the ground on an exhale.
6. ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (DOWNWARD FACING DOG)
Downward dog is a gentle inversion that stimulates the digestive system, sparks peristalsis and nurtures the intestines without putting strain on the neck and shoulders.
How to do downward dog:
- Come to all fours, knees hip width and hands shoulder width.
- Press hands into your mat and tuck your toes under.
- Begin to lift your hips toward the sky and straighten legs as much as possible, heels reaching for the floor.
- Press your chest toward the thigh, with hands and feet active.
- Paddle out the feet and enjoy stretch back of the legs, side body and spine.
- Hold here for a few deep breaths.
- Release by coming back onto all fours on an exhale.
7. TRIKONASANA (TRIANGLE)
Triangle pose can help stretch, stimulate and strengthen the digestive organs thereby helping to improve digestion and relieve constipation.
How to do triangle pose:
- From a standing position at the front of the mat, step the left leg back and widen stance 4-5 feet, with the right front toes pointing forward to front of mat and the back left toes pivoted to a 90-degree angle. Both legs should be straightened (but not overextended, keep a subtle bend in the knee).
- Raise your arms shoulder height and parallel to the floor, palms facing down and fingers active.
- Reach forward with the right arm toward the front of the mat, while shifting the left hip back and fold at the right hip with right fingertips reaching toward the floor and left arm reaching straight up toward the sky.
- Hold here breathing deeply, without putting too much weight on that right hand to strengthen the core muscles.
- To release, use the ab strength to come upright position and inch the feet back together.
8. UTKATA KONASANA (GODDESS)
As you hold goddess pose you generate warmth in the body that helps stimulate blood flow and support digestion for stomach comfort and relief.
How to do goddess pose:
- From a standing position longside of your mat, spread your feet about 3 feet apart, with feet facing toward the edges of your mat. Knees and feet should be pointing in the same direction.
- On an exhale, bend the knees into a wide-legged squat, bringing the hips forward and knees back.
- Bend the elbows and bring them up in line with the shoulders with palms facing forward; or alternatively bring palms to touch above the head. Keep arms active with chest forward and shoulders dropping down.
- Look straight ahead and hold, finding inner strength and breathing deeply for 3-6 breaths.
- Release by standing back up on an exhale.
9. MALASANA (GARLAND)
With similar digestive benefits to Goddess Pose, Malasana stimulates digestion and adds soft massage-like pressure to the abdomen to release trapped gas and bring comfort.
How to do garland pose:
- From a standing position, bring the feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and adjust the feet to a 45 degree angle.
- Bring yourself all the way down into a squat, with your heels either above or resting on the floor depending on what’s more comfortable.
- Bring upper arms to inside of thighs and hands into a prayer position, using arms as leverage to open the hips a bit more as the body allows.
- Breathe here for 3-6 breaths.
- Release by standing back up or bringing your seat onto the ground.
10. SUPTA MATSYENDRASANA (SUPINE SPINAL TWIST)
When it comes to yoga poses for digestion and detoxification, you’ll find this supine spinal twist pose on every list. The deep twisting action wrings out the digestive organs and helps to release toxins trapped in the body.
How to do supine twist:
- Come comfortably onto your back and bring arms out to the sides palms facing down.
- Bring knees into chest and extend the left leg, then twist to bring your bent right leg over to the left side.
- Make sure both shoulders remain firm against the earth in this twist as you motion your right leg toward the ground.
- Breathe deeply here for 5-10 breaths.
- Hug knees into chest and switch sides to repeat.
11. APANASANA (KNEES-TO-CHEST)
Knees-to-chest pose is also known as “wind relieving pose” for good reason! The knees press against the belly to help relieve excess gas and bloating.
How to do knees-to-chest pose:
- Lay comfortably on your back.
- Draw the knees gently into the chest and hug them against you.
- Inhale and exhale here, finding subtle movements like rocking back and forth and hugging the legs in and out, to massage the abdomen and relieve tension in the lower back.
- Hold here for 5-6 breaths then release the arms and legs back onto the floor.
Try these yoga poses for digestion either one at a time or as a full sequence. While you’re at it, why not compliment your yoga session with tulsi tea.