Have you ever left a yoga class that was heavy on spinal twists and noticed you were feeling hungry?
That’s because twists target three main components of digestion—the stomach (responsible for digestion), small intestine (responsible for nutrient absorption), and colon (responsible for both water absorption and elimination).
Twists, among other yoga postures, facilitate digestion, effectively “getting things moving.” If you want to try yoga for digestion—which has plenty of benefits beyond the gastrointestinal tract (GI) tract—then this guide’s for you!
Keep reading to learn some of the best yoga poses for better digestion.
1. Seated Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Since we mentioned twists in the introduction, let’s begin there.
Twists directly stimulate our digestion, but they’re also wonderful for relieving neck and back pain. If you’re looking for a gentle yoga posture that offers tons of benefits, this one hits the spot(s)!
- Begin on your mat in a seated position with your legs extended in front of you, feet flexed so heels are reaching towards the front of the mat and toes are facing upwards
- For now, hands remain at your sides or behind you for balance
- Keeping your left leg extended, bend the right leg, planting the foot on the ground outside of your left knee
- Allow your Sitz bones (the bones at the bottom of your pelvis) to ground you into the mat as you lengthen your spine, reaching tall through the crown of the head
- Inhale both arms overhead, then slowly start to twist through the thoracic (middle) spine, pressing the elbow of your left arm against the bent knee to deepen and/or stabilize the posture. Your right arm can kickstand to the side for support
- As you twist, remember to keep length in the spine rather than collapsing it, imagining your spine is like a spiral staircase—let the lumbar spine reach down as your thoracic and cervical extend upwards, then slowly shift your gaze over the right shoulder
- Spend five breaths in this posture, then slowly unwind, repeating on the other side
2. Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)
Sphinx pose is not only one of the best yoga poses for digestion problems, but it’s also a great way to start practicing backbends.
Plus, you get to look like a beautiful mythical creature!
You can make this pose more passive and restorative, or you can engage the muscles to make it more active.
- Begin by laying on your belly with legs extended, keeping the lower back long by curving it downwards towards the mat—doing so will help protect your lower back
- Once your legs, back, and buttocks are engaged (but not tense), you can begin to move your arms into the sphinx position
- Bring a 90° angle to the arms, positioning the elbows underneath the shoulders, forearms resting on the mat, palms open and facing downward
- As you press palms into the earth and bring the chest forward through the arms, you’ll have begun a backbend!
- Allow your gaze to be near the front of your mat—gentle, being conscious of the neck
- While you spend five to ten breaths in this posture, be cognizant of drawing the lower belly gently up and in, keeping a downward curve of the lower spine
- Gently release this posture by bringing your chest to the mat and turning your head in one direction
3. Cat-Cow Poses (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
Cat-cow is another series of postures that stimulates digestion and supports spinal health and mobility, while also relieving neck pain.
This posture occurs on all fours, so if you experience any type of knee discomfort, feel free to place a pad or rolled blanket under the knees for extra support!
- Begin in a tabletop position, with equal weight distribution in all four corners (knees and hands)
- Allow your wrists to be in line with the elbows, which are in line with the shoulders; knees should be in line with the hips
- Spread palms wide, gripping your fingers into the mat, while the tops of the feet rest on the mat
- Remove a posterior tilt from the pelvis—so, if your lower back is arched, gently remove that arch, allowing the tailbone to remain long and facing downward
- On your inhale, begin to arch the back through the thoracic spine, bringing your chest up through the arms, gaze forward (being careful not to scrunch your neck), tailbone reaching toward the ceiling
- On your exhale, press the ground away with your palms, rounding through the shoulder blades, drawing the navel toward the spine, and bringing the tailbone down
- Repeat this flow as many times as feels good! Use your breath to guide the movement, inhaling into cow, exhaling into cat
4. Knees-To-Chest Pose (Apanasana)
This simple posture is like giving yourself (and your belly!) a great big hug.
Beginner and intermediate practitioners alike can benefit from this pose, also sometimes called wind-relieving pose. You’ll have to try it yourself to see why!
- Begin in a supine position on your back
- With arms and legs long, inhale in this posture
- As you exhale, bend the knees and draw them in towards the chest, keeping a curve in the lower spine
- Wrap your arms around your knees, giving them a hug, pulling them closer to your chest to deepen the pose
- Allow the back of the neck to remain long, imagining the spine as a C-shape
- Remain in this posture for as many breaths as feels good
- When you’re ready, gentle release into a corpse posture and repeat as needed! Use your breath to guide you in and out of this hug
Trust Your Gut: Try Yoga for Digestion
These are some of the best yoga poses for digestion—whether you’re experiencing discomfort or aches, overate, or just want to optimize your digestive tract.
Certain yoga poses, like those listed above, can improve your digestion in various ways, such as relieving stress, encouraging and improving mobility, increasing your circulation, and more.
If you’d appreciate some guidance as you practice yoga for digestion, look no further than Yoga Beyond the Studio! Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced practitioner, we believe you’ll benefit from the experience of our compassionate and talented teachers.
Click here to learn about our private, online yoga classes, which you can do from home or the office. We look forward to working one-on-one with you to teach you the many yoga poses for digestive health.