Those of us who practice yoga love it for many reasons—from reducing stress and finding inner peace to improving strength, balance and flexibility.
However, the benefits are even more far-reaching, as YogaRenew’s Stretch Series Part 4, demonstrates how it can improve gut health.
“For centuries yogis have emphasized the importance of gut health for optimal living,” says Lindsay Monal, an instructor at YogaRenew, an international leader in online yoga teacher training. “Your gut not only contains the vital organs, which allow for efficient processing of food and nutrients, but it’s also a storehouse for your emotions and trauma. The gut is a center for ‘gut feelings’ aka your intuition, and if not properly cared for, can seriously impact your mood, attitude and physical vitality.”
Yogis always have been aware of the connection between the gut and everything else (the 3rd and 6th chakras), and yogic practices, such as asana, pranayama and meditation, are geared toward optimal gut health. Here are 5 Yoga Stretches for a Healthy Gut that Lindsay, who empowers her students to uncover their wholeness through yoga, teaches on YogaRenew online streaming platform.
1 Big Toe Pose II (Padangusthasana) The kidneys are a vital organ for containing and filtering blood—and when regulated properly contribute to our overall energy levels—so this posture helps regulate the kidney meridian.
2 Supported Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana A) Gravity pulls things down toward the center of the earth, including our organs. And yoga helps to lift things up so that a lightness can be achieved leading to a sense of freedom and flow. Inversions, such as headstand, provide an anti-gravity effect to one’s organs and surrounding tissues.
3 Full Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana) A deep backbend helps to lengthen the tissues and muscles that surround the gut. It creates space in the torso for the organs to move around.
4 Supine Twist Similar to backbends, twists can contribute to yoking the organs of the gut to achieve an optimal state of motility. Proper gut health aids in efficient absorption and digestion of food and nutrients.
5 Child’s Pose Once the organs have space to move around, doing the opposite—compressing or squeezing the organs (in an intentional manner) and then letting it go—has positive effects in allowing optimal circulation through the gut. It’s like a cleansing and purifying process through churning of the visceral organs.
These poses above should be done consistently in practice, says Lindsay, not just when you are experiencing gastrointestinal distress, which is said to affect nearly two out of three Americans. She stresses, however, that these poses are not only for those who experience gut distress, but beneficial for everyone on a regular basis.
Photo credit: YogaRenew Teacher Training