Gut Feeling!

The effect of yoga on the digestive system

I won’t be exaggerating if I say that our lifestyle has changed drastically from what our parent’s lifestyle was. Yes, modernization, has affected us in both good ways and bad ways. Our working style, working hours, irregular eating habits, long sitting or standing hours at work, stress etc all has affected us albeit in a bad way. We have begun to fall ill often, visits to the doctors have increased. Now a lot of the above issues can be addressed by making small changes to our current lifestyle. I will be writing a series of articles on how yoga can help us in making these changes. In this article I would like to emphasize on your digestive system. Again, I would like you to read it with an open mind and experience it.

The food — ‘anna’ that we eat travels a long way from your mouth to all the way down to the rectum and anus via the digestive tract. On the way all the goodness of what you have consumed gets absorbed and the rest thrown out by the anus.

But does the digestive tract function so efficiently for everyone? Do you get your bowel movements everyday in the morning or you remain constipated most of the time? Feel bloated after you eat, suffer from acidity, indigestion etc.? If yes, then you will agree with me on the fact that this suffering affects your emotional balance, behaviour and tenses up your central nervous system.

The digestive system has to be well nourished with oxygenated blood. And yogasanas are known for their positive effects on the digestive system through different paths.

For lack of mobility or stiff back or inactive lifestyle, the abdominal and diaphragmatic muscles cause sagging of the organs in the abdominal cavity and this stiffness or immobility of the body restricts the return of the venous blood to the heart, which in return causes stagnation of venous (impure) blood in the organs. This further affects optimal digestion.

Different asanas help to overcome these problems. Let us take a look at them:

  • Inverted asanas like Sarvangasana, Shirsasana and others where the body is in upside down position assist in promoting a good venous return and the sagging organs are put back in their place. These postures also help in expelling unwanted gases from the large intestine.
  • Standing and Reclining asanas
    Trikonasana, Veerbhadrasana, Vijrasana, Setubandhasana, stretche the abdominal muscles, tone the muscles. The lateral twisting of the body massages the organs and blood supply improves.
  • Seated, forward bends and twisting movements
    Asanas like Janusirshasana, Marichayasana, Matsyendranath compress and massage the abdominal and pelvic organs. They aid in secreting the gastric juices required to digest the food and this helps in better digestion.

With regular yoga practice, the muscular tone of the digestive system improves, resulting in stability of our emotional balance and behaviour, releasing the stress in the digestive system. We develop a positive approach, contentment and happiness.

Pranayama also aids in a big way in the oxygenation of the blood, providing good nourishment to the organs. It has a unique way of calming hyper-excited and irritable mind. A calm and peaceful mind is very important for prevention of common digestive disorders such as gastric ulcers, irritable colon, constipation etc.

Sarika Salvi Vasudev— an experienced Yoga and Meditation teacher. Write to me at studiogaia@gmail.com. Share your yoga experience, ask questions or reach out to me if you have any concerns.
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