When you think of digestive health, what comes to mind? Generally, our minds gravitate toward nutritional answers like eating more fruits and vegetables, hydration, and supplements like probiotics, prebiotics, fiber, and L-glutamine. While nutrition plays a central role in gut health, mind-body exercises like yoga can help, too.
Yoga often involves breathing, stretches, poses, and movement sequences that promote parasympathetic nervous system activity. The parasympathetic nervous system is known for its “rest and digest” function. Poses involving low back flexion (rounding) and rotation are particularly beneficial.
You don’t have to consider yourself a yoga practitioner to benefit. As you set your evening wind-down routine, try incorporating these three poses to facilitate digestive health.
Knees to Chest
How to perform:
- Lie flat on your back.
- Bring one knee up to your chest.
- Bring the other knee up to your chest to match the first.
- Gently grasp the back of your thighs or shins, allowing the thighs to settle toward the torso.
- It is OK if the knees go outward toward the armpits.
- As you continue breathing, focus on melting the low back, ribs, and thighs toward the floor.
How to perform:
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees, feet on the floor, and arms stretched out away from your body.
- Keep your shoulder blades as flat as you can on the floor, as you allow your knees and low back to rotate to one side.
- Look away from your knees, being sure your eyes are also looking in the same direction as the head rotation.
- Try to keep the knees close together so the thighs are of equal length.
- As you continue breathing, focus on melting the thighs and shoulder blades toward the floor.
How to perform:
- Begin by sitting on your feet with your big toe knuckles, heels, and inner thighs touching. If this is uncomfortable, allow your knees to point outward toward your armpits. In either variation, keep the shins pointing down toward the floor instead of rolling onto the inner or outer edges.
- Draw your abs in and up as you fold forward into your stretch.
- Reach arms out across the floor away from your feet, then allow all the muscles to relax into the posture.
Try to hold each pose for at least 5-6 breaths, settling in longer if time allows. See how adding these postures to your nightly routine affects your sleep and how you feel each morning. While yoga will not replace nutrition to support digestive health, the practice can help facilitate the “rest and digest” process for gut health.
Gut health promotes refreshing sleep and natural energy. Know others who would benefit from yoga poses for digestive health? Share this article with them!
About the Author: Dr. Meredith Butulis, creator of the ISSA Fitness Comeback Coach Certification (online), is a Sports Medicine Physical Therapist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and Precision Nutrition Certified Nutrition Coach in practice since 2002. She consistently walks the talk as a fitness, physique, and OCR world level competitor and lifestyle transformer since 2006, celebrating many wins along the way. Want more total fitness lifestyle inspiration and interaction? Follow Dr. Meredith on Instagram @Dr.MeredithButulis or join the free “Fitness Focus Fuel” Facebook Group.