One of the most uncomfortable sensations of the human body has to be that of an upset stomach. Whether it be bloating, acidity or simply a general feeling of unease, digestive issues can quickly zap your energy, create feelings of stress and frustration, and tank your overall levels of productivity. Thus, it becomes important to deal with digestive issues for your overall health and functioning.
Do It With Yoga: Asanas for A Healthy Digestive System
The ancient Indian practice of Yoga works the mind and body, and the balance between them to provide a holistic approach to dealing with bodily issues and attain a better level of functioning. Asanas or yogic postures, and breathing exercises or pranayamas are two very potent ways of improving various systems of the body, including the digestive tract.
Remember, however, that exercising immediately after eating food is more likely to cause an upset stomach than effective digestion. Thus, it is best to stick to Vajrayana and a gentle walk immediately after your meals. All these other exercises for improving your digestion should be a part of your regular workouts which is spaced well between mealtimes.
- Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) – One of the very few exercises recommended immediately after eating this, asana reduces blood flow to the lower regions of the body and increases the same towards the digestive system, thus helping in its effective functioning. Sit in the pose for at least 15-20 minutes for maximum benefit.
Modifications – Place a blanket or towel under your knees if you have existing problem in the area. In case you find sitting on your heels difficult, you can make use of a block.
- Naukasana (Boat Pose) – A fine balancing act, this asana helps in stretching the shoulders and actively engages your core muscles. Not only does this increase blood flow and digestion, but it also helps in burning off the fat from the region. You can gradually increase your stay in this pose for up to a minute.
Modifications – For a greater challenge to your balance and core, engage in a gentle rocking motion. You can also use a strap to straighten your legs if you are unable to do so independently.
- Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) – This asana stretches your shoulders and legs, opens up the chest and also helps in strengthening the stomach by placing your body weight on it. Ensure that you do not hold your breath while performing the asana. You can also repeat the pose a few times.
Modifications – You can use a strap to hold up your legs if you are unable to grab them. For a greater challenge, attempt the pose with your tights, calves and feet touching.
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) – A great stretch for the back and legs, this asana can also boost digestion when you consciously engage the muscles of the abdomen. It also helps in opening up the shoulders. Do try holding the pose for at least thirty seconds.
Modifications – You can use a block to help raise your back off the floor for the initial sessions.
- Pavanmuktasana (Wind Relieving Pose) – As the name suggests, this is an asana designed to get rid of excess air in the digestive tract, and helps in gastrointestinal problems. It also strengthens the abdominal muscles, and challenges your balance too. Hold the pose for at least twenty seconds.
Modifications – You can start this pose by keeping one leg clasped at a time for learning and balance.
Make It A Habit: Lifestyle Tips for Digestion
While yoga will certainly help in alleviating the symptoms of indigestion and strengthen your digestive system, there are some lifestyle tips and changes that you should incorporate into your daily life to ensure that you address the root of the problem and do not face continuous issues in the future. Here are some important tips to remember –
- Engage in Mindful Eating – Do not let anything other than hunger control your eating habits. Emotions, especially negative ones like stress and sadness, often cause us to binge eat highly processed junk food that neither satisfies our stomach nor gives us nutrients. Remove distractions such as TVs and mobile phones while you eat, and you will see a vast difference in your satiation and digestion levels.
- Cook Your Own Meals – Making your own meals carries multiple benefits. One, you eat freshly prepared, home-cooked meals, and you know what goes inside it. Secondly, you reduce consumption of food saturated in excess of fats and spices, which can cause acidity and indigestion. Lastly, cooking your own meals helps you plan ahead in terms of eating and also helps in mindful eating.
- Ensure good state of mind while preparing meal – You believe or not, food carries prana shakti (life force energy, and not simply the calorific value of food) and that there is a transfer of energy from the person cooking the meal. So even if someone else is preparing your meal
- Time Your Meals Well – Many of us may have spent a night tossing and turning after a particularly heavy meal. Our digestive system slows down during the night, so avoid eating heavy meals at night. It is also very important to not skip breakfast – it provides your body with fuel you will need throughout the day.
- Avoid Odd Pairing of Foods – According to the ancient medicine system of Ayurveda, pairing incompatible foods – such as fish and fruits – is one of the major reason why the digestive system faces problems. This poor pairing can lead to the production of ama or toxins in the body, which in turn can cause illnesses. (Find more on the Ayurvedic perspective on Digestion here.
- Add Some Fibre – Fibre or roughage contains cannot be digested by the body, but it plays an incredibly important role in the digestive system. Fibre ensures that your food passes through your body easily and without any blocks, and is also an important food source for the food bacteria in your gut. So, ensure you consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, all of which are high on fibre.
- Chew Slowly and Properly – This may sound silly to even remember, but you may be surprised how mindlessly we sometimes gobble down our food – likely due to all the distractions. Chewing food slowly and properly ensures proper mixing of saliva (it plays a very important role in digestion) and breaking down of food in the mouth itself, thus aiding digestion process significantly. It also allows you to relish your meal, ensures faster and deeper satisfaction. So if you are used to eating while watching television or reading news or whatsapp, please avoid it!
- Manage Your Stress – Stress has a big impact on your body, including the digestive system. This is most commonly seen in the form of acidity and other inflammatory symptoms. Engage in stress-relieving activities such as yoga and breathing exercises to ensure both digestive and holistic health.
- Listen To Your Body – Attenuating to your bodily cues can massively help your digestive health. Be aware and keep a record of foods that may trigger acidity, the lifestyle changes that positively impact your digestion, and the impact various food group have on you. Over time, you will understand your digestive issues better.
- Reduce the usage of beverages – Especially beverages like cold water or cold drinks with the food. There are a few beverages that can help in digestion or increasing your hunger, in some cultures they drink hot tea with the meal to help digestion. (Note: This topic is debatable as some of the research, though done on very small groups, published/referred on renowned websites like MayoClinic or Livestrong claim otherwise). But we would go by what Ayurveda and traditional knowledge says, as these have stood the test of centuries.
- Usage of herbs: Usage of herbs like carom seeds (1 teaspoon) with ginger or black salt can help you in digestion. Try consuming them if you have really heavy meal.
Thus, while engaging in active lifestyle changes can help you in addressing the root causes of your digestive issues, yoga can help in dealing with the symptoms and strengthening your overall digestive functioning. With these two together, you will find yourself in better health in no time.