Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or the Fourth of July, many major holidays center around families and friends enjoying a meal. But what happens when you take the good times a little bit too far? More often than not, you end up with indigestion.
Faced with digestive issues, most people simply wait for the discomfort to dissolve. Talk about unnecessary--and embarrassing! Digestive troubles can also linger, keeping you up at night and disrupt your sleep.
Thankfully, there are several yoga poses that can help ease digestive troubles. If you’re feeling bloated, suffering from IBS, or simply indulged too heavily this holiday season, these poses can ease your digestive distresses, ensuring a happy evening and a peaceful night’s sleep:
Known as the cat and cow pose, you begin this yoga position on all fours. Simply rotate your spine up and down, rounding the back (the cat) and arching it (the cow) as you breathe. This position massages the internal organs--particularly the stomach and intestines--which can help ease the pain and bloating from a particularly heavy meal or other intestinal issue. Repeat each asana as least ten times, but feel free to continue until you feel you’re comfortable.
Trikonasana (and Parivrtta Trikonasana)
The triangle pose is great for individuals suffering from IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome. The pose puts pressure on the colon, stimulating movement. Begin with your right foot placed in front of your body, with the other foot rotated outward about 45 degrees. Stretch out both arms and put the right arm on the ground beside your foot, raising your left arm overhead. Twist the torso to the left and breathe. Then twist your torso to the right and switch the positions of your arms (this is known as Parivrtta Trikonasana) before repeating this pose with the opposite foot.
A cross between the child’s pose and downward facing dog all we yogis know and love, the extended puppy pose is a great way to relieve stomach cramps. Begin kneeling on your mat, and fold your body forward with your arms outstretched (as you would in child’s pose). However, instead of resting your thighs and rear on your calves and feet, extend your rear up to the sky for a full stretch along your stomach. Rest your head and chest on the floor and breathe into the stretch.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Ah, downward facing dog. A staple of the traditional yoga class, this pose is simple, yet elegant; it can accomplish so much for the body with only a few breaths. Begin in a plank pose and slowly bring your weight back towards your feet. Straighten your arms and create an upside-down “V,” broadening your back and massaging your intestines as you breathe. Feel free to rock back and forth or side to side a bit, too. The extra movement can do a lot to help ease indigestion.
A simple forward fold is a great way to massage those intestines while lengthening and stretching the back at the same time. After a few beats in this pose, you’ll feel relaxed enough to drift into a peaceful night of sleep! Start by sitting on your mat with your legs extended in front of you. Slowly reach forward with your arms and bend at the hips, until your head touches your knees (or however far you can reach). If you need a little help, a yoga block or pillow in your lap can help you feel a bit more comfortable as your body processes that tasty holiday dinner.
Setu Bandha Saravangasana
Though it may look a bit different, the bridge pose is another method for compressing the digestive organs. This pose also helps to move fresh blood to the heart, which can help keep you refreshed so you don’t nap after that big turkey dinner (after all, napping can interfere with your sleep cycle)! Begin by laying on your back with your feet flat on the ground. Press into the ground and slowly rotate your spine towards the sky, starting at the base. Once your back is fully off the ground, hold there and breathe.
This pose was practically made for a holiday meal. You can tell by its name: the half gas relief pose! Begin lying flat on your mat with your legs extended outward and your arms at your sides. Bring your right knee in towards your chest and wrap your hands around your thigh to hold it in place. Take a few deep breaths (you can even pulse your leg slowly for a little extra release) and then try it out with the left leg.
This pose, known as the supine twist, naturally follows the Ardha Pawamuktasana. Like many of the digestion yoga poses we’ve discussed, this position puts pressure on the digestive organs, helping to relieve bloating, cramping, and general discomfort. Once you’ve got your right knee pulled towards you (from the pose we’ve listed above), simply take the knee and point it towards the left. Try to keep your shoulders flat on the mat, so that your torso is forced to twist and massage those organs! After a few deep breaths, twist to the other side with the other leg.
Remember when I mentioned that some folks simply lay down until their digestive troubles are done with? Well, that’s not always the worst idea. Savasana, or corpse pose is simply that: laying flat on your mat with your arms and legs fully outstretched, centering your mind on your breathing and doing nothing else. This quiet time, paired with heavy breathing, can help oxygenate your organs and get them working more efficiently--including those digestive ones! However, I would like to suggest that you don’t try out savasana on its own. It will be far more effective after a few of these other poses.
Here’s one for the experts. The peacock pose is considered to be one of the best poses for proper digestion. In fact, yogi pros say that this pose can give you perfect digestion--regardless of your diet! Begin by kneeling on your mat, then leaning forward and pressing your palms to the mat with the fingers pointed backwards. Slowly extend the legs one leg at a time, until you are in a plank position with all your weight resting on your arms. Tense your abdominal muscles as you hold the pose for at least five seconds, breathing all the while.
With these yoga poses for digestion, you’ll be able to tackle any holiday party with ease. Your body, and your sleep cycle, will thank you for it!