Yoga can help a lot aspects of our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. And that includes our digestion. Practicing yoga can reduce stress, helping to regulate the gut-brain axis. There is even recent research that suggests yoga can be a supportive treatment for IBS.
And around the holiday season, when healthy-minded people indulge in various celebrations and then seek out a yoga antidote, it’s common to see bloating-reducing poses in circulation. But posture is only one of the eight parts of yoga. To truly accept the practice, honor its roots, and feel its effects, we need to approach yoga holistically, such as bringing focus and proper breathing to any stream. which flow.
yoga instructor Sara Sas, RYT, L.Ac., also add reflexology to this. Also a licensed Acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine, she recently shared with Well+Good that, when she tackles digestive issues, she combines a number of yoga poses with acupressure (i.e. no needles!). This gives her an extra boost of relief and aids digestion. Here, she shares her three goals.
1. Wind-chilling pose (Pawanmuktasana)
- Lie on your back, inhale and straighten your legs. As you exhale, hug your knees to your chest with both arms, connecting the top of your thighs to your belly/chest.
- Breathe deeply in this position, allowing your body to relax and release.
- Find your acupressure point (details below) and massage it for about a minute as you hold this pose, continuing to breathe deeply and mindfully.
Acupressure point: Abdomen 36
Find it: Place your hand just below your opposite knee, with the side of your index finger along your kneecap. At the tip of your little finger, just outside the tibia, you’ll find this digestive acupressure point.
Why does this work:
“On its own, Pawanmuktasana is an appropriate pose for reducing bloating and gas, as it helps expel trapped air in the digestive tract,” says Sas. “Combining this with acupressure in the meridians, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, has beneficial effects on the spleen and stomach, helps with digestion, regulates the intestines, and expels qi. It’s a win-win outcome and good for all.”
2. Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)
- With feet hip-width apart, rotate toes outward. (Think: sumo squat or grand plié second place)
- Sit down in a squat, with your tailbone slightly elevated, maintaining an external rotation with your thighs. Lock your abs and maintain an upright spine with shoulder blades relaxed.
- Lift your heels up, placing your weight on the soles of your feet.
- Lower your heels, putting weight on the instep of your feet to lift your toes.
- Hinges at the waist to grab your toes and stimulate pressure points (see below for location). You can do this at a time.
- Repeat the lifting and lowering of your heels, focusing your attention on the acupressure point.
- Finish with feet flat on the ground.
Point: Kidney 1
Find it: “This point is basically the center of the sole of the foot,” says Sas. (Think more of the bottom of your metatarsal bones, rather than the bottom of your arch.)
Why does this work:
“Goddess Pose creates warmth throughout your body and increased blood circulation can help with your digestion,” says Sas. Adding Kidney 1 acupressure massage can help you center your mind. “Breathe deeply, channeling energy into your feet to feel the grounding, support, and power,” says Sas. “When we are grounded and focused, our digestion is aided.” The reverse is also true: When we are stressed, our digestion is affected.
3. Turn easily while sitting (Parivrtta Sukhasana)
- Sit in a cross-legged position, with your spine straight and the top of your head facing the sky, bring your left hand to your right knee.
- Keeping your spine straight, twist to the right, placing your right hand behind your back on the floor, near your hips. Make sure you don’t go too far and lose your posture.
- Look over your right shoulder and breathe deeply into the twist.
- In this position, locate and massage the acupoint with your left hand (location detailed below).
- Change your leg cross position (if right leg is on top, bring left leg up) and repeat this exercise on the opposite side, making sure you continue to breathe deeply.
Acupoint: Spleen 21
This point is called ‘The Great Embrace’ and is located on one side of your ribcage, says Sas. “It can be easily irritated when you’re sitting twisting your spine while you’re hugging yourself.”
Why does this work:
Twists are popular choices for digestive health, and for good reason: Twists help stimulate the digestive organs.
With an easy twist, especially when you start with a turn right, you’ll massage the colon up and then the colon down as you rotate to the left, helping to “move things in a direction,” as the saying goes. Adding in some acupressure enhances this effect. “Leaf 21 of Qi movement [energy] and blood,” Sas explained. “This transforms stagnation in the body, especially around the diaphragm, causing [according to TCM] better digestion.”