12 simple yoga postures for happy digestion that might surprise you

High stress, poor diet, and genetic diseases can cause poor digestion, which plagues many people. Among treatments for digestion-related illnesses, including Irritable Bowel Syndrom, many physicians and healthcare institutions now suggest yoga to their patients to help ease discomfort and increase digestive efficiency. 
Yoga postures and exercises extend and compress the body and stretch and strengthen the core and pelvic muscles, all of which can indeed help with digestion. Many poses are also quite relaxing, which softens the muscles that might be constricting movement through the digestive system. Here are a few great postures to help you with digestion, and keep in mind that it is advised that you seek the advice of a physician before beginning a new exercise regiment. 
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1. Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose)
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How to do it:
- Stand with your feet 3-4 feet apart, toes pointing outwards at a 45-degree angle
- Bend both knees deeply and keep your back flat and chest facing forward (not folding forward)
- Hands can rest on the hips, in prayer at the heart, or arms extended overhead
- Move in and out of the pose (bending and straightening your legs) 5 times and then hold the pose for 5-10 deep breaths
How it helps digestion:
Goddess Pose is a wide hip-opener, helping to stretch, strengthen, and tone your pelvic floor muscles, aiding in the assimilation of nutrients and elimination of waste.
2. Ardha Shalabasana (Half Locust Pose)
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How to do it:
- Rest down on your abdomen with your arms down by your side
- Feel your pelvis grounding toward the floor and with an inhale lift your chest, head, and legs into the air
- Move in and out of the pose with your breath five times and then hold the posture for 5-8 breaths
How it helps digestion:
In Half Locust Pose, you are gently massaging your internal organs, helping to break up stuck matter within your digestive track.
3. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
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How to do it:
- Lie face-down on your mat
- Fold your knees, bringing your heels toward your upper body
- Reach back and grab ahold of your ankles 
- With a deep exhale, press your pelvis down toward the ground to create your base
- On an Inhale, press your feet into your hands as you lift your head, chest, and abdomen
- Move in and out of the posture 3 times and then hold for 5-8 breaths, releasing slowly
How it helps digestion:
Like Half Locust, Bow Pose gently massages your internal organs. It also to strengthen and soften the muscles of the abdomen, allowing for more space to move matter through your system.
4. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Twist)
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How to do it:
- Sit with your left leg extended and your right knee drawn in toward your chest
- Sweep your left arm across your right knee and guide your right shoulder back to complete the twist
- Keep your spine tall the entire time, creating space in the spine as you inhale and twisting deeper on your exhale
- Hold posture for 5-8 deep breaths and then repeat on the other side
How it helps digestion:
Closed twists, such this Seated Twist, create compression on the internal organs, breaking up and gently pushing matter through the digestive track. When released from the twist, more space and fluidity is created within the abdomen.
5. Balasana (Child's Pose)
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How to do it:
- Start on your hands and knees
- Keeping your arms extending forward, take your hips down toward your heels, your chest sinking down. If need be, take your knees wide and sink deeper
- Hold posture for 10-15 breaths (1-2 minutes) while breathing deeply and relaxing your abdomen
How it helps digestion:
Child's pose places gentle compression on your abdomen, encouraging the movement of matter through your gastrointestinal track. It's also a restful pose, encouraging the muscles that constrict during digestion to relax to their normal functioning capacities.
6. Setu Bhandasana (Bridge Pose)
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How to do it:
- Lie down on your back with your feet flat on your mat, heels underneath your knees about hip-width apart. 
- With your arms resting by your side, press your feet into the floor and lift your hips upward as you move your chest toward your chin.
- Hold pose for 5-10 deep breaths, continuing to reinforce your hips upward and your chest toward your chin.
How it helps digestion:
Bridge pose creates space in the front body, especially the abdomen, giving your system the flexibility to digest food more efficiently. The slight invertedness of the posture frees up the internal organs from their normal compressed positions, stimulating them.
7. Viparita Karani (Half-Shoulder Stand)
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How to do it:
- Start in Bridge Pose (See #7 above)
- Bend your elbow so that your fingers are pointing upward
- Walk your feet back toward your upper body and catch hold of your hips with both hands
- Extend your legs into the air so that your toes come to hover directly above your eyes
- Allow the weight of your body to rest in your cupped hand
- Hold the pose for 5-10 deep breaths, relaxing your abdomen
How it helps digestion:
As a relatively relaxed inversion, Half-shoulder Stand softens the internal organs and provides space for them to release from their gravity-compressed states to expand, stimulate, and increase their efficiency. 
8. Paravritti Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
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How to do it:
- Stand with your feet spread 3-4 feet apart
- Have your right toes pointing forward and your back foot flat on the floor, with your toes pointing outward. Your back inner arch should line up with your front heel.
- Fold over your right leg and place your left hand on the floor near the inner arch of the right foot
- With an exhale, sweep your right arm into the air and back, stacking your shoulders on top of one another
- Hold for 5-8 deep breaths and then repeat on the opposite side
How it helps digestion:
Revolved Triangle pose places strong compression on the internal organs, pushing out toxins and moving stuck matter through your system. Upon release from the pose, fresh fluids flush through the system, increasing digestive efficiency.
9. Ardha Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
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How to do it:
- Start on your hands and knees, and step your right foot forward between your hands
- Move your right heel behind your left hand and release your right shin and knee to the floor, tucking the right foot back in slightly
- Curling your left toes under, pick up your left knee and take your left leg back so that your hips are releasing toward the floor
- Roll your shoulders down your back and keep your spine tall
- Hold for 8-10 breaths and then repeat on the opposite side
How it helps digestion:
Pidgeon pose is a deep hip opener, meaning that it is stretching and releasing tension of the muscles of the pelvis, increasing digestive efficiency.
10. Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)
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How to do it:
- Lie down on your back, hugging your knees into your chest
- Hold onto the outside edge of both feet and take your knees outside of your arms
- Pull your feet gentle downward, knees guiding outside of your armpits
- Hold pose for 8-10 deep breaths
How it helps digestion:
Happy Baby pose deeply stretches and releases tension in the hips and pelvis and also softens the abdomen, allowing digestion to move freely.
11. Supta Jathara Parivartansasan (Supine Spinal Twist)
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How to do it:
- Lie down on the floor and hug your right knee in toward your chest
- Take your arms out to each side, making a T-shape with your body
- With an exhale, take your right knee across your body, rocking up onto your left hip, to reach toward the floor on your left side
- Ground your right shoulder down and turn your chin over your right shoulder
- Hold the pose for 5-8 deep breaths and then switch sides
How it helps digestion:
The Supine Spine Twist applies gentle and relaxed pressure to the internal organs, stimulating them. When released, the muscles and organs stay soft, allowing for movement through the digestive system.
12. Savasana (Corpse Pose)
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How to do it:
- Lie down on your back with your legs extended to the floor and arms resting by your side, palms facing up
- Allow your heels to be 1-2 feet apart with your toes falling away from one another
- Place a blanket underneath your head for a cushion if needed
- Relax into the posture for 3-5 minutes while focusing on the rising and falling of the abdomen
How it helps digestion:
More than just "laying down," Corpse pose is about intentional relaxation. Many digestion issues arise from lack of rest and being too wound up. Try not to fall asleep as you rest and instead focus intently on the rising and falling of your abdomen. Within a minute or two, you'll feel your entire body let go, encouraging efficiency to your digestive system.
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Gerald Givens is a 500-hour certified teacher of Tantric Yoga and Meditation with over eight years of teaching experience. His teachings focus on overcoming stress and fatigue to empower practitioners to live to their fullest potentials.
Resources Gerald Givens
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