Yoga for Gut Health: Tips for Keeping Your Digestive System Moving
by Lisa Bracken
Have you spent some time with your gut recently? The head is busy intellectualizing, rationalizing, and justifying; the heart can be fickle, running the gamut of emotions in a matter of seconds; but heed your gut and you’ll be spot on.” With over 100 million neurons located in the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it’s not surprising that our gut where we’ll feel it first if we’re upset. On the other hand, simmer down a bit and you just might hear that still, small voice inside.
At approximately 22 feet long, the small intestine is where the majority of our digestion takes place. Visualize that; 22 feet of narrow tubing switch-backing, winding and coiling its way through your belly. That’s a lot of tubing. Twisting postures are incredibly beneficial to our digestive tract. These poses stimulate our small and large intestines, increase blood flow to the gut, massage the abdominal organs, and bring nutrients into the area by producing a squeezing/soaking effect. Almost immediately, you’ll feel the increased vitality that’s generated when you twist and rotate your spine. Here are a few simple instructions to help you get the most bang from your twisting buck:
- Every twisting posture whether lying on your back, sitting in a chair, or standing up should remain active – breathing in for spinal length, breathing out to rotate – throughout the duration of the pose.
- Fill your lungs before you turn, and twist on the out breath (always creating length through the spine before going for depth in the pose).
- Concentrate on twisting from the spine rather than from the pelvis or trying to torque your shoulders around.
- Once in the pose, draw the sternum upwards away from the belly.
- Coming out of a pose is just as important, if not more so, as going into it. So always exit a twist on an inhalation supporting the organs as well as the lift of the spine.
It’s not uncommon for food to become lodged in the switchbacks and folds of the small intestine, especially if you’re not consuming enough water and fiber to keep it moving. Consider the drain underneath your sink. When it gets clogged with gunk – hair, food, etc. – it backs up and what do you have? Foul-smelling, toxic funk.
Twists are the Drano of yogasanas, the Roto-Rooter of postures, the Liquid Plumber of poses that’ll help dislodge what we’re holding on to and get things rolling in the gut. A little movement in the external physical body can create a larger movement, if you will, in the internal physiological body. So get that funk outta there!