by Ann Brett, ERYT, LMT
Yoga relaxes the whole nervous system. The benefits extend to the rest of the body and ease digestion as well. We hear the word “Yoga” and may conjure up images of unattainable poses from Cirque de Soleil. However, just a few simple stretches and twists with a focus on complete inhales and complete exhales, are all you need to make a major difference in the flow of digestion and elimination. There is a huge connection between the stomach and stress – just think of a few everyday expressions – “butterflies in my stomach”, “nervous stomach”, “gut feeling”, “gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach”, “can’t stomach it”, “I’m fed up”, “his work routine was eating him up.” All these reflect this well known reactivity of the stomach to stress.
While awareness of the different parts of the digestive system is helpful in understanding how the various postures affect them, you really can’t miss. Side bending postures to the right massage the liver. Those to the left can have a massaging effect on the stomach and spleen. Postures that open the solar plexus can facilitate a massaging and energetic opening in the pancreas, the large and small intestines (e.g. Camel Pose.) Supported Bridge Pose can have a beneficial effect on the kidneys, along with stretching and stimulating all of the abdominal organs. Postures that either open or compress the lower abdomen can facilitate absorption of nutrients and elimination of water (e.g. Forward Folding Pigeon Pose.)
In Yoga, the word Agni (Fire) is a metaphor for all the digestive functions of the body – mental assimilation of new thoughts; nutritional absorption, assimilation, metabolism; assimilating new perception through the 5 senses with vitality, clarity, and alertness. The balance or imbalance of Agni (Digestive Fire) affects our mood and energy levels, therefore, affecting our ability to integrate not just what we eat, but how we experience ourselves in the world.
Here is a pre-dining routine to stimulate the Agni fires of digestion. Make sure it is completed with 20 minutes left before dining
- Sit in Hero Pose for 2 minutes – Warms up spine and calms the mind
- Squat for 2 to 3 minutes – Frees up stagnant energy in lower abdominal organs
- Add a twist to each side in Squat – Twists always detoxify.
- Seated forward bend 2 – 3 minutes – Stimulates liver and kidneys.
- Seated Twist 2 -3 Minutes – Detoxifies while creating length.
- Supine Twist 2 – 3 Minutes – Relaxes organs of digestion; then twists out toxins.
- Legs up the wall 2-10 minutes – Directs blood flow to abdomen and heart.
- Savasana – Rest.