How Yoga Can Help With Digestion

Delna Anand shows us some simple moves that can help speed up digestion.
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How Yoga Can Help With Digestion
Triangle pose

With the festive season in full bloom, most of us have had our hefty share of parties, dinner invitations and eating out. Feasts filled with scrumptious sweet and savoury delights have slowly made their way into our routine, and ‘to resist or to indulge ‘just this one time’ – is a decision we often grapple with and more often then not, we end up riddled with guilt for over-indulging. Acording to recent studies, experiencing this food-related guilt may actually sabotage your weight-loss efforts. Researchers devised an experiment that involved asking about 300 study participants if eating chocolate cake would make them feel celebratory or guilt-ridden. And guess what - those who said that consuming cake would provoke guilt were less successful in losing pounds, while participants who viewed eating the cake as enjoyable were more successful.

The bottom line here is, feeling bad about yourself because you ate something unhealthy doesn’t motivate you to get back on track with healthy eating habits. Instead, it weakens your willpower and dampens your morale. It's much more productive to view treats as celebratory and to not keep them completely off-limits—even if you're trying to lose weight. Enjoy your meals to the fullest and in fact, if you enjoy each bite with mindfulness, you’ll know when to stop anyway.

And to help you feel lighter, after your meals, you can always do a few stretches that can help in digestion. Here are a few simple excercises that can help, keep in mind to always warm up before-hand.

Triangle pose (seen above)

Stand straight. Separate your feet and keep them comfortably wide apart (about 31/2 to 4 feet).

Turn your right foot outwads at a 90 degree angle and your left foot at a 15 degree angle.

Now align the centre of your right heel with the centre of the arch of your left foot.

Ensure that your feet are pressing the ground and the weight of your body is equally balanced on both the feet.

Inhale deeply and as you exhale, bend your body to the right, downward from the hips, keeping the waist straight, allowing your left hand to come up in the air while your right hand comes down towards the floor. Keep both arms in a straight line.

Rest your right hand on your shin, ankle, or the floor outside your right foot, whatever is possible without distorting the sides of the waist. Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling, in line with the tops of your shoulders. Keep your head in a neutral position or turn it to the left, eyes facing your left palm.

Ascertain that your body is bent sideways and not backward or forward and that your pelvis and chest are wide open.

Stretch to your maximum and keep steady. Keep taking in long, deep breaths. With each exhalation, relax your body more and more. Just be one with your body and your breath.

As you inhale, come up, bring your arms down to your sides, and straighten your feet.

Repeat the same on the other side.

Seated Forward Bend

Sit up with your legs stretched out straight in front of you, keeping your spine erect and toes flexed toward you.

Breathing in, raise both arms above your head and stretch upwards.

Breathing out, bend forward from your hip joints, with your chin moving toward your toes. Keep your spine erect focusing on moving forwards towards your toes rather than downwards towards your knees.

Place your hands on your legs, reaching out as far as you are able, without forcing anything. If you can, take hold of your toes and pull on them to help you go forward.

Come up slowly and gently.

Cat - Cow

Begin with your hands and knees on the floor. Make sure your knees are under your hips, and your wrists are under your shoulders. Begin in a neutral spine position, with your back flat and your abs engaged. Inhale deeply.

While exhaling, round your spine up towards the ceiling, and imagine you're pulling your belly button up towards your spine, really engaging your abs. Tuck your chin into your chest, and let your neck loose. You are now in a cat-like huddle.

When inhaling, arch your back, let your belly relax and go loose. Lift your head and tailbone up towards the sky — without putting any unnecessary pressure on your neck. This is the Cow part of this stretch.

Continue moving back and forth from the Cat pose to the Cow pose, and connect your breath to each movement — inhale for the Cow pose and exhale at the Cat pose.

Repeat for at least 10 rounds, or until your spine is warmed up.

Bridge Pose 

To begin, lie on your back.

Fold your knees and keep your feet apart on the floor, about 10-12 inches from your pelvis, with your knees and ankles in a straight line.

Keep your arms beside your body, with your palms facing downwards.

Inhaling, slowly lift your lower back, middle back and upper back off the floor; gently roll in your shoulders; touch your chest to your chin without bringing your chin down, supporting your weight with your shoulders, arms and feet. Feel your bottom tighten in this pose. Both the thighs are parallel to each other and to the floor.

If you wish, you could interlace your fingers and push your hands on the floor to lift your torso a little higher, or you could support your back with your palms.

Keep breathing easily.

Hold the posture for a minute or two and exhale as you gently release the pose and hug your knees.

Downward Dog

Perch onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly ahead of your shoulders. Spread your palms and index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.

Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first, keep your knees slightly bent and your heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the settled bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw your inner legs up into your groin.

Upon exhaling, push your upper thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Make firm your outer thighs and roll them slightly inwards. 

Tighten your outer arms and press the bases of your index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift up your inner arms from your wrists to the tops of your shoulders. Tighten your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep your head between your upper arms; don’t let it hang.

Finally, rest a few moments in Shavasana. 

Yoga-lover and yoga-explorer Delna Anand is a Dubai based certified yoga teacher and wellness writer who specialises in yoga nidra.

Images courtesy, Lifestyle Yoga