Yoga isn’t just a form of exercise, it’s an entire discipline dating all the way back to ancient India that links breathing techniques, movement, and meditation. It has numerous physiological and psychological benefits, and aids with important biological processes, like digestion.
The main function of our gastrointestinal tract is to break down food and absorb nutrients. One major aspect of the digestion process is the elimination of waste products which is carried out by the liver, kidneys, colon, and lungs every day:
- The liver makes toxins water-soluble so that they can be eliminated from the body by the kidneys.
- Our kidneys filter our blood and help to eliminate the toxins through urine.
- The colon helps to get rid of the toxins via bowel movements.
- Our lungs filter the air we breathe and eliminate toxins through breathing.
In order to operate at an optimum level, our organs should be held in place by a strong muscle corset, which also helps orchestrate the movements of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine, known as peristalsis. This series of wave-like muscle contractions is what moves the food through our digestive tract. An international research project conducted by the Rome Foundation found that more than 40% of people around the world suffer from some kind of gastrointestinal disorder, which negatively affects quality of life.
How Can Yoga Help?
Yoga postures and postural patterns are called asanas. Several asanas specifically help the digestive system function at its best by massaging the internal organs and conditioning them to perform better. You can learn these asanas under the supervision of your yoga instructor or on your own by watching tutorials and lessons online. Here’s a great twenty-minute video of yoga asanas for gut health that can be found on Youtube.
Certain asanas help promote the elimination of waste products from the body by activating the muscles involved in peristaltic activity. Padmasana (crossed leg position), Pavanmuktasana (wind relieving pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Shavasana (corpse pose), Paschimottasana (seated forward fold), Ustrasana (camel pose), all involve stretching the abdomen, applying pressure on it with your legs and massaging it in different ways. The alternation of the stretching and contracting muscles helps tone them and improves the flow of blood and oxygen. Upside down postures help get rid of a sluggish bowel, which leads to constipation, and reduces the build up of gas in the stomach.
Yoga and the “gut-brain connection”
According to the Harvard Medical School, the human gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to our emotions. Feeling angry, anxious, or sad can actually trigger a response in the gut, hence the term “gut-brain connection”. Constant stress and depression may be related to various digestive conditions from mild intestinal distress to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other chronic ailments.
Recent studies have found that the gut-brain connection can also work the other way around, providing strong evidence that gut health, gastrointestinal disease, and mental wellbeing are all connected. Having a less diverse gut microbiome, known as dysbiosis, has been linked to several mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression. Stress reduction can therefore improve digestion, and vice versa. Here, yoga can help again as it has therapeutic effects on stress, anxiety, and depression.
We have seen how yoga can improve and support digestion through specific physical postures and movements, asanas, that massage the internal organs of the digestive tract and strengthen the muscles around it. With continuous practice, yoga can improve blood flow, prevent constipation and bloating, and help with the management of chronic conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GRD). Additionally, Nucific supplements contribute to stress and anxiety relief which also helps to improve digestion through the gut-brain connection.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: Woman holding a yoga pose. Photo Credit: Luemen Rutkowski