If you're experiencing a stomach ache, cramps or other symptoms of abdominal discomfort after yoga, it may have less to do with the yoga itself than with an underlying condition that the activity is unmasking.
In the long run, yoga is far more likely to soothe stomach problems than to make them worse; in fact, yoga has been shown to markedly reduce symptoms of chronic abdominal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. If you're continually getting a stomach ache after yoga, it's probably worth consulting your physician for help in determining the cause. In the meantime, here are a few possibilities that may be contributing to the situation. Most of them are easily dealt with by changing your routine.
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Exercise-Related Transient Abdominal Pain
Everyone has experienced cramps at one time or another. They occur when a muscle suddenly and involuntarily contracts, causing mild to severe pain if the muscle is impinging on nerves. Cramps can actually be caused by exercise, in which case they're awarded the fancy name of exercise-related transient abdominal pain, or ETAP. The non-fancy word for them is "stitch."
Stitches are commonly triggered by exercises with repetitive torso movement, or ones that require hyperextension of the torso. ETAP is usually experienced to one side or another of the mid abdomen but can occur anywhere in the abdominal region. Acute ETAP may cause a stabbing pain. Milder attacks may feel like aching or cramping.
Eating Before Class
Intense physical activity diverts blood flow away from the digestive system. If you've ever gone to a yoga classes, you probably know that eating a heavy meal beforehand is not a good idea. Why? Because when you exercise, blood flow is diverted away from your digestive system to your muscles.
If your digestive tract is full of partially digested or undigested food when you're doing forward folds and shoulder stands, well, you will suffer consequences. So if you're going to eat anything at all before yoga, make it something that's easily digestible, like a slice of whole grain bread or a banana, and even that shouldn't be consumed less than 30 minutes before class. It's best to refrain from heavy eating directly after class, too, because the body is in a sensitized state and may not digest well.
Dehydration and Heat Sickness
Dehydration and heat sickness can cause all sorts of abdominal symptoms, including nausea, cramping and pain. They're not something that's likely to happen in yoga, unless perhaps you're doing a form of hot yoga such as Bikram, where the room is heated to high temperatures. Even if this does happen to you in the course of a hot yoga class, though, it's likely because you were already rather dehydrated to begin with.
Drinking Too Much After Class
Are you pounding down cold water right after a strenuous yoga class? Well, don't. It's a recipe for a stomach ache as well as nausea. Here again, this a scenario most likely associated with hot yoga.
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