Whether your big Thanksgiving feast has left you feeling bloated or just uncomfortably full, there's an easy way to relieve your gassy gut that doesn't involve popping a pill — practicing yoga. You've probably heard that yoga can help with back pain and stress, but it also works wonders to improve your digestion.
Just How Does Yoga Help With Digestion?
"Around the holidays, it's really easy to eat too much of the wrong thing, which can negatively affect your digestion," says Koya Webb, holistic health coach, yoga expert and author of Let Your Fears Make You Fierce. "Yoga can help with indigestion, bloating and constipation by increasing circulation to the abdominal area while stimulating your internal organs."
With a combination of twists, forward bends, breath work and drawing the navel in toward your spine, you can move energy and food more easily through the colon for better digestion and elimination, she says.
Plus, many yoga poses also calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body's fight-or-flight response, Webb says. This means practicing yoga can decrease stress levels and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the rest and digest system. The result? You'll feel relaxed and your belly will be better equipped to break down foods.
If you experience serious digestive issues or painful bloating, intense yoga poses and breath work should be avoided or performed with extreme caution, warns Webb. “Advanced poses like Peacock can intensely press on the abdominal area and should be done on an empty stomach.”
Yoga Poses for Better Digestion
With this 10-minute yoga sequence designed by Webb, you can say goodbye to belly bloat and ingestion. Try these nine poses a few hours after Thanksgiving dinner — or any time you feel a little too full. Just be sure to have a bathroom nearby in case the yoga flow gets things, ahem, going.
Move 1: Child's Pose (Balasana)
- Bring your feet together, knees hip-width apart and sit on your heels.
- With an exhale, bend forward and rest your torso between your thighs. Relax your tailbone toward your feet.
- Reach your arms far forward. Spread your fingers and press your palms into the floor. Rest your forehead on the floor.
- Hold the pose and take slow, deep breaths, five to 10 times.
- Rise with an inhale.
Move 2: Cat/Cow (Marjariasana)
- Begin on all fours. Bring your wrists directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Keep your head and neck in neutral alignment.
- With an inhale, arch your spine, reaching your head and tailbone toward the sky. Let your belly drop toward the floor.
- On your next exhale, round your spine, releasing your head and tailbone toward the floor.
- Repeat eight times.
To modify, place a folded blanket under your knees for cushion.
Move 3: Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- Stand with your feet together and parallel. Bend forward from your hips with an exhale. Lengthen your torso as you come down.
- Reach your palms toward the floor on either side of your feet. Draw your kneecaps up and lift your sitting bones toward the sky. Let your head hang.
- Hold the pose and take five slow, deep breaths.
- Place your hands on your hips. Lengthen your spine with an inhale and rise to standing.
To modify, bend your knees and hold onto your shins to lessen the stretch.
Read more: 11 Yoga Poses to Help Detoxify Your Body
Move 4: Revolved Chair (Parivrtta Utkatasana)
- Begin standing. Inhale to lift your arms overhead, alongside your ears. Exhale to shift your weight into your heels and bend your knees, moving your hips back and down.
- Exhale to bring your hands to heart center. Inhale to reach up through the crown of your head. Pull your thighs farther back and down to lengthen your spine.
- On an exhale, hook your left elbow outside your right thigh as low as you can get it and press your palms together.
- Pull your palms down toward your navel, and push your top hand down a bit more to widen your top collarbone and revolve your chest to a greater degree.
- Keep your weight in your heels, especially your left heel. Draw your left thigh bone back to keep your hips and knees even.
- Then gently roll your belly, chest, neck, and head even more to the right, twisting deeper.
- Hold for five breaths and repeat on the opposite side.
Move 5: Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
- Begin standing. Step your left foot three and a half to four feet apart. Bring your feet parallel.
- Bring your arms to shoulder height, palms facing down. Turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right. Turn your left foot slightly in.
- Reach your right arm out to the right and then down with an exhale. Bring your hand to your shin or ankle. Inhale and reach your left arm toward the sky, palm facing toward. Gaze up toward your hand.
- Hold the pose and take slow, deep breaths.
- Look down and activate your core and legs. Hold for five breaths. Rise with an inhale, then exhale and step your feet together. Repeat on the opposite side.
To modify, gaze toward the floor.
Move 6: Wide Leg Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
- Stand with your feet together. Step your feet three to five feet apart and keep them parallel.
- Place your hands on your hips and lengthen your spine with an inhale.
- Bend forward with an exhale, keeping your spine long. Bring your fingertips or palms to the floor and walk them back until they're in line with your feet.
- Relax your neck and draw your shoulders away from your ears.
- Hold the pose and take 10 slow, deep breaths.
- Bring your hands to your hips and engage your back muscles. Inhale and slowly rise with a flat back.
- Exhale to step your feet together.
To modify, bend your knees slightly.
Move 7: Knee to Chest (Apanasana)
- Lie on your back with your legs together.
- Bend your right leg with an exhale, interlace your fingers around your shin and hug your knee into your chest. Inhale deeply.
- Lift your head with an exhale and touch your forehead or chin to your knee. Hold for a few seconds.
- Lower your head to the floor with an inhale. Continue hugging your knee and take five slow, deep breaths.
- Release, then switch sides.
Always start with the right leg as this follows the movement of the colon.
Move 8: Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
- Lie on your back. Stretch your arms out at shoulder height, palms down.
- Bend your right leg and place your foot flat on the floor next to your left knee.
- Place your left hand on top of your right knee.
- With an exhale gently guide your right knee toward the floor.
- Gaze toward the right and hold the pose and take five slow, deep breaths.
- Untwist with an inhale.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
Move 9: Corpse Pose (Savasana)
- Lie on your back and bring your feet wide, letting them flop out to the sides.
- Bring your arms several inches away from your torso, palms up.
- Make any minor adjustments needed so that you're completely comfortable.
- Close your eyes. Find stillness.
- Hold the pose and take 10 to 20 natural breaths as you focus your attention on your breath.