The 9 Best Yoga Poses for Relieving Constipation

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Yoga poses like chair pose, child's pose and bow pose can help you relieve constipation.
Image Credit: Cavan Images/Cavan/GettyImages

When you have a bad case of constipation, your at-home treatment plan might include munching on satisfying, fiber-rich meals and upping your water intake. Those acts can help ease your symptoms, according to the National Institutes of Health, but there's one other beneficial practice you may be overlooking: yoga.

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Here, learn the benefits of practicing yoga for constipation and the best poses to try when your digestive system is in need of relief.

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The Benefits of Yoga for Constipation

Though yoga is primarily known for alleviating stress and boosting flexibility, the practice can also help you go number two when you're feeling backed up, says Lindsay Monal, RYT-500, a yoga teacher and director at YogaRenew Teacher Training.

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"A lot of the time when you're constipated, things are just stuck in your digestive system," she tells LIVESTRONG.com. "Moving your body — like going for a walk or practicing specific stretches to create space in your abdomen — is going to allow your body to move along whatever is stuck in your intestines."

While you may not need to hit up the restroom immediately after your practice, flowing through yoga poses for constipation might help move stool along so you poop within the next few hours or day, she says.

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Sticking with a long-term yoga practice can also help you become more aware of your body — and able to pick up on small, internal cues that it's not functioning at its best, according to Monal. If you notice you're feeling a bit more gassy, bloated or backed-up than usual, tweak your lifestyle (think: eating habits, hydration and movement) to minimize those effects, she explains.

"Yoga poses will definitely support you if you're immediately needing relief from constipation, but also the longevity of the practice really helps you have a more holistically healthy lifestyle," Monal says.

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And research backs up the benefits of practicing yoga for constipation: In a small July 2021 study in the ‌Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies‌, researchers found that folks who completed three yoga sessions a week for three months showed "statistically significant" improvement in constipation-related quality of life.

Plus, the National Institutes of Health recommends regularly engaging in physical activity — such as yoga — to treat and prevent constipation.

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9 Yoga Poses for Constipation to Try

When you're feeling particularly backed up, try moving through Monal's favorite yoga poses for constipation, demonstrated below.

Many of the postures involve twists, which help stretch your abdomen and "wring out" your intestines, she says. Other yoga poses for constipation are focused on constricting the abdomen to encourage movement in your digestive system or lengthening your stomach, creating more space in the area in which you're feeling clogged up, Monal says.

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All in all, these postures are more active than those you'd see in a chill, stress-relieving yoga class, so it's important to pay attention to how you're feeling. A little bit of discomfort is normal, particularly if you're moving in ways unfamiliar to your body. But if you're feeling any sharp, shooting pain, slow down or ease yourself out of the posture, Monal suggests.

Most importantly, chat with your doctor if your constipation is severe or persistent, she says. These yoga poses may feel restorative for your mind and body, but it's important to pinpoint the root cause of your condition to determine the best treatment plan.

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Ready to get your body — and gastrointestinal tract — moving? Flow through a handful of these yoga poses for constipation, holding each one for roughly 5 to 10 breaths.

1. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

Along with creating space in the abdomen, this yoga pose for constipation shifts the pressure of your body weight into your hips and lower abs, which helps stimulate digestion and elimination, Monal says.

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Activity Yoga
  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs fully extended, arms at your sides, palms facing the ceiling and the tops of your feet and your forehead resting on the floor.
  2. Keeping your knees hip-width apart and your forehead resting on the floor, bend both knees to bring your heels to your glutes.
  3. Simultaneously reach your hands back behind your body and grab your ankles or feet.
  4. Engage your quads and inner thigh muscles and lift your legs up toward the ceiling.
  5. Lift your chest, upper torso and shoulders up off the floor.
  6. Keeping your pelvis and tailbone grounded on the floor, continue lifting your legs and chest off the floor as high as comfortable. Gaze forward softly.
  7. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

2. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

"Child's pose is great for constipation because it helps to stretch your hips and muscles in the back of your body," Monal says.

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"It also has a relaxing effect on the nervous system, helping shift your body into a parasympathetic ["rest and digest"] state, reducing the stress response and inviting the body to move into a more relaxed state where it can take care of vital functions, like pooping."

Activity Yoga
  1. Start in a tabletop position on the floor with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips stacked over your knees. Keeping your knees under your hips, bring your toes together on the floor underneath your butt.
  2. Shift your hips back and bring your butt down to your heels while extending your arms long on the floor above your shoulders, palms facing the floor. Alternatively, you can rest your arms along the sides of your body with your fingers in line with your butt.
  3. Allow your chest to rest in between your thighs and let your forehead to come to the floor.
  4. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

3. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

This feel-good posture not only stimulates bowel movements, but it also stretches your shoulders, arms, hamstrings, calves and ankles, Monal says.

Activity Yoga
  1. Sit on the floor with your legs fully extended in front of you, toes pointing toward the ceiling and hands resting on the tops of your thighs. Lengthen up through the crown of your head and spine. Draw your shoulders away from your ears. 
  2. Lift your arms up toward the ceiling above your head (your biceps in line with your ears), then hinge at your hips to lower your torso to your thighs and your arms to your ankles. Keep your spine straight to avoid rounding your upper back.
  3. Allow your hands to rest on your toes, ankles or shins. Keep your neck soft and in line with your head.
  4. If it’s difficult to reach your toes, ankles or shins and your back is rounding, wrap a yoga strap around your feet and pull it gently with your hands.
  5. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

4. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

This posture looks pretty similar to how you'd sit on a toilet, so it's no surprise it helps relieve constipation. Plus, the yoga pose stretches your shoulders, arms, hamstrings, calves and ankles, Monal says.

Activity Yoga
  1. Stand tall with your feet together and your arms at sides, palms facing your body.
  2. Sweep both arms back behind you. Then, quickly sweep your arms forward and up to the ceiling a few inches in front of your body, biceps in line with your ears and palms facing each other.
  3. Draw your shoulders down and away from your ears and keep your chest open. (To progress, bring your palms to touch overhead. To modify, keep hands in a prayer position at your chest.)
  4. Bend your knees and sit back into your hips to bring your thighs as close to parallel to the floor as possible. Your knees may extend slightly over ankles, but they shouldn't go over your toes to protect from knee injury.
  5. Draw your navel into your spine and lengthen down your tailbone. Shift your body weight into your heels and lift your toes off the floor.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

5. Seated Spinal Twist (Marichyasana)

This yoga pose for constipation not only stretches your spine, shoulders and neck, but it also massages your abdominal organs and muscles, helping to stimulate your digestive system, Monal says.

Activity Yoga
  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, toes pointing toward the ceiling and hands resting on the tops of your thighs. Lengthen up through the crown of your head and your spine. Draw your shoulders away from your ears. 
  2. Sitting tall and keeping your left leg long, bend your right knee and place your right foot on the floor a few inches in front of your butt. Gently hold your right knee with both hands.
  3. Place your right foot next to the outside of your left thigh, then reach your right arm up to the ceiling, still hugging your right knee with your left hand or left arm.
  4. Slowly twist your torso toward the right while lowering your right arm down to the floor behind your body. Place your right fingertips or palm on the floor.
  5. Continue to lengthen up through your spine and slowly twist your torso toward the right, allowing your head and neck to follow, stopping at a comfortable point.
  6. On an exhale, focus on twisting deeper. On an inhale, focus on lengthening up more through your spine and torso.
  7. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then switch sides and repeat.

6. Supine Spinal Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana)

You'll treat your body to a digestion-boosting twist in this yoga pose for constipation. Plus, "lying on your back for this twist has the added benefit of helping you feel more relaxed," Monal says.

Activity Yoga
  1. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor a few inches in front of your butt and your arms resting at your sides, palms facing the floor.
  2. Draw both knees up to your chest with your legs and feet pressing against each other, then extend both arms out to sides to form a “T” shape. Allow your shoulders to press into the mat, palms now facing the ceiling.
  3. Allow both knees to slowly fall over to the right side while turning your head to the left side. To modify, gaze toward the ceiling or toward right side.
  4. On an exhale, focus on deepening into the twist.
  5. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then switch sides and repeat.

7. Garland Pose (Malasana)

Also known as a yogi squat, the garland pose (Malasana) mimics the body's natural position for elimination, according to Monal.

"Bringing your knees above your hips in a squat position is great for helping you poop and the reason we see products like the Squatty Potty on the market," she says.

Activity Yoga
  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with your toes slightly turned out.
  2. Bend your knees and come down into a full squat with your butt as close to the ground as your mobility allows.
  3. Once you're in your full squat, take the time to adjust your feet and stance as needed. Try to keep your heels flat on the ground, but it's OK if they come up slightly.
  4. Keep your torso straight as you bring your palms together and press your elbows into your knees to draw your legs apart.
  5. Keep your gaze forward, shoulders back and focus on lengthening through your spine. Think about reaching your tailbone toward your heels.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

8. Wind Relieving Pose (Apanasana)

By drawing your knees to your chest, this yoga pose for constipation puts your body into a natural position for elimination. Another perk: The posture stretches a stiff back and lengthens your spine.

Activity Yoga
  1. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor a few inches in front of butt and your hands resting on your thighs.
  2. On an inhale, bring both knees up to your chest, then wrap your arms around your knees, holding onto opposite elbows, forearms, wrists or fingers.
  3. Tuck your chin into your chest and press your sacrum and tailbone into the floor.
  4. Press your shoulders and the back of your neck into the floor, working to keep your back flat on the floor. Relax your legs, feet and hips.
  5. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

9. Crescent Lunge Twist (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana)

This active posture promotes stability in the front and back of your torso while stretching and strengthening your thighs, calves and ankles, Monal says. Plus, "the crescent lunge twist helps to create more space along the hips while also activating the abdominal muscles responsible for elimination," she adds.

Activity Yoga
  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides, palms facing your body.
  2. Step your left leg back as far as possible, keeping your left heel lifted off the floor, and bend your right leg to roughly a 90-degree angle.
  3. Bring your hands together in prayer in front of your chest.
  4. Holding this lunge position, hinge forward at your hips and simultaneously rotate your torso to the right. Rest your left elbow on the side of your right knee, then gaze behind you.
  5. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

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